Best PracticesDealership Marketing

4 Tips for Enhancing Automation to Increase Appointments and Sales

We hear a lot these days about car shoppers going online to buy their cars, with murmurs about the obsolescence of traditional car buying as options for buying online advance. Reality is, dramatic changes like this are not the happening overnight. The majority of car buyers still visit a dealership before buying, with 88% coming in for a test drive according to a 2015 study.

However, getting shoppers to come into your dealership is always the challenge. With more than two-thirds of car shoppers visiting on average two dealerships before buying, and 40% visit only one, this means that shoppers are deciding online which dealership to visit – and the competition is stiff.

Dealerships need a way to make the online shopping and appointment setting process seamless and convenient so that shoppers see them as a natural choice for their test drive and purchase.

This is where the technological revolution becomes relevant for your dealership.

Think about how the popular, obsolete methods of setting appointments can present challenges:

  1. When new leads come into your CRM, generic automated emails can be a great way to send an initial response. The problem is, these responses often do not answer the customer’s specific questions, and therefore do not effectively move the buying process forward and get that appointment set.
  2. Setting appointments by phone presents numerous challenges:
    1. Phone tag can slow down or derail the process, and drain your BDC or sales team’s time and resources.
    2. Customers, pressured to set an appointment while a representative waits on the line, can select times that are not actually good for them, and then feel less motivated to actually show up.
    3. Many times, sales representatives, eager to start the clock on a lead, do not prepare for the phone call with all the information that lead has left in their CRM. This can lead to redundant conversations that are less valuable for the customer, and less likely to move the process forward.

Because of these things, dealers must do more to make the appointment setting process smoother and more successful, by leveraging automation technology that makes the process as seamless as possible and brings in more appointments to your dealership.

The easier it is to make appointments, the more people will make them. The better the online shopping experience is, the more likely people are to actually show up.

  1. Sophisticated automation. Not to be confused with automated email responses, automation for appointment setting can be an extremely effective way of making more appointments and getting customers to keep them. You can add a second step into your lead capture process so that at the moment they convert, leads can request an appointment for a test drive. Set this up so that their request goes straight into your CRM along with all their other information. Getting a lead to request a test drive immediately after they convert catches customers when their interest is high and their focus is on your dealership. Not only does this cut down the hassle, it encourages customers to keep their appointments, since they can set the appointment on their own time and without the pressure of the phone.
  2. Valuable and hassle-free follow-up. The next-best option to automated appointment-setting is follow-up that encourages coming in for a test drive.
    1. Use your CRM to understand whether your leads are earlier or later stage and respond to them accordingly – either quickly and persistently for later-stage buyers or become an informative resource for the earlier stages.
    2. Always read the lead. Most software can capture more than just the lead name, providing you with information on VDP activity, how much time they spent on your site, and any questions they submitted. Have this information at your fingertips and be ready to answer specific questions so that you provide value to your customers and steer them in the direction of setting an appointment. Give them what they want.
  3. Website optimization. Optimize your website so that shoppers are gaining value from your site. This simplifies the shopping process and accelerates setting an appointment:
    1. Populate your website with informative content that engages shoppers and establishes your dealership as a trusted resource. For example, provide in-depth feature guides, comparisons between your top models and those of your competitors, and tips for navigating the car shopping process.
    2. Use conversion optimization technology that tracks your website users’ behavior to segment them by interest. For example, a shopper who visits the same VDP multiple times might see a video explaining special features or an offer on that model, while someone more interested in service can be offered a service special. This level of personalization makes shoppers feel that their needs are being met and will bring them into your dealership.
  4. Lead nurture. Some of your leads aren’t yet ready to make an appointment, but you can get them there faster by helping them through the buying process – another chance for automation:
    1. Use technology that can split up your leads by segments so you can categorize and make your follow up relevant.
    2. Create follow-up campaigns and reminders according to the segments. A lead who converts on a general offer like a holiday sale should continue to receive content about specials, general car shopping tips, and popular models. Customers looking at specific VDPs should receive offers on the model they chose as well as similar ones. Service customers or previous buyers should get maintenance reminders with links to make an appointment. When these reminders are set up to be automated they take no work on your part once the leads start coming through.

With 88% of shoppers* using the internet to research their car purchases, and more than half of the car buying process typically done online, it’s crucial to establish your dealership as the obvious choice for a test drive. Simplifying both the research process and the process of setting up a test drive will get more people to trust your dealership and choose to walk through your doors instead of a competitor’s.


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