Online sales have radically changed multiple, centuries-old industries. Publishing, textiles, even groceries have moved online—and many experts think automotive is not far behind.
The fact is, even if your customers aren’t buying vehicles online yet, they’re certainly researching them. When a customer decides to purchase a new or used vehicle, the first place they turn is the internet. They look at multiple inventories for multiple dealerships, they research different makes and models, and when they finally arrive at the sales lot, they know exactly what they want.
But how can you bring them to your sales lot when every dealership in the area—and many that aren’t—are all vying for your customers’ attention?
If you want to remain competitive in an internet-driven market, there are several important things to remember.
Online retail sales aren’t your biggest challenge yet.
Brick-and-mortar dealerships aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Customers might do their research online, but, for the most part, they’re still purchasing their vehicles in person. The internet might be what leads them to your dealership to buy a vehicle, but it’s probably not the place they’re going to complete a purchase.
Remember your online customer experience is just a reflection of what you can offer in person. The way your customers feel on your sales lot still trumps the way they feel on your website. However, your online representation is critical for bringing customers in the doors. All your online efforts should strategically work to attract customers into your physical dealership.
It all comes down to your marketing system.
Customer service on the sales lot is all well and good, but with so many dealerships vying for your customers’ attention, how can you be heard above the noise?
Your marketing system has the answer. What marketing solution you choose to use for potential customers can make or break your sales numbers. An effective marketing system has to do three things:
1) Anticipate sales needs
2) Send targeted, personalized messaging
3) Attract new customers
You need a data-driven marketing system that will effectively use vehicle ownership records to anticipate when customers are going to purchase a new vehicle. If you can anticipate when customers need a new vehicle, then you can start marketing to them before anyone else. You’ll gain a huge jump on the competition.
Your marketing also has to be targeted and personalized. Too many dealerships rely on shotgun-style marketing that sends as many communications as possible to random places and hopes the right customers see them. There’s too much marketing noise out there for that to work. Your marketing system needs to use precise targeting methods to send messages your customers actually want to see, right to the places they visit most.
Finally, if you want to grow sales numbers, you can’t rely on existing customers alone. Your marketing system should use external, proprietary data to attract and entice customers outside your existing database. Combined with targeted messaging and anticipatory communications, external data allows you to capture new customers before the competition gets there first.
Remember where technology is going.
More and more dealerships are embracing the digital experience and offering customers new ways to test drive and purchase vehicles. Virtual reality and easier custom ordering are just around the corner. The average dealership’s focus is going to move more and more toward the digital realm.
Through all of this, remember that customer experience remains king. If you can craft a technology-driven, effortless customer experience, along with a compelling digital presence, you’ll maintain a huge advantage in the retention game and build a solid foundation for the future. As new innovations continue to drive the world forward and change the sales game, effective sales marketing is just the first step.