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How dealerships are using video to increase car sales
In an increasingly virtual retail world, dealerships are turning to video in an effort to support car sales
Video has been a common sales tool in the automotive industry for many years; from high-end productions for new car launches to simple video walkarounds via smartphones. While most dealerships have a well-developed used car programme, ensuring video features in each online classified advert, its importance and effectiveness has increased in recent months, with restrictions on customer showroom visits.

Here, we outline the growth in video at each stage of the car sales process and how it can be used to increase sales and improve customer experience.
Car shoppers ranked video as the second best alternative to a dealer visit, after an at-home test drive.
Source: Google Survey, 'Global Auto Pulse'' March–April 2020
A new enquiry process
The enquiry phase of the car buying process is the first opportunity the customer has to interact with your dealership. How and when you respond is crucial in determining the likelihood of that customer buying from you.
Customised response
Lead management systems are increasingly becoming more sophisticated however, in order for them to work effectively, they need to offer the sales team a simple and straightforward method of handling incoming enquiries.

You may already have a streamlined process in place for handling inbound leads however, not every customer should be responded to in the same manner. While publisher websites typically have a standard enquiry template linked to your inbox, there are a multitude of sources which will allow you to respond and communicate with your customer in a way that suits their preferences.

For example, we have anecdotal evidence that customers in the premium passenger car segment prefer to make initial contact with the dealership by phone or walk-in. Whereas, in the used car sector, within certain segments, customers prefer to communicate via other means including WhatsApp, live chat and video.
The importance of speed in replying
The speed in which your sales team responds to an initial customer enquiry is vital in converting enquiry to sale. An increasing number of customer enquiries occur outside of standard working hours so being the first to respond is imperative.
Of leads are submitted when the dealership is closed
Source: Auto Remarketing
Adapting the initial contact approach
Your dealership may have a centralised booking/administration team who conduct the initial follow up communication with the customer after an inbound enquiry. This follow up may take the form of a call, email or live chat. The benefit of this resource is the ability to respond to customers quickly. However, consideration should be given to the need for a more personalised approach. Traditionally, the aim at enquiry stage is to obtain factual information regarding the customer's details and interested model type however, a more nuanced approach may be needed here.

It is more challenging to build trust and confidence over the phone but through the use of video, the salesperson can create rapport and convert the sale more effectively.
Pre-recorded video
A pre-recorded, personalised video in response to a vehicle enquiry is a simple yet effective way of responding to initial interest from a customer. Video response enquiries often yield high open and engagement rates, up to 85%.
Video watch rate
Source: CitNOW
The pre-recorded video sent to the customer should incorporate the following;

  • speak directly to the camera, introduce yourself and refer to your customer by name, incorporating personalisation to build rapport
  • conduct a more thorough video walkaround explaining vehicle features, benefits and history
  • highlight specific criteria or desires mentioned by the customer in their initial enquiry. For example, if they stated that they need a 7-seater/family car, focus on the safety aspects and spaciousness of the vehicle
  • in advance of a potential test drive, address any fears the customer may have about sanitation at this point - explain what sanitation process the car has gone through and in the event of a test drive or purchase, the additional measures that will be put in place
Timely follow up
Most software providers in the automotive video space facilitate a push notification to the relevant Sales Executive when the customer either opens or watches the enquiry video. This gives him/her the perfect opportunity to follow up, answer any questions and encourage a test drive or purchase.

If the customer does not watch the enquiry video, it is worth finding out why. Perhaps the response time was not quick enough and they purchased a car from another dealer or perhaps the car presented wasn't the right one for them. Knowing this could help shape future video demonstrations and enquiry processes.
Online shoppers who receive a response within 10 minutes are 3 times more likely to visit a dealership
Source: Auto Remarketing
Live video test drive
While a live video test drive with a customer may seem daunting for Sales Executives new to the world of Zoom, there is an added advantage in securing a sale. Two-way interaction allows the customer to ask questions in real time, respond to particular features and discuss budget etc.

The live video may consist of an initial introduction; your name and role in the dealership followed by a walkaround of vehicle features. Make sure that you inform the customer in advance how long the video will likely take, its format and that they can interrupt the walkaround with questions anytime. If the customer outlined specific features/desires in their initial enquiry or via the booking team, be sure to focus on these elements in the video.

