Best PracticesDealership Communication Tools

Dealership Texting Delivers Conversational Commerce

Today, we will talk about the four elements of a successful dealership texting solution but, more importantly, how to implement one at your dealership. COVID-19 is ushering a real need for conversational commerce as sales continue to shift further online with Digital Retailing. Today we will break down a few elements you need to have to make it work for you and your customers at the dealership.

Let’s first start with the reality that many dealerships struggle with organized texting as an additional channel to connect and communicate with potential shoppers. Yet the data shows that texting has enormous benefits. 95% of messages are read within 3 minutes compared to the dismal open rate of email at just 20%. Consumer preferences are changing, and it is time to meet the shopper where and how they want to engage the dealership. If you already have an automotive texting platform, that is a significant first step, but it will take more than just checking the box to drive real dealership revenue.

Suppose you don’t have a solution already in place or aren’t sure if the one you have is the right one for your dealership needs. Ask yourself these couple questions.

Is all of your customer messaging being completed using a safe and compliant automotive texting solution?

TCPA laws are essential to follow, yet many dealerships are operating outside of compliance with their sales team members texting from their personal smartphones instead of a platform with opt-in and out functionality. Another thing is ensuring your shoppers are opt-ing into the conversation and keeping a list of them for future audit reference. Also, remember your shopper needs to reply; otherwise, you have not met TCPA compliance. Continuing to send text messages through automated platforms to shoppers that aren’t opt-in and verified can put your dealership at risk. Your initial messaging to the shopper needs to have all the compliance pieces in place to be considered TCPA compliant. Check any messages going out of the system you are using.

What tools does your texting platform provide?

We have entered a world that requires fast, content-rich text responses to shoppers, including inventory, Carfax results, Monroney labels, emoji, pictures, videos, or even GIFs to keep your shopper engaged. Conversational commerce is about engaging your shoppers and walking them through a digital process, moving them closer to a sales transaction. At 360Converge, we believe we are going to see a flurry of new tools for your sales team to leverage to keep shoppers informed and engaged in the automotive purchasing process while speeding up the process of completing an automotive purchase all while delivering an outstanding consumer experience.

Is your automotive texting solution simple for your team to switch from texting on the desk to a mobile environment without losing anything?

We live in a world that our sales team is mostly on the go, and the need for messaging to be anyplace your team is while providing the critical tools needed to keep the shopper engaged. Technology is good, but what makes it great is ensuring adoption at your dealership. This means you need an easy to use tool that aligns with your team’s existing habits. If your technology forces massive processes changes or has limited functionality, your team will most likely revert to current habits of using their personal phone, which takes your dealership out of compliance and any insight into how effective your dealership follow up is going.

Another issue we see with dealerships attempting to use texting more at the dealerships is an effective solution for routing text messages to the proper salespeople. You want to put your best people right into the action to respond to the shopper and quickly share the appropriate information. Nothing is worse than shopper’s messages sitting in the CRM waiting to have responses sent.

Are you having a hard time getting your team to use a solution?

If you have sold cars for longer than five years, most likely it was trained into you over and over that email and phone are the core ways to engage Internet leads and set appointments. This was true but has quickly evolved as consumer shopping has also changed to continue to feel more in control during the process. Texting has now become a critical consumer channel for lead development and, ultimately for Digital Retailing. Automotive shoppers don’t care about channels. They care about getting their questions answered, and automotive texting is the fastest way to engage shoppers.

An interesting discovery at 360Converge has been a general fear of texting amongst the dealership staff. This is a common fear that we have seen with automotive salespeople when they attempt to use something new or are unsure of the best way to use it. We have seen salespeople default to email the shopper instead of missing a huge opportunity to connect faster and provide a real-time conversation instead of relying on email, which can get caught in SPAM traps or worse is never even opened. This comes down to giving your team an easy to use yet powerful system that helps them become confident and deliver results in more appointments and dealership sales.

Automotive texting at the dealership should be a cornerstone of your sales process. You will quickly see the results when you commit to meeting your shoppers when and where they want to communicate instead of relying on just the old forms of communication via phone and email.

In conclusion, take the time to review your current texting plan and see if you need to upgrade or improve your existing solution to engage more shoppers and deliver more sales. Especially now in the age of COVID-19, meeting your shoppers using collaboration is the way to grow your sales and achieve better experiences.

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john.quinn

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Dec 2, 2009
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I know opinions are like.... snowflakes (;-)) -- and I'm no lawyer, but here goes:

TCPA deals with automated phone dialing. As texting is considered a "Phone" function, texting is covered under TCPA.

However... if your texting solution has NO automation -- one human being hitting one button that sends one and only one text, TCPA has no interest nor is applicable.

Sooo.... pragmatically, what does that mean? If your solution provides no robo-texting functionality, there's no legal requirement to get permission to send text.

As far as permission: Best practice? Good idea? Sure. TCPA compliance? Stay away from text campaigns or any sort of text automation, and TCPA is not relevant.
 

