Trust is the way forward for dealerships that hope to survive in the digital age

gumtree“Motor dealerships aren’t just in the business of selling cars anymore, they are in the trust business,” said Marcus Sheridan of Sales Lion at the inaugural CAR Magazine Digital Dealer Conference on Tuesday. Sheridan was addressing a crowd of over 150 car salesmen, dealer principals and industry experts who gathered to discuss how to best tackle the “digital age” of car sales in South Africa.

“The dealerships that are winning the market are the ones who are obsessed with their customers’ thought processes and trying to constantly overcome the negative connotations through honest and sincere transactions,” Sheridan elaborated. “They are the ones who are transparent about flaws…because you can either show a customer the elephant in the room, or let them find it. And if they find it, you’ve lost trust and you’ve lost the customer.”

Trust was an overarching theme of the event that saw speakers such as Chris Prinsloo, COO of the Eastvaal Motor Group, NADA National Champion Bruce Allen, Gumtree Head of Automotive Jeff Osborne and digital marketing gurus Mike Abel of Saatchi Abel, Dylan Kohlstadt of Shift One and Dave Duarte of Treeshake behind the podium.

“It’s no longer about getting feet through the dealership door, but rather about getting eyes on the site,” said Osborne. “It’s an accepted fact that almost 80% of the entire car buying process is happening online, which why making the intangibles of your offering as tangible as possible is key.”

Dave Duarte reiterated this point. “Dealerships have to prioritise online leads – you wouldn’t ignore a walk-in, so why make your online customers wait?” Duarte pointed out that 66% of online leads expect a response within an hour. “Your competition is just a click away, so your online and offline tools must work in harmony so that you can constantly building your relationships.”

NADA Bruce Allen also mentioned the importance of better online customer service and marketing in his address. “The risk is that consumers will not find their way through the digital clutter and onto your showroom floor,” he cautioned.

The event provided practical information on strategies for digital marketing, SEO, social media as well as pre-owned and new sales strategies, while an interactive panel discussion allowed audiences to pose questions to the speakers and was sponsored by Gumtree.

Osborne says that they were pleasantly surprised at the turn-out. “The fact that the venue sold out so quickly, as well as the caliber and variety of attendees, spoke volumes about dealerships increasing need to understand and leverage technology to drive sales.”

All presentations can be downloaded from the CAR magazine website.

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