Some days it does not feel like it, but it has never been simpler to own your customers - regardless of where they are in the sales cycle. The new ‘on trend’ term is customer nurturing - where the focus is on the complete life cycle of customers, managing them through the times where they are ‘out of market’ through to the times where they are ‘in market’ and ready to purchase. Google at their recent New Zealand Auto Engage conference referred to these as ‘Moments’.
Why they defined them as Moments is very important as it identifies four key decision points in the customer path to purchasing a new vehicle. At each point, it outlines what information a prospective customer has gained, what device or devices the customer has access to at this time and the emotional decision that is being made or fulfilled. The Moment I want to cover is the ‘Digital to Dealership’ moment which they defined as the third step.
The last twelve months has seen a huge amount of change within the industry in the way customers are acquired, managed within the sales process and the quality of nurturing when outside the purchase cycle. Whilst on the surface it looks to have become more complicated, the advances in available technology and platforms have simplified it in many ways. The linear model of digital advertising through the dealership website and mass listing sites, is now only one option within a fragmented and crowded marketplace. Many more options have opened up where you now have direct control over the customer journey with the ability to provide targeted and relevant remarketing. Generally, this also provides a cheaper cost per sale at around one third of the cost of using a traditional listing via a third party.
The key advantage is taking back the ownership of the customer. Why let a listing site own your customer and their road to the sale when you can control and own your own customers and prospects? So, what has changed to allow this to happen. Like most change, it is nothing new and in a lot of ways we are returning to the past pre-internet age when regardless of the size of the dealership its brand stood strong - supported by a great road frontage, print advertising and a little radio. Post internet, maintaining the brand of individual dealerships become harder, and the sales of most non-premium vehicles became commoditised and volume based.
Cost and access to technology has now allowed dealerships access to new applications to support all stages of the customer’s journey. For many years, Dealer Management Systems (DMS) have been the only enabling platform within a dealership and they have developed and matured to bring strong business process management while holding in most part the complete customer database.
The pace of change has now lead to the splitting of the customer management domain into a number of basic sections with their own supporting applications. Those customer contacts or prospects deemed to be ‘out of market’ are now nurtured via a dedicated CRM solution.
For AutoPlay in the last 12 months we have integrated directly into more CRM applications than DMS providers. For the simple reason that for managing the customer, customer communication and web based analytics a dedicated CRM is better suited than a DMS in most cases. This does not make the DMS redundant, it has the opposite effect as it can become the complete source of truth as the main dealership customer database. It becomes the single point where all customer details are maintained from sales to service.
Websites and remarketing go hand in hand and as I stated above, if you can generate your own leads it can reduce the overall cost of customer acquisition. While websites in the past probably looked better they were rather static and acted more like brochures than effective sales tools. Nowadays they make great use of white space and look more like forms than brochures. To harp back to our friends at Google, the reason for this is that prospective customers are carrying out their research away from and outside the dealer’s websites. Even for older vehicles there is a range of trusted websites offering vehicle reviews and ratings. All this means that once a prospective customer starts to interact with your website you have a very limited time to respond to them in a relevant way. The change we are seeing here is the move away from traditional website companies to digital agencies. These digital agencies are providing the complete customer website journey and final destination, generally a request for finance or an appraisal of their existing vehicle. The days of just getting the customer Lead with only the customer name and contact details are over. Knowing what remarketing events generated the Lead and trigged the customer contact to become ‘In market’ is key. We are providing more and more Lead source reporting to customers to allow them to fully understand the effectiveness of campaigns and promotions.
Then comes the last domain that I am totally biased about - Lead Management. 22% of customers change brands or dealerships because their Lead is neither responded to, or is responded to with a lack of details. This year we have focused on separating new inbound customer Leads that need urgent action from those follow-up events that can be completed in a less timely manner with the introduction of our Prospect/CRM dashboard. This works well when integrated directly into either your existing DMS or CRM applications.
The goal is to keep reviewing the experience that you are offering your customers and leveraging any newly available technology for an improvement. The cost might just be mitigated with a change in spread of your existing spend. Don’t let any other bugger own your customer, take the control back!
AutoPlay Sales Pipeline is a pre-sales lead management tool designed for dealerships, dealer groups and automakers