Understanding the consumer journey from online to offline

November 16, 2018
In the News

As originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Canadian AutoWorld 

By: Cherry Morgan, Digital Product Manager

Have you ever bought something online without first seeing what other people thought of it? Or went to a movie without first checking the reviews, or watching a trailer? How about going into a store and opting to pull out your phone to research more details online instead of talking to a sales associate? Today’s consumer wants to know that they’re making a good purchasing decision and they now demand the ability to instantly find relevant information at their fingertips.

The online marketplace and the shift in consumer behaviour have changed the competitive landscape. Understanding your customer is key to providing them with the information they need to make a purchase decision. This shift is taking place across almost every industry – a recent KPMG study identified the most disruptive market trend as the change in consumer behaviour to expect immediate service and a personalized experience.

The car-buying journey is no different. Car buyers are spending 60 per cent of their research time online looking for information on vehicle pricing, dealership inventory and utilizing digital retailing tools to find the information needed to ultimately purchase in a dealership.

Educate before the dealership

Car buyers want to be informed and educated about every aspect of their vehicle purchase, including Finance and Insurance (F&I) products, before entering the dealership. They want to feel empowered – rather than pressured – to make a decision. Findings from a study by MakeMyDeal show that 71 per cent of car shoppers would be more likely to purchase F&I products if they could research the products before making a purchase. It also showed that 58 per cent of consumers would be more likely to purchase F&I products if dealer websites specifically helped them better understand the value of the products.

With this in mind, give the customer what they’re looking for by ensuring all relevant information is accessible on high traffic, easily accessible areas of your website before they enter the dealership. By providing the customer with access to product information prior to the Financial Services Office (FSO), you can help them feel more informed and confident about choosing the right products for their ownership experience. Rather than spending time pitching product options in the dealership, you can use this face-time more valuably to answer questions about products they’re already interested in and create a low pressure, consultative environment.

Understand the consumer journey

We’ve all experienced the frustration of calling a customer service number and having to repeat our story to every person we talk to, through multiple transfers. No one likes to feel like they haven’t been heard or that their time isn’t valued. These frustrations can undoubtedly lead to a negative experience. It’s a similar experience if you treat everyone that walks into your dealership as if they’re a new customer and don’t respect their numerous hours of research beforehand.

While almost 60 per cent of initial contact with the dealer remains as a walk in, the remainder are actually giving you information prior to visiting the dealership (Cox Automotive, 2018). Respect their time investment and attempt to streamline the dealership experience by utilizing this information to understand where they are in their journey and how you can create a seamless experience for them.

The amount of time spent in the FSO represents a quarter of all shoppers’ major frustration, with satisfaction levels dropping substantially after 90 minutes in the dealership. By taking advantage of the time your customer has spent researching beforehand, in conjunction with providing them with pertinent information on your website, you can make their time in the dealership more efficient and effective and set them up for a more positive experience.

Know your customer

A solid understanding of your customer and their journey can help you tailor the customer’s experience and avoid presenting them with something they won’t need or use. 90 per cent of consumers feel personalization is important in F&I, and 63 per cent are more likely to buy if they’re presented with personalized product options.

This is exceptionally important if they’ve already done extensive research. Ensure you avoid suggesting something that doesn’t align with their needs or predetermined wants by quickly identifying where they’re at in their journey. Meeting them where they are in the process is much more effective than backtracking to the beginning.

Use what the customer has told you to move forward in your needs discovery, ensuring you are well equipped to explain why the product fits their lifestyle. You can then present products that make sense to that customer in a way that will resonate with them.

Trust and transparency

Adopting a transparent and personalized approach to the consumer car-buying experience enables a seamless transition from online to offline. This can create an environment where the car-buyer can shop in an efficient and confident manner. And who doesn’t want that?

Cherry Morgan is the digital product manager at LGM Financial Services.