How effective communication can support the auto retail sector post-Covid19

Topic: Automotive

The way customers shop for their vehicles was evolving prior to the pandemic, and has changed dramatically since. Customers are now less likely to visit forecourts and take test drives because of health concerns (source), and for those who do wish to make a purchase, recent changes to financial circumstances, may mean things aren’t quite as straightforward.

So what does this mean for dealerships who want to build a strong relationship with potential buyers, and continue to support existing customers to whom they can offer other services? The answer lies in the ability to build and manage relationships remotely, without the need for the customers to visit the dealership – or at the very least reducing the amount of time they physically spend there.

Dealerships need to focus on marketing communications and customer service interactions, and to analyse where improvements can be made in the context of the current climate. Getting this right quickly, opens up a variety of opportunities to snatch market share from the competition who haven’t been as pro-active in their thinking.

However, before this can happen, automotive retailers need to understand where the limitations lie in their existing strategies. Chiefly, an over-reliance on broadcast advertising methods that don’t make it easy for people to take their next steps on the buying cycle. And, businesses need to adapt their finance processes and advice, to accommodate for individuals who may have recently had to take a voluntary salary cut or been furloughed.

Problems automotive retailers face when engaging with potential customers in the current climate

  • Customers have to be in the right place at the right time to see or hear a TV/Radio advert
  • There is no easy way to refer back to the details of a TV/Radio advert
  • Current financial advice does not accommodate for those whom have experienced temporary financial difficulty due to the pandemic
  • Often financial processes involve multiple forms and policy documents. With reduced face-to-face interactions, these currently rely on direct mail and delays are caused
  • Email advertisements are less effective with the channel becoming over-used. This has resulted in a 21% engagement rate, compared with 95% for mobile-focused channels like SMS (Source)
  • Print marketing is in decline. The main reason for this is that modern marketing teams can’t track the effectiveness of campaigns, with a negative environmental impact being cited as another
  • Social media campaigns come with too many distractions and a lot of competing noise. This means a lot of broken engagements, and fewer conversions as a result.

Introducing a solution – mobile-focused chat platforms

None of the advertising or communication channels being leveraged at scale today really invite engagement; they’re not personal. They don’t encourage conversation. Which is curious given that 79% of consumers want brands to demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they’ll consider purchasing (source).

By targeting their communications at customers’ mobile devices, automotive dealers can strengthen their connection with customers; it’s a much more personal experience to receive a text than it is to receive an email (source), and mobile communications aren’t limited to SMS, either. SMS Landing Pages, WhatsApp and the new default messaging app for Android phones, RCS, can all be used to have meaningful, two-way chat interactions with customers.

So what’s the best way for auto dealerships to implement such a strategy? Online chat platforms allow conversations to take place at a time and place that suits all parties, and removing the need in many cases for an on-site visit or telephone conversation. Solutions such as Esendex’s Studio platform allow you to have conversations over SMS, WhatsApp and RCS, and when required, bots can even be deployed which will automate some of the processes which previously required a member of the auto dealership’s team.

With mobile-focused chat platforms, automotive dealerships are also able to send different message types like simple text, rich cards (which can include interactive buttons for secondary actions) and also images, branding, and video.

What can automotive retailers use a mobile-focused chat platform for?

Send rich marketing and promotions
Channels like RCS and SMS Landing Pages are able to send visually striking, interactive content to customers’ mobile devices. By using interactive buttons, automotive dealerships are able to:

  • Link to a Google Map location to help customers find your forecourt when required
  • Link to complementary services like vehicle servicing and MOT booking platforms
  • Add a sale event or new registration release to your customer’s in-device calendar
  • Supply digital contracts and receipts.

Mobile-focused chat platforms make it easy to send this type of content on-demand on a customer by customer basis, or for large scale broadcasts. Libraries of rich message templates can be set up which can be sent as part of an individual chat interaction, or delivered to a list of customers as part of a campaign at a specified time and date.

Manage incoming finance requests
Due to the current situation, the reality for many is that they aren’t able to provide 3 months worth of steady payslips. Individuals have been financially impacted by the pandemic, and while measures such as furlough and temporary salary cuts have been necessary, they do make financial applications less straightforward. By utilising SMS Landing Pages, you can signpost individuals to relevant information and advice, so when they do apply for finance options, they do so fully informed. What’s more, simple SMS campaigns can then be used to update customers on their applications, and with the PDF function in Studio, you can send customers important documents, such as the terms and conditions policy direct to their mobile.

Dealing with sales queries and managing test drives
By sending a simple text message into a dedicated sales contact number, potential customers can ask all of the questions that they would over the phone with the added convenience of being able to do other things at the same time. The same can be said for the salesperson too. They can now manage multiple conversions, rather than only dealing with a single customer at a time.

Mobile-focused chat tools also make it really easy to arrange test drives. Two-way chats can take place with a salesperson via WhatsApp or SMS, or the process could be automated if the volume of enquiries is anticipated to be high.

Booking services and MOTs
Automotive dealerships can make great strides in improving the management of their mechanics’ time by switching to a mobile-focused comms strategy. The simplest way to do this would be via SMS. Simply send a triggered SMS reminding the customer of the requirement for a scheduled service or MOT (using your own data to trigger the message). Once received, the customer can then reply to the SMS and have a conversation with a member of staff to find a date and time that suits them best. WhatsApp could also provide this kind of solution, with the added benefit of being able to include images and video when required.

Rich messaging allows this process to take place in a more automated and richer way. By using SMS Landing pages, customers would be able to select a “Book Service Now” button which could then route them to an online booking platform. RCS replicates this process but lets customers book appointments without having to leave their messaging application. After being presented with a series of available appointment slots, all they would have to do is select the one that suits them most. They would then receive a confirmation message, with options to add that appointment to their in-device calendar, or link to a Google Maps location to help them locate the auto dealership. 

What are the next steps?

We’d love to speak to you to better understand your individual dealership challenges, and further explore how we think our mobile-focused chat tool could help. To find out more, please get in contact today by calling 0345 356 5758 or email [email protected] to find out more.

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