What It’s Like to Buy a Car: Part 2

By: Sean Stansell, Senior Product Manager

In part one of this blog series, I walked you through the car buying process that my wife and I recently experienced. We were in the research phase. I was surprised at how many tools we needed to complete this part of the complex purchase process. We utilized Dominion tools like ShopMyWay and MyPayment to make this grueling research project a bit easier. Once we had our short list of models we were ready to head to the lots!

On the Lot

My wife is a big believer of seeing a car and getting a general feel for it before going too far into the buying process. We visited 4 dealerships in one day, intending to look at 5 models. The reality was that we walked into three showrooms and were ignored. We managed to find the cars we wanted, get in them, take a look, and leave – without talking to anyone. I was aghast and wondered what the sales managers would think. My wife was ecstatic that we didn’t have to talk to a salesperson.

We visited 4 dealerships in one day, intending to look at 5 models. The reality was that we walked into three showrooms and were ignored.

On the fourth lot we were greeted by a salesperson, who patiently listened to what we were looking for, pointed us in the direction, and then disappeared for 15 minutes to find keys. Keeping a pregnant woman and a toddler waiting on the lot on a hot, sunny day was not a great sales tactic. By the time the salesperson returned with the keys, air conditioning was the only feature we were interested in.

Back Online

Going to the lots helped us narrow down the field a bit, so it was time for deep research on the remaining candidates. In the interest of this experiment, I asked my wife to do as much of this part on her own with as little guidance from me as possible. She agreed. Below is her process and feedback:

  • She set up a spreadsheet with vehicles to research and the key pieces of information she needed (MSRP, dimensions, cargo room, safety ratings, online reviews, standard features, option packages, etc).
  • She went to the OEM sites to try to figure out which model of each car we wanted. She had a difficult time doing this because the OEM sites all present things differently.
  • Once she knew what to look for, she went to local dealerships’ sites to see what they had in stock. She managed to find a couple of the cars, but eventually gave up and asked for help. Many of the dealerships’ sites were poorly laid out, intrusive, and devoid of information. She couldn’t figure out if they even had what she wanted or not.

At this point I took over, figuring that with my automotive experience I could find what we wanted. Nope, not even close. If a customer has done the legwork of narrowing down the make, model and trim they are looking for – shouldn’t the easy part be finding a dealership with that inventory?

Make shoppers lives easier with in-depth, online vehicle merchandising – Learn more!

I looked at eight different dealerships’ websites, from a range of providers, and only ONE was able to tell me what package was on a car. Being in the industry, I understand the technical reasons for this, and the way the data needs to flow to make this happen, and all of the things that can go wrong. My wife, however is an avid online shopper and is accustomed to finding all of the information she needs about the products she’s shopping for.

Make your dealership’s website stand out from the pack. Ensure your vehicle detail pages (VDPs) are chock-full of information. Boost the time spent on these pages with custom photos and videos and engaging vehicle stories.

Make your dealership’s website stand out from the pack. Ensure your vehicle detail pages (VDPs) are chock-full of information.

The Test Drive

After several frustrating hours of research, bouncing between OEM sites, portals and dealership sites, I managed to track down three cars for us to test drive.

As we walked into the showroom, we were greeted by a salesperson. He asked what car we were interested in and took us to his desk to look into his inventory. While he was looking it up on his computer, I pulled up the dealership’s site on my phone. Even with the barely usable dedicated mobile site on my phone, I was able to find the car we were interested in faster than he was on his dilapidated old computer. He finally found the car in their system, and after a quick trip to the business office to get the keys, he told us he was going to head out to the lot to bring it around for us. I asked if they had any system to keep track of where each car was, and he said his system was to walk around with the remote, pushing the panic button, until it went off. I braced myself for a long wait.

After several minutes he pulled the car around and gave us a very good demo of the features. He was personable, knowledgeable, and he focused on answering our questions. We then took it for a test drive. After a successful spin in the new car, we drove it back to the lot and let our salesperson know we were interested.

Stay tuned for the third and final installment in this blog series to find out about our post-decision experience.

In the meantime, if you are interested in learning how you can stand out from the competition with Dominion’s website and merchandising services, call 877.421.1040 today!

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