Car buying isn’t as simple as it used to be, prompting a need for auto lenders and dealerships to adopt an omnichannel approach to both attract and retain customers.
Today’s consumers want a car-buying experience that meets their unique needs while making them feel confident, Daniel Chu, chief executive of Tricolor Auto Acceptance, told Auto Finance News. Customers want to be able to research and shop for cars by phone or computer, while also having the option to visit dealerships and see the vehicles in person.
The success of online car retailers such as Carvana, Vroom and Shift highlight changing consumer preferences and the importance of offering a more tailored experience, Chu said, noting that customers now have a better understanding of what they are looking for in both a car and the buying process itself.
“When we first saw automotive begin to offer engagement online, it was very simple,” Chu said, noting that consumers would search online for certain brands and potentially a few select features. “Today, we’re seeing people want to achieve their own expectations around personal style,” he added.
“For many people [the car] represents a statement about who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and how they want to project their own personality,” Chu said. “Because that emotional aspect to the experience seems to still resonate so strongly with customers, we believe that an omnichannel approach will still largely be the way autos are transacted.”
Auto lenders and dealers can drive customer loyalty by offering a seamless omnichannel approach that makes consumers feel understood, Chu noted. “Auto is uniquely positioned to offer an opportunity … to deliver an experience that makes customers feel special and validated,” he said.
At the same time, even as online becomes a bigger part of car buying, in-person experiences aren’t going by the wayside. In fact, about 70% of car buyers still want to test drive the vehicle before purchasing, and many often visit multiple dealerships, according to Cox Automotive.
Dealers also play a crucial role in the delivery of vehicles, and customers still consider affordability and available vehicles when making a purchase decision, Chu noted. “In the U.S., as we look at retail automotive and how that interacts with automotive finance, we really see that, for emotional and practical purposes, the omnichannel experience looks like it’s going to prevail,” he said.
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