Now is NOT the Time to Stop Investing in your Dealership

Demand for vehicles remains high, yet, as you continue to have fewer vehicles to sell, you may be thinking it’s time to hit the brake pedal on marketing spend. 

If this thought has crossed your mind recently, you’re not alone, but remember what Henry Ford once said:

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”

While the inventory shortage is poised to last into 2022, if not longer, it won’t last forever, and the dealers who continue to effectively market throughout the pandemic will be ahead of the curve when the industry settles back down.

We recently completed a study with RXA, and after analyzing 26+ OEMs, 841 dealerships, and 14.7 million consumers, it concluded that your top-value customers generate 80% of your total gross profit. Don’t let your top-value customers defect and become top-value customers for your competitor. Likewise, top-value customers don’t just become low-value customers either; they defect and become a top-value customer for your competitor. As an industry, we need to think differently about how we are retaining our top-value customers. Would you know a top-value customer inside of your dealership if you saw one?  

Think of this like a farmer who plants seeds for harvest. The lifecycle of farming begins with crop selection, then land preparation, followed by seed selection and seed sowing, which requires irrigation, resulting in crop growth, fertilization, and finally harvesting. If a farmer misses any of these steps in the agricultural lifecycle, the harvest will not be the same. Car dealers also have a lifecycle that starts with discovery, then shopping, then early, mid, and late ownership phases. Each phase requires and deserves the same amount of attention. Most car dealers invest all their time and money in marketing to consumers in the shopping phase. During a time like now, when there isn’t much inventory to sell, it can be tempting to turn off the marketing faucet. When in reality, you should be nurturing every consumer who has done business with you – through all of their individual lifecycle phases. 

Many dealers forget about marketing their service lane to their customer base, when in fact, the service lane drives the bulk of a dealership’s gross profit. In fact, our study concluded that regular service customers have a 35% higher 3-year value and are 6x more likely to repurchase than low-value service customers. You may not have much inventory to sell to those who are shopping now, but your Mid- and Late-Ownership Phase consumers will be entering the Shopping Phase in a few years – and you could be marketing the inventory you do have to those lined up ready for their next vehicle purchase.

Effective marketing means artificial intelligence-driven individualized content through omnichannel communications.

The expectation for an individualized experience comes from its prevalence with major companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix. They are masters of customer experience to the point where they know what we want before we do. They consistently deliver such content through data, and accurate AI can make sense of that data to identify content that will best engage each consumer proactively. 

Now is the time to invest in your dealership’s marketing. It’s time to go “back to the basics” and reevaluate your vendor list. Which vendors are most meaningful and driving results? Heading into 2022, you need individualized content for your marketing efforts through an omnichannel approach. Today’s consumers expect more, so dealers need to deliver more than just CRM email blasts. How are your current vendors helping you achieve this 1:1 approach?

This also means staying in front of unsold leads and defectors. 

To increase engagement levels with unsold leads, you can change your messaging to focus more on brand awareness, lifestyle, and additional service content instead of focusing on urgent selling messages for models that are in low supply.

Don’t discount defectors either. They bought from the dealership once and may easily buy from there again—if their connection to the dealership is strengthened through relevant service, trade-in, and sales content that will most likely resonate with them. 

Relevant content and recommendations reduce decision fatigue and streamline the shopping process. When done respectfully and well, it improves the relationship with consumers and builds trust. And trust begets loyalty and retention—the holy grail of lifetime customer value. Our study found that customers who continually engage with a dealership’s content have two times the higher 3-year value.

It is essential to focus on service, finding more trade-ins, and keeping your customers engaged reminding them you are here for more than new car sales—you are a partner who can and should be there when your customers need you most.

With the right tools, dealers have the power to meet customer expectations in a marketplace where very few do. Putting on the breaks now would mean letting the defectors defect, forgetting unsold leads, and ignoring the needs of your otherwise loyal customers when there is so much more to a partnership with a dealer than sales. 

Don’t be forgotten when the inventory shortage stops. What are you doing to play the long game and stay in front of your customers?

Change in 2022: How to Play the Long Game

There has been a significant shift in the automotive industry to a digital customer experience and letting customers tell us how they want to buy a vehicle. There is a disruption in the sales channel with the Carvana’s and Vroom’s of the world, inventory challenges, increasing data complexities, and many OEMs moving to electrification models.

All this uncertainty and the speed and breadth of change are unprecedented. We’ve become accustomed to making short-term decisions – the kind you make when you don’t know what it will be like next week, month, year, or even tomorrow!

To get ahead, dealers need to consider the long game, which includes being adaptable and open to change. Profits are higher than they’ve ever been, and budgets are not as lean as they’d usually be at this time of year. Now is the time to consider the impacts on your cost structure, staffing, systems, and processes. 

Prepare for the upcoming change ahead of time versus sitting back and waiting for it to happen.

What the “Long Game” Means for Dealers

Consumers are ultimately going to determine what direction the market takes. While there’s a lot of speculation about what that might be, nobody knows for sure.

