Becoming 'part of the trust process'
Consumers feel tremendous anxiety when buying an automobile, driven in part by a need to perform comparison shopping and a “trust gap.” Bernard Brenner, co-founder of TrueCar and currently the company’s chief strategy officer, told attendees of NAFCU’s Annual Meeting people prefer to look for a car online, but then they want to buy it in person after demos and test drives. “If credit unions offer an indirect loan, they become part of the trust process,” he said.
The shopping journey is a multi-month process, Brenner explained, noting most shoppers do not know the make and model they want when they begin. The typical shopper only knows what type of vehicle he or she wants – a truck, an SUV, a compact car. Online shopping and dealer visits occur across all stages of the shopping journey – they do not happen in a linear fashion. Most shopping journeys are complex, unique and non-linear. “The real question is, how do we help people on this journey? Another question is, how do you contact the consumer at the right time?” he asked
The car-buying journey has much room for improvement, Brenner asserted. Early in the process people are “consumed” by the volume of online content, but hungry for more. They get confused by inconsistent facts and figures, and overwhelmed by never-ending calls, texts and e-mails because they visited a dealer. They get anxious when considering different vehicles and frustrated by high-pressure, impersonal sales.
Credit unions can position themselves as trusted experts during the research portion of the car-buying journey, Brenner said, adding it is important to realize the process is grueling and most consumers are not satisfied. Even with all the third-party and dealer websites, they feel they cannot get the information they need.
Digital retailing – moving the car-shopping process online – is creating a lot of buzz, Brenner acknowledged, but he said it still is a few years from full fruition. “Conceptually, it sounds great, but the reality is that is not exactly what the consumer wants. They want information, but they do not trust the information they see from the dealer. Even younger car buyers, known as digital natives, visit a dealer twice before buying a car.”