Posts Tagged “Social Media”

Automotive advertising agencies have adjusted to accommodate consumer preferences that have shifted from shopping at their local auto row in favor of a growing number of online options. 

The shift from conventional radio, T.V. and print media to digital advertising including websites, banner ads, S.E.O./S.E.M strategies and even email vs. direct mail has matured into even more consumer centric social media.  Forward thinking auto dealers are joining other retail businesses that recognize that the shift from the real world to the virtual one online has just begun.

Store closures by large iconic retailers including Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Circuit City, Linens and Things, Borders and Blockbuster are just the tip of the iceberg as consumers shop online for everything from electronics and books to large ticket items like homes, furniture and even automobiles.  Profit challenged auto dealers have demanded more for less from their advertising agencies and retail operations as margins are reduced by today’s educated consumer with internet access to information that auto dealers no longer control.

In response, automotive advertising agencies have started to leverage social media though the use of technology driven applications that monitor and manage their auto dealer’s online reputations.  Auto dealer marketing messages are being crafted to blend into online discussions that now drive the market on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +.

Solutions like Helios being introduced by xChangeAuto deliver a Facebook hosted information portal that provides relevant and transparent information to an auto dealer’s customers before, during and after their car shopping and buying experience.  As the auto dealer’s online “friends” enter the market they are able to access information directly from the dealer provided Facebook page without having to contact the dealer directly.

These hand raisers are delivered to the dealer through their sales and service tools including their CRM and DMS allowing a seamless transition into established sales processes.  The result is a real time exchange of information that is both consumer friendly and dealer centric; win – win!

Other technology driven solutions are being applied by dealers to accommodate online shoppers that match relationship building messages being delivered through social marketing initiatives.  Data base marketing platforms like Driving Loyalty invite past, present and pending customers to follow auto dealers onto their social marketing sites.

Driving Loyalty blends old school media like direct mail and outbound call centers with current digital marketing methods including emails and personalized websites and next generation social marketing messages.  The proprietary algorithms that power their monthly consumer centric messages deliver relevant information that is unique to each customer.

Equity alerts are delivered only to qualified customers with an offer to exchange their vehicle for a new or newer one for a similar payment with little or no money down.  These out the door quotes include tax, tag, title, related dealer fees and even take into consideration all applicable rebates, interest rates and trade-in values.

Similarly relevant alerts regarding factory recommended service and seasonal specials in parts and service insure that customers are kept up to date on their investment in their vehicle.  At the same time the dealer is assured that their relationship with their customers will exist after the sale in synch with their ongoing social marketing efforts.

Next generation conversion tools will eventually accommodate vehicle sales without customers having to visit the dealership.  However, until these complete transactions on an auto dealer’s website are more widely accepted telephone processes must be updated to preserve these more fragile online customer relationships.

CallRevu is an example of a technology based platform that allows an auto dealer to monitor and manage their in-bound telephone processes to insure that they preserve customer relationships earned through their social marketing initiatives.  The dealership’s telephone processes are first evaluated to insure that all calls are distributed timely and to the correct parties.

Once best practices are established CallRevu delivers real time alerts to key personnel at the dealership advising them of any dropped calls or those that may have been misdirected or otherwise mishandled.  The result is better customer satisfaction, retention and improved profits through delivery of a more consistent customer friendly sales process that converts online friends into real world customers.

Until brick and mortar dealerships are completely irrelevant, and that time may come sooner that many auto dealers might expect, auto dealers must protect relationships that are initiated online as they mature into guests at their real world facility.   IntellaCar is a next generation sales and marketing platform that resides on an iPad that is uniquely qualified to blur the line between the virtual and the real world.

Today’s consumers visit an auto dealership armed with more information than most of the sales consultants that greet them.  IntellaCar empowers sales consultants to compete with these more educated customers by providing them with the same credible third party information that their customers have discovered during their online shopping spree.

