yellow brick road
Market Strategy

Buying a vehicle from a dealership is a lot like Dorothy’s adventure in the Land of Oz.


Left on their own, customers follow a path to purchase full of distractions, advice, and obstacles. Then they find out at the end of the road the dealership can’t help them in the way they expected because of incorrect information about vehicles, services, or customers.


Data inaccuracy isn’t a problem unique to dealerships, but as other businesses adapt and change with consumer expectations, dealerships are falling behind.


Here are a few businesses that have improved the customer experience with data, and our tips for how to catch up.


Follow the Customer’s Path

Online retailing makes it easy to search from home and find everything customers need, all without talking to a salesperson. In fact, with reviews and social media, customers talk to other buyers to get an honest opinion about products.


Amazon adapted to this trend by offering everything a customer would want on one page: customer reviews, costs and discounts, product details and images, and more. By offering all of this information upfront, customers don’t need to leave the site to learn about the product.


Amazon has also set customer expectations for relevant marketing. They proactively suggest what other items a customer may want based on their search history and their “cart.”


Customers now expect these experiences with every business they go to.


How it applies to you:

Within your dealership’s DMS and CRM, make sure your customer and vehicle information is regularly updated. When customers search for vehicle details and availability, your ads need to showcase exactly what they’ll see on the lot.


Allowing customers to create a profile or account on your website will also help customize their experience. Suggesting recommended vehicles or services and displaying offers that echo messaging they’ve received from you by email or other advertising creates a cohesive brand they can trust.


Don’t Fear the Data Forest

Consumers spend a tremendous amount of their time online, which allows businesses to capture transaction details and behavioral tendencies. When companies use all of this data correctly,  the way they communicate with their customers becomes more relevant.


One shocking example of how companies use data came from Target. Target’s analytics team was challenged to predict a pregnancy before the birth would be entered into national registries. Shortly after, Target successfully predicted a teenager’s pregnancy based on her purchase habits and sent her corresponding marketing before she was even able to tell her parents.


By recognizing consumer trends associated with life decisions and changes, Target learned to identify buyers based on common purchase behaviors. Predictive analytics considers hundreds of variables to understand customer and market trends, more than any person can consider when building a marketing campaign.


When companies can predict what customers will do before they start looking, well-timed advertising nudges buyers in the right direction.


How it applies to you:

When done well, predictive marketing allows you to better understand your customers’ needs, whether they’re preparing to purchase a new car or are in need of service. Knowing what other customers like them have done in the past, you can disrupt buying cycles and put shoppers back in-market before they might otherwise consider buying.


As you learn about your market area and where your competition is winning, adjust your marketing strategy to retain the sales and service customers in your database while finding new customers likely to buy.


They’re Off to See the Dealer

The average company is seeing lower engagement online and even lower conversions—about 3 percent. So how are companies like Walmart sporting online conversion rates of over 40 percent?


We won’t ignore the obvious: Walmart is a retail giant that offers virtually any product available, at low prices. But less obviously, they caught on to the importance of mobile-first websites early as a way to improve customer experience.


Walmart as a physical store also does a great job of transitioning the customer from online to in-store. Their website allows customers to choose and save their main store so they can search up-to-date inventory in all departments. If customers visit a store, they also have accurate in-store locations on the product pages, showing customers exactly where to go.


This online-to-in-store user experience shows Walmart did their research into consumer trends.


Customers search differently on their phones than they do on desktop. It’s important to remember that optimizing your site for mobile users is something Google looks for when they show search and ad results. Today’s consumer is also using their phone while shopping to look for inventory, deals, and competitive offers.


How it applies to you:

As companies like Carvana and Vroom bring car sales online, traditional dealerships have to work harder to keep customers engaged and encourage them to submit a contact form or sign up for a test drive. Pre-populated lead forms for returning customers, on-site lead incentives, and content created to address the needs of customers and search engines will help find and convert more online shoppers.


Since customers only visit an average of 1-2 dealerships, convincing them to visit you over your competition comes down to what you offer, how you advertise it, and how well you meet their needs online.


Pull Back the Curtain at Your Dealership

When customers start the journey to a new vehicle, make sure their yellow brick road leads to your dealership. Here are a few tips:

  • Create digital advertising campaigns and website content with a specific audience in mind. Think, “What customer needs does my dealership, franchise, or inventory solve?” and tailor your custom content to those needs.
  • Targeted communications must be relevant to each customer you’re sending them to. Segmented campaigns drive an average increase in revenue of 760%. Whether you target by last service date, estimated vehicle mileage, predicted purchase need, or others, you have to do more than send out blanket email campaigns.
  • Keep up with your target buyers’ changing needs. Regardless of when they last came to your dealership, stay aware of vehicle ownership, current and future needs, and how they interact with your dealership marketing.


No matter which marketing services you use to talk to your customers, keep your advertising campaigns consistent to your brand and your current offerings. When you show customers you can meet their expectations throughout the buying process, they leave saying, “there’s no place like your dealership.”


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