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In a world racing towards digitalization and automation, and with fewer buyers walking into physical showrooms/dealerships, manufacturers are missing out by delivering an experience that is far below satisfactory. Below, you will find a few useful things to tackle if you’re in the business of selling cars.
In my previous article, “Are we really connecting with online buyers? UAE, KSA, and Kuwait auto shopper habits revealed”, I addressed my points of view on a recent Google study conducted in the region. In the same article, I also mentioned a little about my experience after visiting dealers across the region. So, here we go!
First, I would like to highlight that this is based purely on personal experience and hence there is no data to support my findings. Moreover, this article covers my opinion and how I felt after paying so many visits to showrooms across the region. I truly believe anyone and everyone reading this article will understand that the bigger picture is more important than addressing specific cases/names.
Over the last six months, I've visited anywhere between 140 and 160 dealers (a combination of used car dealers and new car dealers) across the GCC and Egypt. YallaMotor is the largest vertical automotive portal in the region and I truly believe that developing a relationship from behind my desk at a computer screen is a dead-end. Meeting with people that empower us to develop better businesses is the way forward and key to maintaining a company in leading position.
You might be thinking, I was at the showrooms for meetings and that is why I wasn’t treated the same way as they treat buyers, but I do have a few findings to share:
1) When someone walks into a showroom, the salesperson or receptionist doesn't really know if they are going to a meeting, buying a car, buying two cars, or buying three cars.
2) Many times, I walked in as a regular customer since there were no meetings scheduled and to engage with the staff I roll played my way through a fair bit of it.
3) I was also keen to see how our monthly 1.4 million (and growing) users experience the offline showroom visit after the online interaction with our site, because at the end of the day, every client asks for results and while my job is to deliver better results day after day, I also need to understand how our clients deliver results.
From my point of view, I need to understand the client’s perspective to:
a) Enhance and better connect with the overall car research/buying experience.
b) See if they are meeting the expectations of YallaMotor users since we promise to aid users with making better informed and cost-effective decisions. Related to the online experience, I have gathered some findings and will share those in another article shortly.
I expect this to be taken as constructive feedback so that we can eventually discuss how to enhance the car-buying journey. Below are my opinions on things that no customer should ever face when walking into a showroom. If you own a showroom, these are a few key things that turn customers away.
Cast Away: It just so happened that while I walked into several showrooms, I felt like Tom Hanks on the deserted island of Cast Away. I was there on my own, checking cars, opening doors, sitting in the driver’s seat, reading the spec sheets placed next to the vehicles, even attempting to make eye contact with the sales people, and yet there was nothing. Not even a "Hello, I'll be with you in a few minutes."
Sometimes, I could tell the sales people were busy running around the assisting other customers, but most of the times they were not. If you see someone walking into the showroom, it is because he/she is interested -to some extent- to buy a car. Hence, approach the customer, connect with them. I truly believe nowadays it’s a blessing every time someone walks into the showroom. I can understand, sometimes the customer needs their own space, but you will only know if you interact with them. Moreover, the way I see it, customers are not just walking into a random retail store, right?
Don't pay attention to your phone: Related to the previous point, there is a clear "always on the phone” fever that keeps sales people away from customers walking into the showroom. You might be dealing with a customer over WhatsApp, but I really don't think that will be the case all the time. Even though I can understand a sales representative might be closing a deal over the phone, it's a matter of priority. Pay attention to the individual who dragged themselves to the showroom first.
Buyers know a lot more nowadays: Online portals and websites empower buyers with tools and information during the research phase. Basically, this means that by the time a potential buyer walks into the showroom, they’ve already gathered plenty of information about the vehicle they want to purchase. For example, prices, trim levels, if it has a good review or not, what other customers are saying about the car, what professional car reviewers are saying about it, which are the competitors, how much is the difference between the competitors, and several other things.
Unlike in the past where customers were clueless about cars, nowadays many customers have done their research and are set on a purchase before even walking into the showroom. It felt very weird when I knew more about the vehicles on display than the salesman attempting to sell me the vehicle. Other than training staff on the model line-up and competing models, I think keeping them informed with what is being said online is essential, especially since they need to deal with customers who have read and watched information online prior to their visit.
You can't test drive the car you are planning to buy: I kept the best one for last; doing the test drive of the car you are interested in. If you are reading this, it might sound ridiculous, but let me tell you it is something that has happened not just once, but four times and with four different brands. I got the deserved attention and after having nice chat with the sales representative, we discussed specs, trim levels, prices, financing options, insurance costs, servicing costs, warranty, and pretty much everything else related to the vehicle.
The next step was the one I’d most been waiting for, the test drive! So, I said with a smile on my face, “alright I would love to drive it!” I got two “killing-the-momentum” type of answers. Please note, I wasn't asking to test drive a Lamborghini or something extraordinary, it was just a popular AED 130,000 car (USD 35,000).
The first answer I received was, “We don't have any test drives available.” So, I asked him, “What do you mean? Is there another customer test driving it because I can wait?” And he said “No, we don't have the car on the test drive fleet.” Please go back a couple of lines and read again, it was a popular car!
The second answer I got was even more frustrating. According to the salesman at the showroom, the vehicle was already booked for a customer. He suggested they book me in for a session and I return later (a couple of days later) for the test drive. I proceeded to ask him if the customer was already at the showroom and he confirmed he wasn’t. Although I was already in the showroom and ready to go out for a short 5 – 10 minutes test drive, the salesman simply refused since the vehicle was booked for someone else who hadn’t arrived yet.
Although I understand I didn't have an advanced booking for a test drive, I have invested my time and am standing in the showroom, requesting for a test drive that will not take longer than five to ten minutes. If you have a buyer that has invested time to get more information about the car and is willing to conduct a test drive (which is an experience that will get them closer to the purchase) try your best to get them behind the steering wheel. It’s a humble request.