Dealership Marketing Webinar

On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, we hosted a free webinar featuring Rural Lifestyle Dealer columnist Mike Wiles. Wiles attended the 2014 Digital Dealer conference, the automotive world's premier marketing event, last fall in Las Vegas. During the webinar, he shared insights he took away from the event for rural lifestyle equipment dealers.

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The automotive market is a good one to watch for trends that might impact the rural lifestyle equipment market. Automotive dealers’ wide customer base leads them to adopt marketing practices and technology earlier than equipment dealers. Consumers overall are spending an increasing amount of time online, so what’s the auto industry doing to evolve its online strategies? 

Capgemini, a consulting and technology company with an automotive division, offers an interesting look into how car manufacturers could sell a vehicle online — without a dealer network. The most important component is to provide an in-person experience as part of the evaluation process. Their recent report, “Automotive online sales: curse or blessing for the industry?” suggests these possible alternatives to services provided by dealers:

  1. See the vehicle in real life: This can be achieved by showrooms in good central locations.

  2. Negotiate price: This might need to happen face-to-face or over the phone.

  3. Get personal advice and get additional and detailed information on the car and services: These can be provided by a sales agent who acts as a single point of contact for the buyer via online chat — discounts could be offered to encourage people to choose the online option.

  4. Delivery: They can be performed by a dealer or an independent party as an addition.

Before we bemoan the death of the dealer network, the report does say this: “We do not expect to see dealers disappear — instead online sales will be an additional option within an expanded sales model. The way dealers work with customers will change as a result — they will act less as advisers and more as intermediaries and agents for the OEMs. Some dealers may continue to provide experiences such as test drives and delivery, but probably not own the entire handover process.” 

It’s good to be aware of this trend, but rural lifestyle dealers have an advantage that auto dealers don’t. Car buyers don’t need dealers to show them how to drive a car. A good share of your customers still need training on the basics of operating a tractor or running a zero-turn mower. As tractors become more complicated and options become more plentiful, both inexperienced and experienced customers will seek out your expertise. 

Sharpen your expertise and processes in each of those key areas — seeing, testing and providing advice and information — to ensure you retain your role as adviser and never be relegated to the role of intermediary or just a showroom for equipment manufacturers.