Podcast Ally All Ears | build customer loyalty in difficult times

Amy Sudik, Senior Director of Marketing for Ally, discusses methods to encourage customer retention for sales and service offerings, including ways dealerships could use targeted digital advertisements as part of their communications with customers. clients.


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Jackie Charniga: Hello everyone. This is Jackie Charniga with Automotive News and welcome to the All Ears podcast. This podcast is sponsored by Ally Financial and produced by Automotive News Content Studio. In each episode, we cover topics important to automotive retail executives. We call on Ally leaders to deliver actionable solutions for dealers and others to successfully navigate transformational changes in the industry. Today we meet Amy Sudik, Senior Director of Marketing for Ally. We discuss methods to encourage customer retention for sales and service offerings, including ways dealerships could use targeted digital advertisements as part of their customer communications. Hi Amy. Thank you very much for taking the time.

Amy Sudik: Hello, Jackie.

JC: Let’s start. Some car buyers may consider switching brands because they want or need a vehicle and their usual brand, or because their preferred model is unavailable due to supply issues. But we all know that it is more profitable to retain an existing customer than to find a new one. How important is it to continue communicating with your customers even if you are not selling vehicles?

AS: I think staying ahead is key to maintaining customer loyalty and engagement with your brand, especially in today’s environment. It’s not just about creating a purely transactional singular one-off sale. It’s really about creating meaningful connections that last throughout a customer’s ownership lifecycle. It’s important to note that communication is a two-way street, which means establishing an ongoing dialogue, whether it’s a quick phone call to check in or sending them relevant industry content. , your dealer, upcoming vehicles and more. Your customers’ needs and wants often change over time, so it’s important to stay connected so you know their changing needs. With recent vehicle inventory issues, customers are more uncertain than ever about their next move. This is your chance to show off your expertise. If a customer expresses a desire to get a specific vehicle, I would keep in touch with them about the status of getting that car, even if there are delays. If there are similar options that are more readily available, this is also your chance to promote those vehicles. Showcasing your expertise in the industry, being an ally to that customer, and maintaining that relationship beyond just buying a car is really key to maintaining that loyalty. These communications can come from the dealership as a whole, but ideally your dealership should strive to nurture this personal connection. For example, I’ve seen dealerships take notes about their customers to help them remember those personal interactions, details about that customer, even a simple thing like a birthday. They use this information to stay connected. When and if the customer needs another vehicle, repair, etc., they will remember that dealership connection and will choose your dealership first over going to a competitor down the road.

JC: Some good advice. What role can loyalty programs, service offerings, or F&I aftermarket initiatives play in retaining your dealership’s customers?

AS: Dealer loyalty is different from brand loyalty and even seller loyalty. While customer acquisition is important, it is far less costly and resource intensive to retain a customer. Service is the best method of retention based solely on how often you can interact with that person. Those who have their vehicle serviced regularly at your dealership are eighty-six times more likely to buy from you again. That’s a pretty compelling statistic. Creating loyalty rewards programs that benefit the customer through both frequencies, so thinking about the number of transactions, product depth, type of transactions and new customer referrals really promotes more permanent stickiness because they are multi-dimensional and they offer a variety of ways for the consumer to take advantage. Ideally, the program would allow the consumer to redeem the reward only at your dealership versus a simple gift card, creating a disconnect when it comes to this loyalty correlation. Vehicle maintenance contracts are purchased at the point of sale, which means there is still a great opportunity to sell F&I products after purchase. And we now know that cars are on the road for an average of 12.2 years, which means vehicle protection is more important than ever, especially given our current inflationary environment. As long as your customer is still under the manufacturer’s warranty, there are plenty of opportunities to leverage your database to capitalize on that sale. Even if you’re not actively selling cars, F&I products offer real value to your customers and your dealership, which opens up additional opportunities to then serve that customer who keeps their car, so F&I and servicing are very much linked. . In a simple and everlasting premise, never underestimate word of mouth. Whether through social media or simply talking with a friend or family member, your customers are your advocates, so getting them to share their positive experiences with you is invaluable.

JC: And it reminds customers of the benefits of their F&I products?

AS: Yes, I think that is also a very good point. Not only focusing on vehicle aftermarket, vehicle service contracts, or F&I opportunities, but I think that’s a really good place to leverage your database, identify customers who have purchased an F&I product, remind them of this benefit and remind them that they’re covered. Remind them that when a repair is needed, they can come to your dealership and you will take care of them. I think that’s a very good point.

JC: How can dealerships use targeted and personalized digital ads to communicate effectively with their customers?

AS: Before COVID, online shopping was becoming more and more prevalent. But COVID has definitely accelerated a dealership’s need to be digitally savvy. To stand out among the noise in this now very crowded space, dealership messaging needs to be relevant and extremely personalized so it’s clear that you’re speaking to this customer on an individual level. Ninety-five percent of customers buy their vehicle online before going to the dealership. It is important to start this conversation with them before they arrive on your land. And these customers are much more knowledgeable. They did their research. They will ask more specific questions. A dealer should be prepared to have that conversation instead of focusing more on a general awareness game. Being able to leverage and leverage data through a powerful CRM system is key to executing this initiative. Pushing call stack data into your CRM allows you to optimize campaigns. Setting up triggered campaigns allows dealerships to send messages to customers quickly and efficiently, as there is little to no manual work involved once the campaign is created. For example, consider linking your CRM platform to your vehicle inventory to retarget customers who show interest in a certain vehicle online. Online advertisements and subsequent trigger emails may also be deployed to this individual to reinforce your message. If we think back to several years ago where we were aware of this kind of scare factor, where we didn’t want people to know how much we really understood their client, I think we’ve come a long way and customers actually expect much more personalized messages. They understand the power of data. They understand that we have access to it. I think it’s good to personalize that. Resellers may also wish to purchase information from third parties containing life stage data. It is quite important. Graduating from college, getting a new job, getting married, having a child, and retiring are key indicators of upcoming behavioral changes. And we’ve seen a significant increase in campaign performance at Ally by leveraging these events.

JC: Due to supply chain issues, some customers have been unable to find the vehicle they are looking for on dealer lots. What advice would you give to a dealership working with a customer who can’t get the vehicle they want?

AS: Forty-one percent of car brand loyalists felt completely decided before starting their search. How can a dealer change this conversation to possibly move it to another available vehicle? Getting them on a test drive is definitely a great way for them to experience something different. Ninety percent of consumers will also consider another brand, so there’s a solid opportunity to influence their decision-making process if you have the right car in front of them. If a desired vehicle is not available, it goes back to everything we discussed regarding optimizing the F&I offering, servicing loyalty rewards, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your customer.

JC: That’s it for this episode of the All Ears podcast. Many thanks to Amy for providing this information on behalf of Ally and Automotive News Content Studio. Thanks for listening.

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Joseph P. Harris