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Auto Retail Success in a Rapidly Changing Landscape

This article was written by Shift CEO John Paterson and will be featured in the next instalment of our Shift Insider Magazine. 

Today, retailers are filing for bankruptcy at record-high rates as changing shopping habits continue to shake up store fronts. In 2018, 15 US retailers filed for bankruptcy or announced liquidations (including iconic retailers like Toys R’ Us, Sears and Claire’s), following a record number of retail bankruptcies in 2017. The trend of large incumbent retailers losing ground to the new up-and-coming, digital-first e-commerce companies is re-shaping the retail landscape.

It is apparent that online retailers are succeeding with their digital-first approach. Customers are not only buying online more often, but the shoppers that prefer to shop in-store are often first researching online, then going to the brick and mortar location to make the final purchase. In this environment, an effective online strategy is a prerequisite to success.

It is worth noting that reliance on brick and mortar retail is not the primary reason for the failure of many of these large retailers. Indeed, many successful e-commerce companies (the ones that helped put some of the incumbents out of business) are now building brick and mortar storefronts:

  • Bonobos (men’s clothing) now has 60 stores,
  • Warby Parker (eyeglasses) will have nearly 100 stores by year-end 2018,
  • Casper (mattresses) plans to have about 200 stores in the next two to three years and
  • Fabletics (active sportswear) has plans for 100.

Despite the importance of high quality brick and mortar retail, the digital customer experience remains crucial to the retailer’s success.

In automotive retail, it is unlikely that car buyers will rely solely on purchasing online. There is value in a rewarding physical experience – seeing the car, test driving and speaking to a dealer. However, car buyers are spending more and more time researching online, engaging with various online tools, resources and ads before coming to the dealer.

Along with upgrading websites and digital storefronts, dealers have begun to address this change in shopping behaviour by diverting ad spend to digital media. Due to the influx of shoppers online, digital marketing techniques have advanced significantly. Digital marketers are now using data like never before to pinpoint likely customers and deliver a targeted message. These marketing technologies represent a meaningful step forward in marketing. Meanwhile, newer and more impressive methods are arriving on the scene every day.

Targeting potential customers utilizing the unprecedented amount of data available today is only part of the equation. If digital customer experiences are the crucial gateway to generating sales in store, then the digital experience should not only be curated for each individual using sophisticated targeting methods, but it must be designed to strengthen the brand and provide a high quality, simple, beautiful and user-friendly experience. This is how the online retailers have come to prominence in the digital age.

Shift Marketing is often the first touchpoint for a customer entering into the vehicle purchase journey. As a direct marketing company, we are impacting dealers in the area that we believe is most critical to their success in the changing and competitive auto retail landscape.

Shift Marketing develops engaging, beautiful, user-friendly online customer interactions as a core element of our marketing campaigns. Offering a lower current payment, or by showing clients the car they were recently browsing are both powerful tactics, but only part of what makes a successful digital customer interaction. Shift aims to capture client attention with a suite of campaigns that provide an engaging road to the dealer’s showroom.

Investing in the digital customer experience is critical to retail success in 2019. The good news is that at Shift Marketing, we have an impressive suite of products and some amazing technology to announce that will help you elevate your game in 2019. We will continue do our part to help you succeed.

Join Us! Book a demo today.


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