Loyalty programs seem to be everywhere now. From gas stations and grocery stores to boutique bakeries and car washes, everyone seems to be getting in on loyalty programs as a way to boost business. As loyalty programs have grown, so has their compatibility.
These days, it’s possible to design a loyalty program that benefits both the customer and the company. Even auto dealerships can benefit from developing a well rounded customer loyalty plan – if they put in the time to build it with a clear strategy in mind.
When creating a useful customer loyalty program, there are three key issues to cover:
Collecting Useful Personal Data
Collecting data has become as important to successful companies as collecting payments. Data on customers can help companies develop marketing campaigns, special offers and methods of engagement that are tailored for specific demographics or even specific customers.
Data collection can happen at multiple points, starting from the registration of a customer into a program and then building on that data with every interaction. For auto dealers this could mean having customers sign up the moment they begin using your website to browse inventory.
Adding third-party data can enhance the information a dealership has even more. Combining data sources can give a more detailed picture of customers and is increasingly affordable and easy to do as the software to collect and analyze it evolves.
Make Life Easier For Your Customers
Just as companies are beginning to understand the value of data, so too are customers realizing the power they have. As a result, people don’t sign up for loyalty programs as freely as they once did. They know you’ll be collecting their data and they want something in return.
This is where perks come in. Starbucks, Chipotle and Panera have all built in a bonus for their loyalty programs – the ability to skip the line. Each company offers the ability to order and pay online and then simply swing in and pick your order up – skipping the lines and streamlining their experience.
Similarly, both Walgreen’s and CVS offer ways for patients to fill and pay for their prescriptions all from the comfort of home. Scanning bar codes from bottles, getting a text message when the order is ready, paying online and, in some cases, even arranging delivery – it’s all done seamlessly.
In each case, these perks tackle a common problem for customers – having to wait in line. It’s enough of a benefit for customers to share their data and use other parts of the program. With each interaction, companies learn more about spending habits, sale preferences and which marketing campaigns engaged customers more.
Understand Inbound & Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is simply old school advertising. It’s getting your company in front of potential customers through any form of push advertisements. Radio or television commercials, newspaper ads, banners and other forms of active advertising are all well-known by dealerships.
But that’s only half the story when it comes to marketing. Inbound marketing is the practice of engaging and attracting customers not through catchy jingles or “crazy Low prices”, but with quality content that isn’t focused on selling them anything.
High quality content on social media, blogs and subscription lists have become one of the most powerful marketing tools a dealership has at its disposal.
So How Does This Help Dealers?
It can be easy to see how grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants can develop a loyalty program, but what about dealers? Considering how infrequently the average person buys a car, can these programs be effective for auto dealerships?
- Branch Out – Consider everything your dealership offers – from inspections and service to car buying – and include everything in your loyalty program. Award points for each interaction and let customers save up those points for different levels of rewards.
- Pair Up – Work with local businesses to offer gift cards or baskets in exchange for different services. An oil change might get someone a $50 gift card for a local restaurant while a transmission flush could score them a luxury gift basket. This can be a great way to build local networks as well.
- Contests & Giveaways – Create contests and giveaways where customers are automatically entered when they buy a car or make any other qualifying purchase. Use the winner’s photos on your social media page to create easy to share content.
- Improve a Customer’s Life – The best way to make your loyalty program stand out is to do something that truly enhances a customer’s life. Work with a local travel agency to create inexpensive vacation packages that can be given away with the purchase of a new or used vehicle. This way, you can offer a new ride and some time off to relax – a win-win for car buyers.
Your loyalty programs don’t have to be limited to average customers, either. Develop incentives for businesses to buy and maintain their company cars through your dealership. Whether it’s priority appointment setting through your service department or first dibs on high quality cars you acquire, companies look for perks and benefits just like customers.
Loyalty programs have evolved into something any business can use. For auto dealers, there is plenty of opportunity to create a program that gives dealers the data they need to market more effectively while rewarding customers for their time and their patronage.