Auto sales today: Simplification needed



Consumers would be happier buying cars if the process were quicker. Tech integration can help.

Sales processes of all kinds have changed drastically in the past two decades - just ask a bookstore employee or music label executive. However, a few products remain resistant to change. In most cases, vehicles have to be sold through physical dealerships. The Internet can act as a shopping tool, but it serves to bring dealers and buyers together rather than playing host to online-only businesses.

The legacy sales process still in place in the automotive industry is restrictive, but there is room for improvement within its required steps. If retailers are able to cut down the time and effort expended on each stage of buying a car - from performing research to driving off the lot and everything in between - they may be able to make headway with buyers who have become disenchanted with the entire process.

Efficiency needed but lacking
Auto Trader and Cox Automotive surveyed car buyers to see what kind of factors could make them happier with the process of buying a car. The researchers found that during the first 90 minutes of any purchase, people are the happiest. After two and a half hours, they feel less than average satisfaction. This seems to give dealers plenty of time to pitch a sale but when one adds all the relevant steps within one transaction - the sale itself, vehicle appraisal, financing and insurance - the transaction time can add up.

Image removed.Taking time off the sales process could improve dealer performance.

When it comes to tightening up these processes and pleasing customers, the goal is twofold. Providing a more streamlined experience is desirable on its own terms, as customers will be more incentivized to complete transactions, return to the dealer in the future and tell acquaintances about the company. Becoming faster is also desirable because so many dealers have not yet made this jump. Companies are not judged in a vacuum, and offering an experience that no other brand can promise could help one dealership stand out from the pack - a valuable objective for any dealer.

"Speeding up education about vehicles can make a positive difference."

Technology is the missing variable
Auto dealers should introduce new tech tools to the sales process wherever they can. Solutions such as touchscreen kiosks can equip shoppers and salespeople alike with information at every step of a purchase, from initial research to signing the final documents. Speeding up education about particular models of vehicles and allowing consumers to customize their choice with a simple gesture can make a positive difference in the early phase of interest. Creating a new digital point of sale environment can help employees move customers out of the showroom and onto the road in a hurry.

While some companies are taking the wrong lessons from the massive success of the Apple Store model, duplicating the visual look without adapting it for their industries, there is room for auto dealers to learn valuable strategies. For instance, creating a streamlined sales process that integrates technology at every step and is more focused on the customer experience than closing sales could pay dividends for today's tech-empowered auto dealers. Even though several old-fashioned elements of the car buying process appear to be here to stay, there are ways to shake up the status quo.