Trust & Transparency

Trust & Transparency
Does your online presence live up to your in-store experience?

The two key components to a satisfying buying experience.

You know that your customers value trust and transparency, in all aspects of their automotive experience, but you may not realize just how important it actually is. Setting up your dealership and working with your employees to prioritize this could be one of the most important business decisions you make.

According to a survey commissioned by CarGurus, an online automotive shopping website, 73 percent of consumers responding said that a retail website’s trust and transparency are the most important factors, coming in above the site’s speed, efficiency, design, and “shareability” when they are making a major purchase online.

Winning their trust

The survey looked at how consumers view the process of making various major purchases, including houses and mortgages, as well as vehicles. All of the shopping experiences for all of these items—no surprise here—were driven by the same need for customers to see exactly what’s going on.

Respondents to the survey said that the car shopping process is most in need of increased transparency among dealers if they are to win the trust of Canadian car shoppers. Such large purchases as homes and event tickets came with the most transparent information on price, they said. Car buying was rated the second-worst, with only nine percent of respondents considering its pricing to be transparent. Only mortgages came in below it, with a mere seven percent of respondents satisfied with transparency when they sought to obtain one. Mortgages were considered the murkiest of all major purchases in terms of straightforward pricing.

Nearly half of Canadians rely on customer reviews to determine if a website is trustworthy, and 31 percent gauge trustworthiness primarily by word of mouth from others. When they are researching expensive items online, 40 percent said that customer reviews, both positive and negative, would make the process more transparent and trustworthy.

Bad reviews aren’t always bad

“We encourage dealers to interact with (bad reviews),” says Lisa Iannucci, Director of International Dealer Marketing for CarGurus. “By engaging with the customer and trying to make amends, you can often turn it into a positive one. It’s having that open line of communication, and handling the situation gracefully.”

But bad reviews shouldn’t always be considered a negative, Iannucci says, as keeping them on your site can boost credibility. “On our platform, we only take reviews down if they’re fraudulent,” she says. “That’s important for customer transparency. It’s not biased, and you’re telling the full story.”

There is some work involved: reviews can come about organically, but “talking to a customer afterwards is a good opportunity to ask for reviews,” Iannucci says. “When customers come in the store, or you’re having a conversation with them, ask them to leave reviews. Happy customers are generally happy to leave a review.”

Setting up a strong social media network, updating it regularly, and monitoring the response to it is key to building up a healthy helping of reviews, both pro and con.

Facebook and Twitter are the most obvious choices, but it’s also important to consider such outlets as YouTube, Instagram, and others. Many dealers have put social media on the back burner—something you check on a slow day—but with the enormous popularity of these platforms, especially with people who use them as part of the buying process, making it a priority could ultimately have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Show everything

At a time when almost all buyers research their purchases online, being transparent about the vehicle and its price is paramount. It’s especially important when putting used vehicles online.

“The photos are often the first impression of the car,” Iannucci says. “Make sure there are enough quality photos showing all aspects of the car. If there’s something special about it, mention it. If there’s something wrong with the car that will be an issue for buyers when they arrive, such as minor cosmetic things, be as transparent as possible with all the information. There’s no reason to waste their time and yours if the consumer shows up and sees something they’re not expecting.”

At the end of it all, it’s the price that seals the deal when it comes to buyers feeling the transaction is transparent. The CarGurus surveys discovered that more than a third of Canadians “feel duped” and lose trust in the seller if the price at the store is greater than what they read online, and that 23 percent said a detailed cost breakdown would increase trust and transparency.

“Five years ago, consumers were visiting five dealers on average, and now it’s less than two,” Iannucci says. “Price transparency is big. It’s an understanding of how the price of each vehicle is in relation to the market. People are looking for what goes into the price of the vehicle and how you arrived at that.

“On our site, we look at the instant market value for every car, and we have a deal rating for every car. We determine if a car is a good deal, a great deal, or overpriced, and we give that extra information. I encourage dealers to be fully transparent with as much information as possible.”

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