Does email marketing still work for car dealership marketing?
Those of us who have dozens of unopened emails in our inboxes at any given point in time might be tempted to assume that email does not pack as much punch as it used to, and that it makes more sense to focus only on greener pastures like social media. This would be a mistake. There are a lot of things that automotive email marketing does exceptionally well and fit the car buyer’s journey like a glove.
Email can be customized to fit the modern car buyer’s journey.
We have talked a lot in this series about how the modern auto shopper is doing things differently than they have in the past. It’s entirely possible that some of you have read about internet-created trends like virtual test drives, customer reviews, and the fact that the customer is armed with reams of data and wonder, “How can my brick-and-mortar dealership keep up?” Well, here’s two pieces of good news for you.
The first is that data is a two-way street. Your customer may be in a position to access more information about cars than they have been at any point in history, but you are able to access a lot of information as well. You can explore consumer demographics in your local market, draw conclusions about your customers based on lifestyle group, and get to know the specific patterns of individuals who have interacted with your dealership in the past. In some cases you’ll need sophisticated marketing tools, in others an automotive marketing partner can tell you a lot about how to focus your efforts.
The second piece of good news is that while customer journeys can be said to resemble each other, the individual customer journey can be very specific. Imagine two hypothetical customers. Customer A is brand loyal, a regular at your service center and has been buying from your dealership for the last twenty years. Customer B has no brand preference. In fact, she has never ever purchased a car on her own before. These two auto shopper journeys should include different steps, and they’ll need different incentives to make it across the finish line.
The great thing about email is that supports a lot of different types of messaging. Want to send a coupon for a free oil change to keep Customer A engaged with your dealership? Check. Want to send an email with an embedded video to whet Customer B’s appetite for something you have on the lot. Check. Want to talk about a special offer in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese? Email can do that too.
Email is stable and universal.
The social media landscape changes. Some consumers may flock to one platform while staying barely engaged on another; others may become frustrated and overwhelmed by the state of affairs on their favorite social media site and schedule a “social media detox.” How many consumers talk about email detoxes? They may resolve not to idly check their email on their phones as often, but most people will still need email to dispute a water bill, keep in touch with their kids’ school, and manage day-to-day living in the twenty-first century.
Google did a study where one car buyer, Stacy, hit 900 digital touchpoints (e.g. visited a dealer website, watched a car review video on YouTube, etc.) while purchasing a new car. Her journey probably led her to its share of dead ends and crazy places. An advantage of email is that it is more direct and “official” than other kinds of touchpoints. If a dealership uses email to send you a coupon for an oil change or clue you in on a financing offer, you are rarely going to have occasions where the dealership tells you “Oops, never mind.” You have it in writing if they do. In that sense, email can be thought of as the tool that stabilizes your marketing.
Email is a long-term engagement tool.
A lot of your customers are going to continue to do business with your dealership after they sign the paperwork. Even if they choose another option for routine maintenance, repairs, and oil changes, chances are good they’ll want to keep your service center “in the rotation” as a possibility, and in most cases should appreciate the occasional coupon, discount, or 60,000 mile checkup reminder.
The endgame, obviously, would be to get a previous customer back to your lot for or her next vehicle purchase. Even though the modern auto shopper’s journey can include nine hundred digital touchpoints, there’s no reason to assume that car buyers start out as a blank slate every single time. A consistent, yet not overbearing, email campaign can be just the thing to remind a previous customer that you saw them through the process last time around.
Ways to align email with the auto shopper’s journey.
There are a lot of email best practices out there, too many to list here. Here are a few that are directly relevant to the modern car buyer’s journey.
Customize: Data gives you the tools to craft message for individual buyers and market segments alike. Use it to ensure that the emails you send are, in fact, guiding your prospects through the car buyer’s journey. You have a lot of opportunities here, and it can make a lot of sense to work with a data-driven marketing partner like LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE.
Get the timing right: One car buyer’s spam is another one’s useful offer and it’s not always easy to know which email will be which. Something we do know, however, is sixty-nine percent of consumers delete emails from brands that send out too much email. The key is to find the frequency of engagement that best suits your target audience (it could be one email a day or one email or month, depending on the context) and stick with it so the car buyer sees you as a resource, rather than a spammer.
Be mobile friendly: Did you know that seventy-four percent of smartphone users use their device to check their emails, and that seventy percent will delete an email immediately if it isn’t mobile compatible. Mobile devices are a vital part of the car buyer’s journey, which is even more reason to make sure your emails work right every single time.
Be creative: We mentioned earlier that a modern car buyer might factor in around nine hundred digital touchpoints as they make their decision. Not all of these touchpoints will compete for her attention in the same way, but it does make sense for dealer emails to try to stand out. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for this, but the right marketing partner can help.
Measure: One of the best things you can do to make sure your email marketing campaign is up to par is to track it. Modern tracking and analytic tools are very much a step in the right direction.
Hopefully you’re looking at your customer’s inbox from a different point of view.
Contact us to find out more about our complete automotive marketing solutions.