Car Dealership Marketing: 4 Ways to Ramp up Customer Reach

With temperatures warming up and tax refund checks burning holes in pockets, it's officially car-buying season. While salespeople move vehicles off the lot, car dealership marketing teams are looking for new ways to bring more folks onto the lot. That's where omnichannel communication makes a big difference.

Car dealership marketing sends a woman targeted information on buying a car to her smartphone
Using behavioral data and omnichannel communications, car dealership marketing becomes more targeted, more personalized — and more effective.

The Unique Needs of Car Dealership Marketing

The ability to close a deal is among the greatest pressures on a dealership, and today's educated consumers know that. Yet consumers aren't the only ones with greater access to information. Thanks to big data, car dealership marketing teams have more insights into the car-buying journey than ever before, which is important, considering that digital technology keeps changing that journey.

Equipped with the right marketing automation technology, dealerships can also learn more about individual customers, personalize messaging, and ultimately extend both customer reach and customer acquisition.

How can dealerships get the right messages to the right people at just the right time? By using a marketing automation solution that enables them to do the following:

1. Optimize Messages Based on Customer Behavior

On average, the car-buying journey lasts 108 days, according to the 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study from Cox Automotive. Shoppers spend about 60 percent of that time online, where they leave hints about what they might buy, what's influencing their purchasing decisions, and where they are in their buying journey.

A robust cloud-based marketing solution collects much of this data and leverages APIs to pull data from other sources, including CRM and customer service platforms. Then, using Smart Targeting algorithms, the system can determine which marketing messages will resonate best based on the customer's buying history, buying stage, and even physical location and send those messages via the most appropriate channel.

For example, someone browsing various cars on a dealership's website who's not spending much time on any particular model might be in the early stages of the process, thus needing general buying resources. However, someone researching one model across various channels clearly knows what she wants. Dealerships can nudge her with targeted social media ads or special email offers for that model. Then, the next time she drives by the dealership, she gets a text message: "We have X model in stock. Take a test drive today, and get 10 percent off the MSRP." Such a timely, personalized offer is hard to refuse.

A robust marketing automation solution enables car dealership marketing teams to develop interactive, personalized customer service campaigns across channels.

2. Enhance Upselling and Cross-Selling Capabilities

Dealerships offer more than just basic vehicles — from features upgrades to finance and insurance (F&I) options to add-on items. Learning about all these products at closing can be overwhelming for buyers, and too many options can make upselling and cross-selling attempts seem like a sales gimmick. Car dealership marketing teams can help salespeople overcome this challenge by educating customers throughout the buying journey.

Nearly a quarter of all buyers are unaware of F&I products prior to going to a dealership, according to the Cox Automotive report. These numbers are even higher for less common services. For example, only 24 percent of buyers know about wheel and tire protection, and only 16 percent are familiar with lost or stolen key replacement.

People who already know about F&I products before going to the dealership are much more likely to purchase them, so marketing teams can help prep for the upsell with messages about the value of these features.

By having cross-selling capabilities built into a single user interface, marketers can reach all subscribers and bring them back to the dealership for a cross-sell. For example, a customer buys a new truck but opts out of adding a cargo liner. Later, he regrets the decision, looks at it on the website, and thinks about going back. The next time he drives by the dealership, he gets a text message with a special offer on a cargo liner. It's like kismet!

Of course, educated consumers know it's not kismet; it's geofencing paired with sophisticated marketing automation. Still, the timely and relevant messaging might do trick and bring that driver into the dealership.

3. Boost Customer Acquisition with Location-Based Marketing

With so much of the car-buying journey now completed online, people are physically shopping around less. According to the Cox Automotive report, the number of car buyers who visit multiple dealerships has been declining for years — from 66 percent in 2016 to 59 percent in 2018. The top reasons people don't buy from the first dealership: They "didn't have the vehicle I wanted" and "I like to shop around."

Moral of the story: It's best to be the first dealer buyers visit — and to have the vehicles they want in stock. Behavioral data and Smart Targeting can help with that. However, there's also a prime opportunity to lure competitors' defectors by triggering location-based text messages to people when they're at a nearby dealership. If that dealership doesn't have what shoppers want, they now know there's another option right down the road.

4. Improve Customer Retention with Ongoing Communication

Customer retention is much cheaper than customer acquisition. The good news, per the Cox Automotive report: Car buyers are fairly loyal, both to brands (56 percent have previously owned the same make) and to dealerships. Forty percent of new car buyers and 27 percent of used car buyers are purchasing or leasing from the dealership they previously used, up from 34 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in 2017.

Of course, repeat business isn't a given. The chances of closing new deals with existing customers relies heavily on the quality of customer service. A robust marketing automation solution enables car dealership marketing teams to develop interactive, personalized customer service campaigns across channels. For example, they might send automated emails about parts recalls or text messages with service reminders. This level of attention — which requires very little human attention — makes customers feel valued and looked after, and it can increase customer loyalty.

Loyal customers also tell their friends about their great customer experience, which drives even more foot traffic to a dealership — traffic that hopefully drives away in a brand-new set of wheels.

Learn more about how Vonage can support the needs of car dealerships and other retail communications.

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