Tackling the footfall conundrum
As showroom traffic continues to decline, due to the dramatic increase in online consumer research, motor retailers have a challenge when it comes to upping footfall.
The impact of digital research is highlighted starkly in Auto Trader’s Market Report, which found that footfall plummeted from 30 million visits in 2010 to around 15 million in 2017. This is projected to reduce even further to some seven million visits this year. As a result, dealers need to work much harder when it comes to selling to digitally savvy car buyers. Typically, today’s customers enter a dealership armed with a vast array of information from a range of online sources, including manufacturer configurators, media video reviews and social media opinions.
With this in mind, manufacturers and their retail partners are focused heavily on ensuring that a customer’s expectations, based on their own research and perceptions of a particular brand, are met or exceeded by their experience in the dealership.
Research from Auto Trader has also found that dealers are investing in more digital marketing channels. 56% of dealers now use social media marketing, 72% are investing into their websites and 38% are turning to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google Adwords to boost website traffic.
Digital intelligence gathering and opinion sharing by consumers has had a monumental impact on the purchase journey, which correlates with the decline in footfall. While digital technology is effectively reducing showroom visits, it also enables brands and retailers to get much closer to their prospective customers and create a positive dialogue.
Innovations include the use of sophisticated car configurators on manufacturer websites which enable consumers to personalise and visualise a vehicle, finance and insurance calculators and in some instances, the opportunity to place an order. Other measures include dealers employing specialists to support lead generation and respond to customer enquiries via social media, as well as providing immediate responses to questions via ‘live chat’ facilities. Tailored video content, such as emailing a customer a short clip of a particular car they viewed, is also being used by a growing number of dealers to support their sales efforts.
Alongside the digital environment, manufacturers and dealers are also taking more physical measures to get closer to consumers, such as targeting high footfall retail ‘hub’ destinations to increase their brand presence. Examples include Seat, which has recently opened its second retail store at Westfield London alongside an outlet at intu Lakeside in Essex, Volkswagen at the Bull Ring in Birmingham and Hyundai at Bluewater in Essex. With retail supercentres attracting annual footfall of over 27 million people and generating almost £1billion in sales, it’s clear to see the attraction of these venues to dealers seeking to connect more people with their brand and showcase the latest vehicles.
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