How Dealers Can Use Personalized Customer Data to Boost Satisfaction, Sales

Manufacturers and dealers pool customer intelligence to better pinpoint buyers’ needs.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

June 30, 2023

4 Min Read
Audi plans to lead the charge to use data for more personalized customer experiences.Audi Fletcher Jones

Dealers using technology that allows all their customer data platforms to talk to each other and work together will improve their customer experiences and bottom lines.

That’s according to industry insiders speaking at a recent Reuters webinar, “Navigating Complex Buyer Journeys for Automotive and Beyond.”

“In (retail) automotive we have fractional views,” says Brian Pasch, founder of the Pasch Group, which works with manufacturers and dealers to create unified shopping experiences. “There are more than 12 (software) platforms in (many) dealership(s) that don’t talk to each other, but the customer journey is the sum of all the touchpoints.”

That’s where a customer data platform, or CDP, comes in. It is software that pulls data from multiple sources, cleans the data and combines it to create a unified customer profile which is made available to other marketing systems.

The Pasch Group calls it “an omni-channel customer database that acts as a single source of truth for each consumer.”

Some companies, such as Apple, have the technology that gathers data from all its different products. That works for Apple because customers log into its tools and services with unique Apple ID names and passwords, says Kirk Preiser, director of Retail Buying Experience at Audi of America.

In the automotive world, Tesla can do that, too, because it sells directly to the consumer, so the company holds all customer data in a central system.

But that’s not so easy in traditional automotive dealerships because of the amount of data both dealers and manufacturers combine. The volume makes it difficult to merge all that information into a useful structure.

Audi plans to lead the charge to correct that. Its dealers signed voluntary digital cooperation agreements last year and dealers “can see info about a consumer they never had access to before, but we have to figure out a way to put all this data together in one place,” Preiser says.

Boosting Return on Investment with a CDP

Having a big-picture view can boost the return on investment in technology for both the dealer and the manufacturer, say panelists.

Coordinating activities by vendors and from various communication channels including transactional volume and email/text messages can increase return on investment tenfold, Pasch says.

Better use of pertinent data from dealerships and manufacturers can create new revenue streams. For example, says Preiser, what if a customer data platform could add information such as consumer lifestyle into the database? That could reveal that a vehicle owner has a pet, and a dealership could then market vehicles with special pet features to that person, he says, adding some available data is not effectively used.

There are challenges to better use of all that data including the sheer number of online and offline touchpoints, data fragmentation and long vehicle buying cycles , says Jordan Tauriainen, global partner strategy lead at AWS Auto, an industry cloud provider. He recommends partnering with a solid provider to combine data management systems.

AI to the Rescue

Artificial intelligence (AI) can track vehicles through their life cycles, including when owners change. That information can guide analysts toward vehicle loyalty rates, says Tauriainen.

“It is all about making the right offer at the right time through the right channel,” he says.

Although the retail automotive industry is still primarily a phone business, says Pasch, AI is the best tool for mining the call data dealerships have in droves.

 He urges dealers to use AI to analyze their dealership’s call records and outcomes. “Don’t just use the DMS and CRM. If you do, you are missing too many signals,” says Pasch.

He also recommends creating a “customer data manager” position at a dealership that is responsible for handling the organization's customer experience.

“If you really want to control your brand image and brand loyalty, make sure you are bringing all the touchpoints (together) and have a champion,” says Pasch.

Most automotive companies leverage AI in some form, says Tauriainen.

Generative AI depends on access to large amounts of customer data. That points to another challenge: persuading customers to share their data and then classifying that data.

“We have to do a better job of communicating to the consumer…the value of them providing their info to us,” says Preiser.   

Once Audi collects its customers’ data, the company sees a “ton of value” in using that intelligence to market extended products to consumers, he says.

“The challenge (then becomes) privacy and data security,” Preiser says. “We have to make absolutely sure we know who is operating the vehicle and whose info we are actually tracking.”

Analyzing customer data can lead dealers toward personalizing customers’ journeys, rather than broadly defining them such as “truck buyer,” says Pasch.  

 “The big money is (when) the consumer feels the dealer knows who they are, appreciates them and goes the extra mile,” he says. “If we buy into a CDP project and miss personalized communication, we are missing the biggest piece of the revenue.”


About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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