January 10, 2011
As Seen in the Chat Room
As we kick off the new year, looking back on ways to improve sales tactics and marketing techniques is a number one priority for most company brands. One obvious area any company should look at is their website, especially for dealerships when online research is becoming a more frequently used customer tool.
The Montreal Gazette had a helpful article on rebooting digital marketing tactics, listing several tips on what to ask yourself this year as you prepare for 2011, including:
Does your website suck? There has been such a focus on social media that many business websites look tired, out-of-date and lack the functionality consumers expect. It might be time for a refresh or an overhaul of your website.
Everything starts with the website once a customer decides to check out a dealership online before heading to the store. The Outsell Live Chat Center gets feedback on hundreds of dealership websites daily. There are several common complaints and expectations our chatters receive when dealing with consumers online.
December 27, 2010
The Social Influence
In 2010 the face of digital marketing continued to evolve with many new developments and potential directions ahead in 2011. A recent article in the Business section of Mashable, the top source for news in social and digital media, discussed predictions for the future of digital advertising.
Most notable for those of us in the automotive industry may be their #3 prediction: Influencers Will Be the Celebrities of the Social Web, the idea that many consumers are making decisions based on what they are reading on social sites, like reviews and comments on Facebook, Twitter, and others.
In our previous interview with Stephen Higgins, Social Media Manager for AutoNation, he stressed the importance of being in those spheres because of the influence the simplest comment on a social media site can have on consumer behavior.
The prediction that companies will be turning more and more to social media to market their brands rather than using outside marketing tactics is not a new idea, but certainly increasingly true as we move into the next year. Not having a presence in those areas is something consumers are starting to notice, expecting that even the smallest company or store will not only have a website, but also a Twitter account, LinkedIn, Facebook Fanpage, and more.
Facebook “Likes” may also be a more important factor in influencing consumers than the industry has yet to fully realize. The video below that was included in the Mashable article sums up some of the reasons why Facebook is so important.
November 8, 2010
Consumers Are Often Unhappy with Online Assistance
In Outsell’s continuing dedication to improving our current digital marketing services, Dealer Services Manager, Alex Brown, discovered an insightful article from earlier this spring by Diane Clarkson of Forrester Research, Inc about the expansion of online customer service in retail.
Email has been at the forefront for years as an offered online option for customer service, and many retailers that sell their products online have an advantage with online customer service as further methods are being implemented. The difficult aspect for most companies is in aligning their strategies for online marketing and customer service effectively.
Live help is growing rapidly as an online option, particularly reactive chat, the method in which a customer can choose to click on a chat icon and engage an online professional, versus the proactive method that automatically opens a chat window without prompting.
Mobile customer service such as text alerts is rapidly growing as well, despite being one of the currently least offered online services. In the Chat Center at Outsell there have even been a number of growing customers using their cell phones to chat rather than a computer.
Despite attention being placed on additional online customer service methods, Forrester Research, Inc found that most of the companies they polled are not listening to what their customers want.
“Only 49% of survey respondents agree that their brand drives their online and offline customer services strategy. This lack of alignment can be jarring for customers when their service experience is inconsistent with the expectations a brand has promised.”
In other words, most consumers are not as happy with the customer service they receive as retailers promise they will be. More effective online methods may help salvage this disconnect, but only if implemented well, and if companies take into account feedback on how their customer service methods are working.
Forrester Research, Inc summed up their findings in five main points for how retailers can improve:
1. integrate brand alignment into customer service strategy
2. align customer service metrics to brand
3. listen to social channels
4. solicit customer feedback across your customer service channels
5. establish customer service cross-channel and cross-functional collaboration
Online customer service in the form of online chat and potential social media methods are becoming the standard, but to utilize this effectively and provide the best possible customer service to customers, retailers need to have clear goals, clear understanding of how their brand fits into the methods they are exploring, and clear understanding of what their customers want.
If done well, new online customer service options for expanding sales and customer loyalty may be the most beneficial evolution for retailers in reaching and assisting their customers since email, but only if done correctly.
Outsell has recently implemented a survey offered to customers at the end of their chat experience to query how much of consumers’ automotive shopping they want to complete online, and how successful the chat process was for them. Outsell plans to share the findings from this survey later this year.
To download the full article by Forrester Research, Inc please click here.
October 25, 2010
Consumer Trends in the Chat Center
As a leading automotive digital marketing services firm, the hub of activity at Outsell is in the Chat Center dealing directly with our dealerships’ customers.
Some of the trends over the past year have been typical, such as customers looking to confirm availability on certain models, especially new models, and to get the best deal on pricing. The third most common question coming into chat is whether or not the dealership will assist a customer with poor or no credit, and if so, what types of programs are offered.
“Even if customers are doubtful they will receive help due to a poor financial situation, those chatters are the most likely to offer their information as potential leads in hopes of whatever assistance might be given,” said Customer Interaction Specialist, Sarah Tyler. Many people new to the Chat Center find this trend odd, but it is becoming a more and more common occurrence.
