Once upon a time, selling a car seemed simpler and more straightforward: a buyer visited a dealership, a salesperson showed them cars, and the buyer selected their favorite. Then technology came along, changing almost everything about that process. Today’s path to car buying is a multi-step journey, one in which 63% of consumers start with a brand in mind, but only 20% end up actually buying that brand. What can the wise automotive marketer glean from this process in order to be on top of their game? Let’s walk the journey ourselves and see what we can find out.
1. Subconscious Cues
An attention-grabbing TV ad, a ride in a friend’s new car, a new feature that catches their eye: the customer doesn’t know they want to buy a car yet, but the idea has begun to germinate in their mind. The wise auto marketer should use predictive models and consumers’ online search behaviors to start reaching out to potential customers before they are even in the market, anticipating their needs and encouraging them in their search.
This is the moment when the subliminal turns into concrete interest: the old jalopy finally dies, the lease is about to come due, the cost to maintain is no longer worth it, or the consumer now has enough equity in the car to make a new purchase worthwhile. This is when the customer starts looking to make the match between the car they want and the car they can afford.
The wise auto marketer should tailor their messaging to the information the customers themselves provide in their search process. Such targeted messaging can be further enhanced through the use of consumer lifestyle, behavioral, and motivation data.
3. The Buy
The consumer is actively in the market and getting closer to sealing a deal. But the sale can still go down to the wire—even during this active phase, plenty of cross-shopping is still going on.
The wise auto marketer should engage with the customer both online and offline, making highly specific and appropriate offers based on data research. Lenders, using data available from credit bureaus, can determine which consumers have applied for car loans. Studies have shown that almost half of these customers are still in the market and can be swayed by more attractive offers, even if they have not applied with you. Finally, be transparent, providing upfront information and excellent customer service. Remember, today’s customers will have already done their homework before they’ve gotten in touch with you.
You did it: the happy consumer signed on the dotted line and drove their new car off the dealership lot. A job well done. The wise auto marketer should know that the relationship does not end here. Savvy marketers will continue to engage with their customer, helping them to set up an easy online billing process with regular reminders; or by providing service, maintenance, and free car washes. And, of course, by monitoring customer activity, marketers can anticipate when these customers cycle around and are once again ready for a refinance, lease, or purchase.
A Symbiotic Relationship
A strong dealer-client relationship is symbiotic: the consumer purchases the car that is the right fit for them—including the financing and customer service—while the dealer gets a satisfied customer whose positive experience will continue to provide dividends beyond the point of sale. By becoming aware of the different stages of the customer’s journey, marketers and lenders can take proactive steps to meeting consumer need—before, during and after the purchasing process—establishing a relationship that will last for years to come.