There are many things out of independent dealers’ control, including fluctuating inventory prices and supply chain issues. So, why not invest your time and energy in the things you can control, such as creating a better car buying experience for your customers?

In a competitive market, independent dealers need to make sure that customers walk away with a good impression to sell inventory and create customer loyalty.

Here are some ways independent dealers can create a better car-buying experience for their customers:

1. Optimize Your Online Presence
As more customers start the car buying process online, it’s important that your website stays updated with your current inventory and that information regarding upcoming promotions or sales is kept up-to-date. Even when customers come to the lot to view inventory, it’s always beneficial to make a good first impression with detailed online inventory listings and high-quality photos.

2. Make Sure Your Staff Are Inventory Experts
Your Sales teams should be subject matter experts on your inventory to build confidence with customers. Make sure they are kept updated on the status of the inventory on your lot and they have access to detailed information on each vehicle.

They should also know the types of vehicles in-demand in your area so they can better advise customers who may need guidance to find the right vehicle for their lifestyle. Tools like Kinetic 360 offer analytics and reporting that can help your staff stay on top of what kind of inventory has been successful for your dealership.

3. Focus on Educating Versus Selling
In today’s market, most car buyers are serious shoppers, so you don’t have to worry about spending hours trying to make a hard sell. Instead, spend more time answering their questions and providing them with useful information on any current or upcoming promotions you’re running.

Customers want to feel confident that they’re making an informed decision, so answering questions is going to help you close a sale faster than using old-school sales tactics.

4. Be Transparent
As inventory challenges continue to create delays, it’s important to let customers know what inventory you have available on your lot and any inventory that is currently in transit or being refurbished.

They may prefer to wait a week or two knowing they’ll be able to purchase the vehicle they want versus visiting several car lots, which can eat away at their time.

If you have a floorplan, you can use tools like Kinetic 360 to check the status of your inventory so you know what’s available immediately and what’s coming down the pipeline.

5. Set Realistic Expectations on Price
Customers are more aware of a vehicle’s value than in previous years and may focus on the price they see advertised on a vehicle valuation site. It’s important to educate them on sudden price fluctuations that can drive up the cost of a vehicle.

If they’re still firm on their price, consider asking them if they want to trade in their current vehicle instead of listing it on an online marketplace. This will give them more negotiating power while potentially saving you money on things like transportation and auction fees.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Personalize
If you want to stay on-brand but still leave a personal touch, consider creating email and text message templates that your staff can use to follow-up after a sale.

They should still personalize each communication with customer information to stand out from your competitors, but you’ll be able to make sure that the messaging you’re sharing is consistent.

7. Utilize Technology When Possible
Instead of sending a text-only email to follow-up after a customer visits your car lot, consider recording a short video on your phone.

Adding videos to an email or text has proven to be a more effective way to communicate than using standard text and it only takes a few minutes to record a video and send it to your customers.

If you have customers who want to connect but can’t make it to the lot, try scheduling a video call so that you can still interact with them face-to-face at their convenience.

8. Advertise Other Services
If you have a maintenance department or body shop, make sure that your customers know that they can bring in their vehicles for specific services instead of going somewhere else.

Customers are keeping their vehicles for an average of 12 years or longer, so making them aware of any other services you offer can be an easy way to create additional cash flow.

9. Invest in Technology to Streamline Your Process
A major headache for customers is the time it takes to complete the car buying journey, so investing in better technology to help save time is worth it.

Whether it’s setting up a paperless closing process or investing in more tablets so your Sales team doesn’t have to share, making the process as efficient as possible is going to leave a better impression on your customers.

10. Create Loyalty to Keep Customers Coming Back
The easiest way to create loyalty among your customers is through straightforward, regular contact.

If you find that there is a potential issue with a vehicle, make sure that you let the customer know right away and then provide them with a solution for the problem.

You want to make sure that you’re building a solid reputation with your customers to keep them coming back down the road.

Remember that word of mouth can be your best friend and is often the easiest way to grow your customer base in the future.

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