The Automotive Customer Journey

Historically, sales in the automotive industry have largely been determined by vehicle design and price as well as face-to-face interaction with customers. But the game has changed in recent years. Digital technology has altered the ways that people are comfortable shopping for cars as well as the expectations they bring into the buying journey. And this shift has only been accelerated by the COVID pandemic.

All of this means one thing: the customer experience now matters just as much as how well your products appeal to shoppers. Let’s look at exactly why that is and how you can react to recent trends.

Evolving automotive customer demands

As digital shopping has become increasingly ubiquitous, simple, and reliable, customers have come to expect it as a standard offering. We’ve now reached the point at which the question is no longer whether or not you provide online buying options, but the quality of that experience.

Today, the automotive customer journey comes with greater expectations than ever before. The standard to which consumers have become accustomed has reached arguably its highest level, meaning that every OEM and dealership will need to adapt. Your audience wants more options, which means greater complexity for you while keeping the car buying journey simple for them.

In fact, 62-65% of automotive customers now plan to perform part or all of their car shopping online and even expect real-time responses from OEMs.

How can you deliver a customer-centric experience?

So, we know that digital transformation in the automotive industry is essential to success. After all, potential buyers now often spend more than half a year researching different models and businesses. This is more than twice as much as the average amount of time spent back in 2017.

What does that mean for you?

Well, if you’re not actively engaging with potential customers online, then you’re losing business to competitors who do so. By reaching your audience digitally, you not only meet rising expectations, but make your company more appealing. This is because when we move from brick-and-mortar-based experiences to the digital front, you ensure that consumers can access key information when and how they want.

Ideally, you would provide multiple channels by which they could accomplish this. Ultimately, you want your audience to have a positive experience. Providing omnichannel support online makes this more likely.

But how exactly should you go about updating the automotive customer experience?

Recognize the key points in the customer journey. Before you go about redesigning the shopping journey, you need to keep track of and understand the various key touchpoints that are involved. What do we mean by that?

Well, with all of this focus on digital engagement, the natural conclusion is to focus on tracking the online experience. Many web analytics tools can do so, providing businesses with incredibly valuable data. However, such a singular focus causes many OEMs to miss out on another critical touchpoint: phone calls.

On average, two-thirds of automotive customers will call looking for more information at some point during the buying journey. This offers another valuable opportunity to gather insight concerning the customer experience. So, make sure that whatever analytics tool you select includes the option to track phone calls if you want a comprehensive view of the shopping journey you offer.

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Match omnichannel support with omnichannel marketing

Remember when we mentioned providing multiple engagement channels? Well, no two customers are identical. That means that while a high-quality website and easy-to-use online shopping options are great, they won’t appeal to everyone. And most of the time, your audience will actually work across multiple channels.

Of course, it isn’t enough to just offer the options themselves. If you want to maximize your automotive customer journey map, then you’ll need to market across those various engagement channels. Segment your website visitors into different audiences based on how they most recently contacted you and what website pages or advertisements with which they interacted. Most digital analysis tools can help with this and even add in data from phone calls.

Your goal should be to deliver a seamless experience by combining your website, phone support, and marketing strategy across all touchpoints.

Follow up with converted leads

So, what happens after you convert a lead and make a sale? Does the work end at that point?

Absolutely not!

If anything, the sale represents the beginning of the customer journey. Keep in mind that car owners will have maintenance and support needs. If you can nurture persistent bonds with your customers, they will bring that business back to you.

To that end, make sure you extend your marketing to past customers. With the right customer relationship management (CRM) platform, you can identify key data points from previous interactions, which you can then use to refine future outreach efforts. That requires feeding proper information into your CRM solution. To that end, it’s essential to keep the platform up to date with key data from previous purchasing experiences.

Collect customer feedback

While we’ve focused a great deal on how to collect data that can guide your automotive digital transformation, there’s a more direct method for discerning your customers’ interests: asking them directly. Feedback in the form of user satisfaction surveys brings consumers directly into the process of shaping their own experiences.

The path to delivering a digital-first customer experience

So, there is the why and the how behind going digital for automotive industry customer experiences. But perhaps all of this still seems somewhat hard to grasp. If that’s the case, we’re going to cover the three key steps to consider when developing a new customer experience.

1. Summarize the goal

At the beginning of your digital transformation, you’ll need to clarify your customers’ expectations. Whether you’ve gathered this information via web analysis, phone call reviews, or satisfaction surveys, lay out what your audience wants, then develop a new roadmap from their perspective.

2. Choose the right technology

Knowing exactly what your customers are looking for will make it simpler to determine your exact technical requirements. This will lead you to the best-fit choices for solutions and platforms, at which point you can build the infrastructure needed for a personalized experience.

3. Put your plan into action

With your shopping journey map laid out and technology chosen, it’s time to get building. Bring together all of the touchpoints and engagement processes to develop a single approach for your entire organization.

Overview of online buying journey

The customer journey on our website begins with browsing products whether that is model pages, a configurator of new cars, or stock locators showing available cars (online or used). Car purchases get the whole family involved and typically involve a great deal of research.

According to the latest industry research, more than 90% of customers check OEM websites during that process. Once the user finds what they want, we need to convey it into action. The more the company moves into digitalization and online sales, the closer they are to conducting the whole process online and creating a truly digital experience.

Websites with a stock locator, and buy online tools, support the client way further in their purchase journey than those with simplified limited content.

So, as the landscape of automotive customer expectations evolves, make sure that you are one of the businesses that makes the changes needed to remain competitive. Put the customer at the center of your buying journey and embrace the future!

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