October 9, 2014 Chris Riddell

Can Apps Transform the Way We Buy Cars?

Traditional Car Dealerships Need to Innovate

Mobile applications and web technologies have revolutionised the way we shop. Whether it’s on a smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac, we can simply enter in some search terms and quickly find what we’re looking for. Then, with a few clicks of a button, the purchase can be completed and we can even have the product delivered straight to our doors. And yet some industries refuse to move with the times, stuck firmly in the 20th century in terms of how they offer their products /services, and how they interact with their customers – car dealerships are among the guiltiest for refusing to incorporate new app and selling technologies, which would benefit both them and those looking to buy a car.

The Frustration of Buying From a Car Showroom

Technology is driven largely by a need to fix a problem or fill a gap in the marketplace; in this case the problem is the car dealership shop floor. The way they are currently set up does nothing but frustrate and irk car enthusiasts and casual shoppers alike. This all stems from having a traditional and outmoded shop floor and sales approach, which is ineffective in today’s information rich, streamlined marketplaces such as eBay, Autotrader, and consumer-centric app eco systems. Consumers want to be able to run an app on their phone or computer and easily browse all options available to them: quick, painless, and without having to deal with the limitations of a standard car dealership showroom.

These limitations include:

  1. Many car dealerships are brand orientated, so they only provide access to a small number of cars on the market. This means several visits to different dealers which can eat into a customer’s time and money. A centralised app would let consumers choose what they look at, regardless of brand.
  2. Customer service is often poor, with salespeople shadowing your every move as you attempt to look at the cars on the show floor. Using a phone or web app is more convenient and less intrusive.
  3. Everything is sales orientated, usually because car salespeople work heavily from commission. This results in being sold the best deal for the car dealer, and possibly the worst for the customer.
  4. Showrooms have limited floor space, so even if the dealership does offer a large selection of cars, only a few are on display.
  5. Concluding the deal with paperwork, which feels unneeded, while a salesperson offers the customer more expensive options to add to the already significant costs of buying a car, is enough to put anyone off of buying from a car showroom or dealer.

Most of these problems can be solved simply by embracing recent online shopping technologies. By creating applications which allow customers to see what is available and shop virtually, most of the above issues, if not all, could be rectified, but unfortunately many car dealerships have been slow to carry out any meaningful changes.

 

Shallow Innovation

It’s not that car dealerships haven’t engaged with 21rst century shopping innovations at all, but rather that they have changed a few little things, incorporating some new approaches via websites and online marketing, but without being bold and truly giving the customer what they want – an easy, stress-free way to find and buy a car through a reliable and helpful app.

The biggest problem is that they adhere to old sales principals, such as aggressive face-to-face sales tactics, trying to push the customer into making a purchase which will bring benefits for the dealership, but not for the person looking to buy a car. The truth is that people already know what they want, or at the very least they just want to be left to look for themselves and make an informed decision. What’s more, the majority of shoppers know what they want before entering a physical shop due to having engaged with online research, apps, and other digital materials which helps inform their decisions. Why should the car dealership be any different to the way we buy other goods? We can buy our food shopping, clothes, and other goods through web and phone apps, so why not a car?

 

Car Dealerships of the Future

If dealerships move with the times and genuinely embrace similar sales innovations as seen through Amazon, Apple, and Android marketplaces, then it won’t just be the customer who benefits – the seller will as well. Overheads will be reduced and smaller dealers will have a chance to be seen in search results, especially if selling specialist cars.

There are already apps available which help consumers browse different cars without the need of a dealer on hand such as Carmax and the AAA Auto Buying Tool, but car showrooms are still in plentiful supply and continue to use outmoded sales practices.

Of course there are issues with buying a car via an app, not least because most people will want to physically see the car they are buying, especially if it is second-hand. No one wants to invest a substantial amount of money only to find out that there are problems down the road, if you pardon the pun.

That being said, modern mobile processing power, never mind the specifications of a standard desktop PC, is easily powerful enough to render 3D versions of different cars along with in depth stats and information for the potential buyer. Applications can also contain reviews from consumers who have already bought a specific model of car, increasing any person’s ability to make an informed choice about the car they buy.

Once a consumer has done their research, they can then either go to a showroom, knowing exactly what they are buying, or perhaps circumvent the need to do that completely. Amazon delivers all around the world, how about dropping your brand new car off at your door, without having to go through the pains of speaking to a car salesperson. Doesn’t that sound more appealing?

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