Using AI to Keep Customers For Life


Marketing automation tools allow dealerships to maintain and deepen relationships

Bringing new customers into the dealership is exciting. It’s a fresh start, full of potential. With experts agreeing that the boom time dealerships have enjoyed over the past few years is coming to an end, though, there’s an even more important customer to consider for future growth: the loyal, returning customer.

With competition heating up between dealerships trying not only to retain their own customers, but attract those of their competitors, it’s important to examine all the options available to your store. Sometimes this means simply making the most of existing information and tools, and sometimes this means stepping out of your comfort zone to examine new ways of hanging onto your customers.

Bandwagon or Freight Train?

There are certain technologies, ideas or strategies that fall into the “flavor of the month” category. They seem exciting and engaging on the surface, only to fizzle out and soon be forgotten — another footnote in marketing history.

Artificial intelligence does not fall into this category.

Far from being a fad, the power and potential of AI make it a game changer for the automotive sales industry. This technology allows dealerships to interact with existing and potential customers as individuals, even as market forces are demanding that marketing efforts become more personal.

Dealerships, by the nature of their transactions, know a lot about their customers. From monitoring their website behavior, to their discussions with the salesperson, to the information gathered from them in the F&I department, each customer leaves a footprint. The challenge, however, was putting all this information together in a meaningful way. AI allows the dealership to not only use the information they already have, but learn more about the customer through their buying and browsing habits. This is used to build a fuller picture that lets the dealership’s marketing efforts become more targeted and relevant to the client’s needs.

Fear of the Future?

The term “artificial intelligence” may call to mind dystopian futures where machines rule the earth, but the reality is that AI is already here, and properly utilized, it can allow buyers and sellers to have more meaningful conversations that benefit both parties. 

By using AI in the automotive marketplace, dealerships can, for example:

Position your website where potential buyers can find it — Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a science not many people fully understand. AI can help to optimize your dealership’s SEO strategy based on what car shoppers are looking for and what your dealership has to offer. Then, when the potential or current customer does their research, your dealership’s site comes up high in their results, which is critical. Various studies have found that 33 percent of people interact with the top result on a Google search; that percentage drops to 15 for No. 2. In all, at least 75 percent of shopper activity goes to the first page of the search results. That’s where you need to be, and AI can help.

Predict when your shoppers are in market — With the information you have, and can gather, about your existing customers, you have an advantage over your competition because you know when that shopper is most likely to be in the market for a new vehicle. Is it time for a change based on their lifestyle? Are their children old enough that multiple vehicles make sense? With this information, you can contact them proactively, perhaps before they even realize it’s time for a new car. This makes the selling process much simpler for both you and the customer — there’s less haggling, less competition, and ultimately more satisfaction for the shopper.

Offer information about vehicle maintenance based on their actual mileage and age — With AI’s help, knowing about your customer allows you to present them with meaningful information about the upkeep of their vehicle. When it’s time for an oil change or other scheduled maintenance, you can send them a helpful reminder or even a discount coupon to put your dealership’s service department at the top of their mind. When it’s time for a vehicle check based on mileage, you can let them know that you want to make sure their vehicle is safe and aging well. Instead of “spray and pray” marketing, you can demonstrate to your customers that you value them as individuals by taking care of their specific needs at the right time.

As conscientious as your sales and service department might be with keeping up with customers, they can be many times better with AI in their corner. Keep your existing customers by providing them with service that would have been unimaginable only a few years earlier — and their word of mouth will help bring in a new batch of customers for life.

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