The inability of automotive OEMs to successfully implement modern digital marketing is causing a massive amount of wasted resources and capital that should be focused on better targeting of customers and vendor enablement over the entire customer lifetime. It’s surprising how misguided some OEM advertising efforts are, and how small changes to their post-conversion approach could yield big returns while improving overall brand satisfaction.
First let’s talk about advertising. In my own recent experience, the OEM fell flat with advertising after I made my purchase. I kept getting advertising for new cars, even though I had already purchased one, and the ads I received weren’t even for the vehicle I had been looking at! To make it worse, I was receiving these advertisements during the long, nine-month wait between my purchase and delivery of the car, during which I had no follow-up from the dealer as to the when my car would be delivered.
At a time when OEMs are talking about maximising their margins and reducing their costs through optimisation, this is a pretty poor follow-through on strategy. This time should be used to communicate with customers and guide them along in the next steps of the customer journey. This could be advertising add-ons or services for the car, or even travel destinations that I could visit in my new purchase. Yet the current approach is to blow money on a one-for-all advertising strategy. I even received a full print brochure.
A Full. Print. Brochure.
It was done in beautiful color, postage paid, showing me a car that I didn’t already buy from them. Somehow the OEMs need to fix the system that has them shipping full print color brochures to customers that just bought a car. The resource waste is staggering. This is not a strategy for success, this is amateur hour at the Apollo, and it shows a disconnect with the customer that erodes consumer confidence.
Another way OEMs are wasting money is by actively disabling their dealers when it comes to aftermarket purchases. Many dealers do not want to keep stock on aftermarket accessories because it ties up their cash flow in stock that may or may not sell, which puts them at a disadvantage to e‑commerce sites that can have stock delivered immediately.
In my case, I needed some rubber mats for my new car. Now please note, as much as you might imagine me buying some rare, super luxury vehicle, I am, in fact, not able to shop in that price range. We’re talking about the most popular car for this particular OEM.
So I called my dealer, who said they didn’t have them, and that it would take one week for them to come in. I called three other dealers in the area and received the same story. In one case, I was told that I would have to drive across town to the dealer, manually place an order with them in the shop, and then wait the promised week to finally get my car mats.
This was not acceptable. So I went to Amazon where I found a Volvo-branded shop that was run by a third-party vendor. I found the car mats I was looking for and purchased them online. They arrived at my doorstep within 48 hours. Do I now have plans to go back to my dealer for anything else that I might need for my vehicle?
That last question was rhetorical…the answer is no.
At this point I have been conditioned away from my auto dealer as a source of information, parts, and services for my vehicle. I have an immediate need, and the manual processes currently in place for the majority of dealers are not meeting it. The OEM needs to better enable the vendor. Not by shipping them tons of stock to hoard in their stores, but by developing a better back-end system that is on par with the e‑commerce vendors. The need to provide the technology with which the vendors can create a long-term, trusted relationship with the customer.
You see, the wasted money isn’t the problem, it’s an indicator of broken processes within the system. By addressing the problems at the heart of the money leaks, the OEMs can redefine what it means to provide a modern and exceptional customer experience. They can focus on capturing the value of the customer over not only over the life of the car, but the value over a customer’s lifetime and beyond. Auto brand loyalty runs deep. It is something that can be passed on for generations, but it can’t be created without the support and commitment of them OEM.