The re-opening of dealer showrooms is coming and dealers must use the time available now to get ready. The last year has, for many, been led by the need for survival, we should now look to how best to evolve and thrive.  

At the core of change have been the way people buy and the dramatic shift to an online retailing world. I share the view that many people will still want to visit a showroom. The Motoring Ombudsman has just published data on this – 62% of people still want to visit a dealer when buying a used car to check over the car and take a test drive.

Encouraging and welcome though this is, it still means that over a third of people don’t see a reason to visit a showroom. It is a significant number. Even those who do come can be expected to arrive well informed on the car, finance and the dealer, having completed their groundwork online.

The future is not just about marketing the cars on offer; it is about establishing dealers as a trusted destination online and in-person.

Hand-in-hand with digital tools, the future will increasingly be directed by the quality of marketing. Online and in the showroom, marketing the experience as well as the car matters. Unlike a car, a fantastic experience is hard to replicate and represents a valuable differentiator that must be brought to life digitally.

As a guide, I recommend looking to a classic marketing tool – ‘the 7 Ps’. The model originated with just four for product marketing; the Product (or service), Pricing, Promotion and Place (distribution and partnerships) and then added three more to reflect the importance of service; People, Physical Evidence and Process.

In brief and avoiding academia, dealers can help reinvent themselves by considering how and with whom they can leverage this marketing toolkit.

The product and pricing I will leave to dealers as the experts, but the other 5Ps can help to provide an even better, distinctive car buying and financing journey for your customers;

  1. Promotion – sell an experience, not just a car, using tools such as finance to make the package personalised, accessible and straightforward 
  2. People – promote your culture, values and people online - humanise what you do
  3. Physical Evidence – be comfortable, welcoming and transparent to buy from - ‘your car your way’
  4. Process – remove any traditional ‘barriers’ and provide optionality for every customer from the car through finance, added value service, click & collect, deliver or just collet - let customers control their car buying
  5. Place – identify partnership channels that add value

Bringing these elements to life online and in the showroom is crucial to being; relevant, known, trusted, liked and chosen.

Mark Standish, CEO

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