How we connect with customers has rapidly evolved in the automotive industry.
Reaching customers at the time they are thinking about a vehicle purchase requires Dealers and brands to understand a range of marketing formats and channels that are becoming increasingly complex but also opportune.
The relevance of messaging at all stages of the automotive lifecycle – pre-market (not your customer and not in-market), in-market (actively researching and will likely buy), and ownership (purchased and/or service with you) – is the key ingredient for getting cut-through. The ‘spray-and-pray’ method of yesteryear no longer keeps up with consumer and technology trends.
Today’s customer shops on their terms, not yours, and the mobile device is playing an increasingly important role in this process. In the Deloitte 2018 Gl obal Automotive Consumer Study the article ‘The Future is Now’ recognises that the transformation of automotive retail is imminent, with a focus on “the customer experience to one that is digital, omnipresent and omni-channel, and reflects the customer experiences consumers enjoy from retail, banking and a host of other industries”.i
These consumers avoid hectic car park battles by having groceries delivered to their door; they can complete any odd job, big or small, that same day, through Airtasker, and they can withdraw money from the ATM without their credit card. These are the types of experiences setting the bar of consumer expectation. Your ability to win will increasingly rely on the dealership’s ability to deliver on their expectations.
The traditional way of building a Dealer’s rapport with customers has become increasingly difficult as a result of these changes. As we witness increases in online research and declines in the number of dealership visits prior to purchase, new customer habits have surfaced:
- ‘Digital-first’ consumers initiate the sales process without physical dealership interaction
- Mobile devices are replacing activities historically undertaken by salespersons or concierges
- High-performing dealerships have rewired their business to reflect today’s informed consumers.
It is imperative dealerships leverage their digital presence to influence and add value earlier in the consumers’ research process.
The Win/Win: Relevance aligned to business priorities
Every dealership undoubtedly has a number of different business priorities to deliver and a set of available resources to do so. Hence you should consider, for example:
- Are your marketing plans built and optimised around a return on your investment?
- How are you addressing underperforming vehicle segments in your primary market areas (PMA)?
- How are you combatting service retention drop-offs?
- How are you building dealership awareness?
- Are you providing value to existing customers?
Digital channels offer a sophisticated method to simultaneously solve these challenges and improve customer relevance. Blasting ‘one-size-fits-all’ messaging across untargeted channels is a surefire way to move your dealership toward irrelevance.
A majority of a dealership’s priorities can be matched against three key audiences: pre-market, in-market and ownership. A smart idea is to carefully design and map how your dealership is being active, with messaging that adds value, in front of each of these audiences.
Right message, right audience
The vast majority of Australians are not in the market for a car today, so you can’t talk to them as if they are. This is not being relevant. Tailoring different messages to pre-market, in-market and ownership audiences allows appropriate messaging to digitally reach the right customer where they’re active online.
Pre-market customers need to be aware your dealership exists and, ideally, understand your unique proposition. Using pervasive digital platforms to ‘broadcast locally’ with accuracy is an excellent way to cost-effectively stay top-of-mind to the masses.
Progressive Dealers often focus their scaled reach efforts across key segments where their business needs to improve. For example, only targeting males 25-54 across the PMA and establishing why they’re the local ute expert. This decreases marketing spend, eliminates media wastage and increases dealership relevancy.
In-market customers show signs across the internet that they’re looking to buy, as they embark on researching the best option for their situation. They will spend time on the large car sites, visit OEM and dealership websites, and search among other actions. Deloitte’s 2014 Global Automotive Consumer Study indicates many customers conduct over 10 hours of research outside of the dealership before purchasing.
Understanding the ‘information gathering’ mindset of in-market customers, tap into the visible behaviours and utilise website retargeting to defend customers already considering your dealership. In addition, there are behavioural-based conquest targeting options that allow Dealers to get in front of customers shopping around but not currently considering their specific dealership.
Ownership audience targeting opens up an opportunity for a dealership to add value to the ownership experience – not just focused on trying to sell. A customer who bought a vehicle two months earlier shouldn’t receive a ‘four-day sale’ message. That’s not being relevant or adding value.
Whilst email and SMS should continue to be mainstays in owner communication, you can extend these efforts through CRM data matching across digital channels like Facebook and Instagram. While there are countless strategies when targeting your own customer set, one example could be targeting video content highlighting an under-utilised feature most owners don’t know exist. Get creative with how you can target various pockets of your customer database with communication that improves the ownership experience.
Regardless of whether someone sits in the pre-market, in-market or ownership audience, with 15 million Australians on Facebook daily and 9 million on Instagram, both play an integral role reaching all three key audiences using real identity data that spans all devices. This means these channels know the exact person being served the ad – age, gender, location, etc – which provides a profound advantage in terms of a Dealer’s ability to deliver more relevant messaging at all times.
Enlist the experts
Do you have the right skills and capabilities to successfully engage customers in this digital sales environment? If you don’t there are others that do. Ensure your agencies are working in direct partnership with major digital providers to maximise return on investment and utilise digital channels to their full potential. Additionally, specialised customer experience consultants can assess your effectiveness in market and consumer engagement levels.
Your customers are on digital channels all day – and they are not just there for a minute or two. Users spend nearly an hour every day scrolling through Facebook status updates, Instagram posts or chatting on Messenger. Maximising their full potential in the digital arena should be a top priority to extend your showroom beyond the confines of your dealership’s physical location.
Deloitte’s Motor Industry Services Team and Facebook’s Automotive Team are defining new ways in which the automotive industry can improve customer experience, connect with today’s digitally savvy consumers and support dealership growth.
Management Consultant, Motor Industry Services, Deloitte.
Head of Automotive, Facebook Australia
i Andrew Dinsdale and Andrey Berdichevskiy, The future is now, 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Study: Great Expectations – Insights exploring new automotive business models and consumer preferences, January 2018.