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Brooke Craven

Brooke Craven Marketing Manager

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Cultivating Customer Loyalty: What Do Automotive Customers Really Want?

Across every industry, finding ways to cater to the customer is key. Until you truly understand your buyer persona and direct your marketing campaigns around this knowledge, the time, money and resources spent on the endeavor could prove fruitless. Yet, while we might have insight into what retail customers want based on their web traffic, brick-and-mortar purchases, survey responses and more, it’s often a little more difficult and nuanced to determine what your automotive clients are looking for.

To this end, many dealerships employ age-old, tried-and-true tactics to appeal to their target audience. Chief among them are loyalty or membership cards aimed at incentivizing the path to purchase with promotions, discounts off and more, with rewards often tiered and rolled out over time. Yet, while there are undoubtedly plenty of people across the customer walking around with such cards in their wallets or inside their glove compartments, are these still the most valuable and useful outreach tools? Not according to one recent study, which found that the conversation around such cards and programs altogether is up to 90% negative. There are a slew of reasons why, ranging from the rewards being difficult to redeem to their generally uncustomized look and feel.

Understanding this, tech-savvy and forward-thinking automotive marketers can make strides to determine what their customers really do want, which perks most appeal to them and what they’re looking for in a dealer relationship. Though there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are a few key trends that give us general insight into what works and what doesn’t. Let’s take a look.

Smart But Accessible Features

Sure, a car that comes with a ton of bells and whistles should be a gold star by any standard. Yet, despite popular belief, it is possible to inundate your buyers with too much of a good thing. Required and necessary safety features aside, does the car offer too many perks or possibilities that your customers simply aren’t looking for? Do they even need a third-row seat or an extra-large storage compartment? Will they fumble around with the features as they try to become acquainted with them?

The good news is you can ascertain the answers to these questions in your initial conversations with most car shoppers. Take the time to listen to their needs, as well as their dream checklist, then lead them to vehicles that fit that bill. While it’s fine to showcase options that are feature-rich, be sure that these features are aligned with their overall lifestyle and needs. Doing so reveals you’re keeping their best interests in mind and aren’t just looking to upsell them on the latest model. Otherwise, you could provide them with distracting and potentially unsafe options that were never needed in the first place.

A Unique Selling Proposition

Sure, your GMs want to see your inventory levels strategically maintained. And, salespersons are ultimately hired to sell. Yet, going into a potential transaction with a price tag as a leading, end-all-be-all discussion can mean missing some of your dealership’s other equally important talking points.

In the race to offer the lowest price in town, many dealerships will lose sight of the other features and benefits they can offer their customers. For instance, do you offer a certain level of maintenance or support with every purchase, such as a lifetime powertrain warranty? Is your team the most experienced in town? What about roadside assistance, 24-hour towing, or other pluses? If you offer vehicular accessories or other tools in your shop, do you have a reorder formula in place (read more here to calculate yours) that ensures their needed equipment is never out of stock? Rather than sticking tightly to low-price advertising, consider what sets your dealership apart and don’t be afraid to lead with those topics before even getting into bottom line figures.

A Personalized Dealer Approach

We live in a world where technology is key and automation is quickly taking the place of human interaction. Thus, it’s not uncommon for a client to walk into a dealership and be immediately greeted by an impersonal kiosk of options. While there is a time and a place for such convenience, studies show that most modern buyers still prefer a personal conversation. In fact, 52% of car buyers claim to feel as though they’re in a corn maze when they interact with such digital service systems. The same goes for hearing standard machine feedback such as “Your call is important to us” on the other end of a phone call.

Rather, the same study showed that 47% of auto customers would rather work directly with an empathetic and understanding sales professional than an online system, even if that person were incompetent. The takeaway? The emotional aspect of the buying journey is often the most important part and while technology can help dealerships become more streamlined and efficient, it cannot take the place of a one-on-one dealer interaction, nor should it.

Listening to and Learning From Your Automotive Customers

At the end of the day, the dealer/buyer relationship is one built on trust. If your customers feel that you’re out to make a buck or trying to earn their loyalty through generalized gimmicks or half-hearted loyalty attempts, it won’t take long before they seek a more tailored and customized marketing approach.

On the other hand, if you make it a best practice to listen intently to your clients, learn from them and use that information to guide the transaction forward, chances are high they’ll leave feeling satisfied and secure in their new purchase. When it comes down to it, automotive buyers are just like any others. They want peace of mind, a price they can live with and an understanding agent with their best interest in mind.

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