Ready for some straight talk about how traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers are faring in the digital realm? The 2016 version of Deloitte’s New Digital Divide report is here, and the results aren’t great. Yet the insights uncovered offer exciting opportunities for dealerships just like yours to turn the tide and dominate online.
Here’s the deal: there’s a growing gap between the digital experiences that brick-and-mortar retailers deliver to customers and the experiences their customers actually desire. As a result, retailors have less influence over the purchase journey even as more people flock online to shop for goods and services. What’s going on? The report points to huge platforms like Amazon and Pinterest that interact with customers every day (sometimes for several hours a day) and so have deep troves of customer data that allow them to tailor content and messaging to each user for a dynamic and exceptional customer experience; an experience which customers come to expect from every digital interaction.
You may be thinking “how can I compete with that?” After all, most dealerships and other retailers have limited interaction with customers – an average of six to eight transactions a year. This limits your understanding of the “moments that matter” in a personalized experience, such as purchase intent and customer preferences. But you can compete and offer the personalized digital experience your customers’ desire. The answer lies in leveraging multiple sources of data from inside and outside your dealership to truly understand your target markets and create a broad range of customized experiences that will help you dominate in the digital world. Here are five ways to do it:
1. Seek an in-depth understanding of your customers
In today’s digital world, personalization is everything. Just look how Amazon customizes what a customer sees based on prior searches, page views, wish-list additions, and purchases. And the personalization payoff is huge – the Deloitte study found that 48% of shoppers and 58% of Millennials are willing to share personal details to acquire better service or perks, or to receive more personalized emails with offers and recommendations. You can take a page from Amazon’s book and learn more about your target consumers thanks to research companies like Experian and Nielsen that closely track consumer behavior and preferences. Whether you work directly with these companies or partner with an automotive data expert, you can access the makeup of car buyers in your target zip codes, drill down to see what interests buyers in a particular vehicle model, and learn what they value in a buying experience.
2. Embrace diverse digital initiatives
It follows that once you have a more personal understanding of your customers, the old “spray and pray” campaign where you put a generic message and out there and hope for the best just won’t cut it anymore. Dealers who recognize that digital initiatives appeal differently across customer segments will have an advantage in today’s digital marketplace. With the right data and analysis you can also determine where your customers are already interacting and transacting, and be there for those “moments that matter” when they’re ready to move forward in a vehicle search. Whether that’s third-party automotive sites or social media platforms, you can capture the customer at a time when digital influence is high and set your dealership up to win a motivated, low-funnel lead. A combination of initiatives is the way to win in today’s marketplace.
3. Move from a campaign mind-set to a customer mind-set
Again, this strategy is all about putting the customer’s desires and preferences first. As the study points out, retailers have been painfully slow at moving from a legacy campaign mind-set (where everything is planned around sales events) to a customer mind-set (where the planning process is built around the needs of different segments of customers, not sales events). This has to change. Companies doing it right understand that it’s all about the customer, not the company. Following the two strategies above will naturally lead you to think more about your customers, but don’t make the mistake of using this information only to better target the message you want to deliver. Instead, use it to uncover your customers’ pain points and address their needs.
4. Allow for self-directed purchase journeys
It’s natural to want to lead customers down a linear path to purchase, but that’s not how most customers shop today. They want to be in control of how and when they engage retailers. This is backed up by the Deloitte study where 66% of respondents wanted a self-directed journey, a steep increase from just 30% two years ago. In practice, this means using digital to allow customers to find their own way instead of following a prescribed path through your inventory and purchase process. A fluid structure where customers can find inspiration at the moment that matters most to them will naturally lead to a better experience and further engagement.
5. Engage in meaningful ways
Not all engagement is created equal. Today’s digitally-savvy consumers’ demand value from every engagement – otherwise it’s just noise to be ignored. The more you can dig into data and uncover your target markets intents and preferences, the more meaningfully you can engage with personalized offers and recommendations. This is the type of valuable content that motivates consumers to take action.
This is an exciting time to re-evaluate your digital strategy so you can be one of the retailers doing it right and winning more market share. Just like Amazon and other big players, let data drive your targeted marketing efforts and capitalize on those digital “moments that matter” to lift leads and sales. When you create a broad range of customized experiences and put personalization first, you can dominate in the digital world.