While dealership inventories are beginning to normalize in 2023, customers have demonstrated they are willing to wait for a vehicle that specifically matches their wants and needs.
According to the Vehicle Buyer Journey survey recently conducted by S&P Global Mobility:
● 56% of consumers in the US would be willing to wait more than one month for delivery of an ordered vehicle.
● 30% of consumers in the US would be willing to wait more than three months.
● 70% of US customers would be willing to select a dealership further away from their homes because the retailer allowed for more online purchase/comparison options.
Now that inventory levels are beginning to normalize, this shift in consumer buying preferences represents an opportunity for dealers to gain market share in 2023 by embracing:
- Digital retailing
- Reserved sales
What is automotive pre-selling?
Pre-selling is when a dealership takes a significant deposit for an inbound vehicle, reserving it for a customer. Previously, this kind of system was exclusively reserved for highly anticipated model releases or fulfilling a particular request. Today, pre-orders are growing in popularity. In fact, according to a recent study, 41% of buyers said they plan to pre-order their next vehicle through a local dealership.
While in the past, dealers often leveraged a “S.W.A.T.” (sell what’s available today) mindset, pre-selling during inventory shortages has become a key way for proactive dealers to meet customer demands and maximize their sales ROI.
In this blog post, we’ll share three tips for dealership inventory management, pre-orders and reserved sales, including:
- Seeking proactive sales opportunities to pre-sell vehicles
- Focusing on convenience for customers interested in inbound vehicles
- Delivering consistent messaging across channels to maintain a consistent customer experience throughout the pre-sale process
Seek Proactive Sales Opportunities
Delivery time is always dependent on the brand, and even more so on the exact situation. Constantly evolving supply chain challenges complicating OEM production schedules means some brands and dealers will be waiting longer than anticipated for vehicle deliveries.
To stay ahead of vehicle delivery delays, it’s critical dealers identify and engage prospective buyers early, ideally before they’ve decided to start shopping around.
Leveraging dealership marketing technology integrated with your dealership’s CRM and DMS allows your team to engage prospective buyers preparing to return to market in the coming months. This includes high-value prospects who are approaching the end of their:
- Finance term
Utilize Forward-Thinking Strategies
To take dealership presales one step further, forward-thinking dealers are using advanced dealership marketing tools like Mastermind. This technology allows dealers to tap into factors driving a prospect’s upcoming purchase decision, such as career changes or identifying growing families.
By deploying this dealership marketing strategy to engage potential buyers who match with inbound vehicles available for pre-sale, dealers are empowered to meet customers where they are in their buying journey. Using this highly personalized approach, customers will be able to buy the vehicle they want, when they need it. Customers don’t have to pick from limited inventory when it’s time to buy, resulting in happier customers and higher CSI scores.
Focus on Convenience for Your Car Buyers
Even as the industry begins to normalize, rapid digitalization during the pandemic and inventory shortages have changed the dealership customer experience and buyers’ preferences permanently.
According to the same S&P Global Mobility survey, the most-cited areas of the buying process that customers wish to conduct online were:
- Negotiating vehicle price,
- F&I paperwork
- Arranging test drives
- Negotiating trade-ins
However, 82% of car buyers still want to test drive a representative model of their planned vehicle purchase before putting down their deposits. This is nearly identical to the 84% who had the same preference prior to the pandemic.
When pre-selling vehicles or marketing pre-orders, it is important that dealers offer convenience from the very first customer touchpoints and carry that customer experience across platforms. Dealers must personalize their approach when:
- Engaging prospects
- Tailoring their messaging
- Timing and formatting to each buyer’s preferences
To improve the dealership pre-ordering customer experience, dealers need to consider convenience from the buyer’s perspective. This means more than haggle-free pricing and keeping inbound pre-sale inventory updated on your dealership’s website. Improving the customer experience needs to start with your dealership’s internal culture while reflecting the needs of your most loyal customers.
Deliver Consistent Messaging Across Every Channel
Pre-ordering a vehicle can be an intimidating process for even the most loyal customers. The process requires dealers to focus on establishing a sense of trust and transparency when building and maintaining customer relationships. Look for opportunities to build trust by starting with transparent messaging that offers buyers a sense of security.
From available inventory and pricing to process and procedures, customers should find consistent and clear messaging from your dealership both online and in-store. Much like the OEM signage across your dealership, brand-specific digital messaging focused on solving problems before they arise is crucial for success when pre-selling new inventory.
Consider creating an easy-to-access FAQ or information center on your website related to the sales and availability of inbound units, or even allowing your customers to place specific orders in real-time while they wait.
Maintain Consistency Throughout Pre-Sales
Finally, ensure your customer experience is consistent across your dealership. This is especially important for customers who are purchasing vehicles sight-unseen when placing pre-orders or reserved sales.
Analyze common customer concerns gathered from your sales and service teams for opportunities to improve the overall customer experience. For example, when a customer calls, your BDC and sales team should be utilizing an inventory management system filled with notes to stay well informed of each vehicle’s estimated timeline.
Include ample information about the vehicles, including what is currently available for pre-sale and what may be delayed further. With the customer in mind, consider creating easy-to-reference guides for your team that clearly detail the pre-selling process at your dealership and answer frequently asked questions.
Finally, look for opportunities to engage customers across your dealership’s channels, including self-serve elements on your dealership’s website, such as trade-in calculators or credit applications. Additionally, seek to offer solutions for processes like:
- Pricing trade-ins,
- Ordering specific units and even
- Long-term F&I assistance for customers to raise their credit scores during their wait
For most dealers, vehicle pre-sales were completely possible before the chip shortage, but pre-selling incoming inventory has never been as critical as it is today.
To stay a step ahead even as inventory levels normalize, offering convenient customer pre-ordering experiences is critical. This requires dealers to take a proactive approach, engaging customers before they return to market, and offering a consistent dealership experience across platforms.
Interested in learning how Mastermind can empower your dealership to drive more pre-orders and manage new car inventories by delivering an exceptional customer experience? Contact us for a free demo.