How to Market Electric Vehicles

Despite setbacks from inventory and part shortages, the automotive industry continues to embrace a future in electric vehicles (EVs), especially as consumer interest is on the rise with low-emission commuting demands and government support through subsidies & tax rebates.

“The global Electric Vehicle Market size is projected to grow from 8,151 thousand units in 2022 to 39,208 thousand units by 2030.”

As a dealer, you face two major challenges with this inevitability: lack of knowledge about EVs, both for your staff and your consumers, and standing out from the competition, who may already be ahead of you when it comes to EV marketing.

While you train your staff on the specifics of EVs, try using that same knowledge base for consumer marketing. Encourage shoppers to choose you over the competition by helping them stay informed.

Three major questions can be addressed as a starting point in EV marketing.

1. How far can my electric vehicle go on one charge?

Lithium technology has come a long way since EVs struggled to go even 100 miles on a single charge in years past. Today, most modern EVs can easily surpass almost twice that distance.

Ease potential customer concerns about daily commutes, weekend getaways, and long road trips by letting them know just how far one charge can take them.

2. Where can I charge my electric vehicle?

Charging stations have been spreading across the country, but it is important to note that not every EV is the same, nor is their connector type. Public charging stations also vary in efficiency, as most are at Level 2, whereas Level 3 charging, or DC Fast Charging, can bring an EV’s battery up to 80% in around 30-60 minutes.

Know your community and what is available to your consumers and inform them of where to find the nearest charging stations in your area that suit the vehicles you offer.

3. Will an electric vehicle cost me more?

Even if consumers are aware of the Federal Tax Credit of up to $7,500 for EVs and Hybrids purchased on or after 2010, that single incentive might not be enough to sway them toward making the change. Let them know about every available incentive, such as what your state offers, like California, which has a $2,000 cash rebate for EV buyers.

And do not forget to tout the long-term savings.

AAA states that, the power required to travel 15,000 miles per year in an EV averages out to $546, while the price of gas required for the same distance averages out to $1,255. A savings of about 130%, sometimes even more.”

Given currently rising gas prices across the country, now is the perfect time to push those benefits.

These innovative vehicles also require an innovative and personalized approach to marketing, like being able to automatically focus on areas and customer segments actively considering EVs with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). An AI Customer Data and Engagement Platform, for example, can help you retain EV customers throughout their lifecycle, keeping in front of them with EV-specific service offerings and maintenance plans.

It is important to note that shoppers of these vehicles are upwards of 50 percent more interested in purchasing online than traditional buyers, meaning EV marketing requires an omnichannel approach more than any other segment.

Be everywhere, with all the information an interested shopper might want, such as including a frequently asked questions section about EVs on your website and using your marketing to drive customers to it.

If you do not currently utilize a tool powered by AI, implementing a new marketing strategy for EVs may seem daunting, but remember that this is also an opportunity that can filter into improvements for all your vehicle marketing. Like many dealers, you are probably overdue for a modernization of your go-to-market plan when it comes to new models.

Use this time to revamp your omnichannel approach, the offline experience, after-sales services, and the consumer lifecycle, and the next time a new EV or other vehicle model is launching, you could be the pioneer for reaching consumers faster and more efficiently with the information to drive them to your store.

Texting & SMS Messaging – A Modern Way to Engage Today

How dealerships can use text messages to engage today’s consumers

It comes as no surprise that consumers are opting into text message marketing. But as a newer option, you may not have delved too deeply there yet. Text marketing is direct and immediate, can be integrated with other channels, and is more reliable than most.

According to research from Gartner:

  • Open rates for text messages can be 78% higher than for emails
  • Response rates for text messages can be 39% higher

Text is not a channel dealers should ignore.

TEXT / SMS MARKETING ETTIQUETTE

Consider Your Audience

Each text message you send is a projection of your business. Present your brand the way you want it to be perceived.

Communicate Clearly with Plain Language

Avoid jargon and complex concepts. Keep it simple, short and direct.

Respond Promptly

SMS is about timely information, so respond as soon as you can. Your response can always offer a future time when a complete answer can be provided.

Don’t Be Long Winded

Make your point directly. People should be able to understand what you are saying without having to do much reading.

Be Patient

Recognize that your message is likely less important to others than it is to you. People have other things happening and may not be able to respond immediately.

Know When to End the Conversation

Most people are not looking for continued text messages from you if they are not interested in the product or service. Constantly texting will likely lead to the other person opting out of your texts and perceiving your business in a negative light.

COMPLIANCE FOR TEXTING

The Federal Communication Commission has implemented strict rules that govern how business text messaging can be conducted. Large fines have been imposed against companies found to have improperly solicited customers and prospects via SMS.

Businesses are not allowed to require a user to opt into a text program as a condition to purchase products or services, and according to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, customers must give businesses “express written consent” before the business sends them any text messages at all.

You cannot buy a list of phone numbers and start texting.

