To win customers, promote your experiences, not just your vehicles


I wrote last week about how — or even whether — franchised dealerships should counter messaging that their business model is outdated in advertisements from online used-vehicle sellers such as Carvana and Vroom.

One reason that images such as the one portrayed in Vroom’s Super Bowl commercial — a car salesman threatening a would-be customer with an electric shock — persist may be because dealerships haven’t done as good a job telling consumers about their digital retailing capabilities and convenient experiences, such as buying online and home vehicle delivery.

Ryan Osten, COO of Gubagoo, a retail technology vendor that specializes in conversational and digital retailing tools, says dealerships should consider three questions to think like a disrupter and succeed against Carvana or Vroom.

First, what are the core values customers will continue to want years from now? Osten contends they center on a speedy, comfortable and trustworthy transaction.

Second, what type of behavior does the dealership reward? For instance, does the store promise an easy online buying experience, yet incentivize sales reps to bring customers into the store?

“Why would I encourage them to do everything remotely when I’m going to get paid when they come into the store?” Osten told me. “You need everyone rowing in the same direction, so if you’re not changing the incentive structure for your salespeople and for the people that are interacting with your customers, they’re just going to do what they’ve always done.”
Third, he said, what should a compelling marketing strategy look like to promote a great product — in this case, the dealership experience — and become top of mind for consumers?

Brands should be involved in that promotion, too, Dean Evans, executive vice president of dealership technology company, said at an auto retail summit hosted by media company Reuters last week. They put a lot of work into developing their experiences, he said, and can do a better job of marketing the fruits of that effort.

“The dialogue today is, let’s not just talk about it and do these things,” Evans said, “but how do they become an integral part of the brand pillars and the brand statement to the consumer?”

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