Automotive dealers must be plugged in to what their customers want

14 Sep 2022 in

There hasn’t been much good news for the automotive industry over the past two years. Brexit, Covid-19 and horrendous supply chain backlogs have seen growth in the sector stall.

There has also been a shift in consumer behaviour. The so-called mobility revolution has seen an increase in demand for alternatives to traditional car purchases – leasing or car sharing schemes, for example.

But there is one segment of the market that is bucking the trend. Automotive manufacturers in the US reported that the only brands to post an uplift in sales during the first three months of 2022 were all-electric vehicles. This was against the backdrop of an overall industry decline in new vehicle sales of 15.3%. Here in the UK, Britons bought more electric cars in March 2022 than they did in the whole of 2019.

Enquiries are increasing at an even greater pace. The rising cost of petrol led to Google searches around electric vehicles reaching an all-time high, in March 2022.


More questions = more calls

With appetite increasing and more and more electric vehicles coming to market, now is the time for automotive dealers to capitalise.

Despite the growth of online platforms such as WeBuyAnyCar and Cazoo, a 2021 YouGov survey found that 62% of buyers are still not comfortable with making a car purchase entirely online.

Dealerships have also recognised this – with the majority of their customers conducting initial research online but preferring to engage with a real person when they get closer to a purchase. This can mean a visit to the dealership itself or simply picking up the phone in the first instance.

This is borne out in trend analysis, which shows that call volumes in the automotive industry have accelerated upwards since the new year. In January 2022, calls to automotive businesses were up 27.5% year-on-year. The upward trend continued into the following month and by the end of February 2022, the total call volume was 19% higher than it was in 2021.


Supercharging your phone calls

That’s why providing a more effective and informed experience over the phone should be a key component of any sales strategy for automotive dealerships. And a piqued interest in electric vehicles is a key area for differentiation.

Where are curious parties going when they have carried out that first Google search into EVs? The sector has made huge investments in digital but are dealers tailoring content effectively in response to the rise of the electric opportunity? Are they driving traffic to their own channels, by building a landing page dedicated to EVs, for example. Or signposting people to relevant content on the practicalities of owning an electric car?

A quick Google search reveals a number of the most common questions asked about electric vehicles, from how much does it cost to charge a car, to where can I charge it and can I charge it in the rain?!

Whether it’s to have their online research confirmed or to gain added reassurance before making a decision, customers are even more likely to call with questions about electric vehicles – with it likely to be a first-time purchase for many.


Optimise and analyse

A board member at one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers was overheard at an auto show claiming that “the big challenge to selling EVs is training car dealers”. Dealership training programmes are springing up to ‘educate dealers about the nuances of owning an electric vehicle, so they can speed up their sales process’.

By tying online activity to the call centre, dealers can anticipate new purchase behaviours as well as building an understanding of consumer preferences and concerns. To understand the extent of the interest being generated by their own digital marketing campaigns, dealers can use Conversation Analytics to uncover the content of conversations taking place over the phone and identify how often electric vehicles are being mentioned and the nature of the questions that are being asked.

This helps dealers to adequately prepare their contact centres – either to ensure that all staff are fully equipped to respond or to automatically direct callers to the most knowledgeable agents.

Sales of electric vehicles are outperforming all other vehicles in the sector. At this rate, sales of EVs may outstrip diesel and petrol sales sooner than anyone predicted. To get ahead and stay ahead, dealers must get into gear when it comes to capitalising on the value of the phone call to turn interest into sales.

Matt McGillicuddy

Matt McGillicuddy

Matt is Head of Brand at Infinity. He has extensive experience helping B2B and B2C brands enhance and manage their reputations, nail their positioning, and launch hard-hitting campaigns through data-driven decision-making.

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