What Business Are You In?

May 30, 2023

Here is a simple, yet powerful question: What business are you in? Your first response is probably to say used car operations. And you aren’t wrong. If we do the bare minimum, we are in the business of acquiring used vehicles and selling them for a profit. I’m not here to argue with you about that. What I am here to do, however, is suggest that our industry is worth more than simply moving metal. Our business goes beyond slapping a price on a windshield and jotting sales numbers on a whiteboard. We deal in experiences and drive transformation in relationships that will last longer than the cars we sell.

When it comes to buying and selling used vehicles, if your goal is simply transactional, then you are missing out on a lifetime of opportunities, consumers, and relationships. Think about this: What is more valuable…a one-time shopper or a forever customer? Every interaction, every discussion, and every touchpoint brings you chances to work on your reputation to shrink the gap between today’s shopper and tomorrow’s customer. Be more than just a brand. Your people and your name are at stake whenever your staff speaks to a customer. So, manage the microphone you use to interact with any and all shoppers.

What does that mean?

Let’s start by breaking it down and examining the diverse methods the modern person will utilize when shopping for a used car.

Different Ways to Shop Used Cars

Currently, your staff is conversing with curious consumers, engaged shoppers, and returning customers in a variety of ways. Each buying method is distinct for every unique person. They will browse your inventory in a manner that reflects their personality and individual needs. Overlooking this factor, or focusing too much on trying to make a deal, will hamper your ability to successfully deliver an experience that resonates with each consumer. This puts your lot in a place of underperforming because your team is unprepared to deal with the varied shopping needs that our modern culture is accustomed to. 

Traditional Car Shopping Habits

Taking your business to the next level starts by identifying who your customer is and what their needs are. For the traditional shopper, you need to have a team on the ground ready to handle everything from acquisition and appraisal to pricing and sale. If your dealership is overly concerned with digital methods, you will create friction for the “old-school” consumer. Many shoppers want to see, feel, and smell their next vehicle. This likely will never go away. When your lot focuses on SEO over human interactions, you isolate customers and turn your dealership into an unapproachable place. 

Instead of throwing obstacles out for physically browsing your vehicles, transform your team into instant product experts with next-generation solutions that prepare them to answer any and every question shoppers might have about each piece of inventory on your lot. Your frontlines will always be an opportunity to supply information based on relatable data. Strip away the “battleground” mentality and equip your staff with tools that bridge the knowledge gap between shoppers and inventory features. Your used car operations should be in the business of answering questions, not creating negative situations. Give shoppers the chance to leverage the knowledge of your staff and fully immerse themselves in your inventory. It doesn’t matter what brand you represent, your used inventory will become accessible to any consumer who steps onto your lot.

Digital-First Car Buying Tendencies

True, the more modern consumer is skewing toward having an online-only shopping frame of mind. For them, SEO, interactive chatbots, transparency to inventory availability, and honesty in pricing might be valuable beyond a smile and a handshake. Removing barriers for your BDC and sales staff to engage with and market to these shoppers will take your dealership to the next level. It’s up to you to generate opportunities for shopping that encourages ongoing growth online. Don’t hinder those who are digitally minded. Instead, empower them with advanced tools including AI, AR, and VR. Put your dealership in the palm of their hands and encourage them to interact with your staff and safely purchase vehicles from wherever they want to buy.

Online-centric consumers want access to vehicle information from their fingertips. It’s up to you to be in the business of delivering quality data on package information and inventory availability in every single one of your ads. Dealing in digital experiences allows you to quickly engage shoppers with the information they need when they want it. Advanced insights from a proper inventory management system will empower your dealership to automatically create and deploy ads quickly and efficiently while incorporating SEO best practices that streamline online searches. Doing so bridges the gap between shoppers and sales with moments that heighten the experience and bring a higher level of overall satisfaction. If you overlook a modern approach, you are singling out online buyers and turning them away.

The Modern, Hybrid Car Buying Journey

Finally, be in the business of being holistic in your offerings. Your used car operations should be an ecosystem of possibilities for both offline and online touchpoints. The second you spend too much time on your physical lot, or invest too many hours into digitizing your model, you ostracize customers and crimp your pipeline for future business. Shoppers will evolve at a continuous rate. But for the time being, you will be dealing with traditional buyers and digital-first shoppers…as well as a mixture of both in hybrid customers. 

Offer an olive branch to each of those segments. Your marketing efforts are already geared towards driving engagement in your community while also providing a digital frontier for consumers to browse from the comfort of their homes. Take shopping into the next generation by allowing individuals to select how they want to buy your inventory. When you have advanced solutions integrated into your sales methodology, you strip away obstacles and instead allow experiences to meet expectations. Never try to make up the customer’s mind for them. Instead, bring them comfort and options in their decision-making process.

Identifying Used Car Buying Patterns

So I ask you again…What business are you in? 

In taking a close examination of the modern shopping environment, your answer needs to evolve from just moving metal to supplying engagement that transcends the shopping experience for today and tomorrow. From traditional to digital, modern consumers are ready to shop your inventory. They need access to browse your inventory and purchase vehicles in a fashion that meets their needs. It’s up to you to transform your thinking, empower your staff, and provide opportunities for consumers to engage with your brand in a human-centric fashion. Cars are not going out of style. So, get your operations up to par with shopping options that are modern and accessible. 

The Future of Selling Automobiles

It’s up to us to streamline the used car industry today while preparing to integrate solutions that will elevate our lots in the future. Where do you see the shopping journey heading next? Will businesses need to reshape the conversations they are having to meet tomorrow’s customer requirements? I think that technology will continue to alter the trajectory of how we as used car dealers acquire and sell vehicles. Advance from simply transacting inventory in order to pad your bottom line to dealing in experiences that drum up lifelong customers via multiple buying channels. Integrating a roadmap for success will drive your brand into the future by preparing your team and educating your consumers on how to have conversations that move beyond money to create a mutual relationship that can be carried on for years to come.