I recently went through the daunting task of buying a new car. The car I had been driving had over 212,000 miles on it and was on her last leg – I was running out of time. The modern age of car buying, or just shopping in general, involves the internet as an assisting tool more than ever. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. As interesting as it would be, this blog is not going to tell you how to buy a car or who to buy it from, but it is about how online marketing came into play throughout the process affecting me and my final purchase decision.

The Search

Just like many first time buyers in the market, I started off my search with some generic online research. According to a recent study, 94% of millennial car buyers research vehicles online multiple times looking at, on average, more than 10 different sources for information. I spent a lot of my time comparing models, pricing, features, and special deals/promotions from the manufacturer.

When I began the buying search, I opened myself up to a wave of Remarketing ads that followed every digital footprint that I left. Suddenly, Facebook was filled with images of local cars and messages enticing me to buy this very second. If you aren’t familiar with Remarketing, you can read more about it here, but essentially by visiting certain online car relate pages, I was tagged and targeted with specific car ads tailored to influence my decision. These ads would follow me no matter what website I was on.

Remarketing kept me thinking about some of my favorite models, without being too disruptive to my daily activities. I would accredit Remarketing to speeding up of my purchase journey because the constant daily reminders of flashy new cars made me despise my current car even more and had me day dreaming about a new ride.

The Calls

As I got more serious about buying, the marketing tactics got more intense and a more invasive. In order to see the prices of a lot of the vehicles that peaked my interest, I was prompted to enter my personal information like email, phone number, and name; this opened an entirely new can of worms. Within an hour of ‘inquiring,’ my phone already had two missed called and a new voicemail, from the same person! I admired the speed, but the disruption of my work day was not greatly appreciated. In addition to a flood of calls, my email folder was starting to see a flood of new messages, none of which showed me the actual price of the vehicle I wanted.

This is where the fine line of data and communication comes in, because even though these dealers had my information, they were more focused on trapping me into the sale than creating a relationship with me. One sales person did it differently though, sending a nice email introducing himself and the dealership, then putting the ball in my court for questions and next steps. His ability to give me more control in the sales process made me much more likely to visit that dealership at a later date. I cannot stress the importance of using marketing as relationship facilitation rather than sales spitting.

I was pretty serious about buying a new car quickly, but the constant calls and pressure were more daunting than sales inducing. I even chose not to visit a certain dealership because their calls and emails were so excessive that I felt uneasy about the pressure that would come with face-to-face interaction.

After the Purchase

With a few weeks of intense online research and a some lunchtime strolls through the car lots, I made my purchasing decision. The sales process was pretty painless and I was extremely happy with my purchase. Follow-up is crucial to any sales relationship, so I knew I would be getting some additional emails and phone calls from my dealership. A few days later, I was surprised to see that I had an email from the same dealership I just bought my car from asking me to test drive the same model that I had just purchased. To me, this seemed like a huge lack in internal communication and a breach in the sales funnel.

The follow-up calls and quick in responses were much appreciated, but I still think about the sales man that asked me to test drive the same vehicle I bought two days before. It made me feel like nothing more than a person to sell to, rather than an appreciated customer. If a seller wants to create repeat customers, the days after a major purchase are some of the most important days to continue to foster that relationship.

The Takeaways

In the end, I’m very happy with my new purchase, but I do think there’s a lot to be learned from this experience. Here are the three takeaways anyone trying to sell something online should remember:

  1. Stay in front of the customer: As I became to get more serious about my purchase, I was really digging into the information about the vehicles I wanted. I found myself clicking on ads and comparing websites of top choices. In order to sell your product, you need to be constantly in front of your target audience, whether it be with ads, unique content, or an easy to find website.
  2. Build relationships, not sales: This may sound contradictory, but building a relationship with a customer will not only deliver the sale, but is the most likely way to generate future sales. If you are fortunate enough to have the personal contact information of a prospect, use it to foster a relationship, rather than a push-down sales tool. Customers will be turned off if all they receive are sales pitches on the daily. Instead, introduce yourself and give the customer the ability to ask questions and work at their own pace.
  3. Perfect the internal process: When you are moving customers through the sales process, you have to be sure that all the internal parts are on the same page as the customer. I came in the sales process by filling out an online form, but once I made my purchase I should have been taken out of the sales stage as soon as I drove off the lot. By perfecting the internal communication and process of your business, you’ll ensure your customers are receiving the most relevant information to them while continuing to earn their business and trust.

If you feel like you or your business could improve any of these three things, don’t worry, there is still time to fix your digital sales strategy. If you’d like to learn more or have questions, we’d be more than happy to talk with you.