Have you ever found a company online only to be thoroughly disappointed when you visited their physical location? Your first impression of the company didn’t match the physical reality, leaving you confused and disheartened.

According to one study, 94 percent of consumers research a business online before visiting a store. And 81 percent of consumers stated they have looked up inventory on a retailer’s website before visiting the store, with 80 percent being less inclined to visit a store if a website does not provide current product availability.

Businesses in the automotive industry tackle this challenge daily when potential buyers walk into their showroom. Customers expect a seamless online and in-store experience. From the moment they search through your website to the second they sign on the dotted line, customers deserve to interact with a unified brand.

It’s important to make sure your online presence matches your physical store. Use these easy tactics to provide your customers with a positive car buying experience from start to finish.

1. Leverage VIN-Specific Advertising

VIN-Specific Advertising pairs shoppers on the verge of making a purchase with the right vehicles in your inventory through paid advertising, display marketing, and social media ad platforms.

When prospective buyers are actively searching for vehicle information online, VIN-Specific Advertising works to provide that content in an engaging manner through interactive ads.

If the potential lead chooses to take the next step and either contact your dealership or visit the showroom, your sales team will already have the necessary info about the vehicle they are interested in. Using this data, your sales team can work to provide leads with a hassle-free car buying process online and in-store.

On top of an enhanced in-store experience using online data, VIN-Specific Advertising tactics enable your sales team to enjoy a shortened sales cycle. Less time selling means more time to focus on fine-tuning the complete customer experience.

2. Employ Email Marketing Strategies

Email marketing is one of the most effective forms of advertising for car dealerships. It generates an ROI of $38 for every $1 spent. This powerful promotional tool can also bridge the gap between in-store and online customer interactions.

Best of all, email marketing can be used for all facets of your marketing and sales efforts, including:

  • Inventory Announcements
  • Sale Events– Pricing Promotions
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Service Updates and Owner Loyalty Programs
  • Service Events
  • Customer Loyalty Deals/Specials

The possibilities are endless.

When attempting to connect online and in-store experiences through email marketing, keep these quick tips in mind:

Personalize Emails

Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates. And 74 percent of marketers said that targeted messages and personalized emails improved their customer engagement rates.

Your email marketing program of choice likely offers a feature to add personal information to messages and subject lines. Start small and add details, such as the customer’s name, to the subject line and email greeting.

As you build a rapport with them, consider including other personal information such as the type of vehicle they drive, upcoming service appointments, etc.

Build Email Templates for Your Sales Team

To provide customers with a consistent brand identity and experience, your marketing and sales teams need to be on the same page. The marketing team shouldn’t send emails that say one thing, only for a sales rep to say something else in a direct message.

Take the time to build solid email templates for your sales and marketing teams for all points in the purchase process. Allow your team members to make adjustments to the language and template based on the respective sale or promotion.

Having uniform email communications with potential buyers and current clients will work to strengthen the customer relationship and credibility of your dealership in the minds of consumers.

3. Use a Singular Brand Voice

Imagine becoming familiar with a business online only to experience a different vibe the minute you walk in the door.

From your Instagram posts to the copy used on your in-store signage, the language you use with customers at all touchpoints needs to be consistent. This is known as your brand voice.

Your brand voice should not be helpful on one platform and confrontational on another. In addition, all of your sales reps should have a full understanding of your car dealership’s brand voice for use in all customer communications.

If your business doesn’t already have a defined brand voice, it is in your best interest to invest the time, resources, and energy into developing one and documenting it. Seek the counsel of professional copywriters or advertising experts, if your budget allows for it, to help develop the right brand voice for your dealership.

Understand Your Audience

Having a defined brand voice, either online or in-store is useless if you don’t have a complete understanding of your audience’s needs and wants.

For example, let’s say you design your brand voice to be edgy and witty. Yet, the residents in your immediate geographic area typically respond well to brands that are soft, helpful, and family-centric. This would prove to be a huge disconnect between your dealership and potential clients.

Take the time to research your past, previous, and potential clients to develop a thorough knowledge of their needs, wants, demographic information and any other pertinent details. This information will help you craft the perfect brand voice, messaging, and marketing materials to implement in-store and online.

4. Update Your Company Website

Your website will likely be prospective customers’ first impressions with your dealership. In fact, web credibility researchers at Stanford found that customer judgments of a company’s credibility are 75 percent based on the company’s website design.

With this in mind, your website design and content need to be up-to-date at all times. Think of your website as a window into your dealership and showroom.

Use your website to showcase your:

  • Services Department
  • Sales Team
  • Services/Maintenance Team
  • Showroom
  • Waiting Room Facility
  • Parts Available for Sale

Giving customers an inside look at your business will entice them to come in and check it out for themselves. And, for those prospective customers who are hesitant or nervous about taking the next step in the car buying process, the transparency will help.

5. Use Social Media for Customer Service Inquiries

Social media marketing is a staple for car dealerships. Using platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, car dealers are able to capture the attention of consumers through engaging content and direct them through the car buying process.

But if the in-store experience doesn’t match the social media facade (or vice versa), customers will be less than enthused.

45 percent of consumers say social media is one of the first channels they go to with any brand questions or issues. Providing customer service assistance through your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles is another way to provide customers with flawless online and in-store encounters.

It was reported that customers spend 20-40% more with companies who engage and respond to customers via social media.

When offering social media customer service to prospective buyers and online fans, follow these tips:

Personalize Responses

Just as personalization efforts have proven to be useful for email marketing, personalized social media messages perform better than impersonal ones. Instead of using pre-written auto-responders, have a dedicated employee in charge of responding to each customer inquiry with personalized messages.

In doing so, you’ll show customers and potential leads that your dealership values their business and is working diligently to solve their problem or find an answer to their question.

Train this employee to thoroughly listen to each customer’s concern or complaint and respond accordingly, using personalized details from the customer’s profile and message.

Be Timely

There’s nothing more irritating than waiting for a company to respond to your request after several hours, or worse, days. When a customer messages your dealership through social media, do your best to respond to them promptly.

Doing so helps improve their trust in your dealership and increases the likelihood of positive customer interaction.

Assigning a dedicated customer service or sales representative to respond to all social media messages ensures your customers aren’t left waiting online.

Invest in a Social Media Marketing Tool

In addition to assisting with your social media content and advertising needs, social media tools now offer the capability to respond to customer messages and comments.

Investing in a singular tool will help your car dealership streamline your social media customer service efforts into one platform, rather than switching between each social media channel every few minutes.

A few of the top social media tools include:

Again, dedicate a team member to be responsible for handling or delegating the messages received through this tool for prompt service and personalized responses.

Connect Your Sales Team with Social Media

Your sales team will find the customer conversations and inquiries on social media to be useful for their sales efforts. By having access to or assisting with the responses, your sales team will have a greater understanding of the common customer concerns, inquiries, and questions.

This information will help them provide a consistent online and in-store experience for all customers who contact your business or walk through the door interested in a test drive.

If possible, filter these social media messages into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program so your sales team can build full customer profiles of these individuals for use during the sales cycle.

Start Bridging the Gap Between Your Online Marketing and In-Store Experiences

When you execute these simple tactics, your customers will enjoy a consistent in-store and online experience with your dealership.

Need help implementing these tactics? Get connected with the J&L Marketing team today!