BUILD THE DEALERSHIP INTO A DIGITAL COMMUNITY
American companies, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, are looking “to eat share” from the automotive industry, said Thomas Power, chief digital officer at specialist consultancy Electric Dog.
“These companies are not your friends. These companies are predators, they’re well organised and very well financed and they hire the best people in the world.
“They want to eat share from something else, that’s what the computer industry does.”
Carmakers are recognising the progress these companies are making in the automotive area and are being forced to change. Digital powers are the car industry’s top concern, according to KPMG research.
The message to the automotive industry is that everything it currently knows is unreliable. The automotive ecosystem in 2025 will see battles fought over vehicle assembly, maintenance, the internet of things and connectivity.
Power said the future for dealers must be in becoming their community’s hub for education in the technology, where consumers come to experience Android Auto or Apple Carplay. Car dealerships in future may also go beyond simply being a place that supplies cars, but become a place to meet and work – he cited growth in Regus business centres as indicating needs for regional business hubs for mobile workers.
“Everything revolves around tech education, because none of us can keep up. So the motor industry has to become the centre of education for tech, particularly as the smartphone
integrates with the car and becomes one. The thrill of the car is the connection with the smartphone, they’re so related. It’s almost like the car is becoming a smartphone with tyres on.”
Dealers must teach about the new powertrain technologies, new in-car applications, gesture control operations, and the internet of things, said Power. BMW is already involved in If This Then That (ifttt.com), which uses connectivity to allow users to automate certain actions, such as receiving a map to where they’ve parked, send a text to their children when they near school or turn their lights on as they arrive home.
A DEALER CASE STUDY – JCT600
When you ask for wine at a restaurant, are you just given wine or are you asked what sort you want? When you’re in a dealership, are you simply given a car or are you allowed to choose the one you want?
Charlotte Murray, JCT600’s head of digital, outlined the five-year journey in delivering the group’s latest website. She highlighted a common pitfall in digital marketing of assuming you know what customers want – or “accepting what the industry tells us we should do”.
Understanding this led JCT600 to carry out an 18-month design-and-build process, of which the first six months were research.
“We operate 18 brands, so we’re dealing with a lot of people, and need to provide a solution appropriate to everyone.
“We worked out who our core customers were – the first-time buyer, the housewife, the middle manager, the doctor and the company owner. These five personas are the focus for all our advertising and marketing.”
JCT600 realised it had an opportunity to exploit the content it could offer to an accepting audience, with research showing that monthly searches on Google for information on cars outstripped those for cats, food and money.
Acknowledging this, content creation took on a wider responsibility, from being exclusive to the marketing department.
“We encourage everyone to support content creation for the website and other digital channels, from showroom and workshop staff, to valeters and cleaners.” All ideas are judged on what will deliver the most value to customers.
With every idea, a hypothesis is written on the rationale for the change and its impact. ‘A-B testing’ is carried out to help reach a conclusion. Only then is a change made to JCT600’s website. Data and analysis drives decision-making, said Murray.
TREAT CUSTOMER DATA SERIOUSLY
Too many dealerships are failing to join up their customer data and digital processes, despite having more data-gathering channels to tap into than ever and despite having customers who are sharing more personal information online than ever.
Jeremy Evans, managing director at eCRM and social media agency Marketing Delivery, said car dealers must harness data from websites, live chat, email, SMS messaging and social media to forge relationships with customers and carefully manage the information it yields.
A customer’s information “should follow them” so there is no need for them to fill in data fields on the dealer’s website each time they have a query or want to book a service.
The correct use of data also enables dealerships to maintain contact with customers well after the point of sale to ensure they feel “understood and valued”, he said.
Marketing Delivery’s own research has shown that 37% of customers had not been contacted in the 12 months following purchase.
Customer communications can be scheduled to combat the quiet periods in the dealership if the data held is correct and properly utilised. One example given was Swansway Group, which recently invested £60,000 in updating the data on its CRM systems and the resulting targeted approach yielded an additional 4,500 service bookings.