Ways consumers can give you consent for text messages include:

  • Send a keyword you give them to your number
  • Enter their phone number in an online form belonging to you
  • Sign up in-person at a physical location

Regardless of how users signed up, the very first text must be a compliance message confirming opt-in. If you’ve signed up for a text message program before, you’ve seen these opt-in messages.

There are also specific guidelines for what your prompt, or call-to-action, must contain when your recipient’s opt-in to your text messages. You must let subscribers know what they are signing up for. Are they getting reminders? Coupons? Tips? Specify what is being offered so there are not any surprises.

Include the approximate number of text messages the customer should expect to receive in each week or month. Even though unlimited texting has become more common, some recipients may have to pay a small fee to receive text messages. You do not know which recipients will and won’t have to pay to receive your texts, so you must inform them that they could incur these charges if they sign up.

Finally, list the terms and conditions and privacy policy in full beneath the call-to-action or provide a link nearby to the following:

  • The identity of the company/brand/program
  • Customer service contact information
  • Description of the product people are signing up for
  • Opt-out instructions in bold type

WHAT YOU CANNOT TEXT ABOUT

There are four topics you cannot legally send communications about via business text messages. To remember these, use the pneumonic device “SHAFT.”

  • S EX
  • H ATE
  • A LCOHOL
  • F IREARMS
  • T OBACCO

If you text about any of these topics or even include communications about them in your call-to-action, you could find your business immediately banned by the CTIA, an association of mobile carriers who set rules and best practices for text marketing.

Always consult federal, state, and local regulations before planning a text campaign.

Regulations aside, text marketing can be an extremely effective channel for dealerships and dealer groups. If someone gives you permission to text them, that shows definite interest in your business. Text can be a direct line to your most engaged customers.

OFFERING EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE VIA SMS

Send helpful text messages that drive your consumers to your business and make them feel like you are watching out for them with service-centered text campaigns.

Uses for text communications:

  • Alternative to Chat
  • Instant Trade-In Value
  • Positive Equity Alerts
  • Anything & Everything Around Service

Most multi-point inspection tools have a text option that enables service advisors to text the results of an inspection directly. These texts include what needs to be done, the cost of doing it, and approval for the work.

Allow customers to schedule an appointment easily from their phone as soon as they receive a service reminder as well. Receiving coupons and offers via text is also often easier for consumers.

Work completion and payment services is a must-have for the modern dealership. This text functionality lets you show the repair order with final cost and an option for the customer to pay via their phone. Progressive dealers even have reputation management systems they use to help generate positive reviews and to respond to those that, for whatever reason, are not so positive.

Include a thank you note after a purchase, service appointment, or other meaningful engagement and ask customers to review and rate your dealership. Provide a link they can access on their phone and keep the process incredibly short with a single rating and space for review comments.

Asking for more than about 30 seconds of their time is likely asking too much.

This simple request can dramatically increase the number of positive reviews associated with you online and helps balance out the negative ones.

PLAN YOUR TEXT MESSAGE MARKETING PROGRAM TODAY

Get ahead of the curve and set up a text program for your dealership now. Your communications with text subscribers have a chance to be even more personal, effective, and immediate than those for many other channels.

Here are a few final tips to get started:

  • Assign a Compliance Officer who governs usage, storage, and permissions.
  • Create Rules of Etiquette – and WRITE THEM DOWN. Teach them to your team and monitor adherence to these rules.
  • Collect mobile numbers, in compliance with regulations, from your website or at the point of sale or service.
  • Define text strategies and campaigns. If you do not do this and document it well, decisions will be made without you. Make sure the right people make the right decisions for protocol and systems.

A compliant, effective text message strategy cannot happen on its own. Take the reigns — do not leave the fine details to chance.

HOW OUTSELL CAN HELP

With Text, a product collaboration between TruVideo and Outsell, you can leverage your first party data to text both sales and service content to your customers. If customers reply with interest, dealers can have one-on-one conversations and move customers down the funnel for sales or service. Functionality exists for full-lifecycle outreach. You can configure SMS messaging for the following content types:

  • Lease End
  • Positive Equity
  • Buyer Detection
  • Service Due Reminders
  • Lapsed Service
  • Service Thank You’s

Click here to connect with an Outsell representative and learn more about Text!

Marketing Automation

Automotive brands and dealerships are facing an increasingly uphill battle when attempting to manually harness the vast quantities of data required to create customer-focused programs that increase retention, advocacy, and ultimately new sales and service business.

With the rise of hyper-personalization in every facet of our lives, the mission of successful retailers is to proactively engage their customers on a 1:1 basis, building a dialog based on that consumer’s intrinsic needs and interests at any given time.

This is especially true in the automotive industry where the timespan between purchases is measured in years.

Enter AI-Driven Marketing Automation for Automotive Dealers.

What is Marketing Automation?

Here is how WeidertGroup.com defines marketing automation:

Marketing automation is the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes.

