How can marketing automation help navigate the retail revolution?

How can marketing automation help navigate the retail revolution?

With disruptive new entrants looking to push online auto sales and OEMs emphasizing the user experience, dealers must find new ways to attract customers, writes David Greenberg.

Car buyers today expect more from their vehicle buying experience than before. With the pandemic normalizing online shopping, consumers expect the same digital experience when it comes to buying a new car. As a result, car dealerships face increasing pressure to provide a seamless digital experience throughout the entire car buying journey.

It goes without saying that the automotive industry has faced many difficulties over the past 18 months, from the pandemic to the latest issue of chip shortages, which is expected to wipe out 100,000 units from total UK car production by 2021. UK car sales have seen some steep drops, up 35% in September, resulting in strong pressure and competition for the auto industry. To meet the changing expectations of consumers when it comes to buying cars, the industry disrupters are looking to move the industry online. This means that companies, especially more traditional car dealerships, need to become more digitally innovative if they are to attract and retain customers.

According to a recent report from AutoTrader, three quarters (76%) of car buyers use the Internet to research their purchase and 67% visit showrooms in person at some point in the car buying process. These findings highlight that customers now expect to progress through the car buying journey both online and offline, underscoring the need for auto dealers to have a multi-channel marketing strategy.

Marketing-driven customer experience

A marketing-driven customer experience is the key to standing out from the competition and fighting the tough times facing car dealers. To attract potential buyers, understand more, and cultivate their interest to the point where they are ready to buy before entering the showroom, marketing automation can have a revolutionary impact. There are several ways in which marketing automation can support automotive businesses in these difficult times.

Daimler aims to bring 25% of its sales online by 2025. Volvo is aiming for 50% in the same time frame

Use marketing automation to push back the competition and attract customers

While research from car comparison site Moneyshake found that a staggering 82% of consumers are happy that the car buying journey is completely online, one of the challenges facing car dealers is the sheer number of choices a consumers are aware of at the click of a button. It is therefore essential that any company does everything to capture the attention of potential customers and cultivate a relationship with them up to the point of sale, as well as after the purchase.

A marketing automation platform enables automotive companies to simplify, automate and measure marketing activities and workflows. Using a marketing automation platform, car dealerships can efficiently and effectively grab the attention of potential customers and, once done, retain their attention and generate additional interest with promotion campaigns.

Marketing automation can digitally track all engagement within a business to fully leverage the interest of people who have recently completed a form on the website, providing insights into their digital behaviors. Marketers have access to who opens emails, who engages with digital advertising, who visits the website, and which pages they visit and on which they spend the most time. By having access to this data intelligence, marketers can become smart by understanding the digital behaviors of their prospects and responding accordingly.

Car dealerships face increasing pressure to provide a seamless digital experience throughout the entire car buying journey

For example, knowing where certain people are in the buying cycle and then automatically enabling communications with that person based on this known interest through promotion campaigns. Marketing automation allows you to send relevant information in the way they have indicated to their liking (via SMS or email for example), such as updates on the launch of new models, new or used stock available and invitations to events in a showroom .

Redefine the showroom experience

The rise of consumers looking for a digital experience when it comes to buying a car is an opportunity for dealers to rethink how their buying journey is welcomed by their customers. A McKinsey survey found that potential buyers are less likely to want to interact with auto dealership sellers, which means there are plenty of opportunities for dealerships to thrive online. Interestingly, this is also falling for people between the ages of 55 and 70, who would view buying cars online “as a relevant alternative to visiting dealerships.”

A website is crucial for this and should provide the key details that customers should know before choosing services. This includes the volume of cars currently in stock, specific product information and even the ability to book a test drive. This means that customers can enter the dealership already equipped with a useful knowledge of the products from the website, ensuring a path to the buyer in which they have control.

Increase the value of life with marketing automation

Managing the customer’s after-sales experience is important in providing lifetime value and thus increasing their loyalty over the long term. Communicating via SMS and email to customers, providing them with notifications regarding lease expiration or impending MOT, is a great way to keep the dealership at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Marketing automation is a way for businesses to maintain a close connection with customers, as it is an advanced communication tool that helps customers get the most out of a company’s product. It also allows the company to be proactive with customers once the car sale is complete, for example by asking them to provide feedback on their experience or if they recommend your services. Targeted messaging like this is a useful way for a brand to stay present to customers even after the car sale is complete.

Renault dealership
Traditional car dealerships need to become more digitally innovative if they are to attract and retain customers

Effective use of all available data also presents an opportunity if a customer is not fully committed to the brand and keeps their options open to other brands. If this is identified, having access to data relating to an individual’s interests and past engagement behaviors is important for re-engaging these customers directly, even if tailored to their preferences to try to ensure repeat business and customer loyalty. .

How to proceed with the next sale

Keeping up with the competition is critical for any business looking to encourage customers to buy their vehicles and services again. The question is, how do you know when an existing customer is likely to buy their next car? Marketing automation offers the opportunity to leverage the customer’s initial interest before the competition has even been considered.

Ultimately, how each customer interacts with a brand and its online presence offers important behavioral insights that are gold dust for car dealerships. By leveraging available data, dealers can automate activation programs – proactive communication that aims to spark interest such as providing information on new models, an offer to update a lease or a timely invitation to a test drive.

Marketing automation also allows you to detect increased interest from customers, for example, if they recently visited your website or when they were last engaged with the last communication sent to them. By automatically monitoring their activity, it is possible to track and evaluate their involvement and then respond to any signals of intention.

Marketing automation is a crucial tool that automotive companies need to consider if they want to keep up with the times and successfully emerge from the tough times ahead. With more and more people moving online to purchase vehicles, or at least starting their online shopping journey, there are new and exciting opportunities to interact with customers. If industry players continue to adapt to use these modern marketing methods to grab and retain the attention of their customers and prospects by providing an engaging and tailored experience, the automotive industry will see the light at the end of the tunnel.


About the Author: David Greenberg is Act-On’s Chief Marketing Officer

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