Attention, car dealers: Your Information Age marketing strategies are obsolete, as we are now living in the Experience Age! The Information Age was spawned over two decades ago, by the emergence of the World Wide Web and Google’s efforts to organize all information into one easily accessible portal.
The Consumers Have Taken Over the Asylum
Within a few years, consumers had all the information they needed to make a buying decision at their fingertips. Oftentimes they knew more about the vehicles they wanted than your sales consultants did. They also got insight into how you treated your customers via online reviews and social media. As a result, they now drive greater distances and visit fewer dealerships than ever.
The centerpiece of the Information Age was social media. It encouraged people and businesses to create profiles by accumulating text, pictures, and videos. Our friends and followers responded to posts with Likes, Comments, Shares, and more recently, Expressions. Many businesses saw that social media was a powerful, cost-effective marketing tool, so they abandoned invasive advertising platforms like newspaper and radio.
The Experience Age
The Experience Age is a product of “Internet everywhere,” mobile devices, and live-streaming video. These technologies are changing the way we share information online. We are now represented by who we are in the moment, as opposed to being a product of the content accumulated in our profiles.
To illustrate this, in March 2016, Facebook announced that status updates among its 1.6 billion active users (at the time) were down 21 percent, while live streams were soaring.
The redundancy of the status box is only a small part of the transition from information to experience. The real driving force for the changing dynamic of our online interactions is the mobile device, which allows us to share our perspectives in the moment, and inspired the development of social sites like Periscope and Snapchat.
Periscope was the first widely accessible live-streaming platform that allowed people to broadcast in-the-moment experiences. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube adapted quickly by developing their own live-streaming platforms.
Snapchat requires a snap (a picture or a short video). Friends can watch the snap and chat until the snaps disappear. Snapchat is all about the visual experience in the moment. It has led to a generation of people speaking to one another using pictures and videos, which means the focus has shifted from capturing a “Kodak Moment”, to a literal way of communicating in-the-moment experiences.
The result is that profiles are no longer the cornerstone of our social media existence. In the Experience Age, you are just you. This means the line between online and offline identities is getting narrower.
Perspective for Attention
Social media has always been about: “I’ll give you my perspective, and you give me your attention,” but the key difference in the Experience Age is that the stories we tell begin and end visually.
The #1 Factor That Determines Where People Buy Cars
Experience Age businesses will either succeed or fail based on the experiences that they provide for their customers. Those experiences must be shared with images and videos, as the number one determining factor for where people will buy a vehicle is the experience that they are promised when they’re shopping online.
The great news for car dealers, who face compressed margins and increased competition, is that people will pay more for an exceptional experience.
Think with Google
In a recent issue of Think with Google, Jason Spero, Google’s VP of Global Performance Solutions, wrote: “Today’s customers aren’t comparing you to other businesses in your industry – they’re comparing you to the best digital experiences they’ve ever had.”
Unfortunately, retail automotive is still using a lot of redundant processes, like withholding information, and antiquated technologies, such as auto responders and managed chat, which do not provide great online experiences.
These developments have created tremendous opportunities for those who are brave enough to take advantage of new technologies. But the question is: How will retail automotive adapt to this new reality? Will there be another mass wave of resistance, or will we take advantage of this by embracing live-streaming video, video-lead responses, 360-degree vehicle merchandizing, omnichannel websites, WebRTC, “Talking to the Tech” videos, and Virtual Reality?
Tools to Help You Adapt
There are plenty of resources and tools available to help you transition out of the Information Age and into a more customer-centric way of doing business. Turn to professionals with experience in Experience Age marketing, and find partners who are transparent with their data.
Car Dealers: Late to the Party
Car dealerships were among the last businesses to adapt their sales models to meet the needs of online shoppers for four reasons:
- At first, dealers didn’t believe that their customers would use the Internet to shop for vehicles online.
- The only real advantage they had in the negotiation process was control of the information. Loss of that control led to decades of resistance and the continued use of antiquated sales processes that only worsened the industry’s reputation.
- They couldn’t see a measurable ROI on social media, so they made lackluster efforts, like sharing content from their manufacturers, or talking about how great they were. They didn’t seem to understand that the operative word in social media is “social.”
- This is my favorite because it’s the most dangerous phrase in business: “We’ve always done it this way.”