It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes [emails, social media, specific website actions] with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance. “

“Marketing automation is the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes.”

For automotive dealers & dealerships, marketing automation offers a unique opportunity to create multiple engagements with consumers automatically, and there are many types of campaigns to develop these touch points.

Campaignmonitor.com gives nine familiar examples:

  • Welcome Emails
  • Reminder Emails
  • Birthdays & Anniversaries
  • VIP
  • Re-Engagement
  • Surveys & Feedback Emails
  • Review & Testimonial Emails
  • Product Updates & Launches
  • Newsletters

Imagine sending each of those manually to everyone in your database? Marketing automation is the final piece of the campaign puzzle.

Marketing automation can tie multiple campaigns together across various channels, delivering an individualized experience for all those above communications and more in whatever channel a consumer is most likely to respond.

But what is the best channel approach? Let’s explore this concept further by defining omnichannel vs. multi-channel.


Omnichannel vs. Multi-channel

To add some color behind these terms, Shopify.com breaks down the definitions:

Multi-channel retail (i.e., “many” channels) revolves around your product and lets customers engage and purchase natively wherever they shop but often treats channels as silos independent from one another. Each channel in a multi-channel strategy exists as a separate purchase opportunity.

Omnichannel retail (meaning “all” channels) revolves around your customer and creates a single customer experience across your brand by unifying sales and marketing that accounts for the spillover between channels.

Multi-channel aims at centering the strategy around the company and allows many experiences for the customer.

Omnichannel focuses on the customer experience and tracks the purchase through each touch point of the sale.

Omnichannel is the most effective approach for dealers because you can further tailor your campaigns to each customer’s wants and needs, which is what today’s consumers expect.

Also, sending highly personalized content leads to increased engagement, but individualizing communications manually is next to impossible—at least without artificial intelligence.


Artificial Intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence? What is Machine Learning? We will be discussing these terms regularly throughout future chapters and want to be certain you understand what they actually mean.

Builtin.com defines both terms:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is an interdisciplinary science with multiple approaches, but advancements in machine learning and deep learning create a paradigm shift in virtually every sector of the tech industry.

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that gives systems the ability to learn and optimize processes without being consistently programmed. Simply put, machine learning uses data, statistics, and trial and error to “learn” a specific task without ever having to be specifically coded for the task.

While this may sound incredibly complicated from a dealer perspective, the implementation of a marketing solution driven by machine learning can take care of these tasks in an automated fashion with little to no manual intervention required from the staff at the store.

In practice at a dealership, the program tracks consumer behavior online, merging that data with any offline sources (like CRM or DMS data), and then analyzes this aggregated data set to predict what consumers may be shopping for, and what information they might like to receive.

The best salespeople in the world are those that know every one of their customers – their likes and dislikes, preferences and changing tastes.

“The best salespeople in the world are those that know every one of their customers – their likes and dislikes, preferences and changing tastes.”

The capacity of the human brain, however, limits us from achieving this type of sales nirvana, and frequent turnover at dealerships often results in the further loss of salespeople along with their customer relationships and knowledge.

In this environment, AI-driven tools assist the sales team by tracking the behavior of each customer, learning and memorizing their preferences, and predicting their future needs.

Simply put, a successful Marketing Automation tool should be able to:

  • Track consumer behavior
  • Connect to a variety of data sources: CRM, DMS, click data, etc.
  • Leverage this data to drive insights individually but on a mass scale, and
  • Engage consumers via an omnichannel approach wherever they are in their lifecycle

Digital Retailing

Automotive specific Marketing automation makes life easier for dealers, but part of automation is also about making things easier for your consumers. 2020 has shown us that consumers want the flexibility of purchasing online OR at the store.

Without a strategic communication process, your digital retailing efforts may be limited. Adding digital retailing options to your communications improves overall engagement, especially when it is AI-driven communications that your consumers want to see.

As seen in a just-released study from Outsell, RXA, and digital retail partners CarNow, Gubagoo, and Roadster, when comparing before and after COVID-19, dealers who included digital retailing options in their marketing communications have seen a significant increase in linked sales and total gross profit.

What we set out to learn, analyzing:

  • 1,180 Dealerships
  • 4 MM Consumers
  • Over an 18 Mon. Timeframe

The impact of lifecycle marketing & digital retailing on both customers & prospects toward:

  • Engagement
  • Influenced sales, and
  • Total gross profit

Overall, sales had been down 11%, but dealers using lifecycle marketing were only down 8% – a difference of 30%.

The real impact was an increase in influenced sales by:

  • 18% for consumers actively engaged with lifecycle marketing
  • 26% for consumers targeted with both lifecycle marketing & digital retailing
  • 45% for consumers actively engaged and who were targeted with both lifecycle marketing & digital retailing
  • 76% for prospects targeted with both lifecycle marketing & digital retailing

If your dealership isn’t utilizing digital retailing, here are a few reasons from Critero.com why it is significant to start:

  1. Over a third of online purchases span multiple devices
  2. Digital devices now influence a majority of in-store sales
  3. Shoppers that use multiple channels to shop deliver a higher lifetime value than those that use just one.

