Why Amazon Vehicles Doesn’t Have to Mean the Demise of Auto Sales Professionals

4 steps to stay on a buyer’s radar screen in the age of online shopping

Amazon made headlines last year with the launch of Amazon Vehicles, its new research site for auto buyers.

Consumers can explore and compare makes, models, features, and even MSRP data. Franchise regulations mean Amazon can’t actually sell new cars yet, though it’s possible the company will get into the used vehicle market down the road.

Some in the media speculated that this could be the end of auto salespeople. After all, Tesla recently managed to sell a theoretical $14 billion worth of cars in one week, and it doesn’t employ any salespeople.

Tesla—which has developed a unique brand that has led to incredible pent-up demand—aside, we don’t think auto dealerships will be whittling down their sales teams anytime soon. That being said, however, all signs point to the automotive retail market being headed for a period of extreme change.

With that in mind, here are four steps auto brands and dealers need to take to ensure they are on a buyer’s radar screen in an era where nearly all of the automotive buying process takes place online.

1. Individualize your email campaigns

Most brands and dealers can segment their campaigns, but the most innovative are now able to automate completely personalized, dynamic messages to individual consumers, based on data from their own CRM/DMS, and also from third-party sites.

The messages are based on behavior or analytical triggers—for instance, a person exploring Jeep Wranglers would receive an email about Wrangler promotions and model availability, and an invite for a test drive. This is enabled by integration between your email-marketing tool and your CRM/DMS system.

Data shows that customers who engage with targeted email communications are six times more likely to purchase from that dealer. Show the customer that you won’t waste their time, and that you understand what they’re looking for.

2. Implement a buyer-detection solution

Buyer detection helps dealerships determine when a person may be in market for a vehicle, and what kind.

Buyer detection leverages data from multiple sources—online and offline data, and behavioral data from across the automotive web—to give dealerships insight into which brands and models people are exploring, and how close they may be to purchase. This helps salespeople focus their efforts on the consumers most likely to buy.

A recent analysis of dealers leveraging buyer detection methods found, on average, 37% additional in-market buyers identified per dealer, per month. Of that 37%, 9% were unsold leads more than 90 days old—meaning dealers were reviving dead leads with little to no effort.

3. Your online reputation is everything

Virtually every car buyer relies on social media at some point in the car-buying journey. Yet keeping on top of social postings and social media reviews—much less responding to them—would be more than a full-time job if done manually.

Fortunately, there are industry-specific tools available for automating much of this work, including 24/7 monitoring of popular review sites such as Cars.com and even Amazon Vehicles, cross-posting dealer content to multiple social networks, and sentiment analysis for determining the tone (positive, neutral, negative) of third-party posts.

Dealers that actively manage social media are able to increase followers by an average of 62%. They are also able to increase content shares by 42%, and likes or the equivalent by 62%.

Because social media is often a first stop for car buyers, it’s crucial that dealers stay on top of their online reputation, stepping in as necessary to respond to posts or reviews, and sharing positive content to outweigh the inevitable negative content some customers will post.

And if you’ve been thinking about trying Facebook ads, consider it part of a cross-channel effort. Offers should be consistent with what you’re extending elsewhere.

This is not only less confusing for customers, but also allows you to compare campaign success across channels, so you can do more of what works best.

4. Consider an e-commerce platform

Even though it’s not here yet, the time is coming when customers will to expect to be able to buy a car entirely online.

It’s not too early to begin exploring how you can implement an e-commerce platform to handle these types of transactions, including vehicle delivery and after-purchase customer care. Laying the groundwork early will pay dividends in the long run, allowing you to be the first out of the gate when the time comes.

These advanced—yet simple—digital marketing techniques can give dealers an edge and can be easily implemented to safeguard customer retention. Ensure that when customers are ready to buy after researching at Amazon Vehicles or elsewhere, they come straight to you to make a purchase from a real person on your sales staff.

Valerie Vallancourt is a dynamic, strategic marketing professional with expertise in creating and executing marketing strategies for revenue growth. Valerie has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, and is currently vice president of marketing at Outsell, which helps auto dealers drive more revenue by transforming how they engage customers and prospects throughout their life cycle.

Valerie Vallancourt


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