Finally, finish with a sit down video to outline the finer detail, prompt questions and determine their intention to buy. Of course, make sure that there is advanced notification of your live video in the dealership so to avoid interruptions and for you to avail of a quiet space to conduct post demo qualification.
Test drive
Over the last few months, contactless appointments and virtual test drives have replaced the traditional face-to-face vehicle demonstration experience. Undoubtedly, this shift posed significant challenges for sales teams. The test drive allows Sales Executives to best utilise their presentation and negotiation skills and the challenge now has been how to replace this with an equally immersive experience.

While it is unlikely that video will replace the in-person test drive in the near future, customers are becoming more comfortable and trusting in making a judgement based on video, images and supporting research as part of their car buying process.

Test drives have changed significantly in recent months with most dealerships facilitating solo test drives while communicating with the customer over the phone. This is perhaps more challenging for the sales person in effectively highlighting and demonstrating particular car features.

However, video can assist at this stage. In advance of the test drive, it may be useful for the sales person to send the customer a video of him/her driving the car and pointing out particular elements of the drive - infotainment, technology, electronics etc, focussing on the elements the customer has prioritised - speed, comfort, space, fuel type or safety.

Secondly, a video following a test drive, repeating these key features in addition to allowing plenty of time for questions and answers, can quickly allay any concerns the customer may have and capitalise on their immediate excitement post test drive.
Mobile friendly
More than 70% of all YouTube video consumption is via mobile devices
Source: YouTube
Whatever method of video production you use, it is important to remember that the customer will more than likely be viewing the video on a mobile device. Therefore, be conscious of video length, quality and multiple device screen sizes. Also, be consistent in the channel of communication preferred by the customer; ensuring that your video or link can effectively be sent and easily viewed via email, text, WhatsApp or other.
Vehicle Handover
The vehicle handover stage is the most exciting element in the sales process; the salesperson is successfully closing the sale and the customer is driving home with a new car. While most dealers have resumed their traditional handover process, some customers may still be cautious about entering a retail premises. With the use of video, you can allay their fears in advance by outlining the sanitation process that has taken place in relation to both their new vehicle and the dealership in general, the handover process; who they will be meeting, how long it will take and what will it entail.
Follow up
Most dealerships have a highly developed customer follow-up process post sale, ensuring customer satisfaction and retention. However, this is not always carried out consistently, in particular in the volume, used car sector. While a traditional follow-up may take the form of a phone call or email and may be template-driven in order to capture CSI data, this could be further improved with the inclusion of a personalised post-purchase video, which should incorporate some of the following;

  • refer to the customer by name, reintroduce yourself and thank the customer for their purchase, naming the vehicle make and model
  • include your contact details for future questions or issues
  • repeat any complimentary aftersales service options on offer
  • thank the customer again for their purchase
  • include a vehicle handover video highlighting key features, which can act as a 'go to' reference for the customer
Vehicle handover video
The vehicle handover video is essentially a video guide of the vehicle's manual. However, given its immersive and visual nature, video is likely to result in much greater view rates. While many automotive manufacturers encourage the distribution of 'stock' videos to customers post new car sale, a personalised introduction to the video is likely to have far greater impact.

Your virtual vehicle handover video should include the full vehicle demonstration, showing key vehicle features including infotainment, phone sync, electronics, safety features and more. The video should also advise the customer to register for any value-added services such as app download or car owner portals, noting the benefits of doing so; access to online vehicle manual, contact details, breakdown assistance information, service information and deals.

The vehicle handover video will also give the Sales Executive the opportunity to encourage a customer review or other such call to action, for example, Trustpilot, Google Reviews and Facebook.
Integrate video into new hire training
Video training should be a core part of new hire onboarding and ongoing training. In particular, for those who are entering car sales for the first time, they may be initially uncomfortable about being included in such video.

Training in video best practice, effective walkarounds, diction and clarity is crucial but adoption will be much easier to achieve when the Sales Executive realises the benefits of video as a means to demonstrate, close and follow up, resulting in increased sales and customer satisfaction.
A skill in demand
As dealerships reopened and resumed the recruitment of Sales Executives, there is now far greater emphasis on the need for their new hire to have well developed 'virtual selling' skills. While the prevailing requirement is a strong history of sales performance, there is now a demand for Sales Executives with proficiency in digital retailing including, video, social media and online communication tools. Of course, these are skills that can be learned but those who are comfortable using these tools, alongside other lead generation techniques will more likely realise the benefit in increased sales, as opposed to simply a dealership-led initiative.

While there may be an assumption that most Sales Executives will have used these technologies previously, for some, communicating to customers via video, Zoom, WhatsApp or live chat has not been part of their typical day-to-day sales process.

Those Sales Executives who have developed digital retailing skills including video production and effective follow-up will have an advantage for their next car sales position.

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