Conclusion

Investing in an AI-driven marketing automation platform goes beyond merely future-proofing the dealership’s marketing infrastructure. The consumer’s car buying experience is enhanced and simplified by the added personalization and efficiency brought to it.

Consumers are better equipped with relevant information at every stage of their individual lifecycle, and the dealership staff has a better understanding of their own customers. If done right, blending technology and in-store professionals creates an amazing customer experience delivered with a human touch.

Dealerships are in a unique industry that requires you to shift your marketing practices depending on the vast needs of each consumer. Finding the right AI-driven marketing automation partner is how you can tie all this together in a manageable way.

Additionally, AI-driven marketing, or ‘lifecycle marketing’, combined with digital retailing have a clear impact on sales – utilizing both increases that impact, especially for prospects, especially when what’s offered is actively shared, and especially when consumers engage.

Take the time to find the right vendors to help your company with your marketing goals and aim to create an omnichannel experience for your consumers at every point in their lifecycle.

What is the REAL Role of Digital Retailing?

During the pandemic, automotive digital retailing became a must-have on dealer websites. From tools that allow for a customer to save vehicles to ones that allow for the complete car-buying transaction to happen online, it was poised to be the next gen solution for car buying consumers not just for tier 3 dealers, but caught the eye of OEM programs as well. While certain digital retailing programs might become OEM mandated in the near future, the focus on self-guided retail isn’t simply a way to bow to manufacturer demands but a potentially transformative tool that can play and important role at the OEM, group, and individual store level, but maybe not in the way you think.

Digital retailing enables buyers to purchase a vehicle any way they want, including completely online. As former Roadster CMO, Michelle Denogean, said:

“[Dealers] are starting to realize that the real power of digital retailing is its ability to expedite the showroom process.”

Digital retailing got its big boost in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when dealerships in many markets were ordered closed.  The only way to do business was through these types of online tools.  Observers often opine that “very few customers complete the process online….” and then suggest that this means that customers still prefer the in-person traditional process.  The truth is somewhere in between.

The real role of dealership digitization is that it enables a more efficient and transparent showroom and selling process.  More efficient because the customer can do some of the work, choosing the options that suit them at the pace they choose.  More transparent because a dealer who is willing to enable online shopping has to publish prices, rates and terms disarming the traditional anxiety in the process from lack of information.  One of the hidden benefits of enabling digital retail was that dealers had to decide on their programs, policies, rates, prices and terms so they could be published.  While much of this existed, it was often inside the heads of Sales Managers, Team Leaders and F&I Managers.  These improvements have led to higher short-term profits while enabling long-term retention.  Digital retail is much more than an online lead form or a new channel, it is an organizing principle for the modern dealership.

As Denogean pointed out:

“Digital retailing is omnichannel, and omnichannel is more efficient. This hyper-focus on efficiency enables dealers to reduce costs.”

The gold is in combining digital retailing with an omnichannel customer engagement strategy can lead to even better results and reduced costs. Using Artificial Intelligence informed by consumer behavior helps drive the delivery of personalized content, which further engages the customer with the product and service options that resonate most with them.

If you haven’t already, consider implementing immediately:

Full Transparency

Give shoppers an opportunity to better view vehicles online, review different options and even make online purchases.  Make sure what they do online exactly matches what they see in store.

Marketing automation

If ever there was a time to automate communications and be alerted when a consumer might be in-market for purchase or service, now is that time. A successful marketing automation platform tracks consumer behavior, connects to a variety of data sources like your CRM and DMS, leverages that data to drive insights, and engages consumers wherever they are in their lifecycle.

Proactive digital engagement

Most important is to ensure your consumers are consistently engaged with and to gently remind them wherever possible that you are available to help however they choose to buy, shop or service.

Digital retailing is not a gimmick, not something to be wary of if mandated by OEMs, and not merely a biproduct of the pandemic. Even without the changes of the past few years, the need for digital retailing would still have arrived, just maybe a little slower. Dealerships’ roots are in the relationships they create at their stores, with prospects on the showroom floor, and with customers in their service bays. To retain existing customers and conquest new ones, today’s dealers must reframe their thinking around digital retailing principles and their by-products– now and in the future.

Learn more about how automotive digital retailing plus lifecycle marketing can lead to a 76% increase in influenced sales for first time car buyers here.

Exceeding Consumer Expectations in 2022

Not only have recent technology advancements generated vast amounts of data consumption, but most of the sales process has gone virtual in response to consumer expectations of ease, safety, and personability.

Only with the right tools and training can salespeople acclimate to this highly integrated, individualized, and data-driven consumer environment.

The dealership customer of 2022 is poised to be one of the most educated, engaged, and skeptical consumers in any marketplace. They will spend hours researching vehicles they believe suit their needs, come ready with an idea of what the vehicle should cost, and have their guard up against “typical” dealership tactics.

