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Building genuine customer engagement in auto retail

July 12, 2024

Digital Retail

“'You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”

Steve Jobs’ mantra packs a punch, especially in the world of automotive retail and it matters more now than ever before.

Imagine you're in the market for a new car. You start your search by visiting various dealership websites, research models, and reading up on customer reviews. Now, think about the moments that stood out to you during those visits. Was it a quick response to your inquiry? The way a salesperson remembered your name and preferences? Or how about when a dealership followed up with a personalized offer? These moments make you feel valued, heard, and respected—like you're not just another sale, but a real person with unique needs and preferences.

This is customer engagement, and it’s becoming the heart and soul of how successful businesses operate. In an age where options are endless and information is at everyone’s fingertips, customers have the power to choose based not just on price or product, but on who makes them feel best throughout their buying journey. And that’s what brings them back, again and again.

Mastering the modern customer experience

Today's retail landscape has been dramatically reshaped by the digital revolution, transforming shoppers into well-informed, discerning consumers who expect every interaction to be fast, convenient, and seamless across both digital and physical spaces. Empowered by limitless information and tools at their fingertips, modern consumers demand excellence and efficiency, driving brands to innovate continually to meet these high expectations. When these demands are met, the rewards include increased loyalty, endorsements on social media, and a stronger overall brand reputation, propelling businesses to the forefront of the competitive market.

In  auto retail, engaging customers effectively is no longer just an added bonus—it's essential. Dealerships are turning to digital innovations like interactive websites and virtual showrooms to create informative, enjoyable car buying experiences. By prioritizing personalization and transparency, especially in areas like financing, dealerships build trust and ease the stress of significant financial decisions. This strategic engagement fosters enduring loyalty and transforms satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates, setting a dealership apart as a leader in customer-centered service in today's digitally-driven marketplace.

Navigating the stages of customer engagement in auto retail.

Let's explore the critical customer engagement stages that define their journey in automotive retail, pinpointing customer expectations and identifying common areas where auto retailers often stumble.

Sparking Interest: The Digital Handshake

What happens: The customer journey starts when they find your dealership online, marking their first "digital handshake" with your brand. As they navigate your site, their initial impressions form, setting the tone for their interaction with your dealership.

Customer expectations: Prospective buyers seek a user-friendly, informative, and engaging website. They value clear displays of inventory and unique dealership features, enhanced by reviews, testimonials, and videos to boost their buying confidence.

Where retailers fall short: Many dealerships struggle at this stage due to outdated websites, poor user experiences, and a lack of engaging multimedia content. Without compelling reviews and easy information access, potential customers may quickly turn to more engaging alternatives like Youtube reviews or competitor websites.

Connect and configure: 

What happens: As customers move from just looking around to seriously thinking about buying, they dive into customizing their dream car, checking out what’s available, and sorting through payment options in your digital showroom. Quick chat features are there to answer any questions, helping them make decisions without any fuss.

Customer expectations: Customers are looking for a smooth and friendly online shopping experience. They want to easily tweak their vehicle to their liking, quickly find up-to-date information on models, and understand pricing and financing clearly. They value chat services that provide speedy and accurate responses, making their purchase process feel like a breeze.

Where retailers fall short: Sometimes, dealerships don’t quite keep up, with clunky online tools that make personalizing a car more frustrating than fun. Slow responses from chat services and vague details on vehicle availability or financing can make customers feel left out in the cold, missing that warm, informed support they’re after.

Showroom experience: 

What happens: Customers come into the showroom ready to turn their online commitment into a reality, eager to test drive and perhaps finalize their car purchase. This step brings their online research vividly to life.

Customer expectations: Customers come into the showroom ready to turn their online commitment into a reality, eager to test drive and perhaps finalize their car purchase. This step brings their online research vividly to life.

Where retailers fall short: At times, the showroom doesn’t match the website’s energy or personalization. If staff aren’t up-to-date with customers' online activities or if the setting lacks vibrancy, it can dampen the excitement, making the visit feel lackluster and leave customers’ second guessing. 

Continuing the journey: Nurturing the relationship after the sale

What happens: The adventure continues post-purchase as customers track their new car's delivery, schedule their first service, and explore customization options with accessories. This phase keeps the excitement alive and ensures customers remain engaged with ongoing support.

Customer expectations: After leaving the showroom, customers expect to stay well-informed and valued. They anticipate regular updates on their car’s delivery and want a seamless process for scheduling services or adding accessories. They look forward to a personalized experience that makes them feel like part of the dealership family.

Where retailers fall short: Post-sale, the level of service can sometimes drop. Customers may face delays in receiving updates or find communication about service plans and additional features less than clear. This lack of support can leave them feeling overlooked and diminish the sense of an ongoing relationship.

Driving customer engagement in auto retail: 

To boost customer engagement in auto retail, dealerships can embrace specific digital strategies that enhance every step of the customer journey. By integrating real-time inventory tools and interactive customization features online, dealerships ensure their digital presence is as lively and inviting as their physical showroom.

In the showroom, using digital kiosks or augmented reality (AR) apps lets customers see their customizations come to life in real-time, adding a fun and interactive element to their visit. Alongside this tech, equipping staff with detailed customer profiles means every interaction is personalized, making customers feel right at home and well understood from the get-go.

Post-purchase, keeping the connection going is key. A mobile app can offer straightforward scheduling for services, updates on vehicle upkeep, and special deals on accessories and brand merch. These smart touches not only smooth out any snags but also keep customers coming back, turning a one-time buy into an ongoing relationship.

Introducing the experience layer : 

Navigating the intricate world of customer engagement can often feel overwhelming for auto retailers. Yet, imagine an intuitive and innovative solution that acts like a friendly digital handshake, wrapping around your existing systems to enhance every interaction without disrupting the established flow. This "experience layer" is crafted to touch the heart of every customer journey, transforming each step from the initial inquiry to post-sale services into personal and engaging experiences. By embracing this approach, dealerships can elevate routine engagements into deeply resonant, memorable moments that foster strong connections and enrich the entire car buying process.

Oorjit’s experience suite :

This is where oOrjit Automotive steps in. As your dedicated experience layer, oOrjit seamlessly melds with your DMS, invigorating your current operations with new vitality. Our platform is designed to enrich key aspects of customer interaction—tailoring communications, streamlining appointments, and ensuring that every update reaches your customers in real time. This attention to detail makes each customer feel genuinely valued and deeply connected to your dealership. With oOrjit Automotive, you're not just fulfilling expectations; you're crafting unforgettable experiences that elevate every facet of the car buying and ownership journey.