Sonic refines outreach

Sonic Automotive Inc. is revamping its customer communication strategy as it prepares to launch a customer experience initiative this summer.

The current system, about four years old, sends messages via e-mail or postal mail to customers at five points in their vehicle life cycle, said Rachel Richards, Sonic vice president of retail strategy and business applications. One of those messages comes just after a customer purchases a vehicle.

"They were good four or five years ago when we launched it, but they're not where they need to be now," said Richards, who also noted that sales representatives keep customer portfolios and may initiate their own follow-up communications.

So Sonic is adopting more sophisticated analytics to try to make its communications more relevant. The makeover will happen as part of the rollout of the One Sonic-One Experience program beginning July 1. That effort will have sales reps using iPads to handle vehicle transactions from beginning to end.

Richards said improved analytics will help Sonic better understand where consumers are in their automotive life cycle or what they're shopping for online. Sonic then will be able to send out more targeted messages.

— Amy Wilson