Many of us can recall moments in our childhood when we accompanied our parents to go shopping for a new car. I remember how everything was in the presentation from the swoopy new models we had not seen before, to the showroom lighting and glitz. It was a time when brands of manufacturers mattered, and when dealers didn’t realize they had or needed one. Unfortunately, the industry back then was in the habit of taking those potentially bright, positive, magical moments and turning them on their head. Marketing people didn’t stop to think about all the little mental stops along the way our parents made in the decision making process. I think it’s time to address some of them for the auto marketers of today.
Today’s buyer now makes only two showroom visits after months and several stages of discovery. Getting those opportunities right requires manufacturers, but most importantly dealers to engage with the customer long before they meet them, even before they know what they want. In an ever increasing number, they happen through a moment making devise they now hold in their hand: the Smartphone.
We can begin by identifying some of these moments through social conversation search, impromptu dealership conversations, targeted customer surveys, and A/B testing of content for relevancy and timing. We draw inference from Search interest analytics, internal site searches, database segmentation, and behavioral tracking. But, in the final analysis, we often return to the intuitive cause and affect mechanisms from our own personal experience including the excitement and anticipation.
The What to Buy Moment (Top Funnel)
For the most part, today’s car shopper will consult a range of product review sites, manufacturer sites, and for some, enthusiast sites to begin working down the long list of makes based on segment, size, and function. To many, the most important inquiry is asking friends or those they perceive as knowledgeable for their advice. For others, imagining themselves in the vehicle and how that might feel is where it starts. Much of the discovery in this stage is still done at home or work via desktop, but it is shifting rapidly over to Mobile. The video format serves these moments especially well, and particularly serves the Mobile researcher as it is easier for the consumer to understand visuals over text. It also provides the marketer with more creative latitude to tap into the buyer imagination. Indeed, YouTube usage is rising dramatically in model comparisons, test drives evaluations, and walkthroughs. The missed opportunity is in the dealer branding that is largely absent this early. But that gap now provides a unique opportunity to make a real case for value.
The Good for Me? Moment (Top Funnel)
As the consumer continues their research, product features come into play. Here there is also an opportunity for both the manufacturer and the dealer to build trust and credibility by stressing benefits over features, both of the product and those unique to that dealer. Even if the circumstances point to another choice, the dealer relationship with that customer is now a key consideration and that relationship can shift from purely sales to advisory. To be continued.
Let’s continue with the lower funnel moments most of today’s targeted CTA’s are created for and where dealer branding is still largely absent.
The Affordability Moment (Mid Funnel)
Here’s where the use of Mobile really steps up as searching for pricing, discounts, incentives, and trade in values all play a part in the number crunching. If the dealer intends to use consistency from website content to showroom, reinforcing the benefits of buying what and where, the relationship strengthens and ensures further confidence in the purchase. Unfortunately, dealer sites are for the most part only about price/product/availability. Here the real differentiators are buried in an “About Us” text page.
The Where to Buy? Moment (Mid Funnel)
Now, you might have thought we already answered this question, but this is where early funnel engagement and awareness becomes a powerful differentiator. A dealer can assume that his competition can point out benefits as well as he does, and that trust can be earned by more than one dealer. Sure, proximity is a primary benefit, and chemistry between dealership personnel and buyer is essential. But all other things being equal, doesn’t the buyer also receive a benefit of familiarity from the dealer who began the relationship high up in the funnel, long before these moments considered the tangible facts? In general, won’t people go with the published authority, the expert, or the trusted professional they know rather than the one they just met? Wouldn’t the name or brand who provided valuable information, answered questions, and whose stellar, organic reviews came from customers, friends, family or coworkers be favored over solicited 3rd party review aggregator sites?
The Let’s Do It? Moment (Bottom Funnel)
We know that 84% of buyers use their phone to confirm pricing or availability during moments like these. So, where are the click to call features and navigational features on mobile sites? It is also true, that during this later moment, when dealership branding could tip the balance, dealers have squandered up to 40% of the opportunity by incorrectly identifying leads. Finally, branding is rarely part of the interpersonal or facility value proposition on location or presented at all in many dealer Mobile Apps.
Perhaps turning off more people than it converts, the late delivery of push notifications are not enough to clarify a buying decision. Uninvited, often intrusive call to action response rates are dropping. Instead, a rethinking of retailer behavior from a consumer-centric view helps dealers become more responsive, useful, and trustworthy. You have to be fast as well, or risk forfeiting the opportunity.
Unlike my early “just looking” visits to a showroom with my family, the integration of dealer branded video content onto a mobile device is even better than the showroom meet and greet. What’s even more important to the forward thinking retailer is that the realization of a sale is just the beginning of the next cycle of moments that create opportunities to do great things. Consumers use their smartphones to do research, not the least of which is to confirm they made a wise choice selecting a dealer, and paid the right price after the fact. Integrating branding video can pull facts into compelling stories.