Driving more vehicle sales by selling outside your local market

Jun 25, 2020
Kevin LeSage, Director of Digital Marketing, Autotrader

Whether we like it or not, dealers today are competing with most companies in the e-commerce space. Clients look at me funny when I say that, but it’s pretty clear when you think about it. Consumers have gotten used to a simple, convenient customer experience, no matter what they’re buying.

Shoppers are used to being able to quickly and easily research and complete all kinds of purchases from their sofas. And let’s admit it, so are you and I. More and more, consumers expect the same ease, speed and convenience when it comes to buying a car. One of the key elements of today’s customer experience is offering vehicle home delivery, whether they’re in your local area or live far away. Not only does it give a prospective buyer more options for finding the ideal vehicle, it gives you more opportunities to close a deal and move inventory.

Bringing your inventory to the masses.

Opening up your sales opportunities outside of your go-to radius is a game changer, and it’s something I’ve talked about a lot with dealers across the industry over the past few months. I think it’s such a crucial strategy because you’re able to reach more transaction-ready buyers, and you can do it without having to have an additional lot. Win-win.

Solidify your storyline for selling to anyone, anywhere.

While more and more customers are becoming comfortable with tools like digital retailing and at-home services, you and I both know a vehicle is a complex purchase. We can make it easy, but it’s not simple.

Are you operationally set up to sell outside of your market? Great. But how are you communicating that to prospective buyers? Only 30% of car shoppers today are aware dealers offer these services. How will car shoppers near and far know that your dealership offers the kind of buying experience they’re looking for?

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to communicate your message loud and clear to out-of-market buyers. The same principles apply in all of your marketing and advertising, but let’s talk specifically about optimizing your listings to win out-of-market buyers. Here are a few things I tell dealers when they signal interest in getting ready for selling everywhere:

Above all, be clear and thorough.

Clear messaging helps shoppers get informed and feel more comfortable about the process. Outline your shipping fees. Define your buy-back and return policies. And describe how trade-ins fit into the mix. In this instance, there’s no such thing as over-communicating. These buyers expect to find answers to lots of their questions before they ever contact a dealer. And they’ll use the information you provide (or the lack of it) to determine if they’ll be working with your dealership or a competitor.

Include testimonials from out-of-market shoppers in reviews and on your website.

Hearing others’ success stories about how easy it was to purchase from afar will help provide peace of mind for those who might be hesitant to buy sight unseen. Let’s get them over that hurdle.

Arm your sales staff with a phone script.

Shoppers who’ve done their homework carefully will know you’re not in their city, but you will also get some leads from customers who are open to delivery but didn’t notice that you weren’t local. And that will play a big part in how you support their needs. So, if you’re an Autotrader dealer, reach out to your Dealer Success Consultant for call scripts that you can use to successfully connect with potential buyers, fill them in on your process and keep the sale moving. 

Merchandise your services wherever you can.

Upload an ad every 5th photo in your DMS feed, highlighting key remote-retailing offerings. For example, “If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you!” And, use photo overlays; this guarantees that when a prospect lands on a car and clicks through the photos, they’re exposed to your messaging.

Tell the story visually.

As the saying goes, seeing is believing. While you certainly want to do your best to verbally communicate to customers, giving them a first-hand look will go a long way. If you’ve heard me speak before, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but here are a few tips I prioritize:

Upload pictures, pictures and more pictures.

This is always an essential part of good vehicle merchandising, but it’s even more important for home delivery sales. The more imagery you can include of each vehicle, the better. Seeing it from every angle will make potential buyers more confident in the vehicle’s physical accuracy.

By the way, I can’t talk about merchandising without mentioning Virtual Video Walkaround from our Dealer Home Services and SnapLot 360  from HomeNet. I’d encourage you to check both of those options out to enhance your merchandising, whether you’re selling to outside areas or not.

Include delivery messaging within vehicle photo carousels.

This ever-present reminder will help connect the car they want to the dealer that can deliver it to their doorstep.

Update your online-advertising banners.

Whatever real estate you can adjust to deliver consistent messaging about your process and policies builds trust with shoppers.

Tell your story through video, everywhere.

Tap into the personalities of your most dynamic sales staff and have them walk through your purchase process and assurances. You’ll definitely want to add this to the photo/video carousel on all your listings, but also consider adding it to your website homepage and everywhere that a potential buyer might be researching your dealership. 

Like I’ve said many times, shopper expectations shift constantly and we’re all doing what we can to keep up. Regardless of which tool or partner you choose, making home delivery a reality for your shoppers is more crucial than ever. If you’ve been thinking about offering this type of service, I’d encourage you to explore our Market Extension product. If you’re not an Autotrader client already, reach out to us at 1-877-627-9585 or fill out the form at the bottom of this page to see how we can help you power what’s next.