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3 Ways Marketing Automation Can Help Dealers Overcome Challenges

Fairly recently, the idea of automating any part of the automotive buying process would have been met with skepticism by many automotive dealers. However, pandemic-driven digitalization and inventory shortages have led proactive dealerships to seek out new ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their sales and marketing endeavors.

S&P Global Mobility reports that digitalizing the customer journey presents dealers with the opportunity to decrease staffing by up to 50%, resulting in an immediate improvement in dealership net results. According to another study by S&P Global Mobility, consumers who made their purchase at a dealership interacted with an average of 3.8 dealership staff members to complete their transaction. The staffing ratio fell to 3.0 for partially online buyers, and only 2.1 for fully online buyers.

Moreover, dealership marketing automation tools powered by predictive analytics are helping proactive dealers overcome inventory challenges by making better-informed decisions regarding:

  • Acquisitions
  • Pricing
  • Merchandising
  • Other factors 

Collectively, efforts result in sustainable success despite the shortages.

This blog post shares three ways dealers can use marketing automation platforms to overcome inventory challenges, including how to:

  • Identify and engage potential buyers of in-demand pre-owned vehicles
  • Automatically engage and retain loyalty buyers
  • Personalize dealership messaging to reflect inbound inventory

Identify and Engage Potential Buyers of In-demand Pre-owned Vehicles

Despite inventory shortages, a dealership's most valuable resource is not the number or quality of vehicles on their lot, but the data stored in their:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Dealer Management System (DMS)
  • Service drive
  • Other dealership systems 

With ongoing delays in new vehicle production, and increasing demand for pre-owned vehicles causing wholesale used vehicle prices to soar even higher than before, dealers must adopt a strategic approach to acquire pre-owned inventory profitably.

By utilizing dealership marketing tools that integrate with their CRM, DMS and service data, dealers can automatically identify acquisition opportunities from untapped sources in their market. For instance, with Mastermind, dealers can automatically recognize which customers in their loyalty portfolio, service, or market conquest audience are most likely to sell their current vehicle or another vehicle in their household. Prospective customers are then targeted and engaged with predictive marketing campaigns and personalized messaging that motivates them to trade-in or sell back their vehicle.

As fleets grow older and pre-owned values rise along with repair costs, many dealers are mining their upcoming service appointments for acquisition opportunities. These powerful marketing tools automate dealership systems through the process of identifying and engaging with potential trade and buy-back opportunities, such as those with a higher-than-ideal interest rate on in-demand vehicles. Proactive dealers take this a step further by assigning their service-to-sales liaison or service BDC to proactively engage these customers before their appointment, to gauge their interest before they arrive.

Automatically Engage and Retain Loyalty Buyers to Overcome Diminished Loyalty in the Automotive Industry

According to a report from S&P Global Mobility, the automotive brand loyalty rate in the US fell below 50% for the third consecutive quarter in Q2 of 2021, which is the lowest it has been in a decade. The report also points out that brand loyalty for new vehicles declined to 48.4%, down from 51.5% in the same period last year. However, brand loyalty for used vehicles increased slightly to 55.3%, up from 54.3% in Q2 2020. 

This suggests that customer loyalty is becoming more difficult to maintain in the automotive industry, particularly for new vehicles, and dealerships must adapt their strategies to retain customers in a highly competitive market.

As loyalty diminishes and inventory levels remain depleted, dealers are under increasing pressure to protect their customer base from competitors' conquest efforts. To maintain a competitive edge, leveraging automated dealership marketing technology has become crucial. By using tools like their CRM and DMS, dealerships can maximize their main advantage over the competition: their customer data. They can automatically identify which customers are showing signals of preparing to return to market, such as those approaching the end of their warranty or lease.

Proactively reaching out to owners nearing the end of their lease allows dealerships to have more control over customer retention, regardless of loyalty to the dealership, by having conversations early about upcoming obstacles and inventory needs.

When combined with high-quality, third-party data (such as financial records and household demographic information), dealerships can further empower themselves to automatically and proactively retain buyers by incentivizing customer loyalty with personalized messaging, including:

  • Tailored offers
  • Service specials
  • Referral programs

Personalize Dealership Messaging to Reflect Inbound Inventory

Improve communications with potential customers and avoid the “spray and pray” marketing that deters customers.

It is crucial for dealers to continue their marketing efforts regardless of their current inventory level. They should stay in touch with customers to:

  • Maintain loyalty
  • Drive service revenue
  • Acquire pre-owned vehicles 
  • Market pre-orders 

Simply communicating and offering relevant deals when applicable is not enough. 

Consumers prioritize trust when deciding which dealership to purchase from, and dealers must build and maintain trust through personalized and transparent messaging. In a recent industry study, 91% of consumers said “trust” was important to them when deciding which dealership to purchase from.

To achieve this, dealers should integrate their website with sales and inventory data to offer consistent and up-to-date messaging both online and in-store. Automated marketing tools can also help dealers stand out from competitors by providing brand-focused messaging tailored to each customer. For example, when marketing pre-order options, automated campaigns can offer buyers a sense of security even when purchasing sight unseen.

Automated marketing technology is especially valuable amid ongoing inventory challenges, diminished loyalty and uncertainties ahead. It gives dealerships a competitive edge to secure the inventory they need, protect their customer base, engage conquest opportunities and increase service revenue.


The automotive industry has experienced significant changes due to the pandemic-driven digitalization and inventory shortages. However, proactive dealerships are finding new ways to enhance their sales and marketing efforts with the help of automated dealership marketing tools.

By leveraging customer data, predictive analytics and third-party data, dealerships can identify and engage potential buyers of in-demand pre-owned vehicles, automatically engage and retain loyal buyers and personalize dealership messaging to reflect inbound inventory. 

As dealerships face ongoing inventory challenges and decreased customer loyalty, utilizing automated marketing technology is crucial to securing the inventory they need, engaging conquest opportunities and increasing service revenue. To stay ahead of the competition, dealerships must embrace these tools and implement them effectively.