Authored by Christy Johnson, Project Manager
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.
This marketing automation chapter will cover the following:
- What is Marketing Automation?
- Omnichannel vs. Multi-channel
- AI in Marketing Automation
- Digital Retailing in Marketing Automation
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 dealers, 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
- Surveys & Feedback Emails
- Review & Testimonial Emails
- Product Updates & Launches
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.
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
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:
- 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:
- Over a third of online purchases span multiple devices
- Digital devices now influence a majority of in-store sales
- Shoppers that use multiple channels to shop deliver a higher lifetime value than those that use just one.
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.
About the Author
Christy Johnson, Program Manager at Outsell
Christy Johnson is a Project Manger at Outsell.
Christy joined the Outsell team in 2016 and started in the Dealer Support Team. Two years later, she joined the project management team. She has experience managing cross- functional projects with different areas of the organization.
In her free time, Christy enjoys acting, singing, board games, and spending time with friends and family.