By Colleen Malloy
The ways that customers find your store have shifted measurably over the last decade. Gone are the days of sinking your entire marketing budget into billboard, radio and Yellow Pages ads. Today’s savvy OPE marketers are investing heavily in digital and reaping the rewards as they continue to drive new prospects and loyal customers into their brick-and-mortar stores. But how has your in-store experience shifted to match the evolving shopping behaviors of today’s digital-savvy shoppers?
If your in-store playbook hasn’t seen an update since pop opened the shop in the ‘70s, it is absolutely time to ensure that you’re creating a shopping experience that will keep customers coming back for more.
First impressions count
We all know the axiom that first impressions count, and it is well established for a reason — most shoppers are absolutely going to judge you by your dealership’s outward appearances, and if you aren’t up to snuff, your credibility will take a hit.
You are not just competing with Jim’s Power down the highway. You are competing with the shopping experience that major retailers like Home Depot, Sears and even Apple have created in their stores. The bar is high here, and while I’ve heard dealers rationalize that they are small, local businesses and that they shouldn’t be held to that same standard, I challenge that thinking. You are offering a premium product and service, and should create a premium environment to match.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to gut your dealership and turn it into a clone of the Apple store, but I am saying that you need to create a clean, well-lit, well-organized shopping atmosphere that reinforces your brand message.
Take strategic advantage of manufacturer promotions and point-of-sale (POP) materials to complement your own signage and in-store marketing messaging. (We’ll dig into this topic a little deeper later in this article, so keep reading!)
Explore in-store tech
During the past year, I’ve introduced you to several in-store tech trends. Taking advantage of these trends is key to reinventing your in-store experience to cater to the growing ranks of webroomers — also known as ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) shoppers — who turn to the Internet throughout their shopping journey and ultimately complete their purchase in-store.
While I won’t go into great detail on in-store tech in this article, I encourage you to go to the Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) digital edition archives at outdoorpowerequipment.com and re-read my “2016 Digital Marketing Trend Watch” in December 2015 OPE, where I highlighted a few key trends that can make a significant impact on your in-store experience. Here are a few nuggets to explore:
* Offer free WiFi in-store
* Arm your sales team with tablets pre-loaded with applicable sales materials
* Encourage your staff to engage with customers who are glued to their mobile devices
* Explore a dealership-branded app to create a personalized shopping experience
* Leverage beacon technology to send coupons and other offers to shoppers based on where they are in your store
* Start up a “text alert club” to further capitalize on the mobile trend
Drive shoppers to your digital channels
You’re investing a ton of time and money in your digital marketing efforts to bring in each new door swing, so if you aren’t actively encouraging in-store shoppers to continue engaging with you online, you’re missing a big opportunity.
As you plan your digital marketing tactics, including your sales and promotions, always consider how you’ll promote these programs in-store. While you may want to create in-store signage to promote your upcoming spring sale that mirrors the look and feel of what you’re sharing online, you may also want to consider creating a little online exclusivity. Simple in-store signage that encourages shoppers to join your email or text club or follow you on Facebook to score more savings can make a great impact on your digital engagement.
Don’t miss one of the simplest ways to get customers to engage with your digital channels — just ask! Never miss an opportunity to add an email address or a cell phone number to your dealership management system (DMS) to continue to build your lists.
In addition, when the situation calls for it, encourage your team to ask customers to leave feedback on your online review platforms of choice. As customers complete purchases, leave an event, or pick up their units from your service department, ask if they’d tell you about their experience online.
Most customers won’t mind being asked, and having a prompt will increase the chances they leave a review. An inexpensive (often free) and effective way to encourage reviews is to have physical reminders in your store. Many popular sites offer free stickers or free printable images to encourage customers to visit your page. Facebook and Yelp both provide forms to request business decals to be displayed in-store. Add these stickers near the checkout counter, on the front doors, or in other high-traffic areas.
Say goodbye to paper catalogs
Whether you’re searching for replacement parts or looking for a piece of inventory that isn’t in stock at your location, if you’re still dependent on paper catalogs, you’re sending a pretty clear message to shoppers that you’re not up-to-speed with modern technology. Not only will shoppers question your efficiency, but they will have found what they needed on their mobile device before you found it on page 422 of that two-inch-thick catalog.
If your parts lookup process involves pulling out a two-inch-thick paper catalog, it’s time to go digital. Many of your manufacturers may already offer you this service on their dealer portal, or you can opt for a third-party electronic catalog service that will give you access to multiple vendor catalogs from a single access point.
However you resolve to re-invent your dealership this year, keep in mind that it is all about creating an experience that will continue to drive shoppers to both your in-store and online destinations. Got any in-store marketing makeover success stories to share? I’d love to hear them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”