Dealer Marketing Magazine, April, 2017 – By Jim Maxim, Jr.

The modern sales funnel creates exciting new opportunity for auto retailers to grow aftermarket product penetration and profitability.

The strategy includes “seeding” desire for aftermarket solutions at the many touchpoints a customer interacts with to buy a vehicle, both online, in media, and at the dealership.

This planting introduces aftermarket product ideas and language so you connect them to your consumer’s lifestyle dreams before they move into an F&I office. This shifts consumer focus from attributes of ownership to how aftermarket products help provide a “worry-free” vehicle experience.

The modern sales funnel creates exciting new opportunity for auto retailers to grow aftermarket product penetration and profitability. The strategy includes “seeding” desire for aftermarket solutions at the many touchpoints a customer interacts with to buy a vehicle, both online, in media, and at the dealership.

How often do you consider that the consumer’s intention to purchase started as an idea when they were only dreaming of their vehicle of choice? In the most recent Super Bowl, a car commercial entirely focused on environmental and social responsibility. The vehicle itself was almost an afterthought. A better understanding of the consumer who latches onto those sell points will cause a more meaningful aftermarket conversation.

The consumer’s eventual visit to the 10 by 10-foot F&I office (or Purchase Now click on your online F&I store) is the culmination of 12 or more hours of online research on multiple websites. This journey starts at OEM sites before moving to third-party sites and culminates in a visit to your website or an actual store.

Marketers spend billions of dollars on these sites and TV, radio, print, and other online media to sway consumers to how their products will satisfy their lifestyle desires and needs. Does your online, showroom, backroom, or service experience take advantage of the seeds being planted?

We are entering into a time where this idea will come to full fruition for retail automotive. It may seem new, but it borrows from proven retail innovations pioneered by leading online retailers. You automatically receive coupons in your inbox or on your smartphone for products you like or use. Ever have a product advertisement seem to follow along wherever you search on the web?

How convenient, welcoming, and informative you make this journey for customers creates either distracting obstacles to a fruitful and satisfactory sale – or a smooth and fast on-ramp that reaches a profitable aftermarket sale for you.

When we realize how much sooner these early influences impact consumer’s purchase behaviors, we can organize our conversations, presentations, and interactions to maximum effect across automotive retail.

The film industry gives us a great example with its experienced marketing. A recent film, which had as its lead character a game designer, used ads, trailers, and commercials to encourage consumers to download the game “designed” by this character, with an offer to buy tickets to the movie. The result for the businesses behind the marketing was better ticket sales and brand loyalty.

The experts say…

The new sales funnel in town demands you engage potential buyers well before they walk in your store. It begins the moment a consumer becomes aware of your company, notes CustomerThink, an online customer-centric think tank.

“The decision-making process is now a circular journey with four phases,” notes McKinsey Quarterly.

They are: initial consideration; researching potential purchases; purchase, and post-purchase experience.

We see multiple ways you can engage customers in this process. While not new, they all require a different response and tools to quickly assess and understand the doors customers take to arrive at your place of business.

Reach the goal

Take an inventory of the touchpoints along your customers’ engagements with your business. For brevity, let’s omit here showroom, website, and F&I office touchpoints. Instead, here are five non-standard touchpoints where you could create opportunities to positioning experience and presenting your aftermarket products for the first time – or again, to buyers:

  • Customer Communications: If you market directly to customers and prospects via newsletter or e-mail, social media content & interactivity, use some of that real estate to promote aftermarket products. Clarify if you have options to help customers finance these products, even if they passed on them when they purchased the vehicle. Many customers in this mailing may be service-only customers, so market service contracts, prepaid maintenance and other products that feature a retention-tie to build service consistency with your dealership. Customers may not understand how these products benefit them, so use this opportunity to educate – link the communication to reviews on your website from users of these products.
  • Service Drive: Dealers who offer or sell customers prepaid maintenance programs generate about 75% of their sales through proactive service advisor selling in the drive. Marketing of these plans drives future work that keeps service staff busy and funds their paychecks. Educate customers in the shop for wheel or tire damage services that you can help them avoid future hassles and costs by their purchase of a road hazard policy. A sharp advisor might also suggest wear and tear coverage for lease customers.
  • Cashier/Advisor: Train these important consumer-facing individuals to be aftermarket evangelists. Equip them to speak lifestyle goals when discussing aftermarket products – “We don’t sell tire & wheel; we sell worry-free experiences.
  • Post-Sale: An Assurant Solutions survey notes that while 92% of consumers know about vehicle service contracts, less than 40% buy them. Post-purchase, customers may be in a different state of mind; 15% will buy a contract after declining the first time. They also may now be more inclined to buying other products, such as road hazard, and wear and tear (particularly if operating a leased the vehicle).

The right flexible tools will help you present the right products, the right way, to the right customers, and at the right time during the presentation workflow. This strategic and cohesive sales funnel will lead an informed consumer to the moment of transaction. Dealerships invested in those touch points and tools will have informed transactions that will bear much fruit!

Jim Maxim, Jr. is president at MaximTrak Technologies, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers, and Chief Digital Officer at RouteOne. He is an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at maxim@maximtrak.com