The changing backdrop against which consumers spend their hard-earned money is forcing them to amend their habits, and with those changes come significant opportunities for car dealerships.
Businesses have long strived to gain control of the buyer journey, no matter how many unpredictable turns it takes or from which location it starts. Unfortunately, and as many marketing and sales departments have discovered, this simply isn’t possible.
The reason is straightforward: consumers own their buying journey. They dictate where it stars, how it ebbs and flows along the way and, ultimately, where it ends. A business’s job, therefore, is to tap into the most appropriate stages of the journey in order to make the biggest impact.
There’s only one way you can do this as a car dealership, and that’s to have a solid understanding of consumer trends.
In this post, we’ve picked out five general consumer trends and considered how they might affect the automotive industry.
- IoT goes mainstream
The Internet of Things (IoT for short) has for some time been nothing more than a nascent technology with which businesses and consumers have dabbled. This year and beyond, that looks set to change – big time.
From heating systems you can control remotely to everyday devices that remember our exact preferences, IoT is arguably now mainstream, and the automotive industry is one of the best placed to take advantage of smart machines.
Dealerships need to be armed and ready with the latest advice and guidance on smart car tech as consumers swap questions about bundled floor mats for advice on how they might talk to their next car. Connected cars are disrupting old business models and raising consumer expectation, and the potential market is huge with 4G connectivity expected to become a standard feature in most models by 2020.
The connected car is a significant boon for dealerships when integrated with platforms such as the OneDealer Mobility app, which can help technicians diagnose cars remotely and even predict maintenance requirements. Drivers aren’t left out, either, benefiting from the ability to check their vehicle’s health from their smartphone, view detailed histories of their trips, remote control car functions and even gain invaluable insight into their driving style.
- Chatbots take over (but don’t be scared)
Chatbots represent perhaps the most profound change to customer service in recent years. While many consumers still rely on ‘older’ forms of communication when querying businesses about products and services, many now turn to social media, online chat and, to a lesser extent (thus far), instant messaging.
Their first point of contact these days is often a ‘chatbot’, which is simply a clever piece of software engineering that swaps human interaction for computer assistance. Chatbots can respond to natural questioning, recognise inference and, to all intents and purposes, present themselves in the same manner as their human counterparts.
Spooky? Less personable? Possibly, but there’s seemingly no stopping the public’s reliance on chatbots, and auto dealerships may need to investigate the benefits of investing in such technology for their own service provision.
- ‘The purchase’ becomes ‘the experience’
Just as booking a hotel room has turned into more than a bed for the night thanks to bundled extras and creative add-ons, the modern car buyer expects more than a set of keys handed to them at the end of the process.
Purchasing something is no longer a linear, predictable journey. Instead, consumers expect an ‘experience’, which in the auto trade may mean a complete review of how test drives are conducted, the way in which feature additions are up-sold and a greater reliance on data, enabling the car buying process to be personalized for each and every customer.
- A rising thirst for video content
What do people love doing online? Watching video, of course! And, if you believe Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it’s a trend that will only get stronger as the years roll on.
“Ten years ago, most of what we shared and consumed online was text. Now it’s photos, and soon most of it will be video,” he said during the social network’s 2016 Q2 quarterly earnings call.
Zuckerberg arguably has the experience and insight necessary to ensure his theory is rather more than a finger-in-the-air prediction, and this rising thirst for video content means auto dealerships will need to invest soundly in the production of video for their websites and social media marketing campaigns.
It needn’t break marketing budgets, either. We all carry powerful video capture devices in our pockets (smartphones) and with super-fast broadband ever-present, sharing such footage – be it pre-recorded or live – with the world takes nothing more than a few taps of a touchscreen.
- Voice search replaces text
By 2020, experts believe 50% of all internet searches will be carried out via voice, thus turning our vocal chords into another form of input for smartphones, laptops and tablets.
The gradual transition to voice-based search will require more naturally-written content to be prevalent on car dealership websites. Thankfully, the days of stuffing webpages full of keywords are long gone, but the emerging desire of search engines to draw from content that is humanised and largely free of too much SEO-based optimisation will make for far more interesting websites and blog posts.
If your dealership is undertaking any form of content marketing campaign, it needs to ensure its tuned for voice search.
We don’t have a crystal ball, and there’s a chance that some of the theories above will end up making way for other trends and technologies, but car dealerships that fail to take advantage of the knowledge we currently have will struggle to make their presence felt in the noisy digital economy.