A mantra of being open to everything and attached to nothing best supports what playing the long game means. Adaptability is key. You don’t need to know what’s going to happen; you need to be ready to move in the right direction once it’s here. 

The idea of one-size-fits-all solutions isn’t practical. As dealers, you need to narrow your focus. Be good at fewer things because, at some point, you must put your stake in the ground about what you think is going to drive your business forward and concentrate on that.

Regardless of what that might be for you, all dealers must focus on their internal teams to support a successful long game. If you don’t have good people, you’re not going to have good marketing and sales efforts, you’re not going to have as many customers, and the same is valid for service. You don’t need more people – you need the right people. 

Needing the right people also goes for vendor partners because you don’t need more of them and certainly not more lead providers. Once you get into the marketing side, it’s all about your owner base.

A Powerful Owner-Based Communication Strategy

The best quality leads are the customers you already have. They’re organic, you don’t have to rely on third parties, and they cost less to acquire.

It doesn’t always start with sales, either. You don’t want a customer to get an oil change, get an automated thank you, maybe a survey from the OEM, and then not hear from you for another six months until it’s, “Hey, do you want to spend more money with us?” 

Follow-up needs to happen more 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 their messaging and processes to fit each consumers’ needs. 

Adapting to the Needs of Every Customer

The old way of marketing was telling people what you wanted them to know with the intent to sell them something. Consumers need to drive the conversation in today’s market because that’s what they now expect.

Everyone is hyper-connected online these days, but they’re isolated from in-person connections. Anything dealers can contribute to a sense of trust through online communications helps foster loyalty, whether by investing in your community or simply by not trying to sell consumers something at every turn but responding to what matters to them. 

Each customer is unique, so the idea of a single process for everyone goes out the window. Again, you must be adaptable since everyone wants something different at any given time. This isn’t easy without an automated system based on artificial intelligence that can make complicated decisions for you.

One solution, particularly for dealer groups, is to take all your data, clean it, and put it into a consolidated data platform. Doing so will allow you to send value-added communications relevant to the vehicle or service each consumer is interested in at any stage of their lifecycle. 

It’s time for dealers to liberate the customer experience, responding to what’s important to them by allowing their needs to dictate the information they receive.

Now is Not the Time to Stop Investing in Marketing

It should never be about slashing budgets regardless of whether you’re doing well but spending your money wisely at every single connection point with a customer – whether it’s an email, a text, an ad, or anything else. 

Wisely spending money means measuring what’s working and what’s not and adapting accordingly. Reallocate your marketing dollars to the vendor partners who can identify what consumers will do or want next and automatically respond.

When other people aren’t advertising, and you are, you stand out. Despite inventory shortages, there’s no reason to stop advertising because consumers service and buy cars year-round.

Ask yourself – what’s the real reason for not spending? Is it that you’re not willing to, or that you can’t? And if it’s that you can’t, what are you going to do moving forward? How will you get people to come into your store if you’ve decided not to spend the money to attract them? 

What it comes down to is five introductory courses of action for the long game to work for you:

  1. Focus on your owner base by staying top of mind in a relevant way. 
  2. Go back to basics and enact internal changes where it makes the most sense.
  3. Implement a process for harnessing and acting on your data.
  4. Focus on your trusted vendor partners who complement the entire customer lifecycle.
  5. Consolidate your data to learn from it and optimize appropriately, especially dealer groups.

The Most Valuable Customers Are the Ones You Already Know

You are likely the same as 44% of other companies who focus more on customer acquisition than retention. This is a problem in every industry but is even more so in the automotive industry. The lifecycle of a consumer is relatively predictable: people buy cars every 3-5 years. Suppose you’re spending all your time and resources towards obtaining new customers. In that case, you’re missing out on the pool of shoppers right under your nose who not only have bought from you before, but you can be marketing to them throughout their lifecycle using the customer data points you’ve collected.

Current customers are more likely to buy from you again; ignoring them costs you money. Trade-ins from existing customers might be one of the best ways to foster loyalty during a time when defection is higher than ever. 

Don’t ignore your most valuable customers – the ones you already know. 

Existing customers are more likely to buy

While customer loyalty, in general, may be a 50/50 chance, you’re still far more likely to get an existing customer to purchase again than to convert a brand-new lead. They already know and trust you, and if you keep them happy, they will continue to choose you over the competition. 

Consistency is vital so you’re top of mind when customers are back in market.

It isn’t only about marketing to them when they are in market, however. It would be best if you constantly were communicating with your customers; it’s simply the message that changes as they move through their individual lifecycles. 

Having a system in place to manage your communication structure, such as a marketing automation solution driven by artificial intelligence, can aggregate your data and build individualized consumer profiles that engage customers based on their lifecycle stage and show you everything you need to know about them. The more you know, the better you can communicate to everyone in your database. 

Focusing only on new leads costs you money

Not only are you more likely to reconvert an existing customer over acquiring a new one, but it costs five times as much money to attract new customers. 

Even the slightest bit of increased retention, as low as 5%, can increase overall profits by an average of 25% to as high as 95%. Ignoring your customer database is costing you money, and the effort needed to engage them isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. 

