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Guest blog: Using data to boost your sales

Author: Natalie Allen, research director at SPA Future Thinking

Using data to boost your sales – top 10 tips

A Mintel report, Purchasing of New and Second-hand Cars in the UK, suggests that just over 20 per cent of all potential car buyers know exactly which make and model they are likely to buy next.
This gives manufacturers and dealers a huge opportunity to influence the brand purchase decision of almost 80 per cent of all potential car buyers. That’s 4 out of 5 people who could be buying a competitor brand.
So how can you identify who these lapsed purchasers are, and bring them back around to the stage where they are ready to consider buying your brand again? Data is everything – here are SPA Future Thinking research director Natalie Allen’s top tips on how to acquire it, and how to use it.
1.       Use your own existing data
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Utilising your existing customer/potential customer database means you have a ready-made sample of people on which your market research team can build.

  1. Use web interviews
Web interviews can be completed by lost customers once they have been invited via email. Conducting interviews like this over the internet (or web aided personal interviewing - WAPI) is the most efficient and cost-effective way to contact respondents and to continue the brand experience they have already received. WAPI allows respondents to complete a survey at their leisure and when it is convenient for them, and they don’t have to complete the interview in one session.

  1. Know who you are targeting
Make your questionnaire a combination of scaled and closed questions, with a small number of open-ended questions to add insight. Don’t forget to include some demographic and classification questions so that you a) know who you are dealing with and b) how you can better adapt your sales strategy and techniques to better target them c) compare what works across age groups/regions/preference for certain brands, etc, using segmentation analysis. The more accurate the feedback, the better you can tailor your solution.
  1. Obtain actionable information
Ask customers/lapsed customers questions relevant to their experience with you. Look at satisfaction, importance of the brand(s), attractiveness of alternative brands, and the strength of ambivalence. Establish what the strengths and weaknesses of your marques are compared with your competitors.
  1. Identify which segments of your customers are likely to defect (and why)
If you learn more about the reasons for not converting enquirers/people taking a test drive into sales customers, you can start to address them, as well as identify any customers who are still possible purchasers and follow up with them. Don’t be afraid to confront any known issues in your questionnaire, as well as your product and service strategy.
  1. Ask the right questions
About the brand potential purchasers were interested in – were they able to find the appropriate vehicle information? Were they provided with a brochure? Was it an e-brochure or hard copy? How did they rate its look (and feel), the level of detail included within, the way it promoted the brand attributes, etc?  
Ask about previous ownership – have enquirers owned a particular brand or model before, and has this impacted on their decision?
Was there a demo vehicle available? If so, what were their product perceptions and driving experience?
Did a follow-up call happen? If so, when? Were they impressed with the manners, helpfulness and knowledge of the person making the call?
And, if they did buy a different car/from a different dealer, what did they buy and when?
  1. Review your data
Data and insight analysis experts are best placed to do this, because they will have processes that review data through a mix of trend analysis and statistical tools. A partnership approach to interpreting and proactively mining the data works best because it can uncover key data stories and, more importantly, data is correctly interpreted and the findings can be applied to your business environment.
  1. Report on every level
Report your findings focusing on national, regional and dealer level – because your research should provide actionable findings that affect the way you operate at every level.
  1. Establish an alert process that identifies possible purchasers
For lapsed customers who, despite dropping out of the purchase funnel the first time around, are identified by your questionnaire as possible purchasers (or who are considering returning to an official workshop for aftersales).
  1. Review your questions
After an initial set period, establish if and where lapsed customers drop out of your survey. If they do, can you make changes to the layout/design, the structure of the questions or tone of questioning, for example?

Many of these tips are research-heavy, but the key to making the most of them is interpreting findings so that you can gain insight on every level – whether you are a manufacturer or an independent dealer –  that enables you to devise a pragmatic strategy you can implement to win back some of that 80 per cent of lapsed customers.
A good market research team will do just that, and turn lost sales into live prospects.

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