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It’s the age old question of, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Except now the question is, “What came first, the connected car or the connected consumer?” Some argue that consumers are evolving as a reaction to the evolution of technology. That after becoming accustomed to having the world at our fingertips we started to expect it in every facet of our lives. Or perhaps our expectations evolved first due to sci-fi novels and futuristic TV shows and the auto industry was forced to keep up. Either way, today’s car and consumer are both more connected than ever before. The line between a vehicle and a computer is becoming blurrier and consumer expectations are on the rise. As connected cars become the future of the automotive industry, dealers must learn how to attract, and retain, this new breed of customer.
The connected consumer consumes media more often than ever before, through different channels, and often at the same time. Even mediums that were once considered “traditional” have gone digital. The JD Power 2015 U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report found that consumers interested in purchasing new vehicles based on their technological value were more likely to read a magazine through an app, and Google research found that 77% of the time viewers watch TV it’s with another device. The same study found that 90% of car shoppers begin their research online and often via a mobile device. Most dealers are taking notice, as $1 Billion was spent on display ads alone in 2013. Dealers are even spending 44% more than manufacturers on paid search. Total digital advertising is expected to hit $12 billion by 2019, a sum that’s only second to the retail industry. But what about the small dealership who is afraid to allocate too much spend to uncharted territory? It’s all about the content.
The auto buyer’s journey is not linear, nor is it a funnel; it’s a fluid and ever changing process of research and social interaction that dealers have to be present for before the customer steps onto the lot. Publishing blogs about new car types and features (with subtle reminders that they’re available for test drive at your location), or posting interactive videos of cars that just hit the lot are great ways to produce web traffic without an increase in spend. And with that traffic comes valuable consumer data that can be mined and turned into actionable insights for your next marketing campaign. Collecting data on which content is getting the most hits, likes, shares, etc. (and by whom) allows dealers to get a more comprehensive view of consumers for highly targeted offers.
Example: IP Address 12.34.576.8 has visited your website 3 times in the past week, clicked (and spent time on ) 4 blog pages, and reviewed your current listed inventory. With this information you use a data service to append a contact profile to the IP address to learn that the IP address is assigned to Jane Smith who lives at 334 Bluejay Lane, with an income of $60,000+ per year, and she currently drives a sporty convertible. In this profile the Data-as-a-Service company can also provide in-market indicators, and in this case Jane has recently been doing a lot of research about a first child online. It’s safe to say that Jane has a new bundle of joy on the way, and now would be a good time for your dealership to reach out with some information about your safest family vehicle.
In the JD Power study, 43% of premium brand drivers and 28% of non-premium brand drivers cite their vehicle’s latest technology features as one of the reasons they purchased their vehicle. But technology is not only a requirement of their cars, but it’s a part of their lifestyle. Connected consumers go online more on tablets (54%) and phones (69%) than the non-connected consumer, and by 2020 80% of consumers are expected to shop for vehicles across multiple devices. Accenture found that 75% of connected consumers would even consider conducting the entire purchase process online. This development is a reflection of the new-age, “always-on” lifestyle. Consumers don’t have time to wait around or waste time, they decide what they want and then they want it now. To stay competitive, offering online scheduling of service appointments or test drives is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. The connected consumer wants convenience to be a click away, or they’ll find a competitor who can give it to them. Retail industries across the board are facing this reality, as more and more customer experience and omni-channel capabilities are becoming a major product differentiating factor.
Not only on your website, more than half of JD Power respondents said they would be interested in a more digitally interactive experience at the dealership and 48% would consider a virtual test drive. Dealers who are excelling in “offline” customer service need to take that same devotion to customer convenience online with interactive websites and simple scheduling services by internet, mobile device, or even text message.
Connected consumers are used to seamless, omni-channel experiences and relevant offers. If your dealership or service center fails to deliver, it will be bad news for both acquiring new connected customers and retaining current customers who are looking for a more optimized customer experience. According to a study by Walker, the customer experience is so important that by 2020, it is expected to overtake price and product as the key competitive differentiator. So, where do you think your business will be in 2020? Leading the pack as a top customer service expert? Or closing your doors as your customers move to the competition? A single transaction has the potential to turn into a lifetime relationship, if you steward your customers properly.
Take steps to get your databases in order- cleansed and integrated into one central system. This will help avoid mishaps like bounced back direct mails or misspelled names on emails. Work with a data provider to integrate third party data to get a comprehensive customer view. This will help you to send only the most relevant offers to current clients and prospects - which is something they’ll appreciate. And lastly, let’s be honest, nobody really loves waiting at a service center while their car is getting fixed. Take steps to make the experience less painful. A comfortable atmosphere and entertainment while waiting are things that will make your customers feel the love.
We still have the luxury of differentiating “connected customers” with “regular customers,” but this won’t last for long. Soon the tactics to attracting the modern consumer will be the only way to attract or retain customers at all, and automotive companies can’t waste any more time implementing a plan for when that day comes.
To learn how to target the connected car shopper across the entire customer journey with data and customer insights, download this free guide on Data-Driven Marketing for Automotive.