They’ve also been trained, thanks to Amazon, Apple, and other retailers, that transactions can be quick, seamless, and efficient—and often done entirely online.

Going against consumer expectations can destroy even years’ worth of brand loyalty, as PwC found that 32% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience.

Automation to Get Personal

To build the kind of rapport needed to retain today’s modern shoppers, your dealership should be marketing to them with targeted, individualized messages and maintain that same consistent personal approach from their first touchpoint to the moment of purchase and beyond.

By using a marketing automation solution driven by artificial intelligence you can unite all the elements a salesperson needs to lead consumers along the path to sale.

Educate Your Team

When salespeople are given the correct tools and training, the consumer, salesperson, and dealership all benefit from the process.

To provide consumers with the best experience, training should be established as one of the most important elements and as a “top-down” requirement. It’s just as important for the dealership’s leaders to take part in continuing education as it is for the sales staff.

It’s All About the Long Game

Follow-up needs to happen thoughtfully, which means much more than chasing leads. Focusing on your owner base means everything from what it’s like in the service drive to whether you’re going to drop a new customer’s car off at home because the practices started during the pandemic are here to stay.

Dealers need to be intentional about consumer relationships throughout the lifecycle, not just when someone is in equity, and tweak your messaging and processes to fit each consumers’ needs.

Make sure your game plan for 2022 includes:

  1. Focusing on your owner base by staying top of mind in a relevant way.
  2. Going back to basics and enacting internal changes where it makes the most sense.
  3. Implementing a process for harnessing and acting on your data.
  4. Concentrating on trusted vendor partners who complement the entire customer lifecycle.
  5. Consolidating your data to learn from it and optimize appropriately.

Learn more on those tips with Outsell’s recent article “Change in 2022: How to Play the Long Game.”

Rather than seeing the current consumer mindset as an obstacle, dealerships need to embrace it as an opportunity. By examining processes and putting in place the right tools and training, you and your staff can continue into 2022 not only meeting consumer expectations but exceeding them.

Staying in front of your customers regardless of inventory issues will set you up for success

Many dealers are dialing back their marketing efforts due to inventory shortages, and on the surface, it makes sense. Why market to consumers when you only have 10-30% of your usual new inventory?

The answer really shouldn’t surprise you.

New vehicle inventory is just a tiny fraction of the total revenue dealers are raking in. Used inventory and fixed ops are the two areas that really pay the bills. There’s a ton of value in staying in front of your customers regardless of inventory issues because fostering brand loyalty is something that’s done consistently over time. If you’re electing to not engage with your customer database in a time like this, you are hurting your chances of success when things start to return to normal.

Don’t Knock Used

Your most valuable customers are the ones already loyal to you, so this time of vehicle shortages should be spent on fostering that loyalty at every juncture. One way is by better understanding your customers and knowing when they might be ripe for a trade-in.

Outsell consolidates your data into a single Consumer Database to keep track of everyone’s most up-to-date information, including vehicles owned. An average dealer has over 1,800 consumers who may be poised for a trade-in and are ready for something new.

Outsell’s Find a Trade-In filter identifies quality used vehicles to help you prioritize outreach to those customers. They make the upgrade, and you add a potentially high-value used vehicle to your inventory. Dealers find this feature invaluable. Imagine you need some more entry-level SUVs to fill your used inventory lot, how would you currently go about doing this? With Outsell, you can quickly identify not only customers who currently drive the model you are seeking, but also customers who may be in a favorable position to also purchase/upgrade to a new vehicle. That’s solving two problems with one solution: you get a desirable trade-in unit, and you sell another vehicle.

Move What You Have

Just because you may be short on some vehicles, doesn’t mean that’s true across the board. To move the models you do have, you need to target the consumers most likely to be interested in them. A relevant message to the right consumer increases conversion and provides a better customer experience—once again, building on your brand loyalty.

Rather than sending a “CRM blast” to everyone, audiences targeted using Outsell’s Move a Model are twice as likely to convert. Dealers can target consumers who have engaged or could be interested in the specific model you’re trying to move. Consumers win by getting into the vehicle they want, and you move the inventory that’s been sitting on your lot longer.

A blanket CRM email blast isn’t effective. Some dealers may segment their send list to just model-specific owners of the inventory they are trying to push, but who’s to say they are currently in-market for an upgrade or if they even want the same model when they do upgrade? When attempting to move model-specific inventory, you need a tool that has identified which of your current customers are even in-market for a vehicle, and what model(s) they have been showing interest in.

Be Superior with Service

Effectively marketing to current and potential servicers requires an omnichannel approach. Not able to reach someone through email? Target them through social. Not seeing any returns from social media? Consider sending a direct mail piece. Outsell offers it all because every consumer expects to engage through the channel where they’re most comfortable.

