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Big data joins the dots for H.R. Owen Plc' - Chris Harris, H.R. Owen Plc

High quality data and a commitment to both capturing and acting on information gathered is the key to successful customer communications and ultimately increased sales, according to H.R. Owen’s marketing and customer director Chris Harris.

Harris will explain to delegates at AM and Auto Trader’s Digital Marketing Conference that focusing on data has enabled the group to place the customer on an equal footing with the car at the heart of H.R. Owen. Taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on 12th February, the event brings together both digital and industry experts to explore the latest trends and thinking in this fast-paced and ever-evolving landscape.

At the core of the premium group’s communications strategy is its sophisticated CRM system which reduces the risk of human error with its step-by-step process of inputting data and follow up actions. By making the sales system and the CRM system one and the same, sales people are only asked to key data once as they progress sales enquiries. From this, the marketing team derive all the information they need to keep in touch with, and drive enquiries from, existing customers.

Commented Harris: “We learned the hard way that separate DMS, sales and CRM systems do not work – people will simply not enter more data than is required to make the sale. Only by combining all of these systems into one, and automating as much data collection as possible, have we been able to monitor an enquiry all the way to sale.”

H.R. Owen’s CRM system also monitors the effectiveness of advertising channels and he has made decisions on how to target his budget accordingly increasing expenditure with platforms which net the best results for specific makes and models whilst saving on those which fail to perform.

Added Harris: “The biggest single change we have made in our digital marketing is to stop blitzing everyone. Tempting though it is to tell everyone everything, it simply increases the likelihood of them hitting the unsubscribe button. We not only target very specifically but drill right down into our data with some email campaigns perhaps only being sent to 20 or 40 recipients.”

As well as targeted pieces, the group produces a magazine which it uses for longer term brand marketing but will follow it up with a ‘now drive the car’ message often resulting in around 400 test drive appointments. Meanwhile, the proof is in the proverbial pudding as 51% of its emails are opened indicating the material is welcomed and read.

“I think most dealerships don’t do the basics and for me, that’s joining up the car and customer,” said Harris. “However, it is a tricky area. Most dealers or dealer groups will undertake one or two areas particularly well such as having a well-managed, attractive and easy-to-use website or implementing a successful lead management programme. But all the communication elements or customer touch-points rarely join up and that’s the essential component. It takes time and energy, but those businesses which do it better will be the ones which will succeed.”

Harris believes that as a group with an exclusively premium profile and therefore a smaller database, using data intelligently may appear a less daunting task, but the mechanics remain the same. Meanwhile, with the group’s margins at around 1.5%, the industry average, due to factors such as its high rent premises in central London, cost is another issue Harris readily disputes as an excuse not to grapple with the big data issue.

By providing an insight into H.R. Owen’s data process and providing examples of its targeted approach which has led to impressive sales successes, Harris hopes to persuade delegates to turn their backs on the still prevalent blanket bombing approach to digital marketing.

Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit

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