The days of the giant inflatable balloon mascot are over. When customers walk into a car dealership today, they’ve probably already spent hours poring over automotive research, reviews, and customization options.
This inserts technology into the customer-dealership relationship, says Max Zanan, an automotive retail management consultant and author of 2017’s Perfect Dealership: Surviving Digital Disruption. With tech-savvy customers on one end, and car manufacturers pressing for more sales at the other, dealerships haven’t got much choice but to adapt if they want to remain active participants in the car-buying journey.
It can be a painful process, as Zanan and Kelly Collins, senior vice-president for the auto and manufacturing industry vertical at Aquent, explain. But those that combine high tech and high-quality digital talent stand to reap major rewards.
Creating a digital-first ecosystem at the dealership
In order to succeed, Zanan says dealerships require aggressive digital strategies. A recent survey conducted by AutoTrader revealed that car buyers — especially Millennials — spend 59 percent of their time researching their purchase online, with 46 percent using multiple devices to do so. Sixty-eight percent of dealership customers get a negative impression of the brand when a dealer’s mobile site and social media presence are sub-par.
Engaging customers online when they’re researching a potential purchase is absolutely crucial. “My definition of a good website is very simple: I want to know everything I need to know without calling anybody,” he says. “You also need to promote your dealership everywhere, with a blog on your site, a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, an Instagram page, and a LinkedIn page,” says Zanan.
But it isn’t enough to have a slick UX and a comprehensive omnichannel marketing strategy. Having the right people to support and optimize the purchasing journey — on the front lines at the dealership, as well as those behind computer screens — is essential to survival. “Most dealers have already adopted digital technologies; they know they need these tools, says Kelly Collins, senior vice-president for the auto and manufacturing industry vertical at Aquent.
The problem is, internal recruitment teams typically have a hard time finding quality digital talent at a competitive rate to help train, implement, and manage everything and make sure these digital tools are running effectively, Collins says. “That's where we come in. We have a really strong network of talent and the ability to screen, find, and present the best.” Aquent recently placed 60 digital marketing managers on-site with a top U.S. automaker in 60 days, and 98% were still in the role after nine months.
Using talent to strengthen dealer-automaker relationship
Today’s dealerships aren’t just competing against another brand down the street; they’re going head-to-head with disruptive online auto retailers who are selling direct-to-consumer. “Dealerships have sold the same way for years, and all of a sudden, digital is a game-changer in the marketplace – how your sales numbers are looking, what’s your market share. [OEMs] are all racing to the finish line of who can support their dealers faster to be able to get these new digital tools,” Collins explains.
Those digital tools come with specialized digital talent— people who can seamlessly blend the digital and face-to-face experiences to offer the kind of service that newer generations of car buyers are after.
These digital managers are like Swiss army knives. They can act as point people in OEM-dealer relationships by collaborating on and implementing digital plans and go-to-market strategies. They can also review and optimize digital performance and engagement across a variety of the dealer’s tools, suggest action plans and the integration of new tools, and assist with any technical challenges. They can also coordinate marketing staff to address digital signage, social media, lead generation, CRM, and other services.
Finding the right talent
It’s well-known that dealerships often struggle to source, attract, and onboard skilled local creative and marketing talent. In this talent market, it isn’t enough to offer someone a job.
Independent creative and marketing workers are looking for challenging, fulfilling opportunities to entice them away from the work they’re already doing. “Money is not the only motivator. Working environments and opportunity for growth are also motivators,” says Zanan.
By leaving the hiring and management of remote freelancers and in-house talent to a managed workforce solutions provider, car dealers and OEMs will be in a better position to continue doing what they do best — making, and selling, cars.