In this article, interviews a variety of dealership customers and shares their strategies, insights and proven best practices on how they use mobile technology to increase pre-orders, service appointments and F&I profitability.
Your Mobile Customers Want to be Connected to You
First, understanding the unique nature of consumer’s mobile behavior is essential to achieving a competitive advantage. Whether they’re a customer or potential buyer, consumers rely on and interact with their smartphones much more devotedly and frequently than they do with any other tools today.
As Kelsey Bilyk, Marketing Director at Lacombe Ford and Drayton Valley Ford puts it, “The behavior of a mobile app user vs. a non-user is key to our ROI. Non-mobile users will simply go to our website to access relevant dealer information. While they prefer a passive experience through their laptops, the challenge for our dealership is that we lose that one-to-one connection once they leave our website. We can miss opportunities without really knowing they were even there until we review our website analytics later on (by then it’s too late). Mobile app users, on the other hand, are much more interactive through their smartphones. Buying a vehicle from us will typically be the first or second largest investment our customers will make in their lifetime. That said, customers want to be connected to our dealership; they prefer the convenience of scheduling a service from our mobile app; they appreciate the peace of mind that they get with one-touch call roadside assistance; they are keen to receive updates on our mobile offers, community events and special promotions. Our mobile app users engage with our business more frequently; and they are more likely to be advocates and share with their friends, family, and colleagues. This unique connection, usage and social sharing behavior is essential to growing our business and keeping our customers loyal to us.”
Service Means Providing Exceptional Value
For modern, forward-thinking dealerships, courtesy, honesty, friendliness, professionalism, punctuality and reliability are a few of the qualities that define exceptional value. Extending this value along with the vehicles’ service history into the digital realm delivers incremental value to customers and keeps them coming back.
Richard Davies, Vice President of Midland Hondagoes on to say, “Delivering a VIP experience is our unrelenting commitment to our customers. We use mobile technology to help serve our customers better. We’re delivering engaging experiences by enabling our customers to directly schedule a service from their smartphone, as well as, improving our customers’ ownership experience by giving them access to their service history. Our customers are assured that servicing their vehicle regularly and retaining the all-important service history records from their smartphone could add value when the time comes to sell and give buyers confidence a car has been well cared-for.”
Digital Retailing Drives Sales
Amazon is disrupting all facets of retail. Automotive is no different as Tesla has made a dramatic shift in its sales strategy by moving all of its sales online. While Tesla can make this move more gracefully than traditional dealerships, given that they run both manufacturing and sales themselves, car dealerships can capitalize on this trend and meet consumer expectations, by transitioning to an online retail experience by allowing potential buyers to view inventory online and complete the majority of the sale from the comfort of their mobile device.
Mike Linder, Marketing Director, Ohio Truck Groupmaintains, “Our mobile dealer app has boosted our online inventory views by over 620,000 over the past twelve months which has helped us to exceed our monthly sales targets and drive more sales growth. Our branded dealer app has helped us to 10x our monthly sales by generating more leads and converting more buyers to customers.”
Customer Analytics Help Buyers Buy
Dealerships can use analytics to measure performance and make decisions that will help maximize sales and profit margins. Analytics uses information about your customers to proactively engage them at the right time and give them what they need even before they come looking for it. With the right customer data insights, dealerships can gain a competitive advantage and deliver highly personalized experiences to maximize the potential of every opportunity.
Michael Mills, General Manager, Champion Chevrolet Buick Cadillac GMCsays, “Our mobile analytics give us a better understanding of our customers’ mobile behavior. We have more insight into who is downloading our app, how often they use it, how many mobile offers and loyalty rewards are being redeemed, how many referrals are being shared, which prospects are visiting our competitors, just to name a few. What’s more, our marketing team is more effective in sending targeted mobile notifications and offers that are relevant to our customers’ buying cycle. For example, we can search for customers that have a high probability that they are in the market for a new vehicle and proactively invite them to RSVP to a special event. This level of personalization helps us sell more cars and improve loyalty to our dealership.”
