Getting to Know Customers Before They’re Customers

Industry-specific technology allows car dealers to track buyer behavior like Amazon does.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

January 11, 2016

2 Min Read
Personalization sells Bartman says
Personalization sells, Bartman says.

Amazon knows what its customers buy and might buy, and pitches to them accordingly.

It would help the selling cause if more car dealers analytically did the same thing, says Linda Bartman, chief marketing officer for CDK Global, a dealer information-technology provider.

“Personalization is here for the auto industry,” she says of industry-specific software that tracks what online shoppers are interested in and, in turn, offers them relevant product information.

“Imagine your (online) showroom changed to show the exact vehicles customers have been shopping for,” Bartman says. “The minute they come to your website, they get information relative to what they’ve been researching all along.”

Such cookie-enabled personalization is not new, as evidenced by the activities of Amazon and others. But it is just now getting traction in auto retailing.

“Businesses that do it see an average increase of 19% in sales,” Barman says at a recent DrivingSales conference focused on the latest in dealership digital marketing. “Thirty-five percent of Amazon’s sales are generated by its recommendation engine.”

As information technology becomes “smarter” it can track what makes and models Internet car shoppers are checking out, what reviews they are reading and what particular in-stock vehicle they are clicking, she says.

Knowing that lets a dealer “give the customer relevant information and close a deal faster,” Bartman says. “It is a powerful mechanism that keeps specials up to date, keeps customers engaged and allows dealers to manage every customer that comes to their sites.”

Such technology turns a website into “a digital marketing platform,” says Andrew DeFio, dealer principal of Hyundai of St. Augustine (FL). “Personalization increases the propensity to buy.”

That’s applicable whether it is Amazon recommending books or his store giving Sonata product and marketing information to an Internet user showing an interest in that Hyundai sedan.

DeFio has a national reputation as a dealer who’s doubled down on digital for his sales and service departments. He cites different ways to personalize:

“You might want to make a better offer to a customer who lives 50 miles (80 km) away versus someone who’s 5 miles (8 km) away.

“Also, we have customers who will go on our website 10 times without acting. What about an incentive that kicks in the 10th time?”

Until shoppers identify themselves, the tracking software knows only their IP addresses, not them specifically.

Ultimately, it makes for a more “helpful and informative conversation” between customers and sales staffers at the dealership, Bartman says.

But personalization has its limits, she says. It’s customer-relationship management, not lurking. “You don’t want to creep people out.”

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