By: Larisa Bedgood
Strong customer demand is keeping sales numbers healthy for automotive dealers in the U.S. 2017 is expected to be a strong year again for automotive sales but with some necessary adjustments to product and strategy.
According to a new report by 9 Clouds, a large wave of leases started in 2015 will come back and hit the used vehicle market in the coming year, leading to more selection in the used market and putting more pressure on new vehicle sales. Dealerships must pay attention to these changing trends and focus on understanding consumer needs in the shifting marketplace.
In 9 Clouds report last year, most dealerships said that increasing the volume of their leads was their #1 priority. However this year, improving conversions ranked as top in priority by far.
Many dealerships are utilizing more digital advertising and online techniques than in previous years. Google AdWords, Facebook ads and retargeting ranked as the top 3 tactics.
In terms of the sales department, top priorities included improving sales funnel efficiency, CRM management, hiring/training sales staff, and selling with social media. Phone calls and emails remain the top two channels used by sales departments to convert leads into sales.
The biggest challenges for sales teams are prospecting, quick follow-up and qualifying leads. Salespeople also stated they have little knowledge about a lead besides their contact information.
Holistic Customer View
Dealerships must implement strategies to gain a more holistic view of a lead in order to increase conversions. With basic contact information, a variety of data can be appended to records to gain a better understanding of demographics, preferences, and current vehicle information. For example, what is the make and model of the car the lead is currently driving? How old is the vehicle? What are their purchase behaviors and lifestyle interests? What is their occupation, age and estimated income? A more complete view of each lead will better inform personalized lead conversion strategies.
A majority of consumers start their path to purchase online and spend an average of 79 days on their path to purchase. During this time, they consult more than 24 sources of information. If you are over investing in traditional media such print media and television advertising, you are missing out on many opportunities to reach shoppers along the purchase journey.
During the initial stage of research, make sure you have established a strong digital presence to encourage engagement with your brand. Dealer websites should include lots of content, informational videos, interactive tools, strong SEO, and be optimized for mobile. Engage with consumers on social media. Encourage current customers to leave online reviews. Create YouTube showcasing your inventory and staff. The key is getting found online to be sure your dealership is considered as consumers move along their purchase path.
From the beginning of the purchase journey to the moment a prospect steps onto a lot, dealers need to be sure they understand who these shoppers are at every touch point. Dealers who can blend digital strategies with offline experiences at the dealership will attract more prospects, sell more vehicles, gain more repeat service revenue, and substantially increase dealership sales and profitability.
Bio: As Director of Marketing for DataMentors and Relevate Auto, Larisa has a deep understanding of today’s data-driven marketing environment, including key components such as Right Time Marketing, Data Quality, Business Intelligence, and Data-as-a-Service (DaaS).