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How data science is transforming the automotive dealership
Dealerships are looking towards data specialists to support their marketing efforts and differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitor car market.
Automotive dealerships are facing significant disruption in the areas of technological innovation, evolving customer preferences and changing car-buying behavior. The new GDPR data protection legislation which came into effect in May, has forced dealerships to look at their wider customer data management processes and how they can better leverage this data to improve their sales and retention strategies.

While the majority of dealerships gather key customer data through their DMS and CRM systems, ongoing demands to enhance the customer experience across both sales and aftersales will drive dealers to utilise this data more effectively.

Dealers are now looking to CRM and data specialists to support their wider marketing strategy in an effort to offer a more streamlined customer journey from initial sale right through to replacement.
A more integrated approach to customer acquisition
Customers are likely to have multiple touchpoints with a dealership, from the company's website to its social media channels, third party sites and email. Today's brands are no longer viewed as silos and customers expect a consistent experience and message across multiple channels. This however is not always the case and a customer's experience on a dealership's Facebook page for example may differ greatly to their experience in a face to face in-store visit.

As customers research and gather information on their car purchase, up to 60% start online and switch on average 4 times between online and offline channels before making a decision to buy.** Over-focussing on digital channels while neglecting the opportunities offline or having an inconsistent message as the customer navigates between online and offline, may result in increased customer churn.

In addition, almost half of car buyers use multiple devices to gather informaton before purchasing.* Between these devices, customers expect their experience to be seamless however, often there are inconsistencies in the messaging between these multiple channels.
46%
Used multiple devices to access automotive information before buying their vehicle
Cox Automotive, 'The 2016 Car Buyer Journey'
While the focus in retail marketing tends to be on the initial customer acquisition, delivering a seamless customer experience at every level of the customer life cycle will ultimately strengthen the customer's relationship with your dealership and instil loyalty in your brand.
'Walk-ins' should be consistently measured
While consumer behaviour is evolving and the vast majority of car buyers carry out extensive pre-purchase research online, more than half of car buyers do not make any contact with the dealership prior to their first visit.

It is therefore crucial for dealers to have effective sourcing and CRM processes in place to help understand initial contacts and walk-in traffic.
Initial contact with dealership
56%
walk-in
25%
phone
14%
email
3%
live chat
Cox Automotive, 'The 2016 Car Buyer Journey'
Dealers are already using effective follow-up techniques like personalised videos however a robust and time limited follow-up process should be consistently practiced in order to manage these warm leads.
Personalising the customer experience
While customers pay for their vehicle in a bricks-and-mortar dealership, the majority of the purchasing journey is digital. 95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information.

Customers are increasingly knowledgable about potential purchases and can easily access a range of information on car review sites, blogs, social media sites and competitor OEM and dealer websites . This information ranges from vehicle performance to financing, car tax and aftersales experiences.
95%
Of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information
Google/comScore, 'Automotive Shopper Study' US, Jan 2017
With this proliferation of information sources, there is a need for a deeper understanding of customers and a more personalised approach to the sales process. A more refined customer segmentation process and insight into buying behaviour will be required, while, crucially, being clear with customers as to how their data is being managed.

An effective omni-channel approach to customer acquisition will need to be supported by an integrated CRM system in order to provide a truly personalised experience.
Leveraging data in the aftersales department
Investment in dealer management and CRM systems has traditionally focused on the sales department, with the ability to produce sophisticated real time reports that can be instantly relayed back to the OEM. However, with increased competition in the sector, aftersales is seen as an area where dealers can gain a real competitive advantage to win repeat customers.

Much like the car buying process, digital is influencing how customers research and buy services and parts as they turn to social media platforms, review sites and forums.

With the majority of car owners scheduling their service appointment rather than walking in, dealerships are recognising the need to improve their online service scheduling facility to offer greater convenience, speed and simplicity. Providing customers with a seamless, user-friendly service experience has the potential to significantly grow aftersales customer retention and in turn, cross over to the car sales department.
85%
Said their experience with the Service Department has influenced their likelihood of purchasing another vehicle
Cox Automotive Maintenance & Repair study 2016, 2017 XTime Market Research Study
In relation to parts, online sales have seen a sharp increase with the growth in e-commerce platforms targeted at the car buyer rather than the trade.

While these challenges are apparent, by professionalising their approach to customer satisfaction and loyalty within the aftersales department and effectively leveraging customer data, dealers can further increase customer satisfaction and retention.
Summary
Crafting a holistic CRM and digital strategy is becoming vital to today's modern dealership and...
* Cox Automotive, 'The 2016 Car Buyer Journey'
** Bain Global automotive customer survey 2017

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