By Cavan Robinson, Director of Product Marketing, DealerSocket’s DealerFire
The groundwork is underway for the industry’s digital future, and progressive dealers are prioritizing in-dealership experiences based on their customers’ online behaviors. The year 2017 marked a milestone in acquisition marketing when the internet’s share of annual dealer advertising budgets rose 62.5% from the prior year, topping all other channels combined for the first time in the industry’s history, according to data from NADA.
Unfortunately, with the current state of online automotive shopping, dealers still drop the ball when transitioning online shoppers into actual buyers. However, it’s not because they aren’t trying. Dealers invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising— internet advertising accounting for $316,730, or 56.3%, of the $562,575 they spent on advertising last year— digital retailing, in their business development centers, store processes, and more to cultivate an amazing digital experience. The best-laid processes, however, fall on their face when, again, it comes to transitioning online buyers to the physical world.
So, how do dealers leverage their internal tools to connect the online with the offline? Undoubtedly, digital within the dealership has become robust, but the challenges ahead extend beyond the mishandling of information generated during the buyer’s online process. What’s needed to close the loop between online research and offline transactions are solutions that help tell the customer’s story before he or she speaks with a salesperson.
There are dozens of software developers offering hundreds of marketing integrations that enable dealers to better track and understand the digital actions of shoppers. That’s how we know there are more than 24 touchpoints (19 of which are digital) standing in between a car buyer’s initial shopping phase and a visit to a dealership.
We also know that consumers are much more informed, thanks, in part, to dealers’ use of content marketing — particularly content focused on vehicle comparisons, social media engagement, and inventory-driven advertising to acquire customers. Even competitive pricing, services, and more are readily available, which forces dealers to do all they can to maintain their edge over showroom customers when it comes to product knowledge and local market data.
Progressive dealers go a step further by teaming up with their software providers to extract behavioral and contextual consumer information from their web properties to better facilitate relationships with shoppers once they get to the dealership. These dealers are prioritizing in-dealership experiences based on their customers’ digital behaviors.
This requires identifying all the online mediums that are used to influence shoppers, including email marketing, social media, and digital retail. The challenge is using all mediums cohesively to develop the buying persona of the shopper. The hope is that these efforts will one day foster a frictionless experience for consumers.
Optimizing the Transition
The good news is that more and more dealers are beginning to embrace the need to offer their customers a digital retailing channel. This comes at a time when the burgeoning software category now has 20+ new tools from providers claiming their solutions deliver “accurate” payments to shoppers. That’s a discussion for another article. For this exercise, let’s focus on why dealers are making it tough on themselves when it comes to digital retailing.
The problem is, there just hasn’t been much movement when it comes to what happens once a digital retailing solution gets added to a dealership’s website. We’ve covered what needs to happen, but let’s focus now on three areas dealers can work on today to optimize that online-to-showroom transition.
Optimizing the Online-to-Showroom Transition
- Manage the Message: It’s crucial that your marketing messages are aligned, both internally and externally. For that to happen, there must be communication between management, sales, operations, and the dealership’s software partners. By having a consistent message, there are no surprises when we reach shoppers with our marketing campaigns.
- Manage the Information: Always use your CRM for onboarding new customers. Just make sure you set up a review request with all stakeholders to ensure customer personas are identified. If you’re just now getting started, focus on the customer path. In other words, how did the customer make it to your dealership?It’s also critical that you import data from other resources. For instance, integration between the dealership’s CRM and website will allow you to know every interaction a shopper has with your digital properties. Lastly, the cleaner the data, the easier it is for you to view the consumer journey and what might influence it.
- Manage the Expectation: Creating an amazing digital experience starts with a dealership action plan. Think of it like an onboarding experience for new users. That means you must understand why your sales team needs to be more informed than the shopper. You also want your digital and traditional mediums aligned.
You’ll need to seek out efficiencies and understand transparency and what it means to your shoppers. Additionally, you’ll need to provide your customers with a post-sale roadmap. It should detail how the consumer can take advantage of your service department.
To deliver a frictionless online-to-offline experience, dealers need to leverage their vendor relationships and their internal tools to transition consumers from online research to offline buyers. Great strides are already underway, but the industry is just now taking its first steps on the path to its digital future.
About the Authors
Cavan Robinson, Director of Product Marketing for DealerSocket’s DealerFire digital solutions product line, and Kris Nielsen, Sales Operations and Customer Experience Manager for Soave Automotive. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org