When the pandemic crashed into our lives last March, the prognosis in the automotive retailing industry was apocalyptic. Selling cars has been almost perversely different from every other retailing experience in the modern age: haggling is the norm, deals are done face to face and sealed with a handshake, and cars are almost never purchased without a test drive.
When the pandemic first landed on us in late March, we all knew it would have an effect on the automotive retailing industry. Prognostications were everywhere, and they were uniformly bleak. As with most things, the truth ended up being far more complex and unexpected. Continue Reading
When you leave the house to buy groceries, chances are you’re picking the closest market. You might go to the next-closest if you need something specific and the place nearest to you tends to run out of things. You’re not going any farther than that. While groceries are a significant part of any household’s budget, they’re on a different scale than, say, rent or car payments.
Purchasing a car is in the big three of life expenses, and it’s the one people do most often throughout their lives. The location of a car is also less important than the location of a home or an education, as it’s by far the most mobile of the three. So the question remains, how far will someone travel for a car?
There’s been surprisingly little research on the phenomenon. Two studies, one done in 2010 and the other in 2013, gave the figures as 22 miles and 55 miles respectively. A third study didn’t give precise numbers, but did find that the more expensive the car, the farther a customer would be willing to drive. This is not an endorsement of higher prices, but should be read as how important discounts are on big ticket items. 5% off a car is more actual money the higher the ultimate price of the vehicle.
Anecdotally, the data tells much the same story. Message board posts tell story after story of customers traveling for two to three hundred miles. I asked a number of people the same question, and received answers from one hundred to six hundred miles. And that’s all one way. With increasing economic uncertainty, it’s likely that customers are willing to travel a good distance for a substantial discount on their dream car.
Your dealership can take advantage of this tendency. DealerOn’s Mobile Lead Driver comes equipped with geo-fencing technology that can generate location-based offers. When a customer comes to your website you can target them with an offer unique to where they are standing or sitting. Maybe they’re sitting on a college campus and you fire off an ad with a college student discount, or maybe they’re outside that 55-mile radius and you want to make coming in that much more attractive. All they have to do is click on a banner, and get a coupon instantly. It’s a little extra nudge over the finish line that can turn a no into a yes.
With the pandemic pushing more and more shopping into the digital realm, you have the opportunity to reach customers farther afield than ever before. They’re shopping for the perfect vehicle first and the perfect location second. As long as you’re in driving range and you offer an incentive to get them through your doors, you’ll have the opportunity to put a customer behind the wheel of their dream car.
The first coupon of the modern era appeared in 1887 for Coca-Cola. Personally, I believe the concept of the discount was invented shortly after the idea of commerce, when one Babylonian shopkeeper offered “Free Fatted Calf Tuesdays,” but I can’t prove it. The point is, the humble coupon has been an important part of any business’s success for at least a century and a half.