Four key areas of change are evident: information gathering, finance and admin, touch and feel, and price transparency and unbundling.
The dealership is traditionally the hub for customers in terms of gathering information about both the vehicle they will buy and how they will buy it. Dealers’ business models are built around the one-to-one rapport that is forged between customer and salesperson, relationships which form the basis for selling not only vehicles but also upselling a range of related products – service packages, insurance and finance, for example.
However, our research shows that customers are increasingly using multiple channels for information gathering, especially when it comes to buying EVs. Existing car owners looking to buy their first EV seek reassurance that they are making the right choice. EVs are unfamiliar territory for those more used to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and 49% make use of both online and offline channels to gather information and gain confidence in their decision-making.
Dealers are still part of the process, for now at least. But to remain front-of-mind will require a better understanding of the customer decision journey, and a transition away from the traditional focus on getting a sale and toward a more advisory and supporting role. Dealers should aim to be the customers’ copilot, a trusted expert providing the information, advice and guidance they need to reassure them that they are making the right choice.
That means building a better picture of where individual customers are on their decision journey, and how they can best be helped to complete it. Dealers will need to develop new ways of making the first online contact as well as physical contact with prospective buyers, building trusted relationships with customers, and managing the transition between online and offline channels smoothly.
Finance and admin
Selling vehicle finance at the point of sale is a major profit driver for dealers, and the process of finalizing documents and paperwork is further used to upsell a variety of add-on products around maintenance, insurance and so forth.
But while in-person admin looks to the dealer like a significant value-add opportunity, to customers used to slick e-commerce style purchasing, it is a hassle they are increasingly keen to avoid. Both non-car owners and owners display a marked preference for arranging finance online rather than in person. Two-thirds (66%) of potential car buyers prefer to get quotations and secure financing online, while 29% agree or strongly agree that completing paperwork online is preferable to doing so at the dealership.