By Jessica Roberts, Director of CSI and Retention, AutoLoop
According to the 2019 Women’s Car Buying Report* by JoinWomenDrivers.com, female buyers account for 45% of new car purchases. In 2018, that translated into 7.74 million new vehicles bought by women. And in addition to those direct sales, other research indicates that women also influence or impact well over 80% of all vehicle purchase decisions.
These figures are much more than interesting market segmentation numbers, however. They represent a rapidly growing group of customers with tremendous buying power and unique perspectives about the purchase process. Shaped by past experiences and an existing culture, those perspectives are critical for dealers to understand if they wish to harness that immense buying power. So savvy retailers will adjust their strategies accordingly, both to capture more initial sales from women and to retain those buyers throughout their entire ownership journey.
Where the journey starts
Current research reveals that 51% of people actively looking for a new vehicle in the US are women, according to a recent study commissioned by Facebook IQ. Many of those women begin the purchase experience by researching a vehicle online and/or talking about it with family and friends—and many of those preliminary discussions can ultimately decide the outcome of a sales journey. In fact, 40% of the women surveyed said that in-person conversations with family and friends influenced their car-buying decisions. And 38% stated that a recommendation from trusted loved ones would make them think about buying an automobile brand they hadn’t even considered previously.
That means continuous personalized engagement between dealers and their current customers takes on even more importance, with more far-reaching results. Since highly engaged customers are six times more likely to make a vehicle purchase, every successful buying experience creates more widespread “ripple effects” by significantly increasing the number of potential recommendations to others.
A proven way to keep active customers consistently engaged: automated or on-demand sales, accessories, and service marketing triggers and campaigns. Lifecycle triggers, in particular, ensure consumers receive highly relevant information and offers when they are most likely to need service or purchase a new vehicle. These personalized communications can include declined service reminders, individual customer birthday wishes or vehicle anniversary messages, and more. And delivering notifications via multiple channels—email, mail, SMS, voice, and social media—further maximizes their effectiveness.
As well, e-newsletters provide a forum for attracting customers and acquainting them with the dealership in a totally comfortable, non-threatening way. An easy-to-read, responsive design will facilitate more opens and maximize interaction. And varied appealing content works, too: the Women’s Car Buying Report states that a variety of topics and imagery is key to capturing reader interest. These can include lifestyle articles, upcoming events and exciting promotions at the dealership, helpful vehicle maintenance tips, how-to videos, information about car-buying and ownership, and much more.
An added benefit: the Facebook IQ study also found that after purchasing, 25% of women said they would like follow-up promotional offers. With e-newsletters, dealers can target this segment personally with customized offers, including those based on an individual’s service history, current incentives, and even equity positions.
Generating trust through transparency
While buying a vehicle can often be intimidating for many people, emotions such as apprehension, nervousness, and feeling overwhelmed still top the list for women in particular, says the Women’s Car Buying Report. Although dealerships and manufacturers alike have implemented multiple processes to ensure positive experiences for all customers, a 2018 industry article notes that women still regularly encounter a culture that manifests varying degrees of gender bias. The article writer herself experienced this culture firsthand when visiting dealerships, including “being totally ignored, being told to help myself to coffee while my husband attended to the ‘important business,’ and being shown the one-touch collapsible seats and luggage hooks when asking about performance across the torque band.”
Although responsibility for changing that culture certainly rests in large part on a store’s management and personnel, utilizing processes that simply take gender out of the equation—such as interactive opportunities online—is also smart. Since online channels themselves are now used by the majority of all consumers in every phase of the purchase process, taking full advantage of these avenues is ideal for connecting with and engaging shoppers. And if women are reluctant to visit dealerships, providing user-friendly online tools that easily handle certain steps during the sale can go a long way toward alleviating that reluctance and creating the trust necessary to form valuable long-term customer relationships.
Consider, for example, owners who want to trade in their existing vehicles. This is often one of the most emotional and dreaded aspects of a sale—and doubly so for women who already worry about potentially unfair treatment because of gender. However, if customers initiate the trade-in process themselves online, and participate in each step of the trade-in appraisal at their convenience without any pressure, any suspicion or confusion is virtually eliminated. Tools that guarantee pricing and provide total transparency at every point will have significant appeal for customers, thus helping the dealer close more sales.
Inviting customers back for service
In the Facebook IQ study, a remarkable 86% of respondents said they preferred some form of post-purchase engagement. Women and men alike wanted regular maintenance reminders. And, as mentioned earlier, a quarter of the women surveyed also welcomed promotional offers.
These preferences create enormous service opportunities for dealers. Since each phase of vehicle ownership calls for specific messaging and offers, retailers who take advantage of strategic communications that specifically address important events and mileage intervals can better retain their customers, from initial sale through service—and on to repurchase. But that’s not all they can do to grow retention: dealers should also send notifications that constantly incorporate relevant data precisely targeted to individual customers, and through the communication channels they prefer. Additionally, highlighting the various amenities available will not only attract more owners, it’ll set the dealership apart from the competition.
So, the number of women buying vehicles continues to rise, but this is actually good news for retailers: choosing to proactively value these buyers at every point in the purchase journey can only drive more revenue and increase customer retention. By creating a welcoming environment and utilizing the best technology to consistently bring customers in, dealers can provide female shoppers with a complete solution for all their vehicle needs.
*Based on data compiled across the top 7 U.S. auto brands.
About the Author
Jessica is Director of CSI and Retention with AutoLoop. After graduating from Florida Southern College, she began her career in the automotive business in 2012. While working at her first dealership, Jessica became familiar with the AutoLoop suite of dealership software. She was inspired to join the AutoLoop team in 2016, quickly moving up from Field Performance Manager to her current role as Director of Retention and CSI. In her spare time, she enjoys helping around her family’s bee-keeping business or cycling the backwoods of Florida.