“The automotive shopping experience is becoming much more personal.”
This quote from DealerRater general manager Jamie Oldershaw might seem like a departure from a retail automotive industry that is rapidly moving to a more digitalized car-shopping process.
Except that’s exactly the environment from which an effort to personalize car shopping begins.
In mid-September, Cars.com — which acquired DealerRater in 2016 — announced Salesperson Connect, whose launch is an evolution of the DealerRater Connections platform that debuted at the NADA Convention & Expo in January.
As we reported earlier, DealerRater Connections lets dealerships highlight their best-reviewed employees and allow those folks to add personal profile pages, while also facilitating connections between consumers and salespeople.
“This latest feature upgrade integrates DealerRater data with the Cars.com Vehicle Details Page (VDP), providing shoppers with access to information critical to making a buying decision on what Cars.com refers to as the 4P’s: Product, Price, Place and Person,” Cars.com said in a news release.
The latter element can be quite crucial. Ninety-seven percent of 6,400 car shoppers surveyed on DealerRater said they would rather pick the salesperson prior to arrival at the dealership.
And Cars.com says this move means it is the only site of its kind that allows shoppers to connect with the salesperson before they arrive at the store.
‘Creating that touch point’
Auto Remarketing caught up with Oldershaw shortly after Salesperson Connect was announced.
“With the implementation on Cars.com, it’s about creating that touch point, that human interaction where we give consumers the ability to do as much research as they can before they walk into a dealership,” he said in a phone interview.
“We always say that cars are still bought and sold one at a time between two people. And human interaction and relationship building are so critical to the evolution of the car-shopping experience,” Oldershaw said. “The industry continues to move toward commoditization on price and product quality that they key differentiator is customer experience — not just at the dealership level, but also at the personal level.
“And DealerRater and Cars.com together … we can very uniquely position to help dealers elevate the game of their salespeople, drive more human connections and sell more vehicles.”
Oldershaw said that following the implementation on Cars.com, the salespeople getting the most leads are the ones keeping the customer in mind, offering a great experience and asking for reviews.
‘Next phase of consumer-driven shopping transformation’
And those who select salespeople ahead of time might be better leads, anyway. Anecdotally, Oldershaw said, dealers have shared that these leads closed more quickly, more often and more profitably.
After all, it’s what consumers are saying they want.
“Real human relationships are a key to the next phase of the consumer-driven shopping transformation, and providing car shoppers with valuable data and information around a specific salesperson moves us towards that goal,” said Tony Zolla, chief product officer at Cars.com, in a news release.
“Cars.com has created a Vehicle Details Page that provides a full range of data to help consumers make a more informed decision. The new Salesperson Connect feature surfaces top rated salespeople based on their DealerRater reviews and provides one-stop-shopping for car buyers on a single page, helping us streamline the process for consumers and connecting them to the right dealership and right salesperson to meet their needs.”