The modern sales funnel has created an exciting new opportunity for auto retailers to grow their aftermarket product penetration and profitability. The strategy involves “seeding” desire for aftermarket solutions at the many touch points a customer interacts with to buy a vehicle: online, in the media, and at the dealership.
This process allows you to introduce aftermarket product pitches in a way that connects them to your customers’ lifestyle dreams before they move into an F&I office. This shifts consumer focus from attributes of ownership to how aftermarket products help provide them with a worry-free vehicle experience.
How often do you consider that the consumer’s intention to purchase started as an idea when they were dreaming of their vehicle of choice? For example, during the recent Super Bowl, one car commercial focused on environmental and social responsibility, with the vehicle itself almost an afterthought. Better understanding consumers who latch on to selling points like this will create a more meaningful aftermarket conversation.
The consumer’s eventual visit to the 10-by-10-foot F&I office (or “Purchase Now” button at your online F&I store) is the culmination of 12 or more hours of online research on multiple websites. This journey starts at OEM websites before moving to third-party sites, then culminates in a visit to your website or physical store.
Marketers spend billions of dollars on these sites and TV, radio, print, and other online media to sway consumers about how their products will satisfy lifestyle desires and needs. Does your online, showroom, backroom, or service experience take advantage of the seeds being planted?
We are entering a time when this idea will come to full fruition for retail automotive. It may seem new, but it borrows from proven retail innovations pioneered by leading online retailers.
Think about an example in your own life. You probably receive unsolicited coupons in your inbox or on your smartphone for products you like or use. Ever have a product advertisement seem to follow along wherever you search on the web?
How convenient, welcoming, and informative you make this journey for customers creates either distracting obstacles to a fruitful and satisfactory sale, or a smooth and fast on-ramp that results in a profitable aftermarket sale for you.
When we realize how much sooner these early influences impact consumer’s purchase behaviors, we can organize our conversations, presentations, and interactions to maximum effect across automotive retail.
The film industry gives us a great example with its use of imaginative marketing. A recent film, whose lead character was a game designer, used ads, trailers, and commercials to encourage consumers to download the game “designed” by this character, with an offer to buy tickets to the movie. The result for the businesses behind the marketing was greater ticket sales and brand loyalty.
The experts say . . .
The new sales funnel in town demands you engage potential buyers well before they walk into your dealership.
The process begins the moment a consumer becomes aware of your business, notes CustomerThink, an online customer-centric think tank.
“The decision-making process is now a circular journey with four phases,” notes McKinsey Quarterly. These phases are initial consideration, researching potential purchases, purchase, and post-purchase experience.
There are multiple ways you can engage customers in this process. While not new, they all require different responses and tools to quickly assess and understand the doors customers take to arrive at your place of business.
Reach the goal
Take an inventory of the touch points along your customers’ engagements with your business. For brevity, we’ll omit showroom, website, and F&I office touch points.
Instead, here are five non-standard touch points where you can create opportunities to present your aftermarket products for the first time—or again—to buyers:
- Customer communications. If you market directly to customers and prospects via newsletter or e-mail, social media content, and interactivity, use it to promote aftermarket products. Clarify if you have options to help customers finance these products, even if they passed on them when they purchased the vehicle. Many customers in this mailing may be service-only customers, so market service contracts, prepaid maintenance, and other products that feature a retention tie to build service consistency with your dealership. Customers may not understand how these products benefit them, so use this opportunity to educate by linking the communication to reviews on your website from users of these products.
- Service drive. Dealers who offer or sell customers prepaid maintenance programs generate about 75% of their sales through proactive service advisors selling in the drive. Marketing of these plans drives future work that keeps service staff busy. Educate customers about wheel or tire damage services and road hazard policies you offer. A sharp advisor might also suggest wear-and-tear coverage for lease customers.
- Cashier/advisor. Train these important consumer-facing individuals to be aftermarket evangelists. Equip them to discuss lifestyle goals when discussing aftermarket products; for example: “We don’t sell tire-and-wheel plans; we sell worry-free experiences.”
- Post-sale. An Assurant Solutions survey notes that although 92% of consumers know about vehicle service contracts, less than 40% buy them. Post-purchase, customers may be in a different state of mind; 15% will buy a contract after declining the first time. They may also be more inclined to buy other products later, such as road hazard and wear-and-tear plans.
The correct, flexible tools will help you present the right products the right way, to the right customers, and at the right time during the presentation workflow. This strategic and cohesive sales funnel will lead informed consumers to the right aftermarket products at the time of purchase.
Dealerships that properly seed these touch points will bear much fruit.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president at MaximTrak Technologies, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers, and chief digital officer at RouteOne. He is an Agent Entrepreneur 40 Under 40 leader, an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at [email protected].0
From 2003 to 2019, he helmed MaximTrak, a digital F&I platform, which he founded and sold to RouteOne LLC in 2016. Until late 2019, he continued aspresident of MaximTrak and as chief digital officer for RouteOne, bringing to market solutions trusted by dealers around the world.
Jim is widely regarded as a thought leader in business technologies and wealth-building strategies for entrepreneurs and F o rtune 500 companies alike.
He is a graduate of the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business of Babson College, Babson Park, MA. He is married, with two children.
Latest posts by Jim Maxim, Jr.
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