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Amy Scott

Amy Scott Regional Sales Manager

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Brand and Dealer Loyalty – a Fine Balance?


Think about the last time you visited a business such as McDonald’s, Target, or a 7-11.  Now, think about the store itself – did you select the store because of convenience, or because you were dedicated to a specific location?  Sometimes the answer is both, but more often than not, like most consumers, you are making the choice based on convenience.  Either way, your decision was likely based on the brand or company name and not the individual business or the people that work behind its doors.

Will a customer repeatedly choose your dealership for sales, service or your collision center because of who you are and the people on your team? Does your dealership name stand out in the minds of consumers? Or will they choose your location because of the brand you offer and the service they have previously received at a different dealership of the same brand?

At your dealership, do you consider your regular customers brand loyal? Or do you consider them loyal to your dealership? If you offer a loyalty program such as free or discounted service - is it dealership specific or can the customer visit any of your locations to receive and/or redeem their perks?

Many dealers confuse customer loyalty and brand loyalty. The mere fact that consumers are bringing their same brand vehicle to a dealer for service doesn’t necessarily mean loyalty to the business. It could mean that they are showing loyalty to the brand. While there will never be a definitive way to separate the two, there are a few ways to get a good idea. Dealers can track post-purchase behavior by off-brand used car buyers and monitor their use of the service department. They can also watch for new car customers who move out of the area but return for service despite the inconvenience of the location.. Another telltale sign would be customers who lived out of the area when the initial purchase was made but continuously service their vehicle at your dealership.


What does loyalty really mean these days?

An article posted on poses the question as to what “loyalty” really means in today’s world:

“Can a customer who makes multiple repeat purchases from one retailer, but who also shops with a competitor brand, really be called loyal?”

When applied to auto groups or multi-brand dealerships, it would be hard to imagine that any dealer would care which of their stores a customer patronizes as long as it’s one they own. However, whether you have a single-point or an auto group, an easy way to gauge whether your customers are loyal to your business, or the brand, is to identify how many off-brand vehicles your service departments are taking in. Regardless of whether you own a branded store or not. For example, an auto group may have both a Honda dealership and a Ford dealership. If customers who bought pre-owned Hondas at the Ford dealership then service those vehicles at the Ford dealership rather than the Honda dealership, it’s a safe bet that these customers are using the Ford location out of loyalty.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with brand loyalty. In fact, dealers who support their brand’s messages will see their own efforts more successful. Marketing messages that are targeted and consistent with a brand message, or that are sent to specific targeted and segmented audiences, will always see a more successful conversion than those that are not consistent with the brand. Just like your own marketing should be consistent in that a consumer recognizes the message across channelsealer created marketing should not only offer the dealership’s unique value propositions but also those of the brand. Regardless of whether you are a Hyundai dealer or a Lamborghini dealer, your brand is able to spend an exponentially greater amount of money on brand marketing than are.

Set yourself apart by offering superior service.

Whether you operate a large, multi-franchise organization or a small dealership, you already know that every customer counts. It’s much more challenging and more expensive to acquire new clients than it is to foster relationships and retain existing customers. To ensure that your customers return to your dealership repeatedly is to insist upon the highest levels of service by every member of your staff.  Outstanding customer service may be the only way to distinguish your dealership from the one across town that sells and services the same brand. Dealers who prioritize customer service will find that they are able to generate more loyal customers, rather than finding that customers are coming to them simply because they are the most convenient brand location or because they have a certain franchise.

Dealers who focus on differentiating themselves by offering an excellent customer experience can target their marketing to send relevant messages to the people most likely to be interested. This, together with the support of the manufacturer’s branding efforts, and they will see their marketing conversion and ROI excel and their loyal customer base grow.

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