Way back in 1971, C.P. Snow wrote about technology in the New York Times. He said, “Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”
Many dealers are voicing that sentiment these days. Far too few have done anything about it. Some have learned to use computer software with skill. They use the apps on iPhones, iPads, and Blackberries. They have created an effective Web site. They use Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn for social networking. For others, these are merely words and technologies that test their ability to conduct both business and their private lives. Dealers, already feeling the brunt of the two-plus year recession and massive changes in the car industry, are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to not only keep up, but to even remain in the playing field.
Why should dealers bother with such things? Isn’t the old way good enough? Nope!
Customers who always shopped on the lot are now shopping on the Internet before they take a step toward a dealership. They’ve researched every model in their price range and with the features they want. They’ve read a dozen articles about how to get the best deal. They’ve become more savvy than many sales people hired by dealerships; they know their credit score; they know where they can find the best price on insurance, window tinting, undercoating, you name it. Everything once sold to them by a finance officer from the menu is for sale on the Internet.
Are you one of the dealerships where handwringing has become a daily pastime? Have you taken a close look at your bottom line? Have you noticed what would happen to your finance portfolio if you removed your sub-vent rated and nonprime customers? Have the numbers of your prime-financing customers dwindled to an all-time low? Perhaps you haven’t seen the drop in your captive financing yet, but beware, it’s coming just as surely as the first snowstorm.
Snow was right, back in 1971! The Internet can either become a beacon for drawing in more satisfied customers to your dealership and vastly increase your bottom line, or it can stab you in the back. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. How?
Statistics show that 80% of car customers go online before they make the decision to buy and before they come to your dealership. What are they researching? Brands, models, features and, most of all, prices. Most of all, prices. The majority of Americans in today’s economy are deeply concerned about their budget. They have a fixed amount to spend on a car payment and all the other expenses involved in owning it. The vehicle they choose must fit within that fixed figure. They cannot afford to buy on whim or to make a careless mistake. They won’t take the chance of being bamboozled into buying things they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford by a fast-talking sales or finance manger
Where do these savvy customers get their information? One of their first sources is Edmunds, the friendly consumer-shopping guide. Edmunds has never been and still isn’t the dealer’s friend. Edmunds does whatever is necessary to achieve the sale on vehicles and products from the Internet shopper… and then refers these buyer to specific retailers to obtain a fee! Banks. Finance companies. Insurance companies. You name it.