Billions of texts are sent and received daily. This means millions of texts have been sent in the time it took to read this sentence.
More and more businesses, including car dealerships, are adding texting to their marketing strategies to complement more traditional communication methods as a way of engaging with today’s connected customers.
However, not all texts are created equal. Research shows customers have particular preferences when it comes to texting with dealerships.
To get the most out of text marketing, your strategy needs to be tailored accordingly. If you really want texting to deliver on its promise to capture consumer attention, ask yourself these things before pressing “send.”
Knowing who you’re texting may sound obvious, but understanding a few key things about your customer can make the difference between a text that leads to a sale and a text that gets deleted and the dealership blocked.
Fortunately, half of people say a text communication makes them more likely to purchase from a business, according to a Cox Automotive study.
It is this group that you want to build texting relationships with. On the other hand, 15% of people disagree with the above statement. They could be lost by simply texting them.
In a climate where every sale counts, knowing which group a customer falls within is essential to knowing whether to text and when to rely on other forms of communication.
Age is another key consideration when texting customers. In addition to suggesting how comfortable they will be texting, age is an indicator of what kind of consumer-dealer relationship they will respond best to.
Cox Automotive found that all age groups want a more consultative relationship with their dealer than they have now.
However, young people, ages 18 to 24, specifically are looking for a mentor type who provides knowledge and expertise to guide the buying journey with the consumer’s personal situation in mind.
Mentorship is more personal than the general consultative relationship that customers want across the board, where the dealer provides direction, offers advice and provides value by giving specific feedback to questions.
But consider this: Texting like a mentor to middleaged people may turn them off, whereas texting personal advice to a 22-year-old could help close a sale.
Once you have nailed down who to text to, you may be wondering, “What do I text them about?”
While more than three out of four consumers think it’s important for a dealership to have the ability to text, it is just one of many touchpoints that dealers use to build relationships with customers.
Text is a preferred communication method for some steps in the vehicle-buying journey, but not for others. For example, consumers overwhelmingly want to finalize purchase price or lease cost at an in-person meeting at the dealership, according to the Cox study.
On the other hand, consumers prefer to schedule a service appointment, ask a service question, schedule a test drive or request information on current incentives and special offers remotely, without physically visiting a dealership.
Within these areas, many customers would be happy to coordinate via text. In fact, almost 75% of consumers wish more businesses had the ability to communicate via text, and think it’s an effective way to communicate, Cox research indicates.
Even with this in mind, texting as a rule is better in situations that deal with smaller transactions or scheduling. Consumers still want human interaction when closing a deal, whether it’s a new purchase or trade-in.
What is perhaps most appealing about texting is the convenience and rapid response time.
Consumers expect their dealer to respond within a day regardless of method, and the standard for texting is almost instant.
Essentially, the quicker a dealer responds to a text, the better the overall customer experience.
Doing so also conveys to consumers they are a priority. While fast is best, a quick response shouldn’t compromise the quality of the message itself. Typos or poorly structured responses will cost you more than will a slightly delayed response that’s of higher quality.
Most consumers will expect and appreciate a response within an hour, as long as their request isn’t urgent.
Another interesting Cox study finding is that a good portion of consumers think the ability to contact the dealership after business hours is an advantage to text messaging.
While initiating a conventional conversation with a customer outside of office hours isn’t recommended, responding to a request is encouraged and often valued by customers as unique to text.
Keep in mind the above things – who, what and when – while executing a text marketing strategy. But how is a dealer supposed to even know if a customer likes or dislikes texting?
The essential first step to any texting strategy is to allow customers to opt in and out of texting before a first message lands in their inbox. With three in five customers wanting a more trusting relationship with their dealers, asking permission is essential.
Texting by no means replaces the need to form a relationship in the first place.
Texting is a useful tool to help maintain and grow pre-existing relationships that boost customer loyalty. When in doubt, apply the same rules you would while talking to customers onsite to guide text conversations. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Mark Vickery, left)
When done properly, texting can help bridge the gap with modern consumers who are difficult to engage with and who prioritize convenience above all else.
Mark Vickery is senior director-performance management at VinSolutions, a provider of customer relationship management software.