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An increasing number of consumers are seeking to minimise their interaction with a business before they buy a car. They will snack on data for hours to help find the right car while doing all they can to avoid identifying themselves before they purchase.
Obviously this is a subset of customers: many people are still happy to ring up before they buy, but as awareness of the ways in which personal data is collected and used grow, so many are ‘opting out’ by simply not directly contacting a dealership before purchase. In effect, we are seeing the slow death of the traditional ‘hard’ metrics of phone calls and emails.
The regulatory environment is also changing – meaning that it will be harder for dealerships to acquire and retain data about their customers after 2018, so in marketing terms the future looks a lot foggier than many of us have been used to. After all: you know how many cars you sold, but where the initial leads come is harder to discern, even as the amount of consumer data grows.
Marketers have to adapt to these trends by understanding consumer behaviour and adapting accordingly, while gathering what data they can.
Some steps are relatively simple. In the used car sector, most consumers are searching for cars at night when many dealerships are closed. In fact, at Trusted Dealers, we see the strongest peak in activity between 7-8pm. Not only are most dealerships closed for phone enquiries, but many do not even have an adequate voicemail system – simply asking that consumers phone back the next day.
Alternatives such as chat could be offered, and can be manned cost-efficiently – even as just a means to collect customer data for a call back or further enquiry.
Something we at Trusted Dealers have invested much energy in over recent months is understanding the consumer journey through postcode matching. Postcodes are incredibly useful, but sufficiently anonymous that consumers don not mind giving them up in order to make an enquiry or perform a search. And yet, given the relative unlikelihood of two people in the same postcode enquiring about a car, it is an incredibly strong proxy.
It is from this fact that we know that from 150,000 car sales we have studied in the last 6 months, 20% of those buyers visited Trusted Dealers in the month before their purchase.
So the message for marketers in the used car sector is to take a much holistic view of activity. All through the marketing chain, value is added in ways that might not manifest in someone picking up a phone. If a sale is a destination, ask yourself this: how well do you know the journey?