The case for a bespoke approach to auto retail

To keep up with retailers in other industries, dealers should make the customer experience personal.

Personal touches go a long way in building relationships with customers and getting them through the F&I process more seamlessly.

Five years ago, consumers were unnerved if companies knew too much about them. But today, "people expect a brand to know them when they arrive at their doorstep, whether that's a physical doorstep or a digital doorstep," said Andrea Brimmer, Ally Financial's chief marketing officer. "A one-sized approach doesn't really work anymore because of the access to information that people have."

Consumers are likely comparing their dealership experience not with other dealerships but with the personalized online retail experiences they have every day with companies such as Amazon and hundreds of other retailers, Brimmer said. Recognition of consumers by name, interests and market status is crucial because they expect it.

Recognition also helps with consumer targeting and smooths the buying and financing process, said Mike Gross, director of product innovation for global fraud and identity at Experian.

Targeting ready-to-buy customers and "being able to seamlessly help them get through the door more quickly with a new loan and a new vehicle -- all of those things are helped by better recognizing consumers," he said.

Many customers, especially millennials, appreciate an a la carte, bespoke approach when they shop for any item. But for an investment as significant as a car, the recognition will likely pay off.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com

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