Auto original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers weathered the challenges of 2020, only to be hit with new ones in 2021. This year, the global chip shortage has further hit the auto industry. As vehicles today require more than 1000 semiconductors in a single vehicle, this has severely impacted production and assembly; and with a high degree of uncertainty lasting through 2022 and beyond, the industry is already expected to lose around $110 billion in revenue this year.
As brands scramble to adjust production schedules and targets, not surprisingly, inventive sales programs have dried up as demand has overtaken supply and there isn’t a need for dealers to sweeten the deal. As inventory runs low, there may be a gap between customer expectations and experience, which could negatively impact brand affinity and perception.
Given this backdrop, how should auto marketers respond to this evolving situation?
1. Focus on customer relationships
As the early days of the pandemic showed, brands can engage with customers and fans even when they are not selling vehicles. Campaigns that focus on education about existing features, like available customizations, and upcoming brand plans, releasing new tech-focused accessories for existing vehicles such as new app features, and AR/VR tools, can help drive engagement with existing customers.
Core CRM channels such as email are a great tool to learn more about your customers through surveys and giveaways. By utilizing these strategies, you will strategically build insights about individual customers to then orchestrate an enhanced customer experience in the future based on these learnings. This ensures that brands do not switch to “maintenance mode” but use this period to drive success when schedules get back to normal. Ensure that the data you are gathering will be utilized for personalized marketing efforts. For your customers, it can be annoying to be asked for excessive amounts of data that will never be used.
2. Proactive and transparent communication
Consumers have been through a lot in the past year and in an atmosphere of continued uncertainty, brands should be transparent with customers about delays, to better set expectations. This should be done in a targeted manner with an understanding of what information is relevant for the individual customer. For example, an prospect who has built and priced their vehicle of choice and is waiting for inventory availability would be benefited by consistent updates that help them understand potential delivery dates as well keep their excitement high about their new vehicle. On the other hand, an existing customer whose lease is ending and wants to step into a new car may be anxious about not having a vehicle for a while. Someone who is mid-lifecycle may need more education about specific features to ensure that they’re having the best customer experience.
Determining your communication themes and customer priority can help brands transform consumers going through a tough situation into brand advocates for life.
3. Integrate more automation in sales and marketing processes
In many instances today, individual dealers have a few cars on their lots and many customers waiting. Brands should ensure that customer facing portals such as the site, app, and partner sites are well integrated with other internal systems such as the production, shipping, supply chain, and the transportation network that connects the assembly line to the dealer lot. And make sure updates are frequent and timely.
In conclusion, every situation affords an opportunity and auto brands can utilize this challenging period to set themselves up for success in the new year through deeper consumer engagement, proactive relationship building, and personalized updates about the situation as it unfolds.