An effective AI-driven marketing automation solution can determine which customers have the most propensity to purchase or service based on their behavior – i.e., buyer detection. A tool utilizing buyer detection can then automatically deploy the best communications to engage in-market customers for both sales and service, saving you valuable time and money. 

Equally, dealers need equity tools to pinpoint customers in a favorable equity position, so you can inform those customers when it might be the best time to trade in their current vehicle for an upgrade sooner than they usually might.

Trade-ins may be the best way to foster loyalty if you do it right

Speaking of trade-ins, on average, people are trading in for new vehicles every 3-4 years. That is a long time for customers to forget their loyalty to you if you only engage with them through cookie-cutter communications. 

With the continued shortage of new vehicles, many shoppers are turning to used vehicles. This too has become an issue as used cars are becoming less available as well. One positive 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. 

Successful AI-driven marketing automation solutions can even communicate to customers’ specific VINs they can get with equal payments to what they have now and identify for you desirable used vehicles for trade-in when specific inventory is hard to come by. 

By putting a bit more effort into your marketing strategy, you can increase overall revenue by tapping into your most valuable customers – the ones you already know.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy from Outsell

For over a decade and a half, we’ve loved Outsell. Thousands of dealers across the United States love Outsell too. We believe in our product and have accurate data and studies to show why. 

Such as customers using Outsell having 65% higher odds of customers repurchasing from them and a 25% average increase in service visits.

We also recently explored the importance of increasing engagement to retain better top-value customers, who can increase total gross profit across both sales and service for years to come. 

But all robust data aside – we’re not going to pretend everyone needs Outsell. 

We posed these questions last year and find they’re just as relevant today, but if you’re still undecided about including Outsell as a partner, we’ve updated this quick guide on all the reasons why you shouldn’t buy from us.

1. You have the cleanest data in the world

If you have the cleanest data in the world, you probably understand everything you need to know about your consumers and can send them exactly what they are looking for.

No? Sounds like a marketer and sales fantasy? Well, that’s because it is.

Outsell helps clean your data

Most dealers have terrible data, and worst of all, almost all of you can’t understand what your data is telling you or even how to use it. If you’re like most automotive marketers, you likely don’t have all your data up to snuff.

Imagine a world where you did have the cleanest data (or at least nearly).

With Outsell, your data is sorted, organized, and cleaned to the extent that when you reach out to your consumers, they’ll see you do know them. And that sets you apart.

2. You know all your consumers’ interests and needs

Maybe you’re a market psychic. You know everything there is to know about the thousands of consumers in your market – what they’re interested in and what their needs are.

Not this either? Thankfully, that’s completely normal.

Outsell helps you understand your consumers

Outsell gives you the power to understand almost everything you’d need to know about your market. How do we do it? With artificial intelligence.

Our machine learning and predictive models not only give you a glimpse into your consumers’ needs but predict their behaviors, helping you understand what information and content they might like. 

3. You have unbeatable retention numbers 

Perhaps every one of your customers stays with your dealership – nobody even thinks about defecting to the competitor across the street, and you have the highest retention numbers in the game.

If you live this every day, you probably don’t need Outsell. But, if you’re like most people, you are constantly looking for ways to improve this.

Outsell helps retain your customers

The dealers who use Outsell have some of the highest retention numbers in their market – and it’s not by chance.

Outsell’s AI-driven marketing automation platform hits your consumers with relevant content across their entire lifecycle, helping you consistently stay in front of them and remain top of mind – which positively impacts your retention numbers.

4. You always know when a consumer is in market

Maybe you’ve got in-market “Spidey senses.” You’re always aware and alert of any shoppers in your market who are interested in buying from you.

That would be nice, right? But chances are, you don’t.

Most dealers are unaware when someone is interested in buying until they arrive on their showroom floor or send in a direct lead. 

Outsell helps identify in-market shoppers

Because Outsell’s platform is always-on, automated, and engaging your consumers, we can alert your BDC and sales teams to those pesky hand-raisers that you can never seem to track down.

You can see anything and everything on that consumer in the platform – their lifecycle stage, contact information, shopping behavior, and more.

5. You can personalize marketing communications at scale

Maybe you can have a one on one conversation digitally across multiple channels to thousands of consumers in your market – every time, at all points of the day, with every single one of your prospects and customers.

Now, I’m not aware of what world exists, but I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to do at scale without help – and most marketers would agree.

Some call it magic. We call it Outsell.

Outsell helps personalize your marketing at scale

Outsell’s platform takes guessing out of the equation. We deliver dynamic and personalized content across various channels, engaging your consumers with the content they care about.

These communications give you the power and capability to successfully have a one on one relationship with all your consumers, no matter where they are at any time.

You get the idea

If you’re committed to having clean data, understanding every single one of your consumers’ preferences, and personalizing your communications at scale, then you likely do need Outsell.Book some time with us now to see a live demo.

Get Rid of the Fluff – Top 10 Things to Look for in a Marketing Vendor

Choosing a marketing vendor can be difficult. The decision to partner with a vendor can have lasting impacts on your budget, dealership image, and overall success in your primary market area. 

