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Car manufacturers and dealers have historically focused on product quality and the driving experience to acquire new customers and encourage brand loyalty. However, product quality is improving dramatically and is losing value as a key brand differentiator. According to a report by Medallia, “Over a ten-year period, from 2003 through 2012, reliability has improved so much that the top 20% of models available in 2003 would fall to the bottom 20% in 2012.”
In regards to the driving experience, new car models are sporting all sorts of new features to improve the driving experience. According to a 2015 study by Nielsen, vehicle to driver communication is the most popular feature for connected drivers. Other popular features include voice activated controls, internet-enabled navigation, personal assistant service, vehicle internet connectivity, and vehicle mobile applications.
As more and more vehicles tout a range of exciting features, better safety, and the next best thing in car design, manufacturers and dealers will need to compete on a different sphere – the customer experience.
The customer experience is increasingly becoming an important factor as consumers choose between brands. 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.
Here are three innovative ways to improve the customer experience for your customers and prospects:
Before heading to a dealership, consumers are most likely to head to the Internet to do their research. And they expect every piece of information about the vehicle they plan to purchase at their fingertips.
Just as important, once they choose a dealership to visit, be sure you have a strong online and interactive digital presence. Consumers want to schedule appointments online, access paperwork, and expect immediate responses to their inquiries. And if you don’t meet these expectations, your prospects are more than likely going to find a dealership that can deliver.
Dealerships are aware of these changing trends and are increasingly investing in digital marketing to deliver this connected experience. According to eMarketer, the US automotive industry will spend $7.30 billion on digital advertising in 2015 and will continue to grow digital spend, reaching $12.08 billion by 2019. The auto industry will be the second-largest digital ad spender in the US in 2015, accounting for 12.5% of digital ad dollars.
Connecting to online consumers to deliver superior experiences is no longer an option, but a matter of competitive survival.
Shoppertainment is here! Consumers want to shop for products AND be catered to with entertainment and first-rate experiences. A good example of a company that has been doing this for years is Home Depot, which holds in-store workshops for Do-it-Yourselfers. Jordan’s Furniture is a popular furniture retailer that has an IMAX theater in their showroom, as well as attractions such as dancing water fountains, a sky ropes course, and high energy light shows. Audi opened the first interactive car showroom 2012 in which the brand’s entire universe of models can be experienced in one digital space. A number of retail locations also feature cafes, salons, and spas.
You don’t necessarily need to go to the length of installing interactive light shows and dancing fountains, although it is working for Jordan’s. Retailers across all industries are increasingly implementing innovative retail experiences as a way to build more brand loyalty. Children’s playrooms and entertainment while parents shop is commonplace at many dealers. And I personally like to munch on the free popcorn and lounge in the comfy waiting room while waiting for my oil change.
In the future, expect dealerships to get more creative. A mini salon is certainly a great way to attract female shoppers who need to go in for an oil change or other services. However, whatever features you decide to implement, be sure you know your target audience and provide the “shoppertainment” that will most appeal to your ideal prospects.
A single transaction has the potential to turn into a lifetime relationship. Digital options for interacting with your dealership and providing entertainment are certainly good incentives to get new prospects into your door, but building brand loyalty means knowing your customers and prospects and providing highly personalized experiences.
Today’s household typically has more than one car parked in the driveway, teen drivers may be ready for a first vehicle, and family and friends are looking for recommendations. Rich opportunities exist to cultivate more revenue from a single purchase – if you show your customers that they matter.
To show your customers that they matter, you first need to know them. If your customer data is sitting in different databases such as a billing, customer service calls, repair requests, and so forth, be sure to consolidate all this data into one marketing database. As each of these customer details come together, you can quickly gain a better understanding of your customer segments.
Your consumer database really begins to gain value when you add third-party data to the mix. Any number of data elements can be appended, such as age, income, occupation, birthdate, other vehicles in the household, online IDs for digital targeting, and much more. By understanding your customers on a more personal level, including what motivates and drives your customers to purchase, you can deliver highly personalized messages that have relevance and which will ultimately create loyal advocates for life.
Taken in context, the concept of providing your customers with the option for a pedicure doesn’t seem so frivolous. Power has shifted to today’s consumers and manufacturers and dealerships can no longer compete on product quality and the driving experience alone. However, a truly exceptional customer experience has the potential to win new customers every time.
To learn how to target car buyer prospects with precise marketing data, learn more about AutoID.