Shoppers have more options today than ever before. Technology makes it possible for everyone to shop around to their hearts’ content, so brand loyalty has become elusive. But though they’re choosy, today’s shoppers are actually looking for brands they can connect to — they want to buy from people who “get them” on an emotional level.
In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, one credit card company that geared its messaging to customer emotions saw a 70% increase in use. And on the whole, customers who feel emotionally connected with a brand are 52% more valuable: They keep coming back, they spend more money, and they recommend you to their friends.
The auto industry offers an especially rich opportunity for connection because buying a car is such an emotional purchase. Not only does it take a lot of planning, saving, and research, but cars also tap into people’s deepest wishes. Freedom. Independence. Adventure. Security. Cars mean so many things to people — and your dealership can connect to customers through these wishes.
So how do you tap into customer emotions, building trust in your dealership and encouraging loyalty?
Your dealership needs to demonstrate that it understands its customers, and then make every effort to provide them with what they need.
Thanks to today’s technology, cultivating emotional connections with customers is easier than ever. Rather than blunting the human connection, technology can enhance it — so you can build on it in person and make more sales. Here are three areas where your dealership can deepen emotional connections with customers.
Your website is a great place to connect with customers because shoppers on your site constantly show you what they want. Every digital action they take — every click, every VDP viewed, every return visit — heightens your ability to reach out with relevance.
Using AI predictive analytics tools, your dealership can track where customers are spending time, then offer them the next thing they need. Someone interested in leasing can be shown a lease offer on the vehicle they’ve been watching, or a user browsing your service page can be prompted to book an appointment.
Interactions that anticipate shoppers’ needs make their lives easier. And a shopper who feels understood will also feel more connected to your dealership.
Facebook ads are an important part of your digital strategy — they can increase visits to VDPs by 50% — and they’re also a great way to reach people emotionally. First, segmenting and targeting allows you to reach customers likely to connect to your dealership.
You might target people who live within 20 miles of your store, create a segment of people who have already liked your Facebook page, or reach out to a particular age demographic. Targeting the people likely to connect to your brand allows you to bring your audience what they actually want.
The second way you can connect using ads is to make sure it — whether text, photo, or video — taps into the needs of your target demographic. Is your brand safety-oriented? Play that up for the moms in your target audience. Does it appeal to adventure seekers? Create a segmented audience that matches the profile and highlight this aspect of your brand. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be the best dealership for tech-obsessed millennials within your geographic area.
Organic Facebook content is now a challenge because the company has deprioritized it in favor of content from family and friends. But your dealership’s page must remain active, and the right kinds of organic content can add value by deepening connections with customers.
Reviews, photos of happy new-vehicle owners, automotive-related content, videos, local news, and buying guides build trust by providing resources without bombarding customers with promotions. Visual content like photos and videos, including Facebook live videos, can provide more reach than text-based content. One study found that videos on social media lead to 1,200% more shares than text- and image-based content combined.
And posts that encourage feedback and comments, such as questions, polls, and contests, are a great way to actually speak to shoppers. Respond to your customers’ posts and reviews wherever possible, and you’ll show reliability and earn trust while promoting community. The more people interact with your posts, the more your content will appear in other people’s feeds. And for posts that are especially high-performing, you can choose to invest ad dollars into boosting for even more engagement.
In addition to responding to comments and reviews on your Facebook page, make sure to be available over chat. Whether you use a live salesperson or a bot, answering people’s questions on Facebook allows customers to interact with you in a way that blends seamlessly into their daily lives. Most people have Messenger on their phones, and more than half of today’s shoppers say they’re more likely to use a company they can message directly. Being there for customers in a way that’s convenient for them naturally builds connections and loyalty.
When your conversations with customers move offline, it’s crucial to take into account all your previous interactions. Check CRM data about each customer’s interests and previous shopping steps to tailor conversations and avoid repetition. If you speak to a shopper and discover a shared interest in a local sports team or the same alma mater, note that in your CRM and reference it next time.
When a shopper buys a car, enter all their details so you can follow up with service and upgrade reminders at helpful times. And don’t forget the birthday messages. Another connection-building strategy is to host events at your dealership. Whether they’re charity-, holiday-, or inventory-focused events, bringing people in to your physical space and seeing their faces means you can connect with them and they can connect to other shoppers, further enhancing loyalty.
Make sure to post about these events on your website, blog, and social media accounts with plenty of photos and videos to maximize their impact and make your brand even more relatable. Showing shoppers in person builds your dealership’s standing in your community and your connection to individual shoppers.
Everyone wants to be understood and feel connected. By targeting customers based on their interests, personalizing their experience online, making them feel heard, and building community with in-person events, you show that your dealership cares. When you reach customers emotionally, they will pay you back with loyalty, activism, and more sales.
Ari Gorlin is COO of AutoLeadStar, a lead-engagement platform for auto dealerships, powered by artificial intelligence. With more than 20 years of experience leading global sales teams, Ari specializes in building connections for maximal growth. Feel free to reach out to Ari about anything related to sales, scaling, and reaching your business potential at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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