Decision Marketing Data Clinic: Revving up car market

DM ClinicIn the latest in a series of articles, designed to provide advice on data-driven marketing strategies in these turbulent times and beyond, we look into the issues facing the leisure sector.

The Decision Marketing Data Clinic, in association with REaD Group, is open to all companies and organisations big and small. If you have a burning issue which you would like advice on please email us on info@decisionmarketing.co.uk

Like many industries, the automotive sector has been hit by Covid but the rise of electric vehicles is giving businesses a much needed boost.

As a car manufacturer, one of our biggest challenges is encouraging prospective customers to buy a car. What can we do about this?
The key to overcoming this challenge is building trust and this is achieved by gaining a proper understanding of your prospect. While some manufacturers do some customer research at the point of purchase, this tends to be inconsistent.

Realistically an individual is not going to purchase a car because of a cold email; rather, brands need to nurture prospects through a customer journey. Consumers purchase from companies they trust (according to Edelman, it is the second most important factor in the decision to buy a new brand (53%) or become a loyal customer (49%)), so having the correct information about a customer will not only allow you to understand their needs but also communicate with them clearly, both of which are key to building trust.

The automotive industry is not very integrated. How can we overcome this and build better relationships with customers and prospects?
The problem is that manufacturers, retailers, and finance companies often don’t work in harmony. They are separate legal entities, which creates confusion for customers and doesn’t allow for any data sharing; something that will impact the performance of any marketing communications.

Moreover, servicing and after sales are not joined up: manufacturers want to retain the customer, but the data tends to be held and managed at the retailer. And manufacturers still focus on product, not customers, and they tend to only consider one model up or down from the existing model for customer vehicle changes. Data isn’t used to drive any cross-sell or upsell campaigns based on income or affordability for example.

Manufacturers can also have issues obtaining data from dealerships and retailers: even, in some cases, paying for this data. The role of intermediaries (such as Car Giant, JamJar and Cinch) also adds another layer of obfuscation to obtaining customer data. Corporate sales are also a big issue: generally, there are less of them and there’s a lack of insight. And, of course, who owns the vehicle is a big issue: often manufacturers or dealerships won’t know that a car has been traded in or sold privately.

So how do you overcome all these challenges? A single customer view (SCV) delivers consistency in terms of information and knowledge from multiple systems and channels to give you a more complete and unified view of your customers and prospects. An SCV ensures the many sources of information about customers and their relationship with you is collated, cleaned, enhanced and held at customer level to be accessed as needed in order to build successful engagement strategies.

An SCV is also vital for companies who want to use their customer data strategically: to better understand their customers in order to provide them with extraordinary, personalised services that improve the customer experience and drive a better return on investment. It also underpins the successful implementation of data transformational initiatives that rely on artificial intelligence or machine learning programmes, because these are only as good as the data that feeds them.

An SCV will connect all aspects of the vehicle purchase process: manufacturer, dealer and finance. Combining offline and online data points (via decentralised marketing infrastructure which protects the privacy of the end user) provides a further clearer view of the customer or prospect. It will also help hugely to tie together missing dealer data and missing touchpoints on servicing, MOTs and more, allow for cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

What should we do with this customer and prospect data?
It can be hard to understand what to do with this data when you have it. It is only natural to view journeys as linear but this is often not the case, so attempts to nurture customers and prospects in this way can fall short; understanding of and communication with the customer will again become an issue.

An SCV provides the following: preferred method of contact; website address; transactional history; length of relationship; purchase history; and social media accounts. Using these multiple data points, you can create communications campaigns that are tailored to each individual, but you can also add more data points with a data partner that can provide you with a broad selection of variables to append to this data. This will allow you to deliver targeted multi-channel communications via bespoke customer engagement solutions.

You can also ensure your communications and marketing are more personalised, relevant and timely using a data asset repository to enhance your customer data. REaD Enhance, for instance, holds multiple, trusted sources of consumer data representing virtually every marketable individual, with more than 900 variables including comprehensive demographics, household characteristics, behavioural and attitudinal attributes, to enable you to deliver relevant communications to your customers.

And, once a direct sale is made, this will provide you with new and unique data on that customer at the point of purchase.

Once we have secured a customer, how do we ensure they stay loyal to the brand?
Digital has a key part to play as part of a loyalty strategy over time, although it can also be used for the acquisition of new customers. Acquisition data can be used to target customers both online and off-line, so packs sent out by dealers can then be loaded into Facebook, for example, to help dealers run relevant ads when the brochure drops. Based on social activity, it is also possible to create a probability model that captures someone looking for a new car.

There are a number of ways to target lapsed customers and re-engage them with dealerships and manufacturers. Firstly, keep data clean to ensure that prospects exist at the same address. If permissions are a concern, we can provide permission to contact. It is also possible to screen prospects to ascertain if they are still in the market for a car.

Customer journey automations drop customers into segmented journeys, encouraging them to move down the pipeline. And of course, keeping data clean – ensuring the most recent details are on file, and that pre-movers, goneaways and more – will ensure that communications will always reach them. It is also important to screen for vulnerable consumers: many people’s personal circumstances have changed over the past year and a half, so being able to identify and tailor messaging accordingly has never been more important.

How can we leverage opportunities like electric vehicles and next best offers?
Sustainability is high on the agenda for a lot of manufacturers with electric vehicles and/or reducing emissions being at the forefront of this. We can provide data on those most likely to want to purchase an electric vehicle, based on data modelling at a postcode level. We can use property data (e.g. off-street parking) and attitudinal data (e.g. environmentally active) as well as demographics to target likely EV owners.

Next best offers and next best actions are currently not done well so a pop-up in call centres or in a portal would be valuable to capture prospects. Next Best Product (NBP) models can create alerts to flag likely prospects.

Adam Tolcher is account director at data and insight agency REaD Group

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