Edging forward from traditional flashy television advertisements to social marketing, automotive brands will have to go far from being merely visible. To keep up with evolving consumer demands, brands are becoming more high-tech and are creating an omnichannel reality to engage buyers.


Automotive buying has significantly changed. A study by Brandwatch says that 38% of consumers consult social media before a car purchase. Even though dealerships remain central to the car buying experience, customers have drastically reduced their dependence on auto dealerships as their primary source of information. Today's new breed of buyers are astute. They research everything online, from the availability of makes and models to fuel efficiency and the impact on pricing due to market changes.


With the emergence of applications that alert consumers when there is a drop in the preferred car price or lists new/used cars for sale near them, technology is informing and empowering buyers. While most customers use OEM websites for research; third-party blogs, expert videos, features and options, walk-throughs and reviews play a pivotal role in influencing the purchase decision. Having a credible online presence is not only beneficial but is essential. Taking advantage of social media channels, consumers have grown to become both critics and creators. This democratized marketplace with mobile-enabled data sifters, who pounce on best deals offered, have set the bar high for brands and dealerships. 


The Need to Rethink the Customer Experience


In a competitive market where price leverage to swing a highly-aware-buyer decision is relatively low, the in-showroom experience is invariably the decisive factor. A recent survey by Cox Automotive states that 8 in 10 consumers would never purchase a car without a test drive and 7 in 10 would never purchase a car without physically seeing it first – both activities typically conducted at a dealership. Buyers may be well informed before they walk into the dealership but creating a cohesive brand experience both online and offline will allow them to experience an automotive model that is customized to their interest.


A compelling approach would be to change the way dealerships capture and tell a vehicle's story. Rendering premium services that take the customers beyond the traditional buying process will influence purchase decisions. Equipping themselves with the ability to mirror the customer's previous digital experience closely will make the entire process more personal and delightful.


Immersive Technologies for the Digital Customer


Dealerships are using technology as the pivot to create that consistent, personalized experience and influence buyer decisions. Adding a new dimension, emerging technology is accelerating digitalization in vehicle sales. While technology has disrupted the automotive world in several ways across the product lifecycle, here are a few exciting and engaging digital customer experiences that support sales and strengthen the connection of the customers with the dealership:


1. Digital catalogs:


Use of digital catalogs with appealing content related to the car ensures an improved customer experience. Digital catalogs include self-configuration, virtualized experiences, and recommendations from sales associates thereby producing a truly engaging experience.


2. Use of large-screen displays for immediate support:


LED screens, video walls, and large screen monitors elevate a dealership to the next level. It offers better visualization of the vehicles, the brand, and targeted promotions. Placing themselves at the forefront of technological innovation, dealerships can ensure that the customers remain engaged even if they are not attended by a sales associate immediately. Also, the real-time data captured while customers spend their time interacting with the digital signage, and cars in the showroom, act as a catalyst to improve dealership performance and fuel business growth.


3. Augmented Reality to help customers visualize the car:


The 'try before you buy' model makes it very easy for customers to virtually experience their prospective vehicle. This new immersive approach provides contextual information, overlays technical data over real-world objects and allows customers to customize their dream cars and make informed decisions. From choosing the color of a vehicle to driving it down a street, customers can interact and actually see the physical version of their vehicle before buying it. Thanks to this technology, the dealers can easily showcase key features of cars within the showroom environment, particularly, without holding extensive inventory.


4. Giving customers a sense of presence, engagement and freedom:


Bringing new immersive technologies into the mainstream consciousness enable sales associates to provide better, more personalized information that fills the online gaps with the first-hand experience and instills a sense of presence. Implementing access to state-of-the-art technologies changes the car buying game entirely. Integrating digital and physical strategies will create winning experiences for customers.


As a leader in bringing disruptive technologies to the global automotive industry, HARMAN is well positioned to transform a customer journey and positively impact dealership revenue outcomes. We equip dealerships with cutting-edge technologies to present intimate, content-rich and relevant information, making the customer experience more engaging. 


Talk to us today to ensure that your dealerships are more than just a point-of-purchase. Let us improve information-sharing, communication, and service to meet today's discerning, empowered shoppers' needs.


Shedding more light on how to better the in-dealership experience is an upcoming webinar titled How to Deploy an Analytics-driven Showroom by Joseph Lanners, Director, Auto Innovation, Samsung SDS and Daniel Xing, Sr. Manager, Product, HARMAN. Please register for the webinar here.