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If you have been following the buzz words in automotive retail, chances are that you’ve heard about the importance of digital retailing. If not, don’t fear. Read on as we break it down for you.
Digital retailing, while it may go by different themes, is essentially allowing a customer to start the car-buying journey online at the dealership website.
Traditionally the car-buying process followed a nonlinear approach, starting with the customer doing a lot of research, back and forth between a variety of brands, visits to multiple dealerships, multiple rounds of negotiation and finally grinding to a deal. Gone are the days where dealerships were in control of the car purchase process. Today, dealerships need to be able to capture the attention of consumers who visit them online or instore and layout a linear purchase path.
The job of dealership marketing department is to bring leads into the CRM. Then it becomes the job of sales team to convert those leads into customers. More leads should yield more sales. Sounds simple, right? In theory, yes. In practice, not so much.
Lead conversion is an exact science and only the perfect mix of ingredients will get it right. It is all well and good investing thousands in digital marketing each month and generating website traffic, but unless that traffic is converting to a prospect, a lead or a sale, what’s the point?
Digital retailing makes it easy for the customer to start the journey and explore different buying options at their comfort without anyone looking over their shoulders or pressurizing them to make an instant decision. It is a very effective way of ensuring your website traffic converts into “super leads.” Super leads have rich contextual information on the customer’s thinking, such as the monthly payment they may be looking for, the maximum amount they can put down, the trade-in options they have, the F&I upsells they may be interested in. Even if the customer abandons in between, the breadcrumbs that are leftover are a marketer’s dream. They will be able to send targeted and personalized campaigns to each lead at scale.
Dealership marketers should be able to constantly capture the consumer’s attention with content, ads and offers, and digital retailing can help layout a purchase path along which to guide shoppers. It is time to reimagine click-to-action events; they need to be transformed into click-to-transact events. For example, a Facebook or craigslist ad that currently has the “Call Us” or “Email Us” actions, and digital retailing can convert those actions into a “Buy From Us” with minimal changes.
Linear Sales Funnel vs Non-Linear Sales Funnel
In a traditional sales funnel, the expectation is that the customer moves from awareness to purchase in a linear process. The awareness process may start in third-party sites like Autotrader, CarGurus, TrueCar, Cars.com etc. Typical conversion of these leads falls between 5% and 8% and the dealerships may spend upwards of $10,000 to these vendors. It is not uncommon to find that dealerships are spending around $500 per lead. The CTAs on dealers’ website like “Get E-Price,” “Trade-in” and “Test Drive” also yield leads that are at the top of the funnel.
In a nonlinear sales funnel, the premise is that the customer controls the journey without being sold to or touched by a salesperson at the start of the journey. A dominant CTA in the web page leads the customer to start the decision-making process. In a step-by-step approach, the customer can unlock the best pricing, get trade-in price, see the monthly payment options for retail/lease with different cash down options, customize the vehicle with accessories and add protection programs that are best suited for their needs. All these can be done without even speaking to a salesperson.
If the lead drops off in the funnel, the digital retailing platform can engage a marketing automation function. The rich set of events captured in each of the customer steps may automatically invoke rules within the automation tool. For example, if the customer added a trade-in and that is in short supply in dealership inventory, an automatic email can be sent on behalf of the used car manager to request the customer to bring in for trade appraisal. The digital retailing platform can also integrate with dealership’s Google Tag Manager and the same dashboard can be reused for event tracking.
Marketing is a nonstop activity; it is all about experimentation and learning from the customer behavior and adjusting the marketing message to resonate with the website visitors. Enabling a seamless digital experience for shoppers will help your marketing team to convert leads into customers and brand loyalists for life.