Automotive consumers welcome marketing information, as long as it’s relevant and comes in measured doses, say executives of VinSolutions, a firm that provides dealership customer-relationship management systems.

Despite the adage extolling the virtues of over-communicating, many customers consider such excessiveness as off-putting.

“It needs to be smart and logical, not a matter of firing something off just because of one little customer interaction,” Brian Skutta, VinSolutions’ vice president and general manager, tells WardsAuto

Some shoppers like to find their own way during their Internet journey to a car purchase. They don’t necessarily want to receive marketing messages stemming from cookie-based tracking of their online behavior.

But most people welcome such information, as long as it helps them in their ultimate purchase and provides valuable content, such as inventory, pricing and incentive information.   

“It can make the shopping process more efficient, saving hours,” Skutta says. “A car is a big purchase. It is not one that people take lightly.”

Consumers consider marketing messages, ranging from digital ads to emails to text messages, as intrusive “if they are not relevant,” says Sean Stapleton, VinSolutions vice president-sales.

“Imagine getting a $19.95 oil change offer from a dealer, and you drive an electric vehicle you bought from the dealership,” he says. “That actually is pushing a customer away.

“Or how about a tire-rotation special offer that excludes 21-in. tires and the car you bought came with 21-in. tires? Why would I as a dealer send that offer to you? It is either because I’m lazy or lacking the right CRM tools.”

VinSolution’s CRM system is weighted to prevent a dealer client from sending too many marketing messages to customers.

“We want to make sure we are not over-communicating because if we are, the customer will hit the deadliest button on the Internet: the opt-out button,” Stapleton says.

He pronounces mass marketing as dead: “One-to-one marketing is where it is going. We increase the odds of a sales conversion by making messages more relevant. So rather than send the same message to 10,000 people, how about sending 100 different messages to 1,000 people?”

Skutta adds: “Digital marketing is taking off. The key is the ability to drive traffic to the dealership website.”

That’s because dealership websites have evolved into showrooms themselves as more prospective car buyers use the Internet to shop and research.

“The website is the new showroom,” Stapleton says. “If it doesn’t have virtual curb appeal, the customer is gone.”

A desirable website offers rich content and functionality, allowing a dealer to make a good first impression and keep engaging with visitors, Skutta says.

Do most dealers realize that?

“It’s emerging,” he says. “The answer probably is yes, but not with a capital ‘Y.’ Some dealers do phenomenally well, and reap the benefits. Others theoretically get it. But more and more, the game is won and lost online.”  

VinSolutions started in 2006 as a company selling vehicle-inventory window stickers to dealers. It subsequently dived deep into technology, from CRM systems to search-engine marketing and optimization.

The “VIN” in the company’s name stands for vehicle identification number. The firm uses VINs to manage dealer inventory. “The VIN is the DNA of a car,” Stapleton says. “It tells you the make, model, trim, accessories, features. Dealers enter the VIN and then we ‘explode’ it to decode and list that information.”

VinSolutions recently has acquired two businesses. One is Xtime offering online service scheduling. The other is Haystak Digital Marketing. Its products and services have been integrated into an all-new VinSolutions website platform.        

sfinlay@wardsauto.com