Outsell can also help you target in-market servicers to avoid wasting marketing spend. This isn’t only a benefit for you, but for the consumer, because it shows you’re paying attention and know them.

In a comprehensive, multi-year data study conducted with RXA and Experian, Outsell found that dealers who engage consumers through our platform saw a 31% increase in service visits. Whether the consumers had previously serviced with the dealership or not, getting them to service earlier in their ownership lifecycle saw an even bigger return. Consumers see the right offers at the right time, and you foster further loyalty by bringing them in for service before they can defect.

Connect with Consumers

The best way to connect with consumers is to let an AI-driven platform learn about them and respond with communications most suited to their needs, ultimately allowing consumers to dictate the information they see. This doesn’t mean never customizing content, however, when you have relevant buy-back or trade-in incentives you want to market to more of your database. Outsell allows for both, making the most of every method for engaging your consumers.

Custom content promoting offers and special events increases the quality of engagement on your communications, with specific VDP views increasing over 20% vs non-customized content. Dealers need to add their brand’s tone and personality to their communications. Consumers don’t trust a cookie-cutter templated email as much as they trust a custom and unique piece of content. Chances are if you’re using templates from your CRM, every other dealer in your area is using the exact same template if they use the same CRM.

Don’t forget defectors either. Outsell regularly augments the VINs of a dealership’s sales and service customers with a change of ownership. When a change of ownership is detected, and there wasn’t a purchase from your dealership around that same time, it’s likely the consumer purchased elsewhere. Once Outsell determines these likely defectors are in the market again, automated content tries to win them back. Consumers consistently see that your dealership knows them and has what they want, and you reap the benefits.

Why Dealers Are Turning to Outsell

Outsell may be a virtual customer engagement platform powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence, but don’t mistake that to mean it is only a sales tool for only new vehicle sales.

The Outsell platform helps dealers and dealer groups with used vehicles, service, and much more, keeping you connected with customers throughout their lifecycle so that when they are ready to buy or service, you’re the first place they turn to—even if they might have defected before.

Outsell customers are making the most of lacking inventory by focusing on tools within the platform naturally attuned to finding trade-ins, moving specific models they have in abundance, increasing service bay visits, and custom content and defector outreach specific to their goals. Don’t sweat what you don’t have—make the most of what you do.

Therefore, while inventory shortages continue, it is paramount to employ an automation tool like Outsell to help you best capitalize on all areas of your dealership.

Contact Outsell today to learn how you can combat lacking inventory by delivering dynamic individualized content that customers actually want – through email, direct mail, social, and more.

How Automotive Dealers Can Best Connect with High-Value Customers

The brand loyalty average for both luxury and mass-market automotive dealers is about 45%. If consumers switch brands half the time, dealer groups need an effective marketing solution to retain their high-value customers.

One positive thing about the last 18+ months is you may already know who your most loyal high-value customers are.

Since the start of the pandemic:

“The bottom line is finding a vehicle required working closely with a dealer and, when presented with obstacles, shoppers turned to the dealer they already knew. As a result, the level of increased loyalty this year is remarkable.” – Tyson Jominy, vice president of data & analytics at J.D. Power.

What’s more important now is to not let that loyalty fade. Dealer groups can best connect with their high-value customers, retain loyalty, and create an individualized experience through:

  • Buyer Detection
  • Equity Detection
  • Consistency

Buyer Detection

Having a system in place to manage your communication structure, such as a marketing automation solution, will aggregate your data and build individualized consumer profiles that engage consumers based on their lifecycle and show you everything you need to know about them.

A solution-driven by artificial intelligence can determine which consumers have the most propensity to purchase or service based on their behavior – i.e., buyer detection. A tool utilizing buyer detection can then deploy the best communications to engage those in-market consumers.

Without a marketing automation solution designed to do this automatically, dealer groups are left with cookie-cutter communications that can alienate consumers who have come to expect an individualized approach.

Equity Detection

Equally, dealer groups need equity tools to pinpoint customers in a favorable equity position and who will likely want an upgrade. Similar to buyer detection, an AI-driven marketing solution can identify customers and prospects who reach positive equity status, so that dealer groups can inform those consumers when they are in a good position to trade their current vehicle and purchase a new one sooner than they normally would.

Effective solutions can even communicate to customers specific VINs they can get with similar payments to what they have now and identify for the group desirable used vehicles for trade-in when specific inventory is hard to come by.

With the continued shortage of new vehicles, many shoppers are turning to used options. This too has become an issue as used vehicles are becoming less available as well. One positive from this is that customers can get a lot more for their trade-ins — and may be looking to do just that. Don’t miss out on ways to restock your inventory by not having the right solution in place.

Consistency

If you haven’t been adding different channels to your marketing efforts, website updates, social media, and email are critical when much of the country is still working from home. Be there, be everywhere, and be consistent so you’re always top of mind when consumers return to the market.

You already know that general customer loyalty is less than half, but research has found that half of the repurchasers also change OEM brands, and these brand defectors do not always choose the same dealer group for their next purchase.

