Range anxiety, acquisition costs, insecurity regarding charging times and charging infrastructure: These are reasons often named to explain the low uptake of electric vehicles, that falls short of the expectations of OEMs world wide – despite of a growing ecological awareness amongst car buyers, attractive governmental incentives and more and more advanced e-cars. These being valid and strong reasons, however, recent studies indicate that there seems to be a second dimension to the problem with selling e-cars – which is a fundamental mismatch between the e-car buyer journey on the one hand and the e-car seller journey on the other hand. Addressing this structural, sales-related challenge will enable OEMs and NSCs to develop powerful strategies to increase e-car sales, accelerate the overall sales process and gain loyal e-car customers for an electric future. In this article, we will give you an overview about the state of the art regarding the challenging relation between dealers and customers when it comes to e-car sales – and show how OEMs and NSCs can overcome them. While doing so, we are going to put a special focus on the two following interrelated sides:
Let’s start with considering the customer and his struggle to make a truly informed purchase decision. A recent study from Capgemini*, called “Electric cars: At the tipping point?” has investigated the information gap in great detail, via an online survey amongst 762 participants in Germany, the US, and China.
All participants were seriously interested in buying an e-car and were asked to evaluate the challenges regarding getting relevant knowledge about e-cars and barriers to e-car ownership. The study found that in all three crucial stages for a good customer experience – the interest phase, the purchase phase, and the ownership phase – customers indeed experienced strong difficulties to get the right information regarding various e-car related questions and concerns from salespeople, OEMs, and via online sources like dealership and manufacturer websites at the right time.
The interest phase The information transfer was perceived as deficient especially in this initial, highly sensitive stage of the customer journey. Only 47 % of participants have responded that they felt well informed about e-cars, only 9 % felt very well informed. The participating customers especially felt that they lacked important information about e-car batteries, about the availability of charging equipment, and about the range of e-cars. Regarding the information sources, the respondents experienced a lack of information pretty much everywhere, in the dealerships as well as on online channels. This gives a strong hint already to one of the causes of slow e-car sales: When customers plan to buy an expensive good such as a car, they want to make well informed purchase decisions and want to have a good feeling that they have made the right, truly educated choice. And customers who do not feel well informed about e-cars will rather choose the seemingly “safer”, meaning more informed, option, and purchase an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car – even though they were actually ready to go for the e-car.
The purchase phase While in the interest phase, customers looking for a car still do a lot of research themselves online, when reaching the purchase phase, 79 % of all customers consider the dealer as the most important source of information. Even though in this phase the interviewed customers in the Capgemini study already planned to buy or already owned an e-car, the persistent information gap created a serious obstacle to get the customer to buy the car in the end. The Capgemini study found that customers in the purchase phase especially felt a lack of information about batteries and charging. Because these two topics are crucial for the buying decision, the customer’s feeling to lack relevant information here inhibits them to buy an e-car.
The ownership phase Also in the ownership phase, the information gap of customers still proceeds and becomes prevalent in the whole section of aftersales. Main issue for customers is now that a lot of OEMs don’t offer charging equipment and installations of home charging stations. The customer is therefore confronted with a variety of different parties, like providers of charging stations, installers and utility providers – besides from the dealer and OEM.
Customers are thus always in doubt whom best to contact when it comes to find the most suitable technology for their e-car, to charging options (slow, fast, high performance charging), to install and maintain eventual home charging stations. They often also don’t know which party is responsible when they have issues with their home equipment. All in all, this leads to customers not getting an optimal ownership experience and creates insecurities after the purchase – which might affect their future re-purchase decision or their recommendations to other potential buyers.
“Customers put off electric cars…by electric car sales staff” – this is the provocative title of an article in the international journal of science called “nature”, summarizing the findings of a study conducted by researchers of the University Aarhus and the University of Sussex in May 2018**. For this study, the researchers underwent 126 shopping experiences in 82 dealerships in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway and observed that car salespeople mostly did not show a positive attitude towards e-cars, even misinformed potential car buyers about vehicle specifications and were more than hesitative with giving proactive information about e-cars. So why do salespeople behave like in this study? The answer suggested by the researchers is simple: They want customers to rather buy an ICE car – because salespeople feel that they themselves are better informed about petrol and diesel cars, and also because the sales process for an ICE car is faster than for an e-car. Salespeople, having the incentive to sell as many cars, as soon as possible, thus have a clear incentive to rather not support e-car sales.
Both quoted studies in this article have revealed that a lack of information and knowledge transfer between OEMs, dealers and customers is a serious obstacle to selling more e-cars. Besides from additional education of the dealers and besides from enriching online channels like dealer and OEM websites, video platforms and social media channels with more information on e-cars, charging infrastructure, battery options and technical specifications, OEMs and NSCs also have a great opportunity in retooling their dealers with a software solution that enables them to sell more e-cars, faster.
The best winning sales paths for e-car sales As outlined in the previous sections, e-car customers need to be approached and supported by dealers in a specific way that differs from traditional ICE car sales. E-car customers have the need for much more knowledge transfer and consultancy before they are ready to decide for an electric vehicle. With EASI’R, the Automotive Lead- and Sales Acceleration Software, OEMs and NSCs can easily support dealers in bringing e-car leads and customers on the best winning sales path, enabling them to sell more e-cars, faster than ever before. When dealers are equipped with a tool that helps them to strategically accelerate e-car sales, they will gain more and more confidence in this area, which will again help you as a manufacturer or importer to bring electric vehicles on the right track for a more and more electric future. EASI’R can thereby be simply integrated on top of your dealers’ existing systems, like CRM, lead-management, DMS and CPQ systems. It will connect these systems and create seamless workflows across all applications, with one login only.
That is how EASI’R can accelerate your e-car sales: EASI’R allows OEMs and NSCs to define specific best winning sales paths and milestones specifically for e-car sales vs. ICE car sales. Offering sales people support by defining best winning sales paths for e-cars vs. ICE cars, will support them step by step in keeping customers on the best path towards closing the sale.
EASI’R also allows OEMs and NSCs to enable their dealers to drive highly promising, personal conversations with customers at each customer touch point on the way to purchase – adjusted to the specific needs of e-car customers vs. ICE car customers. This way, dealers will be enabled to contact e- car customers with the right content at the right time. They will exactly know when to send a link with background information about battery options, about charging times, about home equipment providers and local charging infrastructure – and when to send a video about environmental benefits to assure the customer in his plan to buy an e-car. Dealers will thus also be able to bridge the above mentioned information gap on various online channels and ensure that the customer still knows everything he wants to know to make an informed, confident purchase decision.
The EASI’R automated relations function further supports dealers in keeping e-car customers in the loop, sending pre-planned, highly personal communication sequences, ensuring that no customer falls through the cracks and making it easy and time efficient for dealers to maintain the contact even with the most information seeking e- car customer.
Data driven knowledge about customers is key: With EASI’R, salespeople can easily collect important customer insights from all available channels that help with e-car sales, e. g., whether a customer has the option for home charging or not or how many kilometres he uses to drive per day. Whether the interaction takes place online or in the showroom, salespeople will benefit from such centrally stored and easily accessible information and thus be able to consult the customer the best way, taking his individual needs into account. EASI’R also enables OEMs and NSCs to provide a concerted aftersales approach for customers, integrating sales and aftersales activities. Dealers, workshops, installers and utility providers can collaborate more closely and work together on a customer case, giving them the wished security beyond the purchase of an e-car. Giving all these parties access to the same platform and the same customer information, will create a 360 degree customer experience and effectively dispel the concerns of e-car customers that they don’t know which party to contact if they have an issue, e. g., with their home charging equipment.