Dan Sayer

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Dec 4, 2009
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I think @john.quinn and I are on the same page. In my review of the TCPA laws over the last few years, and I am also not a lawyer, actions taken when it comes to a phone number aren't separated by text or voice call when it comes to a human dialing. TCPA sees them as the same thing. We don't call people to see if we can call them...
We don't have any automated text campaigns hitting marketing lists as that does get into Opt-In rules and from what I can tell, is where most all lawsuits derive from (show me one that didn't). We use a phone number that a customer has provided for text and/or phone and see those actions against that number as the same thing. If they submitted a number on the lead form, we have green light on text and call with no opt-in. We have 90-days to attempt contact if they're on the DNC list but obviously can take a hint after a much shorter time if we get no response. We have 18 months to market to their number if they transacted with us.

The advertised fear and a dealer's unwillingness to research the rules on their own provide many sales opportunities for vendors in this space. Not saying that's you but if a dealer sees value in letting someone do it (as long as they get indemnification) because then they don't have to worry about it, go for it.

Change my mind @todd.smith

...and I do agree, texting is where it's at.
 
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Dahvin Greenfield

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Aug 7, 2020
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With any automated messaging there is always a risk... I don't think solely texting is going to improve a dealership's closing rate or lead response time; a good balance of both communicating via text, email or phone is good. As long as your messaging is consistent and you are not spamming customers, no harm is done. It's all about keeping the consumer interested in you and what's the best way to do that? Answering them as soon as possible!
 
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I don't think solely texting is going to improve a dealership's closing rate or lead response time; a good balance of both communicating via text, email or phone is good.
I respectfully disagree. Communicating via text is the absolute best way to initially reach a customer and will greatly improve a dealership's closing ratio. Nowadays, customers are trained to ignore calls from phone numbers they don't recognize and emails from dealership CRM's are often sent straight to spam. Texting is the #1 way to ensure that a customer gets and reads our communication.

texting is where it's at
:iagree:
 
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CarlAutofusion

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Mar 17, 2014
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We have a texting solution that allows consumers to text you and the dealer answers the texts using email.

Here are some numbers across our texting platform when comparing year-over-year numbers:
  • March 2020: -28%
  • April 2020: 10%
  • May 2020: 80%
  • June 2020: 71%
  • July 2020: 63%
aside from March and April when many dealers were closed or only partially open, it looks like the pandemic increased texts to dealerships.
 
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Dan Sayer

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Dec 4, 2009
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We have a texting solution that allows consumers to text you and the dealer answers the texts using email.

Here are some numbers across our texting platform when comparing year-over-year numbers:
  • March 2020: -28%
  • April 2020: 10%
  • May 2020: 80%
  • June 2020: 71%
  • July 2020: 63%
aside from March and April when many dealers were closed or only partially open, it looks like the pandemic increased texts to dealerships.
@CarlAutofusion I literally have no idea what you are talking about ^^^ Can you give some context to "dealer answers the texts using email" as well as what -28% means in comparison to 63%? Thanks.
 

CarlAutofusion

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Mar 17, 2014
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Hello Dan Sayer, we have a widget that resides on the dealer website that allows consumers to fill out a form to start a text conversation. The form goes to the dealer as an email and when the dealer responds to the email, it strips out any previous conversations and texts the consumer back.

The percentages are the increase and decrease of consumers submitting the text requests through our widget when compared to the same month for the prior year. For example, in March 2020, there was a 28% decrease in the amount of text requests that came in when compared to March 2019.

I was hoping to show that during the covid lockdowns, the number of consumers that want to communicate via text has increased.

Thanks,
 

Dan Sayer

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Dec 4, 2009
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Hello Dan Sayer, we have a widget that resides on the dealer website that allows consumers to fill out a form to start a text conversation. The form goes to the dealer as an email and when the dealer responds to the email, it strips out any previous conversations and texts the consumer back.

The percentages are the increase and decrease of consumers submitting the text requests through our widget when compared to the same month for the prior year. For example, in March 2020, there was a 28% decrease in the amount of text requests that came in when compared to March 2019.

I was hoping to show that during the covid lockdowns, the number of consumers that want to communicate via text has increased.

Thanks,
Ah, I got ya. Curious as to why the widget would be a Text to Email exchange? Seems like it would inherently take something that was meant for speed and slow it down? Not that any tool creating a handoff between a shopper's phone and a sales person's phone is fast. I suppose we've created a mess of text pathways ourselves with no perfect handoff:

1. Form Fill on sites from CTA for "Confirm Availability" etc have a "Prefer Text" option. Our sales team reply SMS via Vin's tool or MMS via Snapcell which also has Vin integration. They both rely on sales person getting push notifications from the Vin or Snapcell applications on their phone. Downside is customer sees two different numbers if the conversation switches from SMS to MMS.

2. Chat/Text via CarNow on the websites is a hosted chat/text and really just in how the hosted conversation is delivered on the shopper's device; chat box or text client.

3. Direct to sales person phone. This happens a lot since we have our sales team cell numbers on their cards and email sigs. Usually this is an exchange that happens post sale or repeat sale. Yes, I would like it to be in a system that logs to the CRM but not going to die on the hill if customer initiated the text conversation to the sales person's personal device.