Fortunately, there are a few guidelines you can use as you start to assess your marketing needs and find vendors to help you achieve your goals. 

Start by defining your dealership with key decision-makers, discuss the largest areas for improvement, and identify your biggest competitors. Next, take account of your current marketing strategy and assess the effectiveness of each system. This will help prioritize the immediate needs of the dealership.  

Now that you have evaluated your current marketing strategy, it is time to research vendor options, watch demos, ask questions about products, and request referrals. As you evaluate vendors, be ready to discuss strategies the dealership has tried in the past and why they failed. 

When shopping for a new marketing vendor it is best to come prepared with questions to see if that vendor is the right partner for your dealership. 

Here are the top 10 things to look for in your next marketing vendor:

1. Certifications 

Example: Are they Reynolds and Reynolds certified? Is this vendor Co-op approved?

2. User Experience

What does the experience look and feel like for the people on your team who will most use it? What will that experience look and feel like for your consumers?

3. Creative Services

A single template isn’t going to cut it. Does the vendor offer multiple template designs, A/B tested to ensure results? Is the creative modern and engaging, and how much does your dealership shine in the design?

4. Integrations

Will the vendor’s system integrate with the dealership’s current systems? If yes, what does that set-up process include? What level of access, if any, is required to your systems? Are NDA’s provided?

5. Channels

Consumers aren’t only reached through a single channel. Can the vendor adapt to consumer needs to engage them on the channel where they are most likely to respond? 

6. Security

Is the system secured by unique user-ids and passwords?

7. Training

Is the vendor willing to provide in-person training for dealership staff? How labor intensive is product training? How much supervision does the vendor’s product require by dealership staff?

8. Customer Success Team

Will the dealership work with a single point of contact or multiple contacts? How often will contacts change? Are they trained in Google Analytics reporting?

9. Reporting 

What kind of reporting does the vendor provide? Is the vendor willing to review results compared to a third-party? (i.e., Google Analytics.)

10. Proven Results

What is the ramp-up period for the product and when can the dealership expect results? What is the average ROI for a dealership that has used the product for 6 months? 1 year? 3 years?

Once all questions have been answered and there is agreement among decision makers, it is time to agree to terms and launch the product. 

But don’t stop there. 

Evaluate the initial success of the vendor by reviewing provided reports and cross reference results with your original goals. Hold the vendor accountable, and if they don’t meet with your expectations after the agreed upon ramp-up period, it may be time to look for someone new. 

Get rid of the fluff and focus on the vendors who prove they put their – and your – customers first.

4 Lessons Learnings from the Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit

The 4th Annual Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit (AAAS) put on by Brian Pasch & PCG Companies is held annually in November. In an industry full of conferences, this event has always been well received. We have been involved with this event since the beginning. We participate due to its smaller attendance of progressive dealers who “get it” and find that you get a higher value at a smaller conference.

This year the event was held at the beautiful Eau Palm Beach Resort in Manalapan, FL. The three-day schedule was full of content-rich sessions rooted in topics like the sales process, digital retailing, marketing, data, and analytics.

Here are four lessons we learned from this year’s AAAS event:

1. Audit your automotive website for what metrics you are tracking

In Brian Pasch’s first workshop, he walked us through why dealers have been tracking the wrong metrics on their websites for the past decade. Pasch explains that many dealers are solely focused on SRP (search results page) and VDP (vehicle details page) views as goals inside Google Analytics.

The problem is that SRPs and VDPs are commonly used as landing pages for marketing. If you run a Facebook Ads campaign, chances are the consumer is being linked to a particular car in your inventory or at the very least a results page of many vehicles in a specific category, like a similar model, vehicle type, or price bracket. Either way, your conversion rate would result in 100% because every site visit would trigger a conversion goal if it lands on an SRP or VDP. This is true whether it’s Facebook Ads, Google Ads, or any other type of digital ad.

Those conversion goals send signals to the ad platform indicating that the traffic sent was high quality, and you want more of those visitors. But because your goals are not set up correctly, you are essentially telling the ad platform that all traffic that came in through your ads was high-quality, whether the user clicked on or engaged with anything.

Every dealer should be tracking engaged SRP and VDP views through Google Analytics Events that fire off when a user clicks through VDP photos, engages with specifications, clicks on a CTA, scrolls past a particular point, or spends a certain amount of time on the landing page.

Takeaway:

What 3-5 key performance indicators are you tracking on your website to make data-driven decisions for your dealership marketing?

2. Analyze data you already have to acquire inventory you already sold that sells faster at higher profits

During another workshop, Jason Harper of RXA walked everyone through using Google Search Trends combined with customer lifetime value metrics and individual dealership characteristics to find the optimal user inventory to acquire.

The data suggests that these used vehicles will sell faster and at a higher profit. Customers who show a higher lifetime value are more likely to service and repurchase from your dealership. Using data from local markets, your CRM, and your service lanes, you can focus your team’s efforts on acquiring the best-performing vehicles.

Using data you already have, these recommended vehicles sold in 19% fewer days on the lot, at a 26% higher profit, and have a 109% higher chance of being serviced back at your dealership.

