For automotive dealers, identifying, nurturing, and closing leads has become more complicated, as auto shoppers use an increasingly wide array of channels and devices to interact with dealers. In recent weeks, we’ve been blogging about the importance of treating each lead source separately, including phone leads, internet leads, and walk-in leads. The ability to do so hinges on the right tools to track leads. In the future, technology will become even more crucial and sophisticated, especially as forms of artificial intelligence take hold. The advent of smarter technology is one of two trends shaping the future of leads management.
We’ve often seen changes in one industry affect the automotive sector. For instance, the personalization and user friendliness of sites such as Amazon have raised consumers’ expectations for the functionality and ease of use of dealer websites. Right now, industries such as retail are being affected by the uptake of artificial intelligence, and it’s easy to imagine AI taking hold in automotive to support sales.
With AI, retailers can analyze consumer behavior with greater precision and depth than ever before. For instance, AI helps retailers such as North Face analyze the shopping and search patterns of online audiences and then create more personalized inventory. And with AI, businesses can do a much better job providing shoppers with smart assistants to help them navigate inventory both offline and online. For instance, brick-and-mortar businesses such as Whole Foods and Sam’s Club rely on bots to suggest inventory to browse in store via conversational bots. Dealerships could do the same. With bots, dealerships could conceivably answer detailed questions about inventory with web-based leads and provide on-the-lot assistance for early-stage shoppers who have questions about pricing and features but are not ready to engage with salespeople.
The Salesperson as Consultants
Smart technology may well complement sales people by freeing them up from responding to fact-based queries. And salespeople are going to become more crucial as personal consultants, offering deep insight into the rapidly changing automotive industry beyond features and pricing.
The automotive industry is undergoing dramatic change. The advent of autonomous vehicles, uptake of technologies such as voice assistants, and the growth of business models such as ride sharing are transforming our very notion of what it means to own and operate a vehicle. Indeed, the assumption that cars are meant to be driven may pass away in coming years. Salespeople are already important – 97 percent of consumers would like to contact them before they visit a dealer – and they’re going to become even more so as consumers look for sherpas to navigate the new technologies and car configurations rapidly emerging.
Buying a vehicle is already complicated. With advances such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, buying a car is more akin to buying an advanced supercomputer on wheels. Doing so is not going to get any easier. And salespeople are the key to overcoming information anxiety and making the right choice.
These are exciting times indeed. To get a sense of how to identify, nurture, and close leads in this changing industry, download our Cars.com Guide to Converting Leads to Sales in the Digital Era. In addition, watch the recent webinar, Convert Leads to Sales, where Jennifer Suzuki and I dove into more detail about identifying, nurturing, and closing leads.
 DealerRater Introduces CustomerConnect, April 27, 2016.