Sales consultants are able to access IntellaCar throughout their sales process.  After completing a brief customer profile information is sorted by order of relevancy to fit the customer’s needs.  Vehicle selection, inventory walks, test drives, appraisals and even final negotiations are similarly supported by the IntellaCar platform insuring a consistent customer friendly process.

The result is an easy transition from the online virtual world powered by consumer centric social marketing messaging to an equally customer friendly experience on the showroom floor.  Brick and mortar dealerships aren’t dead yet, and they will always have a place in the sales and service process for customers and dealers alike, which reinforces the value and need for IntellaCar and technology driven sales and marketing platforms like them.

Mobile applications also support online shopping and service experiences that connect real world showrooms with their online counterparts. DealerAppvantage is a dealer branded mobile application that protects and preserves customer satisfaction and retention at the time of delivery.

Customers are able to download DealerAppVantage onto their smart phone to stay in touch with the dealership after their purchase.  Alerts are delivered through the app to remind customers of their factory recommended service at the dealership.  More uniquely, consumer centric content such as local gasoline prices and other information designed to improve their ownership experience is always available.

The hosting auto dealer also benefits from this ongoing connection to their customers when the time comes for them to consider exchanging their vehicle for a new or newer one.  The ability to preserve relationships with customers without trying to time the market with a sales message is yet another example of how auto dealers are preparing to support these online relationships even after they visit their dealerships and take delivery of a vehicle.

Auto dealers are shifting their focus from brick & mortar dealerships to online showrooms powered by social marketing.  However, the transition requires links between proven old world processes and next generation technology driven solutions that prioritize customer relationships over short term sales and profit objectives.

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Forward thinking automotive advertising agencies understand that most changes in the auto industry are driven by technology; however, all of them are powered by human nature.   The evolution from word of mouth referral systems relying on relationship based sales processes to today’s consumer driven social marketing messages can be traced to their  common element; people like to do business with people that they like.

Auto dealers are constantly looking for ways to maximize profits and consumers are equally focused on getting the best possible deal.  The key to satisfying all parties in a free marketplace is to focus on what both sides have in common and it isn’t short term profit or price.

The market has decided that the most efficient technology driven solutions are only effective if they also improve the customer experience.  This has become more evident in today’s internet driven marketplace as social media has empowered consumers to gather the information they need to make a buying or servicing decision without having to rely on their local auto dealer.

Auto industry vendors have focused on providing consumer centric processes to complement social marketing initiatives.   Their common agenda is to prioritize the needs of the customer before those of the dealer with the confidence that they are not mutually exclusive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Automotive advertising agencies must constantly reinvent themselves to keep up with consumer preferences. When customers discovered the internet automotive advertising agencies were forced to follow them online.  New tools like web sites, conversion applications to capture customer information, banner ads and S.E.O./S.E.M. strategies were developed to replace radio, T.V., and print production services. 

The result was reduced profit margins for advertising agencies who sacrificed these lucrative products and services in favor of more cost effective online marketing tools to improve the R.O.I. for their auto dealer clients.  More importantly, they improved the customer experience for the ultimate boss – the consumer.  Customers enjoyed their newfound power to find relevant information in this more transparent media and social media was the next logical progression. 

Automotive advertising agencies are once again being forced to adjust the products and services they provide to their auto dealer clients as consumers find friends on social networks that they trust more than the auto dealers that followed them online.  Forward thinking agencies recognize that social marketing provides efficiencies in production and distribution to deliver more relevant and transparent messages for their dealer clients and they are embracing this new media.  Unfortunately, more conventional agencies are having a hard time accepting their loss of control of the message and they risk becoming irrelevant in an increasingly consumer controlled market. Read the rest of this entry »

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Automotive advertising agencies gather online at AdAgencyOnline.Net to listen and learn from automotive advertising insiders who host a blog talk radio station — WAAOL, All Automotive Advertising News All The Time.  These automotive advertising experts will be discussing The Art Of The Deal In Vendor Negotiations on Monday, March 07th. 2011 at 12:00 Noon EST.  The show will focus on best practices for automotive advertising vendors who are actively negotiating software consolidations in the technology sector; but not for the same reason as the consolidation in the retail auto industry.  Read the rest of this entry »

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In today’s consolidating auto industry automotive advertising agencies must maximize the R.O.I. in a quantifiable manner for any investment they make of their time or with their client’s money.  Social media, including directed investments in and with Facebook, presents some unique challenges to monetize the services provided by an automotive advertising agency.  I recently replied to a question posted on FOCUS, a social networking portal I support composed of professionals sharing best practices, titled — Do Facebook Stores Really Do Anything – How Do You Monetize Facebook?