The best inventory to acquire is the inventory you have already sold to someone in your customer base. Using this data, you can find a customer to bring it to your dealership for a trade-in and send them back out the door with another vehicle. Now you sold a unit AND acquired a new unit to acquire a new customer. It’s a win-win!

Takeaway:

How are you using the data you already have to acquire inventory you already sold? What tools are you using that can do this?

3. Assemble first-party data to identify opportunities to improve marketing, sales efficiency, and profitability

One of the main stage panels included Tom Kerr, President of Affinitiv Advertising; Anthony Giagnacovo, CEO of CallRevu; Fleming Ford, Chief Strategy Officer of Quantum5; Amber Daniel, Director of Product Strategy at Polk; and our very own, Matt Kristo, Director of Analytics Services at Outsell.

The panelists shared new metrics and KPIs to help dealers push their reporting and decision-making tools to the next level. They also discussed metrics considered “fluff” with little to no value despite many top dealers using these metrics monthly for performance reviews.

Matt Kristo suggested that dealers need to get back to simply paying attention to the data and integrating your dealer toolkit when you can. It is challenging and inefficient when your different tools and systems don’t speak to one another or even share data. Tying all the data together can help you deliver the best possible customer experience. Kristo said, “High-value customers don’t become low-value customers; they just leave, and they’ll go somewhere else and defect to somebody that gives them a better experience.”

Tom Kerr echoed the value of first-party data, “Our first-party data is much more than just what our website is. The signals are helping us find more first-party data.”

Takeaway:

How can you retool your dealership moving into 2022 to start paying attention to first-party data and then tie all that data together to improve marketing, sales efficiency, and profitability?

4. Segment your top-value customers to engage more deliberately with those who matter most

Through a recent study Outsell conducted with RXA, the results showed that 30% of your customers account for 80% of the dealership’s total gross profit. For luxury dealers, it’s only 20% of your customers. A loyal customer is a loyal customer and won’t become a low-value customer but instead remain a high-value and loyal customer who may move to another dealership. It is your customer to lose. It is increasingly important to identify these top-value customers and offer them an experience worth sticking around for.

Do you know your top-value customers from your low-value customers?

Gary Marcotte, SVP of Customer Engagement Innovation at Outsell, said, “People ask me ‘Why would you send something to someone who is going to come in anyway?’ and my question [in response] is ‘For the cost, why take the risk?’” Retaining your top-value customers is the most critical thing you can do for your dealership to keep gross profits up not only right now but for the years to come.

Takeaway:

Do you know who your top-value customers are? How are you using the data you already have to identify, segment, and market to your top value, loyal customers before they defect to a competitor?

Conclusion

Throughout this three-day Automotive Analytics summit, it appeared there was a common theme: dealers need to be using their first-party data more in marketing. Specifically, how can you use your dealership’s first-party data to spend your marketing dollars more efficiently and get higher results? Using a marketing tool powered by artificial intelligence and fueled with your dealership’s first-party data would be an ideal solution.

Customer Loyalty: Are you Born with it?

The data doesn’t lie – not everyone is a top-value customer, and the highest level of customer loyalty can’t be created with even the best marketing. 

So, what do you do? 

Outsell conducted a study with RXA to discover the nature of top-value customers, their importance to dealers, and how to capitalize on them while keeping them loyal to stores and groups. 

Drawing data from 26 OEM brands, 841 dealerships, and more than fourteen and a half million consumers, the results conclude that while you cannot create top-value customers from nothing, you can smartly focus resources on better keeping the ones who are worth the most. 

What are top-value customers?

Top-value customers are the ones who engage more, spend more, and who ultimately carry the dealership through the worst of times – if they remain at the same store/group.

A few highlights from the study found that:

  • Over the next 3 years, 30% of your existing customers will account for 80% of total gross profit
  • Top-value service customers ​are 6X more likely to repurchase
  • In 2020, 20% of a dealer’s top customers represented 89% of returning servicers

We also know that two years after a sale, less than 60% of VINs have been serviced in the past 6 months. Given the data of which customers end up being worth the most over time, sales needs to reinforces service and service needs to reinforce sales.

Outsell offers Service-to-Sales communications that populate recommended VINs from your lot to your customers based on organic behavior. Someone who you might not otherwise know is in the market for a car is served up a VIN based on what they clicked on in other communications and their subsequent activity on your site. 

Through our study, we found that customers who purchase a vehicle that was recommended to them have a 106% higher likelihood of service, and a 67% higher future repurchase score. These vehicle owners also have a 119% higher three-year value

This isn’t just great for the customer, who’s getting information about a vehicle they’re already likely interested in, but good for you both in the long and short-term. Recommended vehicles have a 19% lower days on lot and have been shown to sell for a 26% higher profit

Customers spend more – at the time of sale and over the years to come – if they feel valued and understood. 

What now?

Keep your top-value customers – those who spend and engage most consistently and frequently – by communicating with them the right way and see the returns for years to come.

