How are your customers shopping for their next purchase?

Word of mouth is still a powerful tool to drive new shoppers to your store, but the majority of your foot traffic is guaranteed to come from the internet.

That is, if your dealership is part of your customers’ digital path to purchase.

Today’s shoppers aren’t pulling out the phone book to find a local dealership. Instead, they’re using the Internet to research units and parts, read product reviews, browse third-party unit listings and ultimately decide which dealership to shop at. All of these actions and more make up a process known as the digital path to purchase.

What is the digital path to purchase?
The digital path to purchase represents a consumer’s progression through many stages of decision-making in order to identify the best product sold by the most reliable dealer.

The main stages of the digital path to purchase include:

  • Performing an online search: As much as 87% of consumers search online before making a purchase, with 63% using their mobile device.
  • Researching online: Research can take the form of reading online reviews, checking out a brand’s social media, looking at eBay and watching YouTube videos.
  • Visiting a dealership website: Shoppers want your site to meet certain criteria, including featuring pricing and promotions, detailing the store hours, offering the store location and making it easy to digital browse inventory.
  • Communicating with the dealer: Before a shopper enters your store, they are more likely to contact your dealership digitally via phone, text, live website chat or direct messaging.
  • Buying online or in store: e-Commerce has grown 25% since the COVID-19 pandemic(1), and many shoppers prefer to buy online versus visiting the dealership.
  • Following up after a purchase: Shoppers are more likely to make another purchase if the dealership offers exclusive offers, personalized emails or an app that notifies them of new inventory, sales, etc.
Make Sure You’re Part of the Digital Path to Purchase

With the majority of crucial decisions being made online, your website and digital marketing efforts are crucial in helping you intercept the digital path to purchase and turn casual shoppers into loyal customers.

Get Found Online Fast
When shoppers search online, their options increase exponentially, which is why your dealership needs to make an impression from the start. Here are some digital marketing strategies that can help you get found early on in the path to purchase:

  • Search Engine Optimization: Strategize your website to rank higher in organic search results
  • Search Engine Marketing: Advertise your most popular units and parts through pay-per-click ad campaigns
  • Social Media: Keep your social media presence active by posting a variety of featured inventory, industry news and helpful tips, and respond promptly to any incoming messages
  • Third-Party Listings: Push your inventory listings to top marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist, which receive a high volume of shoppers
  • YouTube Videos: Share videos of your dealership and inventory on YouTube, Google’s “other search engine”

Maintain a Dynamic Website
At the conclusion of the research phase, shoppers typically know what unit they want to buy. Their next step is to find a dealer who sells it, and this is where your website is crucial. Shoppers form an opinion of your website in just a few seconds, so your website needs to deliver immediate results. Here’s a checklist of the information and features shoppers want to see on your site:

  • Easy navigation ー 61% of online shoppers prioritize good search and navigation(2)
  • Complete inventory listed alongside pricing & good-quality images
  • Recommendations for similar or related inventory, such as units & parts
  • Prominent web banners announcing current online & in-store promotions & sales
  • Dealership location & contact information (should be found on all primary webpages)

Keep Your Digital Communication Channels Open
Even the most robust website can’t answer every question a shopper may have, which is why dealers need to have a support system in place for shoppers who need to speak with customer support. Here are the three main channels that shoppers prefer:

  • Live Web Chat: Website visitors can click on a chat box and connect with a dealership employee in real time.
  • Texting: On-the-go shoppers can connect with a salesperson anytime and anywhere.
  • Direct Message Apps: Shoppers browsing social media can message the dealership through Facebook, Instagram, etc.

We encourage you to have these channels in place and monitor them regularly so that your prospects can receive the answers they need to move forward with a purchase.

Optimize Online Shopping
With more people shopping and buying online, savvy dealers are making sure their business offers smart incentives to encourage shoppers to buy on their website:

  • Include a shopping cart feature and secure payment portal
  • Offer the option to buy online and pick up in store
  • Run promotions specifically for online buyers, such as a discount or free shipping

Optimize In-Store Shopping
The research process isn’t over when customers visit the dealership. Google reports 50% of people will watch an online video while standing in the shop to brush up on a product or compare products before making a decision(3). Encourage these customers to convert at the store by optimizing their experience:

  • Provide WiFi at your dealership
  • Launch an app that allows customers to search for and learn about inventory
  • Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
  • Approach customers to ask if they have any questions

Promote Customer Loyalty
Once a customer leaves your lot or website with a new purchase, make sure you have a strategy in place to keep them coming back. Send follow-up emails and text messages thanking them for their business and offering a discount on related parts or their first tuneup. Encourage customers to sign up for a newsletter featuring your latest inventory shipments and seasonal sales. If you have an app for your dealership, remind customers to download it so that they can receive push notifications such as discounts or promotions that are exclusive to app users.

With the vast majority of consumers embarking on the digital path to purchase to research, compare and even buy products, it’s important to insert your dealership’s online presence into the full customer journey. Understanding the modern customer journey is key to offering the solutions customers are looking for every step of the way.

Want to learn more about your customers’ digital path to purchase? Connect with ARI’s online experts today!

(2)Fit Small Business
(3)Think with Google