As previously discussed, car dealerships fail in this digital world of ours. The industry of selling cars has barely advanced and the most unique thing that dealerships can offer you is their “experience”. That is as ludicrous as Amazon still relying on USPS and UPS to deliver that “person to person delivery experience” when we can instantly teleport products in 200 years. Who wants to immediately receive their 55 gallon barrel of lubricant in the privacy of their own home when they could wait two weeks and then awkwardly open the door in a gimp suit?
It seems like everyone knows exactly how they want to buy cars, but no one knows how to sell them. Why have dealerships struggled so badly with the adaptation of technology?
Think of all of the industries affected by the rampant growth of technology and how it has changed what they sell and how they sell it. Grocery stores used to have ice delivered to them, often from entirely different states or countries. Ice farming and shipping used to actually be a job; you could have ice delivered to your Caribbean estate from Norway. Now, we just open up our freezer. Every music store used to be a sprawling collection of vinyl,then tape, then CD’s. Music used to be physical; you could see the grooves on vinyl. Now, we just open up iTunes. At one point in human history, you had to make your own clothes. I can’t even imagine that because I can’t even imagine making my own food.
While vehicles have changed in massive and extraordinary ways, they’re still basically the same. Four wheels, an engine and transmission, somewhere for passengers to sit. Since the widespread adoption of cars, they have never been rare things for Americans. In the old days it wasn’t like trying to buy ice cream before your grocery store had its own freezer. “Oh sorry, we don’t have any ice cream today. Would you prefer some warm vanilla extract?” The method of producing cars has largely stayed the same, as has the car itself and because of this, the ways of buying them have been stagnant as well.
Slowly but surely, dealerships are learning from their mistakes. Probably because I report every abandoned Facebook profile that I can find in a misguided attempt at getting their attention. I really need to know if they still have that $13,000 2009 Nissan Sentra.
Many dealerships have people who handle internet inquiries by either sending out accurate quotes, or if they are useless, telling you to come into the dealership for a quote. Car lots also attempt to engage with local customers and community members via Facebook and Twitter. These efforts often look as impressive and effective as your first love note in 5th grade. That is, you felt bad writing it and the recipient felt bad reading it.
At my dealership, my primary job is to send out accurate quotes and to assist customers with any questions that they may have before coming into the store. Many of the people that I guilt-trip into coming into the dealership with my depressing email signature end up having a very quick buying experience because I already sold them the car. Once they come in and I greet them in my
grimp track business suit, I hand them off to a salesperson that goes over financing and paperwork.
This is where my dealership and almost every single other one in existence fails. If my customers have already decided that they want to buy a car, why can’t they just do it online, drive to our location and pick up their exciting new Hyundai Accent? Or better yet, if a customer knows exactly what they want without communicating with me, why can’t they just buy the car online? The only affordable brand offering this futuristic way of doing business is basically Scion.
A large part of the problem is that many salespeople work strictly on commission. Reducing customer foot traffic would reduce sales which would reduce the size of paychecks. The number one rule of car salesmen is to never mess with their money. The second is to tell them “I know what I got” when negotiating the value of your trade-in.
Dealerships very strongly believe in their individual experience. If we could all purchase our vehicles online, then the customer service and sales experience would be along the same line of thinking as “This McDonald’s has a much better burger eating experience than that McDonald’s”. Unfortunately for us but not so much for dealerships, the technology to purchase vehicles online doesn’t exist yet or something. Dealerships also thrive off of repeat customers and maintenance/repair business, and that is about the only thing ensuring that anyone returns to one Nissan dealer over another.
At my place of work, you can mostly purchase a vehicle online. The entire credit application can be filled out online, as can finding out a lot of information about your car of interest. You simply email me and ask if our Challenger Hellcat gets good gas mileage and I tell you to buy a Honda Civic. Quick and easy. But then, our customers still have to enter the dealership if they want to haggle the price down or to finish signing all of the paperwork. This can still take hours.
We have a Facebook page, but I’m not entirely sure why. We have an online inventory, but I’m not entirely sure why. It isn’t 100% up to date, which almost defeats the purpose. We have an online credit application, but I’m not entirely sure why. You still have to come in to sign paperwork. We have an Internet Sales Manager, but I’m not entirely sure why. You still have to come in and talk to me in person. Can’t we make it so that I never have to talk to people in person?
Selling cars in the Year of Our Lord 2020 -6 +1 is still almost exactly the same as it was seemingly 100 years ago. Come in to the dealership and leave after three hours feeling like you got screwed over, then repeat the process when you’ve healed your wounds and you car has 60,000 miles on it.