David Boice, CEO of marketing firm Team Velocity, says dealers are failing to tap a potentially rich source of business — and it's right at their fingertips.
"A dealership is sitting on a gold mine of data," Boice says. Speaking last month at a Shift conference in Las Vegas, he said customers already in the database don't want to be treated like new leads when they visit dealerships' websites. Instead, he says, they should be able to log in, just as they do on Amazon.
In an interview with reporter Sarah Kominek, Boice said dealerships' returning customers should have online experiences that are relevant to their personal details and the cars they're driving. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Why do you think dealerships should use customers' data to serve them online?
A: There are probably at least 50 very relevant pieces of data on you and your car that the dealership you do business with already knows. Every other company you do business with, you have a relationship with them online. They all know a massive amount about you because you are already their customer. Therefore, they treat you differently and personally online.
Q: What data do most dealerships have that they aren't using?
These are very common data points that every franchised dealership has securely stored in their accounting systems: The customer's name, address, phone number and email. Their vehicle's year, make, model, trim, VIN and estimated mileage. Its service history, any recalls, services due, last service and recommended services. The customer's sales info — the payment type, down payment, term, payoff, trade value, equity, likely upgrade options, next service visit, preferences and their shopping history. These data points are easily accessible to create a personal online experience for their customers.
Q: How should dealerships use this data when a customer goes to the website?
People want personalized service coupons that need to be specific to the car they're driving. People really like to know their service history: Does the dealership have all the services that have been performed on record and are they accurate? People also expect you to give them a warning if their vehicle just went under recall. Without filling out any forms, they want to be able to schedule service and incorporate the coupons they're entitled to. You know my name, you know my car and its VIN. I'm not going to fill out a form with the 14 pieces of information you normally ask me for, because I've signed in and I expect you to make scheduling a service appointment easy.
Q: What would the experience be like for a returning customer looking to purchase or lease another vehicle?
Now the customer has pretty high expectations because they have an expiration date. They're going to ask, What upgrade options do I have? What would my payment be? What are the rebates and incentives that are currently available on the vehicle models I'm interested in buying? When you give a customer a personalized experience, people are naturally more comfortable because the service makes it easier for them to do what they need to do. What is best for the dealer's customer is also best for the dealership. You have a five times' greater chance of them completing the task if you treat customers with some relevancy, in a private and secure way.