Bring up Blockbuster or Toys R’ Us in conversation, and you can immediately evoke a sense of nostalgia. These companies were iconic, almost unbreakable brands that were ingrained into our culture. That was twenty years ago, when innovation in the industry was what exclusives you offered in a brick-and-mortar storefront. They couldn’t have possibly predicted the meteoric rise of Amazon and Netflix. These “disruptors” foresaw the changes in the market and rode the tide to their unprecedented successes. That’s because they learned that following new trends in the market was vital in the decade where we went from computers to computers embedded in our cell phones.
This level of innovation has cast a shadow over the automotive industry, still relying on age-old practices that predate the Blockbusters of the world. Dealerships have failed to seize opportunities that could lead them to the forefront of the industry. Does the future lack a sense of direction for dealers, or is the future of marketing already laid out before us?
If the automotive industry is going to survive the rise of platforms like CarVana’s and Cars.com, they need to find the same successes that brought Amazon and Netflix into our homes. That starts with “disrupting” the competition. Dealerships need to be proactive responders to market trends, finding success in social media campaigns and innovating new ways to engage customers.
That can be as simple as video calls to consumers, engaging with them as if they were already at the dealership. This personal level of intercommunication means that salespeople can walk the lot with customers at their convenience, and see their vehicles in perspective. Videos also bring immediate benefits to advertising and marketing teams. Changing strategies by personal engagement with customers, potential and current, means that dealers can keep in constant contact with leads. Even something as simple as a “Happy Birthday” video from the dealership continues conversations with customers.
Creating content on a daily basis is another way to innovate the industry. This could come in the form of videos showcasing new cars or vlogs offering a transparent look into the dealership. This shares with the customer that you are actively seeking ways to engage with your audience. Rather than put an ad on television, email your customers with enticing offers. Instead of cold calls, share a video on social media showcasing your dealership or your salespeople. Customers are attracted to faces and personalities, and keeping constant updates on your organizations lets your potential clients know that you’re confident about your organization.
Speaking on behalf of salespeople, branding your employees through social media offers an individual way to tap into your organization without intimidating customers. Let your salespeople have their own FaceBook or Instagram accounts, keeping contact with customers to reassure them that they have an ally within your organization.
Being an active participant on social media goes beyond these platforms. Job recruitment sites and Google reviews keep you engaged with your audience. Directors and managers should take charge, but allow other leaders within your organization to tackle these responsibilities. Show your audience that you are quick to respond to their needs, and that customer service goes beyond the dealership. This allows organizations to see where they stand with customer relations and have an active way to improve their standing with customers.
New companies offer instant gratification with their purchases, including new players within the automotive industry. A dealership doesn’t need to lose ground because these companies can thrive online: it simply means that dealerships can take an active role in an ever-changing market. There may come a time where brick-and-mortar dealers lose to the convenience of CarVana or Cars.com, but if organizations ensure that they are keeping up with these trends, they have a real shot at maintaining a competitive edge that extends well into the next technological wave. Personality, active engagement and constant contact can make dealerships feel a part of the 21st century.