Economic times may still be difficult for many consumers, but financial lenders are finding other ways to assist with bad credit car loans. A recent article by Free Press Release Distribution said:
“With bad credit car loans, the financial lenders would not [always] evaluate the credit status of borrowers. However, the lenders might demand a collateral for the money offered as loan. This is a good way to secure the loan as the newly bought car itself can act as collateral.”
Customers consistently enter chat in the hopes that something similar can be worked out for them, and that they can avoid the usual large down payment or substantial APR associated with a bad credit car loan.
General Motors’ recent acquisition of the Texas-based subprime lender AmeriCredit on September 30th, now known as GM Financial as of October 1st, may make it even easier for some financially strapped car buyers to qualify for the loans they need.
GM’s chief financial officer, Chris Liddell, explained that:
“With AmeriCredit providing us niche capabilities in leasing and non-prime financing, along with the continued strong support of Ally Financial and others for prime retail and dealer financing, we’ve set up a very competitive solution for our financing needs…”
The automotive market may not be as closed to customers with poor credit as once believed, and Outsell anticipates that customers seeking bad credit car loan assistance will continue to be a large presence in our daily chats.
October 18, 2010
Social Media is a Key Ingredient to Success!
As a leader in digital marketing services, Outsell recognizes that social media tools are becoming synonymous with our industry. TopRank, the Online Marketing Blog, took a poll last year of the top tactics individuals and companies were using for accomplishing digital marketing goals despite the recession.
Blogging was ranked #1 while microblogging, i.e. Twitter, was a close second, followed not too far by sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn for networking.
Even companies that provide more than marketing and PR to their customers are seeing the need to utilize social media in order to reach potential clients with their services.
David Berkowitz in an article for AdvertizingAge last Spring summed it up perfectly when answering how someone can best amplify their social marketing:
“The single best thing you can do strategically is include social media as part of the fabric of your overall marketing and brand building, rather than as a detachable add-on.”
Now is the time of Web 2.0, when being a part of the online community is no longer passive, but interactive at its best. Digital marketing especially faces many challenges in keeping up with the expansion of social media in the everyday practice of reaching clients, our clients’ customers, and comrades in the industry.
Outsell is committed to this aspect of our growth as we continue to expand beyond the tribulations of economic downturn. You can follow Outsell on Twitter here.
Even almost a year ago USA Today reported that:
“More than half of the Fortune 100 companies are using Twitter for customer service, recruiting employees, blasting news and announcing promotions, according to the study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and its digital-media unit, Proof.”
However, on October 4, 2010, 1to1 Media admitted:
“Social media for service still remains in the early adoption stages, leaving companies to grapple with a serious challenge: how to integrate the data feeds from social channels with customer information from their existing chat, email, and phone channels.”
It may be some time before customer service through Twitter and other social media sites evolves to the usefulness and effectiveness of online chat and call centers. In the meantime Outsell will be keeping a close eye on how social media can facilitate further growth in our own digital marketing endeavors.
October 11, 2010
October Is A Great Month For Automotive Sales!
Outsell is committed to staying current with the trends and changes in the automotive industry as a leader in digital marketing services, and we are pleased to report a recent increase in sales.
Tim Higgins and David Welch of Bloomberg News reported that:
“U.S. automobile sales in September may have run at the fastest pace since March as consumers returned to showrooms, helping the industry’s recovery from the worst year in almost three decades.”
With October being one of the more advantageous months to find a deal on remaining 2010 models, that trend may yet continue.
60 month financing for 0% is the hot button for consumers after a long stint of similar available deals over the Summer, and may be hard to beat for dealerships not offering competitive pricing. 0% financing is currently available on several Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet and Toyota models, while Honda is offering rates of 0.9% to 2.9%.
U.S. News & World Report listed these specials as the top deals that were available in September:
- Small Car—Toyota Yaris: 0% APR for up to 60 months in most regions
- Midsize Car—Chevrolet Malibu: 0% financing for up to 60 months or $3,000 cash back
- Large Car—Infiniti M: 1.9% APR for up to 60 months
- Compact SUV—Nissan Xterra: 0% APR for up to 60 months in most regions
- Midsize SUV (or rather crossover/wagon)—Honda Accord Crosstour: 0.9% financing for up to 60 months
- Large SUV—Chevrolet Tahoe: 0% APR for up to 60 months
- Dream Car—Chevrolet Corvette: Up to $5,000 cash back or 0% financing for up to 72 months
Anticipated 2011 models expected this Fall with some already arriving include the Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Juke, several revamped versions of consumer favorites like the Honda Odyssey, and the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 available now.
Despite consumer excitement over the new 2011 vehicles, the challenge for dealerships in October may be to continue or better previous deals to keep buyers interested until the always eagerly awaited end of the year sales.