Are you setting the table for 2017?

In 2017, we will all start to read and hear about some progressive dealers delivering “a lot” of vehicles to customers outside the dealership. All that hard effort is being worked on now behind the scenes. Like everything in our industry this service will evolve and dealers will obviously experience some ups and downs. Smart dealers are setting the table now. My sense is the first group of consumers who will love the option of completing a sale online and taking a delivery off site…are your existing customers. On average, 50% of your customers will remain loyal to your brand. They clearly love your products, live nearby and you already have all their information to create an excellent experience for them. Think about it, when you got your first iPhone you probably went to the Apple store and they helped you set it up. But, how many phones have you ordered online since then? Why? Because they make it easy for their customers and you already know how it basically works. What’s different for a consumer who wants to upgrade to another model of a brand they already love?

My advice is stop treating your customers like the public. They have already purchased and/or serviced with you. Why market to your customers and send them to slow public websites where they can’t log in, and you can’t track them or do anything special for them? Can you imagine going to Amazon and starting over every time you wanted to buy something? With today’s technology, you can start to create an online shopping experience that rivals the best retailers. Silicon Valley is already betting billions on outside companies that are promising a “dealer less” experience. Let’s beat them to the punch this time.

Here are a few things you can do now to “set the table” for your success in 2017.

  1. Create an Amazon like experience by giving your current customers a private, secure, fast and mobile friendly place to shop. Include personalized offers and coupons that are relevant to their vehicle. Make it easy for them to configure a lease or finance payment that includes their trade equity and all OEM rebates and incentives. Enable them to save personal offers to their Apple Wallet or their image library. Allow them to browse your inventory by payment, and ultimately allow them to schedule their delivery. You already have all their data; use it!
  2. Car buyers are highly motivated by monthly payment. More than 85% of todays’ consumers finance or lease their new vehicle purchase. You must get used to making sure you have a realistic lease and finance payment on every vehicle in your inventory. Having a price is great, but only 15% of people write a check. It all starts with an actual VIN and a real payment. There is some very innovative technology to properly price and configure pricing and payments for every vehicle you have in stock. Again, give the shoppers what they want.
  3. Change your advertising content to be more relevant for consumers who want to buy your products. It’s simple. They want to know “do you have what I searched for and how much is it?” Just go search for any new year, make and model in your hometown. Most ad copy still looks like 1980’s newspaper ads. This is not a joke. “Huge Discounts, Big Savings, Great Selection”. That’s dead and not credible. Find an accredited company with Google and Bing that can generate relevant pre-owned and new car ads for every year, make, model and trim you sell and update them nightly in Google, Bing and Facebook…based on your stock and pricing. Your traffic and phone calls will a see significant increase instantly when you give consumers the information they want. Trust me on this. Pundits say you can’t increase traffic without sacrificing quality. That’s nonsense. Relevancy trumps everything in marketing.
  4. You can efficiently communicate with your customers through calls, mail, email, and text. Do this simple exercise and you might be shocked. Take your largest conference room table and lay out every single piece of communication your customers received from your dealership or your OEM (on your behalf) in the last 90 days. Grab all of them, including emails. Write the description of which type of your customers received these communications. Ask yourself 4 questions. First, do you have a clearly defined strategy to communicate timely offers to your customers? Second, are the offers relevant to the vehicle they own and where they are in their life cycle. Third, how much overlap and confusion is there? Fourth, where do you direct your customers, to a public or private site? Often, less is more when directly communicating with your customers. Simple and relevant is always better.
  5. Decide if you want to manage relationships with more or fewer vendors. There are plenty of pros and cons to both approaches. There are literally hundreds of innovative options and their products are more niche than ever. Other companies, like us, have developed a broader technology platform to support an entirely integrated marketing strategy across every medium. It’s not for everyone as some dealer executives are not comfortable with all their “eggs” in fewer baskets. There is no right or wrong. However, if you survey the largest and fastest growing dealers they have far less vendor churn because they develop consistent processes around fewer tools.

Start working now to make sure your dealership is ready to offer all the information and options today’s consumers prefer. My favorite quote from Ali, sums it up.

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights”.

Good luck in 2017.