Stock Control as a Strategic Issue: Taking an Omnichannel Approach

The lockdowns of the last year have resulted in the ‘shortcutting’ of consumers’ comfort with, and expectations of, buying online. This has been true across almost all categories of product, including big ticket items such as cars. In the Autotrader Market Report November 2020, 41% of research respondents stated that they would consider buying a car completely through an online channel; this rose to 61% when presented with a working example of how this might look in practice. Key reasons given for the popularity of online channels as part of the buying process were general ease and convenience, removal of the need to haggle, the possibility of a quicker purchase and the ability to easily compare deals.

Not quite ready to click and collect

However, car purchases remain an infrequent and somewhat daunting process for many, requiring a level of human interaction and assistance. In the same piece of research, 86% of respondents stated that they would need at least some human assistance in both going through the purchase details and signing the paperwork, with the majority wanting to do this in person, at the dealership.

Added to this is the inescapable fact that buying a car is a sensory experience that is almost impossible to recreate through online channels alone. This means that successful, modern car dealers seek to provide an engaging experience throughout the sales process across all available channels:

  • Delivering a consistent ‘brand experience’ across all channels to ease progression through the sales funnel
  • Ensuring accuracy of online stock information to avoid customer disappointment when visiting physical showrooms to view specific vehicles
  • Having the logistical capability to move vehicles to alternative locations for customer convenience
  • Creating the richest possible online experience to emulate dealership visits. This can mean virtual showroom experiences, video tours of every available car and instant access to human assistance.
  • Making showrooms an attractive ‘destination’ that adds more value and builds a deeper relationship than possible online

While some of this can only be achieved through significant investment in online and physical channels, there is also a central and relatively basic requirement without which none of the measures are effective: accurate, detailed and up-to-date stock data. A failing here means vehicles in stock not being reflected in online and offline sales channels and those that have already been disposed of still being actively marketed.

online channels for car buying and research

Maximising Online Outreach

In recent research by online sales channel, 84% of respondents stated that visiting multiple online platforms helped them to make a more informed decision on the price that they should pay for their next car. This highlights the importance of two things:

  • Ensuring that inventory prices are reviewed frequently in light of trade and retail value movements to remain competitive. (In other words, consumers are checking your prices, so should you.)
  • Making it as easy as possible for customers to find your competitively priced vehicles online

Maintaining the right price for each vehicle is a time-consuming and challenging task. One way to simplify this is to implement a robust, electronic inventory auditing process. This will help by providing accurate tracking of all stock throughout the sales funnel and deliver insightful MI on prices achieved and turnover times. This type of system can also assist in keeping your online stock inventory up to date, giving consumers greater confidence in your listings.

Online marketing is a big subject, but it’s important, as a starting point, to consider all of the available channels. If you haven’t examined each of the following, and whether it could enhance your online lead generation, now is the time to look again.

  • Optimise your own assets. Provide customers with an easy to use and rich website experience that promotes not just your vehicle stock but finance, servicing, and all other available solutions. Work with an SEO expert to ensure good performance in organic search and keep the site fresh with high quality new content.
  • Assess the best online advertising strategies for your particular dealership. Google Ads campaigns can work but need to be highly targeted and very tightly managed to avoid wasting large sums of money.
  • Social media channels can work in a variety of different ways, from simply maintaining a business page, to targeted advertising, through to fully integrated lead generation and engagement campaigns. Again, the targeting tools available are highly sophisticated and deserve expert input to maximise effectiveness.
  • Use comparator and consolidator sites to access their high volumes of traffic but keep a close eye on the performance of paid-for advertising and where bids for top search placements are delivering the best value for money.

It’s crucial to have accurate data

There’s little point investing time and money in these online channels if the information they contain about your inventory isn’t accurate, so having a robust back-end stock management process is imperative. Plus, as most customers still want to finalise their purchase in person, online channels will often only form the top-end of the sales funnel, making a smooth transition from online lead to offline sales opportunity, and staff well trained in handling online leads, critical.

Protect your reputation

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic change in the way people buy cars.

Buying a car is no longer just about going to the dealership and picking one out. Now, many people are using online sites to research or buy in ways they have never done before. This acceleration in online activity has led more people to consider buying cars online completely without ever stepping back into a dealership, but there are still many who want at least some human interaction before they make their purchase decision.

Larger dealerships often have multiple locations. Imagine the customer dissatisfaction after driving 50 miles to a dealership only to find it is elsewhere! This happens, especially with large retailer groups who move cars from location-to-location regularly.

Ensure that you’re getting accurate, detailed and up-to-date stock data for your website by conducting regular stock audits. CheckVentory Audit makes it easy by providing accurate inventory data so that your customers can find their next car online and avoid the dissatisfaction caused by out of date or inaccurate data.

To find out more about CheckVentory Audit and how it can support your digital journey, click here.