That question revealed a new area of responsibility for automotive advertising agencies.  Agency retainers are no longer supported by production fees associated with conventional radio, TV or print advertisements.  Media savings and commissions for placing broadcast media have also taken a back seat to consulting on Internet based investments and enhanced selling processes leveraging the viral nature of social media.  In part, providing production and associated Creative and Marketing Services have been supplemented by Consultation Services focused on key vendor selection, directing social media activities and integrating selling processes on websites with those at the dealerships.  Easier said than done when attempted through the glass wall of the Internet.

Automotive advertising agencies are constantly challenged to provide a verifiable R.O.I. for their services in a consolidating auto industry.  Most agencies take credit for everything from website and floor traffic to conversion rates and increased sales to support their fees.  Unfortunately downsized dealers with reduced staff and budgets now rely on detailed R.O.I. analytic tools built into every process and application to track their individual investments; or at least they should!

In response to these new dealer expectations, most vendors integrate a Dealer Portal into their solution that quantifies and qualifies the results of their application independent of the advertising agency’s possibly self serving analysis.  Automotive advertising agencies have found that, as with any recommended vendor or advertising investment, their agency retainers and commissions must also be supported by quantifiable results.  In a performance based business model with line item accountability the R.O.I. from Facebook and other social media investments in time and money can prove to be hard to quantify.

My actual answer to the post on Focus concerning how to monetize Facebook was, “The key to answering this question is to manage the expectations of the advertiser.  If their goal is to make as many friends as possible with the confidence that people like to do business with people that they like — then the answer is an unqualified yes!”

“Social networking sites have unique personalities and rules that govern the conversations that they manage for their online community of friends designed to filter out direct sales messages. The market on Facebook is a conversation that exists before, during and after the shopping / buying decision. Any sales and/or marketing message is best delivered from the inside out as a C2C message between like minded consumers sharing their experiences vs. from the outside in as B2C message delivered by a self serving retailer.”

“As a result, direct sales messaging in Facebook stores will only go as far as the reputation that the retailer has earned by his/her other contributions to the community and of course their track record with previous customers and their willingness to share their experiences online.”

“The R.O.I. from Facebook is realized by collecting a data base of Facebook friends that allow retailers to group their friends by categories. The ability to then deliver relevant messages in a scalable and efficient manner to a qualified and targeted group of potential customers as one friend to another is the way to monetize Facebook.”

“In addition, the R.O.I. should not be limited to considering only short term sales since it is often reflected by increased traffic to the retailers website and/or an enhanced reputation that is only evident over time and reflected in the referrals and customer satisfaction / retention that it develops.”

“Finally, the search engines have weighted references in social media in their algorithms to determine their rankings and page positioning for retailers. As a result, conversations about the retailer on Facebook can be reflected in improved S.E.O. that might not be otherwise achieved. Also, the value of W.O.M.O. — Word Of Mouth Optimization — is less tangible and verifiable, however it has similar value which must be factored into any R.O.I. analytics.”

I have since added specific areas of responsibility concerning the need for the affiliated automotive advertising agencies of Ad Agency Online to help build, manage and monitor the Facebook stores that we are recommending for our auto dealer / vendor clients.  As with any website, price and product matter … unfortunately, in that order.  It is not enough to simply set up the site and sit back to monitor and manage the results.  The more productive Facebook stores are built with the same focus on their online retail displays as they apply to their brick and mortar facilities.

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