Can SMS Messaging Help Dealerships Manage Spikes in Car Sales?
In March, UK car dealerships sold more than 500,000 vehicles. That’s a 20 year high. You wouldn’t think dealerships would need much help when there’s such a spike in sales. But depending how you look at it, the increase can be a blessing and a curse.
The blessings are obvious – more sales, more profit, more jobs and everyone’s happy. The curse is twofold: having to manage all those enquiries, and then what to do when the sales drop again.
And they are likely to drop, potentially sooner rather than later. Mike Hawes, chief executive of The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, says the increase in sales is driven by confidence in the economy and low interest rates. “This confidence should see registrations remain at a high but broadly stable level over the year, but could be undermined by political or economic uncertainty”, Hawes said.
The EU referendum (being held today), could cause a shift in the confidence whichever way the vote goes, but particularly if the vote is to leave the EU.
SMS Messaging Can Help
Whether car sales continue to grow, stay steady, or collapse after the vote, SMS messaging can help car dealerships manage the change.
Dealerships obviously have processes in place to manage leads and enquiries. But when sales are high, so is the volume of enquiries. Working through them all in a timely fashion is important if your dealership is going to get that sale.
Likewise, when there’s a downturn, you have fewer leads. And because there are fewer, each of them is more valuable, so you’ll want to make the most of them by offering quick responses.
There are several different ways to use SMS messaging that will help in both cases – high volume and low volume. The same basic processes can work in either situation so you don’t end up scrambling when a change comes.
Here are a couple of examples of how you can integrate SMS messaging into your enquiry processes.
1. Include the option to enquire about a car via SMS by putting a sign on the car itself.
If you have a busy lot and not enough salespeople, or customers come to look at cars while you’re closed, they can find all the information on that car via SMS – if you tell them how.
The US automaker Ford has begun using QR codes and SMS messaging on all its window stickers. In the image below you can see the QR code clearly, but in the red box you’ll also see part of the instructions on how to request information via SMS. Not everyone knows what a QR code is, or how to scan one, but nearly everyone has a mobile phone capable of texting.
So if someone texts a unique number to the Ford shortcode, they will receive all the information about the specific car they are looking at. Not just the model but that specific car (which is determined by the keyword used). If the person likes the car after reviewing the details, they can request the dealership contact them.
2. Include SMS messaging as an enquiry method on your website.
I spent some time looking around at websites of UK car dealerships. Quite frequently I found the option to share a listing via SMS. That means I could enter the mobile number of a friend and the website would send them a link to the car information on the website. This works just like sending a link via email or posting on social media – only it goes directly to the mobile number you provide.
That’s great for sharing a listing with someone, but what about the option to talk to a salesperson about the car via SMS? I didn’t find a single site that offered that option (but my research was far from exhaustive). I could send an email enquiry, or I could call, but I couldn’t send an SMS message to the dealership. This is a huge missed opportunity.
Some people just don’t like to talk on the phone. Email is slow and impersonal. And some people are just kind of shy and don’t want to go directly to a sales person, but are happy to communicate via text (much less intimidating).
SMS enquiries can be handled much like phone calls or emails too. If it’s after hours, simply send an auto-reply to let the would-be customer know you’ll get in touch when you reopen.
At this point you’re probably wondering how getting all these SMS messages is going to help you manage your enquiries in busy and slow times.
First, using SMS guarantees you’ll be getting the enquiries in a timely fashion. That means you can respond to them quickly, before the customer decides to buy at another dealership. That’s critical for increasing sales in both circumstances.
Second, I’m not talking about using your sales people’s personal phones. That would be total chaos and not helpful at all. But if you use a web-based SMS solution that allows the office staff – or sales – to review, sort, and assign the messages as they come in, you’ll have everything centralised and controlled.
If that’s too much to believe out of hand, read this case study about a dealership that increased leads by 15% when they added in SMS messaging. They connected with customers they would otherwise have missed by using SMS. They also transformed how they worked and became more efficient and streamlined their processes.
When combined with the processes and the marketing you already have in place, this can streamline the path to purchase for both you and the customer. You’ll be able to react fast to enquiries whether you’re super busy or super slow. That level of service could earn you a customer for life.
Most car dealerships and garages already have almost everything in place to start an effective SMS marketing campaign. When customers go into a car garage to have a service or a MOT done, they almost always give the dealership their mobile phone number. The reason for this is simple: if a customer is bringing their car in to get checked and they don't want to wait around for any work to be carried out, they'll simply head into town or run a few errands, until the garage gives them a call on their mobile to let them know the work has been done. That means most garages will have a healthy amount of mobile numbers already in their database, but quite often a garage will overlook the potential that their database of contacts presents.
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