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How to Create a Seamless Dealership Customer Experience from Online to In-Store

In today’s constantly changing automotive world, dealerships that can perfectly blend the online and in-store experiences are finding the strategy to be a game-changer.

Digital retailing has significantly impacted how customers shop for vehicles.65% of U.S. vehicle buyers shop online or partially online according to S&P Global Mobility’s latest Vehicle Buyer Journey Study – with ‘Online Readiness’ up by 17 percentage points in the past two years.

Amid rapid digitalization, a new omnichannel dealership experience emerges as customers transition between online and in-person interactions. The study also unveiled that 25% of consumers buy remotely (not in a showroom) but still with direct interaction with the dealer.

As this type of hybrid sales channel becomes the new normal, there is still an important role for the physical dealership. But to create a seamless dealership customer experience from online to in-store, dealers must: 

  • Understand the omnichannel customer journey
  • Build a cohesive online presence
  • Prioritize data integrations and personalized customer interactions
  • Equip their team with the tools and training they need to succeed
customer shaking dealership representatives hand

Understanding the Customer Journey

A seamless customer experience starts with understanding the buyer’s journey. This starts before a customer returns to the market, typically with some online research before heading in-store.  

Early touchpoints in the buyer journey like website interactions, phone inquiries, and showroom visits all play a role in shaping the dealership customer experience. By identifying these touchpoints, dealers can pinpoint potential pain points for elimination and create a seamless experience that moves each customer from shopper to buyer.  

Mapping the customer journey at your dealership goes beyond listing out your touchpoints. Dealers must truly understand every buyer’s unique needs at each stage of their buying journey.

To provide a convenient and personalized omnichannel buying experience, dealers need to ensure they are tracking and accounting for customer interactions taking place on digital channels like their website. This includes equipping the BDC or sales staff with these insights to help inform customer interactions.

By listening to customers, proactively addressing their concerns, and operating within their expectations, your team can cultivate a customer-first approach that enriches their journey, ultimately making their time with your dealership excellent.

Building a Cohesive Online Presence

Creating a seamless customer experience across channels requires a strong start. With customers increasingly looking online to research vehicles, this typically begins on a dealership’s website.

It may seem obvious, but a dealership’s website should be a user-friendly hub that allows customers to shop and research effortlessly. This includes an intuitive layout and easy navigation that helps customers find what they need quickly.

By adding interactive and self-service elements to their digital retailing experience, dealers can empower buyers to lead their own buying journey while simultaneously gaining valuable insights to help guide their way. 

For example, integrating an online chat and other customer support options staffed by your BDC enables dealers to provide quick, accurate responses to inquiries and have real-time conversations with customers to convert their consideration into a closed sale. 

Data Integration and Personalization

Creating a cohesive omnichannel dealership experience requires dealers to integrate their online and offline data.

By harnessing this data, dealerships can tailor their interactions to meet specific customer needs. This includes analyzing online interactions on the dealership website, and reviewing purchase history and any other data points available to gain valuable insights into how each customer should be helped.

Syncing online shopping preferences with in-store needs means taking the insights found deep in customer data to customize the in-person dealership customer experience. For example: If a customer has shopped for electric vehicles online, then their time in-store should prioritize electric models

How Does Comprehensive Data Increase Your Dealership’s Bottom Line?

Online Financing and Documentation

The convenience of online financing and documentation tools play a pivotal role in creating the best possible dealership customer experience for your customers. Offering pre-approval options for financing empowers them with their options before they even step into the dealership. This saves time and allows customers to explore their options at their own pace.

Look for other opportunities to streamline the customer experience such as allowing buyers to upload and submit documentation online before completing the purchasing process at the dealership. This eliminates the need for cumbersome paperwork and reduces wait times when it comes to F&I, enhancing the overall dealership customer experience.

Communication and Follow-Up

Effective communication is the cornerstone of every good relationship, and the dealership-customer connection is no different.

To create an effective omnichannel customer experience, dealers need to engage buyers in their preferred format and via their preferred channels. Whether it’s email, SMS or direct mail, each customer touchpoint needs to build off the last to create a seamless buying experience before – and after the sale.

Look for opportunities to engage customers with timely and personalized post-purchase interactions such as convenient service reminders. This approach not only benefits the dealership’s CSI scores, it keeps the lines of customer communication open – and your dealership top-of-mind.

Staff Training and Alignment

The final step of creating a seamless dealership customer experience across channels is ensuring the hand-off between departments is equally as smooth. This requires regular training, clear communication, and a shared vision among your team.

Every team member, from the receptionist to the sales manager, should understand the dealership’s commitment to a seamless customer experience. They must know the importance of both online and in-store interactions and how they intertwine.

From the initial online browsing to the final in-store purchase, every staff member involved should have a clear understanding of their role in the customer’s journey. No matter where a customer’s journey begins, every customer should receive the same level of help without feeling like they’ve started over.

Leveraging Technology and Tools

Data-driven sales and marketing tools are critical to helping dealers provide a seamless customer experience across channels. By integrating data from a dealership’s digital retailing channels, CRM, DMS, CDP, and more, these tools enable dealers to maintain a robust record of each customer’s path, preferences, and needs.

With these details, sales and marketing teams can craft personalized communications and set the stage for a smoother handoff between online and in-store teams. When informed by customer data, these communications can be tailored to bridge the gap between buyer’s online and in-store experience – while building confidence at every point.

In the ever-evolving automotive retail landscape, it’s clear that the convergence of online and in-store experiences is paramount for success. Thankfully, dealerships now have a roadmap for how to navigate this new omnichannel era, with steps ranging from understanding the customer journey to leveraging cutting-edge technology.

As digital retailing continues to change how customers shop for vehicles, the dealerships that prioritize a harmonious blending of online and physical interactions will undoubtedly lead the pack. By staying ahead of the curve, embracing digital transitions, and investing in continuous staff training, dealers can ensure they offer a top-notch, seamless experience that today’s customers not only expect but demand.

Want to learn how Mastermind can empower your dealership to provide a seamless customer experience across channels? Contact us for a free demo.