Not too long ago, a customer’s first step when considering a car purchase was a trip to the dealership. That’s no longer true. Today, 88% of car buyers use the Internet to research and shop for a new or used vehicle. Almost half do their research using multiple devices, and by the time they come into the dealership, they know what they want, with 38% going only to a single dealership and 56% test driving just one vehicle. The growing trend of the on-demand, informed consumer means that auto marketers and the sales team must know as much as possible about the customer the moment they connect with the dealership.
While typically auto marketers focus on outbound strategies to attract customers, many overlook the opportunity to leverage identity data and personalization strategies that come with a solid inbound omnichannel marketing initiative. It is more evident than ever that consumers have taken the wheel and are ready to do business on their terms. In this environment, when customers have their minds nearly made up before even calling or visiting the dealership, auto dealers need to handle inbound customers with the same consistent, compelling and personalized treatment they deliver with outbound marketing, regardless of the channel used.
Linking Inbound Marketing and Customer Experience
Inbound auto shoppers connect with dealers in a variety of ways, e.g., calling, emailing, filling out forms, walking in the door. Regardless of how they connect, do you have the critical insights and data to recognize if the potential buyer that is calling or sending your dealership email inquiries has already talked to your internet sales manager? Have they bought from you before? If so, do you have accurate and up-to-date identity information on them (have they moved, changed phone numbers, etc.)? Did they receive a direct mail trade-in offer? What was the offer and what was included in it?
As customers use multiple devices in their research, an on-demand omnichannel inbound lead identification and verification strategy helps identify shoppers from even a fractional identity, e.g., a single email address or phone number, and answers these questions. Once an inbound consumer is identified, additional attributes and intelligence can enable the dealer to provide targeted messaging and promotions, consistent with outbound efforts. Profiles enhanced in real-time with past and current automotive ownership histories, demographics, psychographics, lifestyle behavior and buying power data provides a pinpoint view of the customer’s likes and dislikes, purchase behavior and ability, and evolving choices. This is critical information for maintaining consistent omnichannel messaging and enhanced consumer experiences, resulting in higher volume conversions and higher value customers.
Using Technology and Processes to Enhance the Inbound Customer Experience
Having accurate and complete identity and attribute information at hand is key, but it is essential that it automatically links back to the dealership CRM. This is a critical part of the inbound identification process, regardless if the customer has called, emailed or visited the mobile website in the past, gone for a test drive or purchased from the dealer before. This instant identification and enhancement with valuable information enables the sales representative to quickly understand the customer’s needs before engaging with the customer and deliver a more customized experience.
An omnichannel inbound lead identification strategy doesn’t just help the dealer, it improves the customer experience and minimizes their frustration. Top dealerships are constantly updating the customer information within their CRM to ensure all inbound communications are instantly identified. In the case of active prospects, this information reduces both dealer and customer frustration as customers don’t have to tell the same story to each new person they speak with—the history is already in their CRM, tied to accurate, linked consumer profile information e.g., home and email addresses, mobile and landline phone number, etc. Since 50% of customers will contact a dealer before coming in and 90% of those inbound leads buy within one week, having that information to draw the customer in is essential. When you can link the customer’s identification to your CRM – with as little as a phone number or email, and respond with consistent, omnichannel messaging, you have more tools to provide a seamless customer experience.
Technology alone won’t create a consistent, compelling experience from outbound to inbound engagement. You’ll also need processes in place to make the system work, and your team needs to be onboard. This means automatically capturing inbound phone number and email information and instantly linking it back to your CRM. With this fractional information and strong third-party consumer identity data, you can consistently add intelligence to a customer profile, such as name, mailing address, current and previously owned vehicles, income, wealth score, risk proxy score, home ownership information, and a wealth of attributes that enables the most relevant and consistent omnichannel messaging. Not only will you develop a more complete picture of your customer, this information will help you with lead verification and lead scoring, to determine the likelihood that a customer will buy. It will also help you maintain effective and relevant dialogue with the customer after the purchase is made. Ensuring your dealership team follows up with prospective customers every step of the way will make your technology tools that much more effective.
Consider these three steps to help serve inbound customers:
1. Develop a process to continuously update your CRM with customer identity data, using a persistent ID number that keeps disparate and often siloed data linked to a profile. This is particularly important within dealership groups that may have separate CRMs, but need to maintain consistent inbound messaging. Consider linking households within the CRM, so that all inbound activity from a single household is captured. For example, if one partner does the research and the other partner comes in for a test drive, the inbound omnichannel communication remains consistent and relevant.
2. Utilize third-party identity data to enhance your profiles with rich identity and attribute information, linking all of it through the persistent ID. With just a fractional piece of consumer information, you can fully identify consumers and gain insight into their demographics, buying behavior and historical data, enabling your sales team to quickly land the customer on the right vehicle and improve delivery times.
3. Frequently update and enhance your CRM data to appropriately segment your customers. Ensure the customers are always in the right segment, even as their lives change, so your omnichannel marketing messages are always relevant, every time your customers communicate through inbound channels.
As consumers increasingly take charge of their auto buying needs, dealerships need to ensure a strong omnichannel lead identity strategy to engage on-demand consumers’ inbound requests for stronger personalized interactions that ultimately result in lifetime customers.
Author: Dave Dague
Dave Dague, a 25-year veteran of the Information Services and Analytics industry, is a cross-channel consumer identification, verification and marketing solutions thought leader to the advertising, financial services, retail, telecommunications and other industries. Prior to joining Infutor as Executive Vice President of Marketing, Dave served as CMO for Gravy Analytics, a Gannett-backed mobile, location based behavioral insights company. Previously, Dave was CMO for Neustar and CMO for TargusInfo, which was purchased by Neustar in 2011.