Today, consumers are increasingly engaging in chat and messenger apps (i.e., chatbots) to purchase, research and interact with businesses and their products. As Artificial Intelligence advances, these conversational experiences provide a real-time way for consumers to interact with their favorite brands – without having to stay on hold for lengthy periods or pick up the phone to speak with a representative. In fact, a recent survey reports that 89 percent of consumers want to use instant messaging to communicate with businesses and 66 percent of shoppers prefer messaging over any other communication channel.
For big-ticket items like vehicles, the implications of integrating conversational AI into marketers’ core strategies can be promising. In addition to improving the customer experience by reaching consumers in the channel they prefer, chatbots and conversational marketing can help dealers drive both online and in-store traffic, offering a win-win scenario for the brand-customer relationship.
Here are three ways chatbots are transforming the car-buying experience:
1. Discoverability and awareness
Dealer websites offer a range of relevant information for potential customers to absorb as they navigate the early stages of the car-buying process. However, today’s auto dealers are at the mercy of traditional digital channels like paid search, display and email to drive discoverability and consumer traffic to their site.
Conversational marketing allows dealers to extend the most valuable features and capabilities of their website into the channel consumers prefer to communicate. Specifically, chatbots that live in apps like Facebook Messenger, which has more than 1.3 billion active users every month, reach an expansive audience of potential customers.
Becoming discoverable in messaging platforms means dealers can both broaden their dealership awareness and simplify how customers access the information they need during the research and consideration phases of the car purchase journey. Consumers can respond to their friends’ latest chats while simultaneously prequalifying for a finance offer.
2. All the answers, without the pressure
Consumers can face ample stress and pressure while trying to buy a car, so unlike traditional online experiences, chatbots can solve customer problems more efficiently and effectively.
Engineered with AI technology to dynamically respond to a range of simple to complex questions, chatbots guide conversations with consumers without relying on human input or intervention. Chatbot technology can automatically generate answers to customer and dealer-specific inquiries such as browsing inventory, determining car trade-in value, checking credit scores to pre-qualify for finance offers or making appointments. As a result, customers can leave a conversational experience feeling satisfied they received relevant information and answers to their questions before they even enter a dealership.
Car-buying customers are not the only ones that benefit from the ease of chatbot technology. By automating the research and discovery processes, chatbots streamline early stages of the dealership’s sales cycle. Because customers are empowered to self-qualify, chatbots can help dealers drive more qualified buyers into their dealership and closer to the point of purchase.
In today’s digital economy, consumers expect more from businesses than simply ease and accessibility. To stay competitive, automotive dealers must be prepared to deliver a meaningful, customer-first experience. As an always-on solution, chatbots pave the way for auto dealerships to catch their target customers’ evolving expectations.
Beyond the perks of arming consumers with the key, qualifying information, chatbots provide interested car buyers an on-demand, personalized experience, 24/7. Customers don’t have to wait for a salesperson to respond to an email inquiry or deal with a flurry of phone calls. Instead, chatbots enable consumers to take control over their car buying experience and seamlessly glean the information they want, in the channel they want, whenever they want it.
And, on the dealer side, chatbots can help take some of the stress off customer service agents by serving as the first line of contact with automotive shoppers, assisting with their needs and vetting the inquiry. From there, the chatbots can be programmed to pass along the request to a human for next steps.
As auto dealerships look to invest in innovative ways to win shoppers over, chatbots and AI technology shouldn’t be overlooked. Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for more meaningful, personalized experiences and the auto industry will have to continue to evolve and embrace the future of car buying – humans and chatbots included.