With the new year beginning and a detailed analysis of the automotive sector’s performance in 2017 now available, it is impossible to deny that the industry is changing. While dealerships have up until now weathered the massive shift away from brick-and-mortar stores and toward online marketplaces better than many other retail industries, 2017 saw the first full year sales decline in the US since the Great Recession, and many industry watchers chalk this up to a preference for used vehicles.
The forecast for 2018 is not much better, and these subdued numbers are raising fundamental questions about how the dealership model can adapt to new technological realities. Why should consumers visit a dealership lot when they can scroll through hundreds of used cars on an online marketplace? While dealerships offer a range of important services that customers do still appreciate, they can no longer assume that interested buyers will simply call them up.
Fortunately for dealerships, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The Internet may have fundamentally reshaped how we shop, but it has also provided dealerships with exciting new opportunities to grow sales. New web-based tools are being developed to help dealerships connect with customers and generate leads, and one of the most powerful of these new tools, live chat software, allows dealerships to meet customers where they are: online.
Live chat software turns a dealership’s website into a show room by contracting remote salespeople to make contact with visitors to the dealership website. The chat staff can field questions about the dealership’s stock or prices, and dealership sales people can monitor these chats live and jump in if they sense the opportunity to move forward with a sale. By helping generate leads for dealership sales team, car dealer texting services that work can yield a huge return in the form of new leads.
It is, of course, possible for dealerships to set up their own chat function. But chat services offer more than just an online interface with website visitors; remote chat staff provide a first response to queries from website visitors, and can sift through frivolous queries (regarding dealership hours or location, for example) so your own sales staff can focus on leads that might turn into sales. Chat services can also operate on behalf of a dealership on online sales forums like Facebook marketplace, making contact with potential customers who might not think to visit the dealership website.
A recent article on Forbes.com suggests that we are moving into a time when digital realities will reshape every aspect of the automotive industry, from how cars are built to how customers buy them. It is no longer a question of whether dealerships should adapt to digital sales, but how — and how soon — they should. Tools like chat software are creating a completely different kind of shopping experience; dealerships that learn how to capitalize on of this new technology sooner rather than later will be better positioned to weather larger changes happening across the auto sales industry.