Most consumers want no calls, just control, in car-buying

CARY, N.C. - 

In a world driven by e-commerce, where human interaction is often a final component of the customer experience for car buyers, close attention to the application of artificial intelligence technology is crucial to dealers remaining competitive online.

Today’s consumers want simple, but mostly non-intrusive transactions.

Just 8 percent of consumers prefer that dealers them by phone, while a majority 68 percent prefer email, according to PERQ’s latest .

As to why consumers prefer not to be ed over the phone, Muhammad Yasin — vice president of marketing at PERQ — said it has to do with them wanting to have control over buying process.

“The research space has moved online and that also drives text as well. If you’re going to do the research online, you’re going to feel empowered to make a decision that you’re comfortable with,” Yasin said. “When you’re making a huge purchase like a vehicle, you still want to have interaction with somebody, you still want to talk to someone in-store, you still want to sit in the vehicle, drive it around, and you want to shake hands with the person when you walk out of the door.

“However, you still want to own that process, and it’s a lot easier to own that process when you are interacting via text or via email versus if you were interacting via phone,” he went on to say.

Yasin said consumers want to own the car-buying process, just as they do when shopping for other goods online.

The study shows that in addition to space, consumers like their time, too. They want to be able to do research that makes them feel confident in their options before stepping into a store.

Seventy-six percent of dealership website users say they are not ready to buy when they visit the website; breaking that down, 30 percent are at the beginning of the process and 46 percent are in the middle, according to the study.

Using AI at the right time

When it comes to customer experience and service, while AI technology solutions have greatly enhanced the car buying process, some tools can be a turn-off to car shoppers if not used appropriately.

Analytics can help dealers best determine when AI should be applied during the buying process, says Matthew Muilenburg, senior vice president and head of industry – automotive at advertising analytics firm Marchex.

“I think what the industry should be striving to do and understand is how do we use AI on top of our data to understand the customer experience so that we can improve that human touch and alter the way that we engage with customers, so that perhaps as an industry we can change our reputation and overall improve the buying process or the servicing process that customers have when they get to the dealership,” Muilenburg explained in a phone interview.

He said the application of AI is about facilitating customer experiences and helping improve sales processes.

“If it’s used right, it’s going to unlock more data and more capabilities for dealerships to be able to answer questions and support their customers,” he said.

As for the control car buyers seek when shopping online, Muilenburg agrees with Muhammad.

“Strangely, the industry has invested a lot of time in these business development scripts and business development processes. They were written 30 years ago/40 years ago when the dealer was ‘in control.’ And there’s this weird desire in our industry to want to retain control of the customer,” Muilenburg explained.

“Most dealerships still follow that old sales model. All of the data that’s falling out of this AI work we’re doing is showing us that it’s just absolutely the wrong way to sell a car— that customers don’t buy that way.”

Muilenburg said that during the shopping process,  first impressions matter because the average customer s just about 2.8 stores and will only usually visit 1.2 stores to buy a vehicle.

“The customer who’s buying a car is typically nervous about the experience,” he added.

When AI is used with car shoppers’ desire to control the buying process in mind, Muilenburg said AI can help consumers move confidently through the sales process and provide reassurance.

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