The world of motor retail is changing rapidly but the conversations on electric vehicles, declining registrations, GDPR, online retailers and the FCA’s interest in PCP have been well documented.
If motor retailers wish to be something more than simple order takers fulfilling a knock down deal brokered by an algorithm, they need to start appealing to modern customers.
The trade is still dominated by the stereotypical car salesman and unfortunately in most cases ‘man’ is still the right phrase to use. This image has to change if car retailers are to bring footfall back through the forecourt and become trusted advisors to buyers.
Consumers are increasingly craving the experiential, so delivering a dynamic proposition will drive footfall, and in turn generate interest instore. This will require retailers to change their approach to sales, and become facilitators, product experts and guides that consumers will buy in to.
Modern cars are amazing pieces of technology with more variants than a dealership can ever stock, so the ‘sales people’ need to be able to cut through the fog and address customer needs by knowing which item of technology is valuable and which is a gimmick.
If a customer makes it in to the dealership rather than buying online then we know that the majority will have already made their purchasing decision by the time they walk through the doors. The job of the showroom staff is to make that experience special, to add value and suggest relevant subsequent purchases. Moving away from the hard sell, and adopting a more rounded customer service experience.
Ultimately, people like to deal with likeable, trustworthy people like themselves, so retailers need to embrace this and look at the shop floor and consider whether the sales process is appropriate for the current technological age. In addition, women and minority groups are poorly represented in the motor trade with retailer teams not representing the customer demographic. There are some notable exceptions but on the whole it is still very much a male-dominated industry, and to truly appeal to today’s consumers this needs to change.
This will take time, but in the current climate of declining registrations and tightening disposable incomes, not to mention the implications from Brexit, dealers cannot afford to be complacent and must put the customer at the heart of their operation. Customers are no longer looking to be sold a car and a finance package by an ambitious young man in a trendy suit and sharp haircut – the face of the industry needs to change.