People Seek Deals; Dealers Should Seek Consumers

Dealers need the right tools to close a sale, and FordDirect is hoping to provide them. The site already has a raft of data about consumer behavior at retail. The automaker's Web-based digital marketing services channel — a joint venture with its franchisees that provides services like call tracking, lead management solutions, dealer Web sites, and search optimization and marketing — finds consumers still like traditional mail for sales and CRM. 

The results are compiled in FordDirect’s Automotive Consumer Marketing Study, based on a survey in June of 1,300 automotive consumers about their communication preferences, vehicle shopping behaviors and automotive brand loyalty in selecting a dealer and purchasing a new or used vehicle.



While the survey found that email and traditional mail methods were preferred methods of communication from a dealer, 84% of shoppers -- especially Millennials -- said they would prefer emails. 

According to the study, nearly half of consumers have proactively searched for automotive specials or offers for their new vehicles; 60% said they are loyal to one brand the majority of the time when purchasing a new vehicle; and while quality and value drive loyalty, price and fuel economy are the two major factors that consumers consider when switching brands.

Stacey Coopes, FordDirect's CEO, said in a statement that the results show how important it is for dealers to know how to reach out and grab customers’ attention. She said search engine optimization is a critical part of that, and no less important than paid digital advertising, "further reiterating that maintaining established channels is just as important as building out new ones."

Todd Turner, president of auto consultancy Car Concepts, says automaker communications to dealers can be a strong support if they are concerned with immediate issues like how to get customers to commit. "Dealers want to know what's moving and what isn't; what's hot; what's going on with the consumer psychology and what tools will help understand that," he says. "Ultimately, they want ideas for closing people who are reluctant to make a commitment. Right now, consumers are showing up to shop, but they are still gun shy. And a bit scared." 

He says automakers could provide psychographic content dealing with what helps people make the decision to buy. "This hasn't always been an issue with consumers," he says, adding that closing the deal was a lot easier when cash was also easier to come by, and the competitive field wasn't so brutal. Now brands are fighting tooth and nail to retain customers and steal new ones from the other guys' camps.  

"With the market now much more competitive, a dealer wants to know where brand perception stands and how to better differentiate a 3-Series from an A4 or from a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. They are also much more interested in new media from the perspective of how consumers use it, and how they themselves can use it, especially after closing the sale [as a CRM tool]." 

Turner makes the point that communications channels between OEMs and dealers should be bite-sized and optimized for devices dealers use such as smartphones and tablets -- otherwise the B-to-B channels will end up like that treadmill in the living room that now functions as an expensive clothes hanger. "Salespeople really should be registered [to OEM channels] with cell phones and twitter accounts so you have a way to reach them immediately when you have news and offers."

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