Why Brand Loyalty Must Be a Priority for Dealers in 2018

Brand love is an essential distinction in today’s market, meaning dealers have to go far beyond sales and leasing


Automotive retail is on track to have a positive 2018, with the first half of the year’s sales exceeding analyst expectations, and a recently reported strong June. Yet dealerships continue to face challenges, from increasing competition and rising expenses to a tricky consumer relationship model.

What’s the solution? A reprioritization of brand loyalty and focus on increasing brand love.

This means understanding the consumer’s journey, fueling a multichannel and mobile-rich experience, and seamlessly supporting repair and warranty communications between driver and OEM, all while building trust between the shopper and your dealership.

In an industry with numerous point-to-point relationships, from OEM to dealer, dealer to consumer, consumer back to OEM customer service, and so on, brand loyalty may seem inaccessible. But smart dealers know that brand love is an essential distinction in today’s market. Dealers have to go beyond sales and leasing.

Understanding and respecting the shopper’s journey

A recent Oath report found the buyer experience means 52% more to brand love in the auto industry than anywhere else. Also, 85% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a dealership that offers at least one major purchase step online.

This means when consumers are looking for a new or used car, it’s all about the omnichannel journey. It’s also why the best auto and dealer brands build individual cross-channel relationships; connecting the dots between the online and offline shopping experience.

Dealerships can’t only rely on in-store visits to drive sales. In an era of instant gratification online, dealerships must enhance the traditional two-hour dealer experience.

From complimentary courtesy shuttles for service customers to stocking waiting rooms with beverages and snacks, simple upgrades can help make the dealer the ultimate extension of the national OEM, and cement that consumer loyalty.

Although most shoppers have an idea of the car they want ahead of time, they can certainly be influenced about what to buy and who to buy from. The time to influence and convert them is on mobile, where they spend the majority of their shopping time making decisions.

There are always opportune moments to connect, also known as purchase triggers—like when the shopper is preparing to send a child to college, retiring, or becoming a first-time home buyer.

But a smart mobile, omnichannel strategy also helps influence purchases outside of the purchase trigger and anticipated life-events cycle.

Creating rich, tailored mobile experiences

Mobile in particular is an important channel for dealers. Few people buy cars online, but mobile is the leading venue for research and decision-making.

On average, shoppers switch between on- and offline channels four times on their path to purchase. Therefore, dealers need to create mobile experiences that exceed expectations by being responsive, easy to navigate, personalized, and fast.

Dealer marketers must ditch the usual banner ad boxes, and use new formats like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 360-degree and live videos. For example, with an AR ad format, shoppers can visualize various makes and models to help influence their decision before coming to the dealership.

Lexus has done a great job of connecting on mobile, specifically with mobile sports fans. For the past three years, Lexus has partnered with Yahoo Sports’ Tourney Pick’em for its “0-60 Bracket Challenge.” This past March’s custom-branded game tied to 2018 March Madness, promoting the 2018 Lexus RC F.

According to a recent Oath study, approximately 60% of consumers had at least one mobile interaction with their favorite brand within the last year. Creating immersive mobile moments make those interactions really count, and go a long way toward building brand love.

Increasing authenticity and consumer trust

Buying a car is an emotional decision, so just as dealership employees convey trust, so should the placement of ads and content online.

According to Oath, after seeing ads next to questionable content, 74% of respondents felt much less favorable toward the brand.

Dealers must also connect with shoppers authentically. Millennials worship innovation, and it’s no surprise their loyalty is most influenced by setting trends. We also know music transforms time spent driving into an experience and memory for them.

To capitalize on this, since 2016 Toyota has partnered to livestream the summer’s hottest musical festivals like Stagecoach and Firefly in an effort to reach a younger audience authentically, connecting the dots between great music and memorable driving experiences.

In 2017, Toyota achieved 83 million-plus views across the live concerts, and a 23% lift in consideration to buy a Toyota vehicle (among viewers ages 18–24 in market for a car), proving that a premium, authentic experience works.

Today’s shopper has more options that ever. In fact, during their last car purchase, Oath found that 65% of shoppers switched to a different car brand.

The impetus? It’s as simple as consumers wanting to try something new. The solution? Dealership loyalty.


Loyalty and dealer affinity will be the key drivers of growth in years to come as dealers face a changing retail model, car sharing, and other market challenges. Building brand love isn’t exclusive to manufacturers.

Automotive marketers have more opportunity than ever to create powerful brand experiences for consumers. With new technologies like AR, creativity is being redefined, and it’s no longer just about getting consumers through the purchase funnel—it’s about creating highly shareable content, building an emotional connection, and creating lifelong loyalty.

Rick Fellen is a digital marketing executive with over two decades of experience in the industry. As VP and industry lead of automotive at Oath, Rick is responsible for leading a national field sales advertising team focused on the top auto brands in the U.S., such as GM, Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen AG.

Rick Fellen

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