Using the Internet to Buy Locally

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Recently I had the unenviable task of buying a new car – I say unenviable because I don’t know too many people that actually love the process of test driving, negotiating and ultimately deciding on the second most expensive purchase in our lives. However, in this case the pain was somewhat eased because I saved thousands of dollars using the Internet. Not surprising – except I eventually purchased the car locally for more than I could have paid elsewhere and it only took a few hours.

This experience had key lessons in it for both consumer and retailer, so how did it all work? Firstly, I researched online the specs of the vehicle I wanted and also the fair trade value (or range) for my existing vehicle. I had a physical test drive locally and was also offered a changeover price from my local dealer. However, being a major purchase (and the fact that I was an accountant in a former life) I just had to get a second quote.

So I found 8 dealers of the vehicle in a 200 km radius of where we lived and sent an early morning email pronouncing that “by the end of today I was going to buy a car and would they be in a position to help me”. The email included the exact specs of the vehicle and full details of my existing trade in vehicle. To my absolute shock only 4 of the 8 emails were replied to and only 2 salespeople actually called me, with one guaranteeing that they will beat any price no matter what. It was now time for the local dealer to sharpen his pencil.

So what did we decide to do? It wasn’t just about the money, although getting value was critical. After a few phone calls and emails we decided on our local dealer who was slightly dearer than the rest – so why? They listened intently to our situation, they arranged for a complimentary vehicle for the week we had to wait for our new car, we wanted to take some accessories from the old vehicle to the new so they arranged to take care of that. Closing the deal ultimately came down to customer service and understanding – they made the transition to our new vehicle easier for us.

We all have choices (now more than ever the internet has increased the ability to research and compare) and as business owners and operators we need to be aware of this. Our customers now have access to our competitors nationally and globally, however this doesn’t mean price is the only determining factor, especially for big ticket items requiring ongoing service. However, we do need to work on differentiating ourselves from the competition and service is one of the easiest ways to do this.

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