Dealing With ‘Disruptors’ — How Dealerships Can Offer a Unique Delivery and Purchase Experience

“Disruptor” car sales companies like Carvana, TrueCar, and Vroom have gained in popularity over the past few years because they allow customers to negotiate the best car price online in order to eliminate in-person haggling at the dealership.

Carvana even goes as far as marketing their service as a giant vending machine that dispenses vehicles like a giant can of soda. And they are just one of many online car sales sites thatseek to bypass car dealerships entirelyby selling used cars directly to consumers.

They also allow customers to sell a trade-in, connect them with a network of lenders to secure financing, and let them choose to have their vehicle delivered or pickedup.

To the millennial generation of car buyers wholove the convenience of shopping online, this whole idea seems promising. Afterall, everyone wants savings.What could possibly go wrong?

The Human Element in Car Purchasing

When a customer purchases from an online used car service, who are they really purchasing that car from? They’ll be offered a 100-day, limited-mileage warranty, but who is the face behind the product and the promised warranty? None of this may seem to matter at first, but who can they turn to if things go wrong?

This is why online used car sales services will be a short-lived trend. While people do enjoy the convenience factor, when they make a large purchase such as a vehicle, people like buying from people. They value building a relationship with a brand and a dealership they know they can trust.

When purchasing from a faceless online entity, the gatekeeper for problems will be an anonymous customer service representative on the phone. They’ll simply look at the terms of a sales contract and say, “I’m sorry. It’s right here in black and white. There’s nothing we can do.”

Not so when you have a relationship with the staff at a high-quality dealership. When something goes wrong on their watch, they’ll work to make it right —even if that means going beyond the call of duty to convert a one-time customer into a lifetime customer.

What Can Auto Dealerships Do To Compete?

Rather than wringing their hands and lamenting some imagined impending doom being brought about by companies like Carvana, many progressive car dealerships are stepping up and taking action. They’re devoting sections of their websites to online sales with competitive prices and no in-person haggling. They’re offering complimentary at-home delivery of purchased vehicles, as well as at-home pickup of vehicles in need of maintenance or repair.

In addition to all of this, with a dealership purchase, customers can receive valuable complimentary dealer maintenance plans. This covers small items such as oil changes, but also ensures hassle-free repairs on larger items covered under warranty, as well as recalls that may occur. There’s no question about who a customer can turn to in order to get the maintenance or repair done; they simply drop the car off at their dealership.

Potential customers must realize that any savings they achieve by cutting out the dealership will quickly be eaten up by out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance, as well as repair items that fall outside of the warranty coverage. Dealer maintenance plans ensure a real savings on things like oil changes, while dealer warranties go beyond a mere 100-day time period.

It’s important to let customers —and particularly web-savvy millennial customers— know about all the perks of purchasing from their local dealership. Liberal-minded millennials care about community and are more likely to be swayed toward a businessthat gives back to the community by investing in charities or by being environmentally friendly.

Dealers need to update their websites to inform customers about online purchasing/home delivery options, and they also need to highlight these programs on social media.

While trends such as TrueCar and Carvana will be short-lived, by actively reaching out in order to give customers what they want —plus more —auto dealerships can more effectively weather the disruptor storm.