By Meredith Steiner, Sr Director, Marketing, Foureyes
So I bought a house this month. And I found it with the help of an automated email.
If you haven’t been in the real estate game in the last few years, you may not be familiar with Zillow, but in August 2021 it ranked the 16th most popular website in the US. They’ve got a great website, and send excellent emails tailored to your specific searches. The property that I ultimately bought was one that Zillow identified as something I’d be interested in, and I saw it for the first time thanks to an email.
That experience got me thinking about what lessons dealerships can learn from Zillow. Like Zillow, automotive dealerships are in the considered purchase arena. Like Zillow, we sell specific pieces of inventory with unique specs and prices. Like Zillow, our buyers need help from a person and the ultimate transaction takes place offline.
There are a few myths that we keep telling ourselves about dealership emails that Zillow disproves.
Myth #1: People don’t buy inventory often enough to get frequent dealership emails
I read a comparison recently that compared dealerships to Target–saying that you might make a purchase at Target 3x a week, but you would never buy a car 3x a week. And how that affects the frequency buyers are hearing from dealerships. While the statement is true, it conflates the frequency of shopping with the desire for information.
A $40,000 car is a considered purchase. I need to get it exactly right because I don’t buy a new car every week. The requirement to get it exactly right feeds my appetite for relevant information. If the data is pertinent to my search, I will engage frequently.
While I don’t have Zillow’s email performance stats, I can see that they emailed me 18 times in September, and I opened 12 of those emails and clicked through to the website on many of them. Why? Because the emails were about the inventory that I was aggressively researching. I think this is the greater truth: Consumers aren’t interested in generic emails from dealerships; they are interested in specific emails about the inventory they are interested in.
Myth #2: Automated emails interfere with sales interactions
We hear a fair amount from salespeople who worry that automated emails will interfere with their sales. This feels fair if you’re talking about automated emails that pretend to be salespeople. But when you’re talking about inventory emails based on the shopper’s specific activity, it feels the same as Zillow and real estate agents.
I have an amazing real estate agent who I am very loyal to and who I refer business to at every opportunity. The fact that I use and receive emails from Zillow does not diminish my relationship with my agent or my experience with her agency.
As a consumer, I recognize the difference between the information served to me by a machine and the value delivered to me by a salesperson. Zillow never pretends to be a person, so I see these emails as something different from my real estate agent. And I hope that Zillow frees my agent from making inventory suggestions and instead spending her time on the complexities that require human skills.
Myth #3: With enough time, people can deliver the personalization of technology
As any used car salesperson can attest, buyers will surprise you with what they ultimately select. They fall in love with something pretty different from what they describe. Or they will love diverse inventory for different reasons.
That, combined with the limited number of work hours available to salespeople, I believe, is at the heart of why recommendations based on machine learning can provide more complete recommendations than humans. Machines look at the data. A customer may tell you their price point and must-haves, but their actions, searches, clicks, and time on a page may convey something very different. My real estate agent has to sleep and is factoring in everything articulated that I want. Zillow looks at my search behaviors, scanning them against a database. It’s not afraid of offending me or seeming like a bad listener by sending a recommendation that doesn’t match what I’ve said, and instead prioritizes what I’ve been viewing.
Myth #4: If you email too often, people will unsubscribe
As mentioned earlier, Zillow emails me a fair amount. But since I value the content, it’s not too much. Now that I’m exiting the market, it would be natural for me to unsubscribe. But I won’t because I know from previous experience that Zillow monitors my shopping behavior and will automatically scale back on emails when my engagement slows down.
Dealerships have the opportunity to do the same thing. Like Zillow, you don’t need to know if someone has purchased and is out of market; just monitor each shopper’s email engagement. When a shopper is opening and clicking heavily, it’s great to send frequently. When they stop or slow down, your system should too. (Foureyes does this, and it’s why dealers are routinely shocked by our low unsubscribe rates.)
Myth #5: Automated email moves you up-funnel and away from the sale
As Zillow proves, email can be a powerful tool to improve the sales experience without pulling people higher up in the funnel. They accomplish that by focusing on inventory and the updates that are relevant to buyers–for example, new listings and updates when houses go pending. Dealers can do this same thing by focusing on the inventory that is of interest to buyers and the moments that matter to the purchase–for example, new inventory arrivals and price changes.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to deliver the email experience today’s consumers expect. If you are interested in understanding how automotive and powersports dealerships can access email tools similar to those used by Zillow, Foureyes Prospect Engagement is an inventory-based email specifically designed for the needs of dealerships. It runs automatically and requires no adoption by your sales team or changes to your sales process. We offer any dealership a 60-day trial for free to confirm that it works for you.
About the Author
Meredith Steiner oversees marketing at Foureyes. Her career has focused on helping companies from technology to insurance develop strategies and adapt during times of change.