At your store, you understand the importance of attractively presenting your vehicles and the dealership to draw car buyers on to the lot. Making a good first impression increases the likelihood that shoppers will check out your inventory and buy a car when they find the right fit. The same standard applies to your virtual showroom. As customers search your online listings and review your website, are they forming a favorable opinion? If not, let’s look at the tactics that will keep you in the running for the sale and your competitors at bay.

Stand Out With Your Merchandising

On automotive shopping sites, car buyers increasingly control how vehicles are presented to them for consideration. They can fine-tune the results to focus on those cars that match their criteria (e.g., color, model year and price) and remove the ones that fall short. Depending on how fully you merchandise your listings, you may not even have a chance to make a first impression.

To increase the visibility of your inventory and create more opportunities to engage with in-market shoppers, you should include:

  • Competitive pricing. While price alone drives few purchases, it plays an important role. Rather than pricing your vehicles at the top or bottom end of the market, aim for the midrange with competitive vehicles. This approach tells prospects they’ll get a fair deal and allows you to hold gross by selling to your store’s strengths. Failing to feature a price drops your listings to the bottom of the list or can block them from appearing.
  • Multiple photos. Demonstrate the vehicle’s condition and special features with several pictures that allow shoppers to take a virtual test drive. If your store sells new cars, use actual photos, rather than stock images, to assure buyers they like the color/trim level and that the vehicle is available for immediate sale. While a single picture may have worked in the past, buyers today want to see several or more – especially with highline makes.
  • Video. Set yourself apart from other dealers with video. Not only do you add excitement to your listings with music and a voiceover narration, but you can brand your store and promote the value of buying from you.
  • Descriptive sell copy. Look beyond the information included in the VIN decoder to tell a story about what the car will be like to own and drive. Describing its smoke- and accident-free condition and the quality of its audio system, for example, delivers higher quality leads than simply restating the standard and optional accessories.

Stand Out With Your Sales Process

Beyond the vehicle itself, car buyers want to purchase from the right place. When in-market shoppers contact you for information, set the stage for a sale by replying quickly, building rapport and working to match them with a vehicle you have in stock. Promote the value of buying from you and your dealership.

Customers can contact you through a variety of channels, so it’s critical to create processes that help you consistently respond in:

  • Chat. Online chat allows you to work with prospects who may prefer to remain anonymous while they research the vehicles they’re considering. In working with these buyers, your best approach is to answer their questions through several exchanges before asking for the information you want. As you earn the person’s trust, look for natural points in the conversation to request a phone number or email address so you can provide follow-up information. Remember to ask for the appointment.
  • Email. Communicating effectively via email requires you to pay attention to detail (i.e., grammar, punctuation and spelling) and provide customers with a timely response. Your reply should directly address shoppers’ questions and engage them in an ongoing dialogue until they’re ready to come into the store. One way to do that is to ask questions: Are you open to options that might save you money? If you have a car to trade, which features does it offer or lack that you most want in your next vehicle?
  • Phone calls. How you manage the initial incoming or outgoing call will likely determine whether you win the prospect’s business. To help with the conversation, open tabs in your internet browser to each of the sites on which your store advertises listings. This way, you can quickly identify the specific vehicle of interest to the shopper and provide additional information. Resist the temptation to sell the car, focusing instead on addressing the shopper’s needs and setting an appointment.
  • Walk-in visits. Not every shopper who is interested in one of your cars will contact you through chat, email or a phone call. Many car buyers prefer to visit you in the dealership, where they can get their questions answered and take a test drive. As you talk with prospects, continue to assess their needs and suggest vehicles at your store they may want to consider.

Once you’ve made a good first impression, remember to build on that foundation with your follow-up process. While some customers will buy within a few days of contacting you, other shoppers may require several weeks or a couple of months. Sticking with customers until they buy – and giving them a positive experience along the way – sets you apart from less-committed competitors and positions you to win repeat and referral business.

Additional Resources

Looking for additional tips you can implement in your store today to drive more traffic with your online advertising and desk more deals with your internet sales processes? Check out Cars.com’s DealerCenter. Here, you can read previous editions of our DealerADvantage newsletter or listen to archived recordings of our DealerADvantage LIVE webinar series.