Here’s how to start:

  1. Clean your data – and consolidate it
  2. Examine your distribution to find top-value customers​
  3. Change how you communicate by using personalization​
  4. Stop blasting top-value customers – engage them

Read more about our recent study with RXA in the following infographic

6 Automotive Marketing Trends that will change your approach in 2022 (and beyond) 

One of the most common questions in the automotive industry heading deeper into 2022 is: When will the car sales market make its complete comeback? As we look forward to the next 12 months, we can already tell that major industry transitions happening this year will mean that when the market comes back in full force, what that market looks like may be very different. 

This year, dealerships who spend more effort than ever building and maintaining their relationships with new and existing customers will find themselves the most prepared for the industry changes coming down in the future. Position your business as a frontrunner in 2022 and beyond by incorporating these consumer-centered automotive dealer marketing trends into your planning. 

1. Continued Rise of End-to-End Online Car Shopping 

This new consumer expectation began during the pandemic when in-person dealership locations closed temporarily to stop the spread of the virus, and virtually every aspect of life adapted to take place online.  

Life may be resuming in non-digital spaces, but the convenience of online shopping for practically anything, including a vehicle, isn’t going anywhere. According to ABC News quoting automotive retail consultant Alan Haig of Haig Partners, less than 2% of all vehicle sales were made online before the pandemic. By contrast, in 2021, almost 30% of all new car sales were online. 

In 2022, customers will be less likely to do business with dealerships where they cannot shop, purchase, and even have their vehicle delivered without leaving home.  

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Expand the virtual showroom on your dealer website if you haven’t already. Add more capabilities to purchase online and have vehicles delivered as you’re able. 
  • Identify new and consistent ways you can engage with consumers in digital communications. 
  • Invest in the personalization of your digital content to offer the products and services valuable to consumers during communication. (For this to be effective, you’ll need to start with clean data.) 

2. Slow Return of Supply Chain Normalcy 

Experts say that the reinstatement of the normal supply will be slow and that it could be as far out as 2023 or even 2024. Meanwhile, higher prices are causing consumers to be pickier about vehicle purchases than ever. Automotive News quoted Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasts for LMC Automotive, as saying, “We’re starting to see the risk that buyers are going to pull out, that they’re not going to pay those [high] prices for something that’s not exactly what they want.” 

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Keep communication consistent even while inventory is light. Stay top of mind so that when you have the vehicle a customer wants or the market does open again, you’ll be the conspicuous place consumers take their business. 
  • Invest in technology and automation. Customer engagement platforms can save you money, time, and sanity by connecting with customers using the data you already have. 
  • Focus on building and maintaining relationships with consumers. Keep their trust and loyalty by sending valuable, timely communications that address their vehicle needs, as uncertain and shifting as those might be this year.  

3. Cybersecurity & Privacy Concerns 

Automotive industry insurer Zurich North America identified cybersecurity as one of the trends to watch out for in 2022. Indeed, with more and more automotive shopping going digital, dealerships will need to do more to protect their cybersecurity in 2022. Cyber-attacks impact even the largest and most prepared organizations, taking the whole business offline in minutes and damaging consumer trust levels even after digital operations are restored. It’s essential to plan for handling a cybersecurity breach and do what you can to avoid one. 

In addition to cyber attack concerns, there is also a recent movement towards privacy policy updates to protect a user’s data and how it is used. This will change the way you’re able to communicate, target, and include prospects in your programs over the next few years. The newest update IOS15 requires a user to opt-in for you to use their data to run ads or use their data. 

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Document security policies for your team and create an emergency plan in case of a cybersecurity attack, including how you will get your business back online, how the company can run in an interim emergency capacity should your systems not be available, and how you’ll communicate about the event during and after it occurs.  
  • Audit your current digital properties and vet all-new online tools and platforms for how they handle security best practices such as multifactor authentication, system permissions and access, database backups, form and web page encryption, frequency of security updates, and patches, required password strength, etc.   
  • Consider having a cybersecurity expert look over your systems and digital properties to identify and remove risks.  
  • Stay up to date with all the latest privacy policies and how larger companies are collecting 1st party data from users that you could potentially target 

4. Increasing Focus on Alternative Powered Vehicles 

Consumers are paying closer attention to the sustainability and environmental impact of their vehicle purchase choices, and trend that will become even more apparent in 2022. With many manufacturers promising zero-emission vehicles in the near future, the ability to make more sustainable vehicle buying choices will mean that more interested consumers will explore these options.  

According to CNBC, Volkswagen has reported its goal to offer almost 100% emission-free new vehicles in major markets by 2040. And BBC reports more electric vehicle numbers, stating that “General Motors says it will make only electric vehicles by 2035, Ford says all vehicles sold in Europe will be electric by 2030 and VW says 70% of its sales will be electric by 2030.” 

In particular, younger car buyers are concerned about the sustainability of their purchasing choices. They are more interested in hybrid, and upcoming electric vehicle options, particularly as the future of gas vehicles become less clear. 