Customer Referrals Will Improve Your Business Exponentially
Customer referral programs have proven to increase sales and profitability for dealerships. Referrals not only reduce the cost of customer acquisition, but also have a higher close ratio especially when referred by a trusted family member or friend. To increase referrals, successful dealers have turned to innovative digital programs that leverage their loyal customers’ vast social networks and incentivize them for recommending family, friends and colleagues in the market for a vehicle.
Rick Funk, Principal, Funks Toyotasays, “Our customers are our greatest asset and we want to reward them for their business and their loyalty. That said, digital word-of-mouth has been one of our strongest marketing tools for selling vehicles. Through our mobile app, customers are able to share a referral promotion through any digital channel, including social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; peer-to-peer platforms such as Skype, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp; as well as, traditional communication channels such as texting and email. These channels, particularly social networks, where loyal customers can reach hundreds of friends and family members, are a great way to generate qualified sales leads. Conservatively speaking, if just one percent responds in our customer’s social network, that results in hundreds of leads per month. Our digital referral program is trackable so that the person that referred our dealership gets a reward, the new customer takes advantage of a promotion, and we get a new customer. Everybody wins.”
Grow with the Influence of Online Reputation
You have happy customers and you are now getting more referrals and repeat business. The next step is to spread the word of your positive brand reputation through online reviews. According to Cars.com, 80% of car shoppers will use review sites when selecting a dealership. Unfortunately, reaching out to customers and asking for reviews on popular review websites is not generally practiced by all dealerships. This gives an edge to those dealerships that are paying attention to their reputation online.
Travis Graddon, General Manager, Roger Jobs Motorssays, “Our online reputation is one of the strongest marketing tactics to build a pipeline for leads. A great reputation sends a powerful message that our dealership has the confidence and trust of our customers. While we use a variety of mechanisms to request a review, our mobile dealer app is very effective to our growth strategy. It enables us to send targeted notifications to our customers’ smartphones requesting them to leave an online review. In addition to sending a compelling alert to their smartphone, we’re able to prompt them with a call-to-action which automatically directs them to the appropriate review site where they are more likely to leave a review.”
Leverage Geofencing to Be More Competitive
According to Google, 71% of a car shopper’s interactions take place on a mobile device, making geo-fencing one of the most highly effective lead generation strategies in the automotive industry. Geo-fencing enables auto dealerships to set up a virtual perimeter around their dealership location as well as competitor lots. When customers and potential buyers pass through the perimeter, they trigger a timely and personalized message alert to their smartphone enticing them with an effective call-to-action to visit your dealership, provide them with better options, and win the sale.
Henri Yassa, Internet Director, Riverside Metro Automotive Groupsays, “We use geofencing in a variety of ways to increase our visibility. We geo-fence our competitors’ dealerships and send timely and personalized incentives to active buyers who are currently shopping on their lots. We can promote new inventory, captivating offers, and special events such as a Black Friday Sale. We also geo-fence our own dealership to improve service retention with existing customers as they drive by. In addition, we use geo-fence to target major events with large groups of people who may be potential vehicle buyers, such as a local parade, local fair, and annual new-car show. It helps us drive additional foot traffic to our showrooms in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This in conjunction with our detailed analytics, we know exactly when a potential buyer visits our competitors and have the opportunity to reach out to them in a timely manner before they purchase from another dealership. Sending the right message at the right time helps us to convert more potential buyers to customers and keep them loyal to our dealership.”
About Mobile Dealer
Mobile Dealer is the leading provider of car dealer app mobile solutions that grow sales, service, parts and F&I revenue for auto groups. Mobile Dealer helps dealerships to increase pre-orders, service appointments and F&I profitability with its product portfolio, including Mobile Dealer App, Digital Loyalty Rewards, Geofencing, Customer Portal and Mobile Payments solution.