Store or OEM-only communications, siloed data, and siloed stores limit retention and loyalty opportunities and lead to irrelevant communications to customers who could otherwise be retained.

None of this means you only engage consumers when they are in the market – you should always communicate with them; it’s just the message that changes. The right marketing automation solution can help reduce the burden on you, your team, and your budget, with consistent messaging across stores.

Loyalty isn’t guaranteed but the right marketing tools can help. Learn more about Outsell’s dealer group solution and how we can help you best connect with your high-value customers.

Why Every Dealership Needs a Data Scientist

Dirty data is keeping you from your full sales potential

You likely collect millions of pieces of data about your customers and prospects every day. Collecting these data points is mostly a passive effort for your store or group since people create data about themselves as they go about their usual business online and in other digital spaces through Get E-Price lead forms and more.

That passivity is great to an extent—the data comes in and now you automatically have more information about your prospective buyers, data that you can easily track, segment, and store for later use. On the other hand, you’ve seen it before, a new lead comes in on a new model with the “ABC XYZ,” “email@email.com,” and “789-123-4567″ contact information fields. What are you doing today to keep your CRM clean and free of dead weight data?

This is the point where most dealerships go wrong.

The Dirty Secret of Dirty Data

The passive nature of gathering data is a blessing and a curse. Data on its own is just a jumble of information coming from different sources from people acting in all kinds of situations. This raw data on its own, before any clean-up, interpretation, or organization, is called “dirty data.” This is what most dealerships try to use, “as-is data”, and expect it to work wonders for their sales teams.

Those dealerships don’t see the results they want because raw, dirty data goes in too many different directions all at once. Dirty data is a muddled series of hundreds of thousands of clicks and inputs from thousands of consumers who are operating in all kinds of situations. If you try to follow every path this data leads you to, you’ll end up precisely nowhere.

Harnessing the Power of Data

So how do you turn dirty data into a powerful resource that lifts your sales team to their full potential and makes competitors wonder how you did it? You clean your data. This means sifting through millions of data points to determine what is useful.

If you do this correctly, and you know how to read the data you have, it will tell you a story about your buyers that you can take to the bank. Think about all the immersive content you can create if you can confidently know who your buyers are and what they’re currently driving, not just what you sold them back in 2012. The average person moves 10-12 times in their lifetime, so what is the likelihood that you have their correct address in your CRM or DMS? Think of all those wasted dollars spent on sending the wrong direct mail piece, with the wrong model, to the wrong person, at the wrong address. This is where clean data proves its worth.

What to Do If You Don’t Have a Data Scientist

Reading the story that data is trying to tell is usually best left to a data scientist. These professionals decipher random information and find patterns. They apply algorithms and models to interpret what data tells you about customers. They identify what is irrelevant, consolidate repetitive data points, and make sure entries are updated.

Most dealerships are not going to expect their staff to be data scientists, nor are they going to hire a dedicated data professional. Fortunately, you have other options for cleaning your data.

Learn to Clean Data Yourself

You can teach yourself to clean data, but wait, you have a dealership to run and promote! Your team members have their own jobs which do not include learning to be a data scientist. Plus, the sheer volume of data you’re up against is going to be a huge hurdle to getting your data clean any time soon.

The best-case scenario is that all of your sales and service staff are inputting the correct name, email, phone number, and address when they are in the dealership, but how often is this really the case? Sales staff are either incentivized on closing rate, where they don’t always enter every “up” in the CRM, or they are incentivized on the sheer volume of contacts, where they enter phony placeholder information just to check the box. At the end of the day, this missing/dirty data is weighing your operation down and costing you every year.

Use Software That Cleans Data

This type of software provides a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that acts as a data scientist to sort through your millions of data points and reveal what data is most useful for your dealership or group.

Your clean data now indicates what your customers want and where they are looking to do their online vehicle shopping. The software can use this information to identify where your customers are online and spin up automated communications for them, individualized messages to those who might be ready to buy or service. These automated AI tactics can get your prospective buyers where you want them in your sales funnel without any time spent by your sales team.

These software solutions can also create detailed reports that will prepare sales team members when customers come into the dealership. Basically, you gain a 24/7 artificial intelligence sales force to complement the expertise of your people. This all means that your team members can focus on what they do best: bringing home the sale.

Clean Data, Your Competitive Edge

Every dealership is collecting data about their potential buyers and trying to use it to boost sales. Take the first step to rise above the norm by cleaning your data so that you can harness its true power, increase your bottom line, strengthen your customer relationships, and unlock your sales team’s full potential.

Don’t Let Your CRM Become a Graveyard

Don’t let your CRM become a graveyard 

Consumers, rightfully, have come to understand how valuable their personal information is – and are less willing to share it without a good reason. This has made finding quality leads more difficult in the automotive marketplace, but this challenge is also an opportunity.  

