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It should not come as a surprise for those in the business of selling cars that the Internet is the first point of engagement when a potential buyer is trying to locate a new or used vehicle.

Not only is it the first point of contact, but it is also the point of sale for over one-third of all new-car transactions in the United States. The rise of Internet sales has changed the rules of engagement, and those unwilling to adapt responsively are missing out on potential sales that may mean the difference between average and superior sales performance. Internet sales have become the great equalizer for dealerships that lack geographical advantage or happen to be in a location that has sales-tax advantages, as compared to other nearby locations.

Over one-third of all new-car transactions in the United States happen online.

With this in mind, new automotive dealerships need to fully understand what it takes to stand out when their product is exactly the same as the one featured by their competitor.

The Differentiator for Online Car Sales

We hear it a lot. For businesses of any size, service is often the key differentiator, and one of the strongest drivers for loyalty and repeat business.

Internet car sales, however, are not triggered by service. There is no denial that quick, accurate, and polite responses via phone and email may give a car dealership a competitive advantage, but at the end of the day, when a savvy shopper is using the Internet to compare apples to apples, service will only take you so far.

Finding the Right Car at the Right Price

Online car shoppers tend to be more research-oriented and discerning when it comes to making an automotive purchase. Pushy sales persons, balloons, and the need for immediate gratification do not sway them.

Instead, their goal is to connect with the car of their dreams, down to a particular color. Often, the online shopper has already visited a dealership and test-driven several vehicles, and he or she is now with a short list in hand.

Pricing, of course, is a consideration, as it should be with a high price-tag item such as a vehicle, but the fact is that this type of customer is very aware of the median price of the vehicle of his or her dreams. A good deal is important, but most importantly this buyer wants specific feature sets, such as comfort packages, colors, or safety features.

Where Cars.com Comes In

When consumers are polled about websites commonly used for car shopping, Cars.com is often in the lead.

With over 30 million visits every single month, there is no question about the indispensability of having your dealership and inventory featured on the site. The tools available through Cars.com allow car shoppers to find cars that meet specific criteria, from the basics like make and model, to more refined searches that include things like performance and price point.

It is in the use of advanced search features that you as a dealer have the opportunity to connect with buyers who are willing to purchase a vehicle fully online, or drive away from their closest dealership if it affords them a fantastic deal.

Read MORE: Trends and Tips on Car Shopping Behavior and Customer Feedback Revealed in New Cars.com Study

Feature Comparison and Advanced Car Shopping Searches

When we looked into the research and purchase path followed by shoppers using Cars.com, we identified the car feature comparison as the most valuable in gaining a competitive advantage over other dealerships with similar inventories.

The car feature comparison allows users of Cars.com to compare the features of two or more vehicles at a very granular level, in order to better understand the value offered by each.

Also, when comparing two cars of the same make and model, shoppers have the ability to identify features such as comfort packages, navigation system, or upgrades that may or may not be included in one model versus the other.

Loading Your Car Inventory

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that purchasers know what comes standard and what is considered an upgrade on a particular auto model.

Because Internet pricing is already highly competitive, making sure that shoppers see every single feature the car offers is perhaps the most important move you can make to direct the sale your way. Let’s take a look at how to get the most from this feature.

  • Use standard language: By using the descriptors as provided by the manufacturer, you equip the shopper to make better and easier comparisons when looking at two cars of equal make and model. The core feature set is not a place for creativity or colloquialism. The more standardized your feature list is, the more likely a customer will be swayed your way.
  • List absolutely everything: Just because a feature is standard for a particular vehicle does not mean you need to omit it. When customers see two equal cars that most likely have equal features, they are generally far more inclined to purchase the vehicle at the auto dealership with the most features listed. Don’t make assumptions regarding the level of knowledge of a shopper.
  • Include a scanned window sticker: A window sticker is a familiar shopping reference for savvier car shoppers. Make it easier to compare apples to apples by including a scanned copy of the sticker.
  • Clarify packages: Often, we see listings that refer to “package A” or “package B,” without ever providing the details associated with each package. Provide a list of the features included in the package, and if the package is intended to bundle to increase savings on upgrades, then list retail price for the features, and the savings associated with the bundling through the package.
  • Provide clarity when using brand-specific names: Don’t assume that every shopper knows the brand-specific name for a particular feature. For example, if the vehicle has OnStar service, then you may want to list the services provided and the fees associated with the upgraded service.

A listing with all the features, instead of a bare-bones listing, has a greater chance of catching the attention of a shopper and resulting in a phone call or contact form to express interest to purchase or test drive. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to facilitate an Internet sale. Proper listings that are detail-rich will give you the edge you need to gain increased sales volume.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.

Discussion

  1. Go Harry Go

    It is the ease internet has created to a consumer to buy a car. The rather unending trips to the dealer shops, precious time and energy are being saved. I hope in a way walk in consumers may be less at a dealer shop but the conversion proves to be high. Thanks to the internet.

    Reply
  2. Chris Green

    True that half the decision is made sitting at home making the choice. Seeing one third sale happens on internet is a very good growth strategy for a car maker/dealer with minimal wastage in the form of time,energy and money.

    Reply
  3. Guy Cleveland

    Comparing the features and specifications of cars would boost a users decision to narrow down quickly with wide choice available.

    Reply
  4. Tim Walters

    These websites are a ton of intel to any car maker/dealer. The forum pep talks and reviews would help a lot in deciding the trend in what consumers are looking at in the cars.

    Reply
  5. Runs With Scissors

    Transparency on costs is something which can be used in attracting a consumer. Denoting the hidden costs would be a great yes in engaging positively.

    Reply

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