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Connecting the Dots without Missing the Opportunity: Back to the Future

Future and Past
Article Highlights:

  • Technology is pointing back to the future in advertising and marketing.
  • Phone leads have increased more than 40 percent compared to Internet leads.

Two news announcements recently caught my attention. Only one mentioned automotive, but both have implications for dealerships.

First, Apple introduced the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, reminding us that the digital information revolution ushered in by the original iPhone is far from over. That brave new world of information is not only in the palm of our hands but now also on our wrists.

Second, a recent J.D. Power report concluded that consumers looking to purchase a new vehicle use traditional media content far more than most industry observers assume—but they often access it through digital devices. Digital devices have spurred the information revolution and, at the same time, enabled broader access to what many thought digital had replaced: traditional media and communications channels.

Those two seemingly disparate points of view carry several implications for dealers.

First, the proliferation of mobile devices with “always-on” access to the Internet and click-to-call convenience has increased the number of phone calls to traditional landlines in the dealership.

In the past two years, phone-call leads have increased more than 40 percent compared to Internet leads, which have remained relatively flat. That influx of calls puts more pressure on dealership personnel to manage and handle the increase effectively and more pressure on dealerships to implement the right processes and training for handling the calls.

It also points to the benefits of call management technologies.

Second, the proliferation of digital devices requires the constant rebalancing of the marketing and advertising mix between digital and traditional channels for dealerships.

Too often the internet and digital media channels are seen as alternatives to more traditional media. The J.D. Power study suggests the relationship is more balanced—digital channels are additional and complementary ways that consumers can access traditional media—and be reached with new digital content tailored to the individual and the channel.

Finally, digital devices have enabled social media to alter the relationship between consumers and the vehicle shopping, buying, and servicing experience. In the process, it’s also created a new dimension in marketing.

More than two-thirds of new vehicle shoppers access information on social media sites. And referrals from sites like Facebook and Twitter about a brand or shopping experience typically reach their followers in a matter of hours. That means someone standing in your showroom can recommend your dealership (or not recommend it) based on the experience then and there—and influence an individual planning to visit the dealership later that day.

That dynamic changes the definition of marketing and adds a new dimension to how dealerships value—and evaluate—every customer interaction.

While every new technology advancement points to the digital revolution as the future of advertising and marketing, it’s also pointing back to the future in advertising and marketing.

Dealers connecting the dots to keep both in sight—and balanced—will also gain the most from both.

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Former President, Reynolds and Reynolds

Ron Lamb is the former president of Reynolds and Reynolds (2010-2017).

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