Better communications are vital – research into 7,500 consumers for Capgemini’s latest Cars Online report found customer expectations were growing.
“When consumers talk to a dealer about buying a car, they value technical expertise. Customers also expect more and better communication between purchase and delivery – most would like to be contacted at least weekly,” said Nick Gill, senior vice-president and chairman of Capgemini’s automotive council. He added that more than half of customers want to be able to modify their order (such as adding accessories) after purchase.
The customer wants to be at the centre of the experience. “There is a need to get to know customers in order to offer each individual a ‘selfie experience’ with that individual firmly in the foreground,” Gill said.
“Customers now expect OEMs and dealers to respond to and complement what they want and know, via their preferred channel. Plus they want to be able to switch between the physical and digital touchpoints seamlessly.”
He emphasised that contact did not have to be digital-only. The ‘interest phase’ is where digital activity is the most intense, but at the time of purchase, during ownership and repurchase, most respondents wanted a number of personal contacts and physical touchpoints, “which means dealers remain crucial in the selling process”.
BRACE FOR DISRUPTION
Dealers must anticipate more digital disruption, warned Julian Wheway, product director at Manheim Retail Services. He said: “Look how the face of business is changing. The world’s biggest taxi firm owns no taxis, the world’s biggest real estate company owns no real estate and the world’s largest phone company has no telephone infrastructure.”
Peer-to-peer car sales network Beepi, online marketplace Tootle and Carspring are threats to traditional franchised dealer models. A new breed of motor retailer will do away with many overheads and appeal directly to the target audience digitally.
BEWARE THE AD-BLOCKER
The rapid growth in ad-blocking is threatening the motor industry’s ability to use traditional website advertising. Ad-blocking is already available on Apple’s iOS9 and Android users can block ads via specific browser apps.
The implications for the marketing industry are serious, warned James Whatley, Ogilvy and Mather Advertising’s digital director. The use of ad-blockers is growing in all age groups, but particularly in the under-35s.
Whatley said it is a trend that will lead to the end of traditional website architecture such as the banner advert. As a result, micro-targeting is now the key to ensuring adverts are well received online. Marketers will need to earn the consumer’s attention, with content tuned to specific consumer interests.
‘SOCIAL MEDIA HAS PEAKED’
Social media is being superseded by chat apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SnapChat, which are growing fast. Social is public messaging, chat is private, and the younger generation prefer the latter. Brands need to develop a chat-commerce experience in these chat apps. “This shift is significant. Social media has peaked,” said Thomas Power, chief digital officer at Electric Dog.
MEET, HELP AND GUIDE YOUR ONLINE CUSTOMERS
Banks and furniture shops are using live video chat to help and guide online customers to the checkout, said Nigel Thomas, director, Vee24. Dealers also need to “meet customers online”, he said. Sytner Group’s Land Rover division is using live video chat and has achieved a 35% conversion rate from call to test drive and an 85% average Net Promotor Score on the calls.
VIRTUAL REALITY AND VIDEO = SOCIAL CONTENT
Social media marketing needs to be “selective, timely and relevant” and the rise of video and affordable 3D headsets will have a huge influence from 2016, according to James Whatley, Ogilvy and Mather Advertising’s digital director. Innovations such as Google Cardboard – which allows users to transform a smartphone into a virtual reality headset – are making the technology available for free, and he advised dealers to embrace at least basic video content creation.
SME FLEET OPPORTUNITIES
In the SME sector, 48% of one- to two-car fleets, and 45% of three- to 10-car fleets, are self-funded, so dealers have a good sales opportunity in this market. Localised use of Google Adwords such as ‘business cars’ may benefit the dealership and dealers can tap into a variety of data sources to help identify targets at the right time in their vehicle change cycle, said Chris Wall, marketing manager at Total Lubricants UK. He revealed a ‘dashboard’ system that Total uses to support its dealer partners and recommended tools such as Inspectlet which track how people browse your website.