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Keep sustainability and electrification at the front of your mind in all communications, particularly those surrounding vehicle purchases. 
  • Brainstorm ways to make purchasing a more sustainable vehicle easier, more pleasant, or more rewarding for your customers who want to pursue the option. 
  • According to Mike Albert Fleet Solutions, younger customers are the most unsure about the future of gas vehicles. You and your team should be mindful of as you communicate to the most youthful car-buying age brackets. 

5. New Compliance Regulations 

2022 will bring federal regulatory changes for the automotive industry at the national level. Auto-insurer Zurich North America specifically identifies finance and insurance and lending practices as areas where dealers should pay special attention to transparency and consistent processes in the new year.  

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Create documented policies and processes around finance, insurance, and lending for your team to follow if you haven’t already. Zurich North America suggests creating special regulatory training to ensure team members understand compliance changes that arise as the year moves forward.  
  • Review your deals periodically for process and terms consistency. Go over any areas of concern with team members before you would reach the point of worrying about compliance trouble.  
  • Get a third-party partner to help monitor your deals to keep your business well within the bounds of compliance regulations. 

6. More Effects of The Great Resignation 

Successful customer relations and retention is cultivating an invested, engaged dealership staff. The automotive industry’s rapid shift to digital sales and service makes it even more important than ever to invest in employees’ satisfaction at work. Many of your team members’ roles might shift from in-person sales to something in the digital realm that they’re less familiar with or less sure about. Investments to keep employees with proven skills and knowledge of your business will serve you better than constantly recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires.  

How to Plan in 2022 

  • Get employees more involved and more invested in the success of the dealership. Ask your staff for their direct input into key daily business areas. Then, respond in a timely and collaborative way to places where they’ve identified a need for improvements. You may make some giant leaps in your ability to market and run the business in the process. 
  • Focus on more outstanding work-life balance and opportunities for Associate advancement. Consider setting aside time and budget to send employees to skill-building or networking events or to allow them to participate in organizations that mean something to them. They will bring everything they gain back to work with them, to the benefit of your company. 

Plan for Automotive Digital Marketing Success in 2022 

Given these continuing and upcoming automotive marketing trends, the specific strategies your automotive dealership’s marketing plan follows might need to look different in this coming year. It may help to realize that it’s still all about understanding your consumers — the way you communicate and build relationships with them as we navigate these new challenges together as both an industry and as consumers. 

Using Automation at the Dealership to Give the Personal Touch

The Seamless Customer Experience

The modern dealership customer is one of the most educated, engaged and skeptical consumer in any marketplace. They will spend hours researching vehicles they believe will suit their needs, have a good 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.

Increasingly, they are demanding this experience in all their transactions — which includes purchasing a vehicle. Far from being an obstacle, however, this mindset represents an opportunity for dealerships that are willing to examine their own processes and put tools and training in place to allow their staff to not only meet the customer’s expectations but exceed them.

New Mindsets, New Methods

For most consumers, a vehicle is the second-most expensive item they purchase. Therefore, this is not a transaction most enter into lightly. The vast majority only come to a dealership when they are ready to buy; they’ve done all their “tire-kicking” research online. Also, as Millennials become the most dominate force in auto sales, the concept of haggling for price is becoming outdated; they fulfill a lot of their shopping needs online, where the price is the price.

For the dealership, this new mindset requires giving the consumer a seamless, transparent sales process, where they can have their questions answered, experience what the vehicle has to offer firsthand and understand how the dealership arrived at the price presented.

The marketing that made the consumer aware of your dealership should also be transparent and complement the in-store experience. No surprises. No baiting and switching. The sales process starts with your marketing offer and, in the best case, doesn’t end; it continues because you build a rapport and become their dealership for life.

In order to build this kind of rapport, your dealership should be marketing to customers with targeted, individualized messages. Millennial shoppers demand to be treated as individuals and older generations have found that they, too, enjoy the personal touch. Once in the dealership, the path should be seamless, leading from the greeting to the sale to the delivery as one process, and not as a series of juddering handoffs.

Automation is the key to achieving both of these goals.

Using Automation to Get Personal

From a marketing standpoint, the consumer leaves a huge trail of information about themselves through their shopping behavior, both online and off. To take full advantage of the marketing opportunities that big data provides, it’s necessary to bring in a marketing solution driven by artificial intelligence. This allows the dealership to reach the consumer with targeted, relevant messages to bring them into the store.

Once they’re in your dealership, other automated tools can allow your salespeople to provide the customer with the seamless experience they demand. By using software that unites all the elements a salesperson needs to lead the customer along the path to the sale, the process is streamlined, allowing them to access all the information necessary without having to toggle between different programs, logins or interfaces.

These software tools free up the salesperson to do what they do best: build a relationship with the consumer and become their advocate throughout the sales process.

“Automation doesn’t mean that you are getting rid of the human element,” said Jill Howard, director of client services for A2Z Sync, a company that delivers solutions allowing single-login access to everything needed in the automotive sales process. “There still needs to be that human element and a conversation; somebody should be there to answer any questions that might come up. But through automation, the experience can be made more seamless and gives the customer a much more efficient path to purchase the vehicle.”

