Some thoughts on what the 'new normal' could look like for car dealers marketing used cars. I'm going to reserve these for the car buying experience because all other factors being equal; for me, adapting to the critical importance of an obsession with customer experience, offline and online, is the opportunity to help make dealers vital.

It feels like an obvious statement, but the re-opening of showrooms does not mean that everyone buying a used car will want to visit a showroom. After all, a new breed of online used car retailers is banking upon it! Nor does the emergence of online retailers mean everyone will choose to buy from them. The opportunity for traditional dealers is to provide an authentic, personal experience online and offline to meet the needs of each potential customer. Much of this does start online.

The only parts of used car buying that cannot be completed digitally are the test drive and the 'test drive' of the supplying dealer, their culture and values. These are both essential practical and, arguably more importantly, emotional, trust-building levers for many used car buyers. Most people will still want to visit a showroom, but which showroom may depend very much on the emotional digital experience and the dealer’s personality and credibility.

Giving some extra thought about the digital experience for car buyers can yield some real golden nuggets. I'm thinking about a dealer's personality, values, culture, history, tone of voice, how and the speed with which enquiries are handled and the quality of reviews. Investing in these emotional cues can be an excellent investment, as is giving customers the choice of online and offline when it comes to buying a car.

Looking at the dealers on MotoNovo's used car marketplace and its range of over 2,000 dealers and 140,000+ cars, over 80% are continuing to provide a distance sale choice. It seems I could be pushing at an open door.

Back to the buying experience, offline and online, in the showroom and at a distance, success rests in going the extra mile for every customer, every time no exception. It is about making the dealership easy to buy from for a consumer rather than selling to them. At the heart of this is good old-fashioned relationship building, listening, responding quickly, asking questions – being personal and it is here that dealers have a potential advantage.

We recently published some data that says that this is happening. From February 2020 to March 2021, during pandemic conditions, 143,485 MotoNovo customers gave their used car buying experience a Net promotor Score (NPS) rating of 84.27. According to Bain & Co, who created the NPS system, this rating is defined as 'world-class'.

These numbers are staggering and bring me back to my final and arguably most important point. The greatest challenge for used car dealers could well be perceptions. In reality, most car buyers are delighted by their experience, but negative perceptions persist. It won't happen overnight, but changing perceptions, especially online, is something that would help the whole dealer community.

Karl Werner, Deputy CEO 

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