With new car sales down by a minimum of 30%, if your business is selling cars then times are terribly tough. If you are burying your head in the sand and failing to attract your fair share of the female footfall out there, however, what chance do you stand of surviving a recession?
According to Google research, in advance of ‘Driving Business – opportunities for profit and growth in an uncertain market’ a conference being staged by EurotaxGlass on 13 November at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham, one in three new car buyers will visit one dealership only to buy their new car and the number of test drives taken has halved during the last year.
What do we imagine this tells us?
First of all that the male and female motorist is doing more of his or her buying homework before heading to the final dealership of their choice. Online or offline research, they clearly know the car they want as a result and are not prepared to be side-tracked or have to go through the car buying experience more than one time or by taking more than one test drive.
Secondly that, because it is Google research, it will undoubtedly identify that traditional advertising isn’t working as well as it used to. No surprises there; what would you reach for given a choice? A weighty Yellow Pages directory or known and trusted Google and 24/7 online brands, for fast and convenient shopping?
This research will likely confirm what we know already, that most foxy women drivers shop online, are influenced by friends and network madly (online and offline). We know that many still find the car buying experience to be male dominated, unfriendly and patronising, so much so that they even take a man along to be sure of getting a fair deal. In today’s society when so many of us can afford to buy our own!
I also think it is grossly unfair that a foxy lady driver negotiating a new car deal at the end of the month or quarterly trading period is more likely to get a better price than the uninitiated who doesn’t know to haggle.
Does this secret pricing policy exist in any other industry I wonder? At least you know that earlybirds get cheaper holidays and that certain train times are cheaper in advance…
Why so few haggle free price promises by dealers? Why not let the manufacturers and the dealers take the financial risk at the end of the month, not the unfortunate female motorist who chooses to buy her new car mid month, for example. How fed up would you be to know that you could have saved £££s if you had waited for an uncertain but better time to negotiate your new car?
What Google’s research is unlikely to suggest however is that many dealers are missing out on the aftersales opportunity (which is the better earner anyway) as a value-added channel into the new car showroom. I think this may well be because most salesmen are more likely to be in the showroom and most technical guys in the workshop; the salesman is more likely to think about how to sell the new cars he knows, rather than garage services like MOTs, servicing and repairs.
FOXY’s anecdotal research however is that few women drivers realise that a franchised dealership may well be competent at or want to service and repair other makes of cars. Many female motorists do find dealerships to be patronising and more expensive than independent garages (which isn’t necessarily the case we find, providing we match the right customer to the right garage service solution at MOT, car servicing and repair times of course) so there is plenty of room for main dealers to compete more effectively in this area in future.
But service levels need to be (perceived as) much more female friendly in many dealerships, especially in the aftersales departments where women can feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
We tackle this area in FOXY Choice where garages and dealerships alike sign a female friendly FOXY Promise which is a commitment to never overcharge, patronise or sell services the customer doesn’t need. It is vital that the aftersales manager signs this of course, and not the marketing manager, because they have to be accountable in the event of any complaint made to FOXY Choice.
If dealerships want to impress a customer, they need to understand her needs and to offer something special during her buying homework preparation. When I returned from the Motor Show recently I received several brochures in the post, Toyota sent everything online, but not one female friendly chatty (female even?) dealership representative contacted me afterwards to see if they could help me.
I read recently that £17m a week is lost in dealerships as a result of female walk outs. This could be the difference between survival or not in today’s tough times.