A recent Google search for “customer experience” produced around 1.49 billion results. And refining the search to “customer experience in the automotive industry” reduced this to about 251 million results. Clearly, this is a subject that has already garnered an endless amount of research and discussion—a clear sign of the transformation taking place in the industry.
Driven in large part by big retail disruptors such as Amazon and Uber, consumers have fundamentally changed their expectations of, and demand for, a vehicle purchase experience. What seems to be less obvious, however, is that what consumers have always preferred hasn’t changed at all. Of course, buyers never wanted a mediocre purchase experience—they often just didn’t have a choice. Customers simply want a personalized experience that reduces friction and saves time. Now, with increased competition, new technologies, and unprecedented access, customers do have a choice. And they’re exercising that power of choice to determine where they spend their money.
People buy experiences
This fact was driven home in a recent PostFunnel article identifying seven powerful customer experience trends for 2019. The key eye-opener is at #1: Experience Above All. The article states, “In today’s world of choice, the entire customer experience should be one that leaves the customer not even pondering cost for a moment, but instead relishing the sheer joy they feel each and every time they interact with your brand and its offerings. Aside from simply being the right approach, there’s no escaping the universal trend.”
In other words, consumers want the entire act of purchasing—not simply the purchase itself—to be highly enjoyable, even delightful. According to the article, 86% of them are even willing to pay more to make that happen. Which brings us to the obvious question: why is this a surprise? Why wouldn’t customers prefer that?
Instead of convincing sometimes reluctant buyers to hurry up and make a purchase, then, the goal becomes more about collaborating with them in various ways to create a memorable experience they’ll want to continue after the sale. Impractical as that might sound, the article paints a mutually beneficial picture: the revenue growth of CX leaders is over five times that of those who fail to make this factor a top priority.
Unlike retailers a decade ago, dealers striving to create a customer-centric climate in 2019 have a wealth of industry-leading tools to deliver the experience consumers demand and gain an edge over the competition. Today’s buyers want proactive engagement almost to the point of mind-reading—they like knowing about all available solutions before they’re ever faced with a problem. To accommodate their preference, dealers can harness the power of on-demand sales, accessories, and service marketing campaigns to engage regularly with their customers. With the set-it-and-forget-it functionality provided through automation, shoppers can stay continuously engaged via multiple channels: email, mail, SMS, voice, and social media. And dealers can rely on built-in machine learning to know their customers are consistently receiving the most relevant communications at just the right time.
Consumers also place a high value on real-time personalization at every level, though. As with engagement, shoppers are looking for businesses that interact with them on an individual basis—ones that can anticipate their needs and have a wide variety of options to choose from. One sure-fire method for long-term customer engagement? E-newsletters. Unlike the “one-size-fits-all” communications of the past, digital newsletters now can target every customer personally with unique offers, including those based on an individual’s service history, current incentives, and even equity positions.
In addition, digital content keeps customers up to date about upcoming events and exciting promotions at your dealership, educates them about vehicle maintenance, provides awareness about local attractions, and more. In fact, retailers have an abundance of options when it comes to curating their own newsletters. And the payoff? Customers highly engaged in a dealership’s digital property (their website, email communications, SMS text messages, mobile app, Facebook page, etc.) are six times more likely to make a vehicle purchase and twice as likely to have their vehicle serviced there.
So we know it’s important to maintain customer engagement with personalized messages to give them the experience they’re looking for. But here’s where automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning capabilities can really up the ante. In keeping up with the consumer preference for receiving solutions prior to being confronted with problems, dealers can pinpoint ideal trade prospects at optimal times and offer them attention-grabbing, personalized equity offers either onsite or via email and direct mail. Creating this unique, individualized, and transparent experience is easy with tools that offer customized features, such as allowing the sales staff to personalize the vehicle and trim for specific customers. Or giving shoppers access to their own web portal where they can swap inventory, change payment options, and/or contact the salesperson regarding the offer at their convenience.
Adding total transparency
As a recent industry blog will attest, the demand for transparency, flexibility, and consistency is particularly critical for buyers trading in a vehicle as part of a purchase. And this can often be one of the most emotional and contentious aspects of the sale. So what are you doing to ensure transparency during the trade process?
If the customers are directly involved in each step of a trade-in appraisal, confusion, suspicion, and possible defection can be virtually eliminated. Tools that offer prospective buyers guaranteed pricing, a quick and easy appraisal process, and total transparency from start to finish create invaluable trust and enable you to close more sales.
Putting it all together
Today’s consumers are asking significantly more of all retailers. And automotive dealers have the unique responsibility of shaping the majority of the vehicle ownership experience—so they should do their best to tilt that experience in their favor. Advanced technology to manage multi-channel campaigns, e-newsletters, personalized equity offers, the beginning stages of the trade-in process, and more can be the ideal solutions for pleasing customers and delivering the experience they’ve come to demand. Even better, these tools simplify sales processes for dealers, thus creating happier buyers and sellers for the long term.
Director of Marketing Communications