Managing the customer journey

A dealership must consider how every form of customer interaction is channelling motorists to that final face-to-face meeting.

Facilitating customers’ ‘journey to the dealership’ has become an increasingly important yet complex task. From manufacturer and dealer websites to digital magazines, Twitter, Facebook, microsites and blogs, the routes a customer can take to the showroom are hugely varied.

Mismanaging this journey can risk alienating a potential customer, or worst still it can send them into the arms of a competitor. Taking a causal approach isn’t an option, either – failing to take appropriate proactive steps to engage with consumers during their all-important research phase is akin to not having signage on your premises.

Used well, digital forms of customer contact can contribute positively to the ‘brand experience’, building excitement around new models or services and delivering a consistent message about brand values and strengths – establishing the reason to buy.

However, too often dealers apply varied styles, formats and tones to different  channels, diluting the core strengths of a brand, model, dealership or servicing offer, and as a result confusing potential customers.

Ensuring the right marketing strategy

In the same way as a supermarket has a clear route that customers must take through a store – with products, promotions and special offers strategically placed on the way to the checkout – a dealership must consider how every form of customer interaction is channelling motorists to that final face-to-face meeting.

To get the mix right, the starting point must be the needs and wants of the potential customer. For example, if style is a top purchase motivator, using artistic images will be more effective than text-based descriptions. Similarly, to communicate with time-pressed customers about a new service or offer, a 60-second ‘video digest’ of top facts is likely to have more chance of success than a wordy email or print advertisement.

With a strategy in place for each type of customer, and initial contact then achieved, it is crucial to offer multiple routes to continue the interaction. So, achieving initial interest from a tweet or Facebook post should lead a potential customer to other information, such as videos, a microsite or blog, each ultimately encouraging the final phase – a dealership visit.

From phone calls and emails to websites and the showroom, the most successful dealerships ensure every customer touch point is reflective of the brand and carries a consistent message. It is these dealerships that prosper, using digital and real-world assets to their advantage rather than letting them confuse and lose customers.

Author Neil Packham is Vice President and Managing Director, UK Region for CDK Global.

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