Automotive Industry Trends Customer Experience and Loyalty Dealerships Web Development

Questions On the Minds of Auto Dealers: NADA 2024 RECAP

Another National Automobile Dealers Association Show (NADA) has come and gone, and the Ansira team was among many in the automotive community who gathered in Las Vegas walking the tradeshow floor and meeting with dealers and dealer groups. We had the privilege of hosting clients and contacts for private meetings before and during the show, and a few major themes stood out to us.  

Inventory Merchandising 

A key focus for our dealers and the educational sessions offered by NADA surrounded proven practices around inventory management and what to display on SRPs and VDPs. On the search results page, highlighting specials and offers in-line with inventory emerged as a key strategy that many dealers and OEMs alike were looking to accomplish. Banners at the top of the page are soon forgotten with one quick scroll, so the importance of highlighting offers within inventory listings becomes the smartest way to keep key messages top of mind.  

Limiting the number of Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons is another best practice, one that, surprisingly, most dealers are already working toward. Just a few months ago, Brian Pasch published a blog post about Toyota’s recent decision to encourage limits on the number of CTAs, but this was related to the VDP. The good news is, most dealers and vendors realize that more isn’t always better when it comes to lead forms; especially on the SRP. While we hope that car shoppers purchase a vehicle every 3-5 years (or sooner if we are lucky), according to the most recent Google dealer guidebook, the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 12.5 years; the highest in US history. While people may not shop for cars as frequently, they are consistently shopping online for items like household goods, clothes, and much more. In the auto industry, our job is to align the customer experience on dealer websites with the everyday online experiences consumers are accustomed to.

The auto industry is at a crossroads. The sales practices of old is not how consumers want to engage and ultimately buy a car today.

This means limiting CTAs, being transparent with description and pricing, and financing terms too. 

Digital Retailing and when/how to lead gate was a hot topic of conversation at many booths in the convention center. No one loves a lead like the auto industry, but no one avoids a lead form like someone shopping for a car. Very few customers complete the purchase online, but many engage with the tools to start their purchase. Gating too early can cause defectors not just from the DR tool, but your website as a whole. Don’t hold vital payment information hostage; transparency in payment is important and will help drive more traffic to your showroom, even if it slightly lowers your lead count. 

Tying Digital Practices to the Showroom 

Even the most attractive and well-designed website is ineffective if it doesn’t lead to appointments or sales once the customer engages. The customer journey is nowhere near a funnel and many in attendance for the NADA Show this year were debating the everchanging twists and turns common in the buyer experience today. Every click a customer makes on your website brings them one step closer to an appointment or a showroom visit, so once you earn it, you better keep whatever promise that click just made. 

When conducting your CTA audit, don’t just look at how many, but what is the customer expecting once they do? If you promise an ePrice…you better give one, or at least refer to pricing in your first personalized response. On that token, review how many of your CTAs are promising similar things (eprice, price watch, lock in price). Avoid duplication and clutter on the VDP by viewing your forms through the customer lens.   

An interesting conversation we had with one of our website clients centered around trade tools and how to avoid poor customer experience when perhaps the customer’s evaluation and reality are two different things. Ensuring you are offering ranges vs hard numbers, and again not gating too soon or too often is a good first start. Help the customer define their trade rankings by using humor – let them know “great condition” doesn’t include dings for days or that noise from the engine you just can’t quite identify. Or better yet, tell the customer the truth – most times value goes up when you see that vehicle in person…and work towards the appointment. Transparency is key though, no bait and switch. 

Creating customer loyalty and building relationships with your service teams is a lost art for many, and we saw many dealers revitalizing conversations related to Fixed Ops Marketing. Not every customer who visits your website is shopping for a vehicle, many are there post-sale, so viewing assets and information from the lens of the owner will greatly aid retention.  It starts with your website, and ensuring the tools there work for the average customer, and work on mobile. We saw some slick integrations for service scheduling with a better interface than has been experienced in recent history, and those with a commonsense approach like not requiring a VIN!  

In addition to the scheduler, there are so many ways to improve customer retention with digital tools. Online video and chat tools are just a few ways to stay connected with your customers after the purchase. As with everything, the tech tools aren’t enough – evaluating your in-store process and training is key to continued improvement. 

Community and Partnerships 

Our favorite part of any NADA show is seeing friends and making connections, old and new. The social aspect of NADA can’t be beat, and the Ansira team was honored to spend time with so many valued customers and partners. We were so busy connecting, that we didn’t take enough pictures! The sure sign of a great time.  

By Erin Zaborac

Erin Zaborac has over 25 years of experience in the automotive space and before joining Ansira in 2010, was the Marketing Director for a dealer group in Washington state. She is the Director of Sales Enablement for Ansira and enjoys helping people optimize processes and strategies to improve customer experience and increase sales. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twin sons and loves all things Disney.