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Guest opinion: How to use data to deliver increased customer retention

Christopher Kollat, Country Manager UK&I, Marketing Applications, Teradata

Like many sectors, the automotive category has been faced with having to adapt and react to the impact that technological developments have had on customer behaviour. The growth of customer engagement channels has meant a broader range of opportunities for car brands to interact with the customer, but by the same token, has opened up the field to more competitors beginning conversations with brand agnostic consumers. This, combined with the consumer’s changing approach to car ownership, has put brands within the sector under greater pressure to evaluate their strategies to engender loyalty. 

Whilst brands, particularly in the premium sector, have a proven track record of winning new customers from launches of the latest model – attracting them with innovative technology, improved driving experience or a financial incentive – keeping hold of them is proving a greater challenge.

In a post-recession world a car purchase is considered a big-ticket item and, as it always has been, is weighted heavily with emotion. For brands, there are opportunities to draw on this to deliver an experience that is going to secure that customer’s loyalty for their next purchase, and the one after that. Reaching the end-consumer is absolutely vital if the relationship is going to be nurtured and the brand is going to be front of mind when the next car purchase is being considered. So, how can brands within the premium automotive sector evolve their marketing approaches and maximise innovative technological to deliver increased customer retention?

Of course, the key to success comes down to understanding the individual customer needs and providing an experience that not only meets, but excels these. Technology has driven the proliferation of touch points and all-important customer data, so getting the systems in place to enable these to be captured across every channel is vital. The key to unlocking customer preferences is out there, so why not use it to drive better experiences for the customer?

With customers interacting with brands across multiple channels, consolidating these in one central place is the only way a single customer view is going to be achieved and tangible results delivered. Integrating cloud technology across the business, which enables greater collaboration and provides data security, will ensure brands are delivering secure, hassle-free, solutions to their customers.

Once the complete view of the customer journey is achieved, a brand can uncover details about each individual customer that will prove invaluable as they strive to retain them. Whether this is knowing their preferred communication channel, what their previous purchase behaviour is, or what key attributes they look for in a car, having this level of understanding will enable the car brand to tailor their messaging and deliver interactions of hyper-relevance at that moment in time. Real-time capabilities are vital in today’s fast-paced landscape. Hitting the customer at the key ‘moment of truth’ is crucial; get it wrong and a competitor who’s made the correct investment will only be too happy to engage the customer. Segmenting customer groups enables brands to do this more efficiently, targeting based on individual preferences.

Understanding which communication channels are going to deliver best results and maximising them should be a key focus of any brand. For the premium car industry, online has become core to the engagement, so it goes without saying that it should be a factor in marketing activity. Finding ways to enhance the customer experience online – whether it’s ensuring the site is fully optimised to enable a seamless journey or providing added extras on the site that keep the customer browsing for longer should be leveraged. Customers today are after convenience in everything they do and car brands must offer services to reflect this. For example, if they make it simple for a current customer to book a test drive of a new model online, they are already one step closer to retaining that customer.

As already touched on, continual evolution is a must if businesses are going to maintain pace with industry developments, competitors, and most importantly, customer preferences. Getting the integrated marketing management technology in place will enable brands to undertake the continual evaluation that will keep them market-leading. The holistic view allows marketers to identify what works and what doesn’t through the purchase journey, providing the insight required to make changes that will drive improvement. Customer needs are constantly changing, so this regular evaluation is crucial if the brand is going to remain relevant. For premium automotive brands, this is invaluable if they want to retain their customer base. The data insights give them the information, so they should be using it to show the customer they recognise their changing preferences and deliver an offer that is relevant to them, at that moment.

In today’s competitive market, retaining customers is just as important as nurturing prospects. Loyal customers are a valuable asset to any brand – particularly within the automotive sector, where word of mouth is so powerful. Technology has proved a vehicle through which customer data is now available to be leveraged, but value and the all-important returning custom is only going to be achieved if the right infrastructure to maximise these insights is put in place. Competitors will be waiting for the right moment to target, don’t give your customer a reason to consider switching.

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