When salespeople are given the correct tools and training, the customer, the salesperson and the dealership all benefit from the process. There’s a flow to the sales presentation that can’t happen when there are awkward transitions. These breaks in the flow are where consumers start to second-guess their decisions or, worse, pull out their smartphones and start researching their choices again. Buying a vehicle should be both a relaxing and exciting event, rather than being stressful and confusing.

This only happens, though, when everyone is properly trained on the tools they’ve been provided.

Educating the Team

To provide the customer with the best experience, training should be established as one of the most important elements in the sales process, and that should be 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.

“The more competent you are, the better that employee is going to feel about their job and their role at the dealership,” Howard said. “Also, it’s a much better experience for the customer to deal with somebody who can actually answer their questions right off the bat. Training is incredibly important.”

To maintain the seamless experience for the consumer, it’s important that the sales process is consistent throughout the dealership, and sometimes this means getting some team members out of their comfort zone. With the right tools in place, however, this discomfort is temporary.

“Most people want to do a good job when they come into work,” Howard said. “If your expectations are set, you’re trained and given the tools to meet those expectations, it makes the workday much easier and smoother.”

The modern consumer themselves may be trained with certain expectations about the sales process, but buying a vehicle is a special moment in their lives. The dealership that can help them navigate the sales path with professionalism and empathy will earn their business now and for the long term. By providing a seamless process and becoming their advocate rather than their adversary along the way, your dealership will become their dealership.

Which leads us into our final blog in this series covering how all of what we’ve discussed so far comes together, to then conclude with our webinar on Thursday December 13 at 2pm EST, “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync, as well as a case study featuring Schomp and Outsell.

Stay tuned.

What You Need to Know About Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

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In December 2010, the Canadian federal government passed a set of new laws concerning the sending of commercial communications over Canadian networks, which took effect as of July 1st, 2014. How does this impact your email marketing program?

Any email sent either to or from a Canadian computer, mailbox, or network falls under jurisdiction of CASL. If you have an email address in your marketing database that you suspect belongs to a Canadian, or if anyone opens your email in Canada, this law is applicable – even if your business is based outside of Canada. And CASL violation penalties are severe – ranging up to $10,000,000 for an organization.

With a serious impact to your bottom line, can you afford to be out of compliance? Let’s tackle the three things you can do to ensure that you’re ready.

You’ll need to meet three general requirements to remain CASL compliant: (1) consent from the subscriber to communicate with them, (2) your sender information clearly labeled within each communication, and (3) an unsubscribe mechanism in every touchpoint. It’s also important to note that, in most cases, CASL requires the sender of a commercial electronic email message to obtain permission BEFORE they are allowed to send to the recipient.

3 Steps to CASL Compliance:

1. Review Your Email Address Collection Methods

CASL requires that you can prove the level of consent for all Canadian email addresses added to your email marketing database after July 1, 2014. Email addresses obtained with implied consent must be removed after 2 years unless express consent to email them is received.

A consumer provides implied consent based on actions such as having a business relationship with the sender – for example, buying a vehicle or having their vehicle serviced. It’s important to note that implied consent isn’t evergreen; to maintain implied consent, a contact must take a business action with you at least once every two years. Make sure you’ve accounted for the two year window in your process.

Your consumers provide you with express consent when you explicitly ask your potential contacts for permission to send them email, and they agree. Once you obtain express consent, that consent remains in effect until the consumer decides to revoke it.

Make sure to add appropriate CASL-compliant language to every contact collection method you use – whether it’s a third party webform or a paper sign-up sheet at an event, be certain that you’re disclosing your compliance and saving documentation of the contacts’ express permission.

2. Obtain Express Consent from Existing Canadian Contacts

For contacts added prior to July 1, 2014, express consent from known Canadian customers must be acquired before July 1, 2017. Start taking any necessary actions to comply with CASL sooner rather than later.

You must maintain an audit trail as to how and when you obtained consent for each subscriber. If challenged, you (as the sender) are required to prove consent, not the recipient.

3. Make Sure Ongoing Communications Have Appropriate Information

All marketing emails you send must contain the following information in order to be CASL compliant:

• Your Organization name, address, and website
• Information on how to unsubscribe from the email list
• Privacy policy information

Unsubscribe requests never expire, so your process should ensure that you’re regularly updating your database with unsubscribe information from any and all marketing programs. These requests must be honored indefinitely, regardless of future mailing platforms, unless the consumer explicitly submits a new opt-in request for that address.

How Does Outsell Help Dealers Remain Compliant with CASL?

• Our email communications’ “From” addresses are verified and accurately identify dealers as the sender.

• Upon set up, Outsell mandates that our clients provide a physical address for their dealership before sending anything to dealership customers, then uses this physical address in every email communication we send.

• We automatically include a clear and obvious method for contacts to opt-out of future email communications.

• We always automatically process unsubscribes.

• All of our email campaign “Subject” lines are designed to be straightforward and convey the campaign’s contents to consumers.

 

In short, Outsell handles nearly everything to keep you CASL compliant. CASL is in full effect. Have you taken all necessary steps to ensure you’re in compliance?