It’s time to take advantage of what you already own: YOUR DATABASES. 

Your CRM and DMS hold information on consumers already known to you, and who may be familiar with your dealership. This is where much of your marketing opportunities live – if you know how to use them. 

The first step to unlocking this marketing engine is being rigorous on how new information about each customer or prospect is put into the system, and how that information is updated and maintained. Data is the fuel for this machine, and to run properly it needs high-quality input. To best use this information, you need to play the long game and not count any lead as “dead.” 

See Outsell’s article, 3 Best Practices for Turning Clean Data into Revenue, to get a head start.   

There are also three surefire ways to reengage consumers and win back defectors and unsold leads. 

Always Be Listening 

Each consumer’s journey to the sale is different, and you can’t afford to make assumptions about their timeframe; mistakes here will ultimately take your dealership out of contention for their business. By connecting with them with a timely, relevant message, your dealership can be their first – and only – stop on their way to a new vehicle.  

We’ve calculated that 46% of dealer databases are made up of prospects more than 90 days old. The average dealership we work with has about 48,000 records in its databases, which means it currently contains more than 22,000 unsold leads (about 46%!). 

However, since only a small fraction will be in-market shoppers at any given moment – about 2.4% is our estimate – finding the 500 or so shoppers ready to buy from that group of 22,000 is the true challenge. 

One of the best tools a dealership can use to determine which prospects are ready for re-engagement is buyer detection. With this technology, individualized consumer profiles are created that alert the dealership when a consumer shows signs of being back in market, and these profiles become more accurate with every interaction.  

Once your dealership can identify in-market shoppers, it’s time for contact. 

Follow Up Immediately 

Most shoppers defect from one company to another because the competitor provided a better customer experience. One of the best ways to keep a customer happy is to let them know you value their business and are ready for them as soon as they set foot back in the marketplace. The price of not being the first to show up for the customer can be costly. 

That’s a lot of turnover for leads previously considered “dead.” 

Again, buyer detection can be the difference between losing more than four-fifths of the business waiting for you inside your own databases. To build off the relationships you already have, however, don’t neglect the final step. 

Engage with Buyers Often, But on Their Terms 

To sell a vehicle, you must engage in a conversation with the consumer. And, with today’s more educated shoppers demanding more, it must be just that – a conversation, not high-pressure tactics, or simple generic sales pitches, but a conversation. 

To do this, the salesperson can use the information gathered through buyer detection, allowing them to understand that consumer’s needs, desires, and situation. 

“Relevance” is the watchword. Today’s dealerships must show they have their customer’s best interests at heart. While people are increasingly hesitant to submit information on a simple web form, a 2021 State of Consumer Data Privacy Survey by Entrust showed that 64% of consumers are at least somewhat willing to share personal information in exchange for more relevant, personalized, and/or convenient services. 

If your dealership doesn’t interact with in-market shoppers in a timely, relevant way, the consumer is still going to buy a car – they’ll just buy it from your competition. 

Conclusion 

Finding new leads is important, to be sure. The modern dealership, however, can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that you already have thousands of customers – and potential customers – in your databases. These consumers are waiting for the right communications and individualized treatment to move them toward the next sale. 

When your dealership takes advantage of tools such as buyer detection, you can mine your data and provide services your competitors simply can’t match. Your leads convert sooner, your customer loyalty increases, and your dealership becomes their dealership. 

Don’t Be Forgotten When the Inventory Shortage Stops

You may be thinking the best approach to advertising in a time of low inventory is to reduce marketing spend. After all, you have fewer cars to sell, and demand seems to be high regardless.

However, unless new and used car sales are the only thing your dealership offers, this is a huge mistake.

While the inventory shortage is now poised to last into 2022, it won’t last forever, and the dealerships who are going to be remembered when it comes time for customers to purchase again or service their vehicles are the ones staying top of mind when others are hitting the brake pedal.

If you’re like most dealerships that survived 2020, you’ve already shifted some of your advertising focus from an emphasis on sales to reminding customers of other ways you are there for them, such as service.

Outsell’s article from earlier this spring, “4 Things Dealers Can Do Right Now to Succeed Despite Low Inventory,” is still the advice you should be following:

  1. Focus on Service
  2. Find More Trade-Ins
  3. Keep Your Customers Engaged
  4. Play the Long Game

Perhaps most important is #3: Keep Your Customers Engaged.

“Now more than ever, customers are going to defect if only because the higher prices on vehicles that have been more affected by the shortage will cause them to explore other options. To maintain engagement levels for unsold leads, you can change your messaging to focus more on brand awareness, lifestyle, and service content instead of focusing on urgent selling messages for models that are in low supply.”

Several dealership marketing staffers and vendors told Automotive News they aren’t slowing their advertising spending but tweaking their language to “why buy” messages, used vehicles, and fixed operations.

Don’t be forgotten when the inventory shortage stops. Remind consumers you are here for more than new car sales and stay top of mind when your customers need you most.