As we enter another period of nationwide restrictions and unpredictability, AI-powered email conversations give dealers an effective way to keep nurturing leads and responding effectively to enquiries – even with staff absent or focused on other areas.
The latest SMMT figures highlight the damaging impact of Covid-enforced showroom closures in 2020 with a 29.4% reduction in demand – equivalent to £20.4bn in lost turnover. The drop to 1.63 million new car registrations is the lowest since 1992 and ramps up pressure to bounce back in the best way possible during 2021.
Things haven’t started well this year either with a return to tough lockdown restrictions across the nation.
BUT there is hope.
Lessons learned throughout 2020 mean dealerships go into the new year much better prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead.
The digital shift
There’s no question that the motor retail sector has responded admirably to a national crisis, finding new ways to engage with customers and many seamlessly switching to operate as digital dealerships.
And it’s this accelerated transition to digital which has opened up a raft of new possibilities.
Some of the most talked about digital benefits relate to giving customers the ability to find the right vehicle and then conduct the entire purchase journey online – only visiting the dealership to pick up their new vehicle.
This rise of click-and-collect has been a valuable and profitable lifeline for so many.
But what about those customers who aren’t quite ready to commit to the financial outlay and need a bit of nurturing to get them closer to conversion?
Moving down the funnel
Experience tells us that with timely and professional communication you can turn the majority of enquiries to sales. However, effective lead nurturing and enquiry management can be very time-consuming even in optimum conditions.
In the face of reduced headcount - or with sick and isolating team members - there isn’t always the capacity within the business to respond to every new enquiry or follow-up with existing leads as promised.
Sadly, this means many opportunities may well be falling through the cracks currently and lead conversion is likely to be stalling across the industry. A real tragedy at a time when every sale is so important to recovery.
That’s where automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
By using AI to power your email conversations you can ensure every enquiry receives a professional, timely and personal follow-up, regardless of the volume. The lead won’t even realise they are talking to an AI-powered assistant rather than a real salesperson.
The AI Assistant won’t get tired, won’t get sick, won’t be distracted by other pressing issues and won’t give up if leads don’t commit to buy during the first conversation. They’ll also follow-up EXACTLY when they say they will – even if that’s a few months down the line.
So, how does it work?
As soon as you have an email address for the lead then the AI Assistant can make contact with a simple message which looks exactly like it is coming from a human member of your sales team. For example, this could be a short hello and an opportunity to see if the customer is still interested following their initial enquiry.
If there isn’t an instant response, then the AI will keep trying to make contact with slightly different messages designed to get a conversation started.
As soon as the lead replies then the AI Assistant will analyse the content and review a database to find the most suitable responses.
This professional email conversation continues at a comfortable and customisable pace until the lead is ready to be handed over to a real-life member of your sales team, asks to be contacted at a later date (which the AI will actually do) or confirms they have found another vehicle (which will prompt the AI to recontact again at a suitable point in the future).
Converting at pace
It’s a watertight qualification and conversion process that ensures the hottest leads rise to the top as quickly as possible while those that aren’t quite ready still receive the right nudges and useful reminders to get them closer to making a purchase.
And it’s not just new enquiries either – you can use AI Assistants to follow-up existing lapsed enquiries or lost sale data.
Plus, best of all, the communications feel REAL.
When used correctly, your customers won’t realise their initial follow-up wasn’t with an actual member of your sales team. They’ll feel appreciated by your business and experience the professionalism of your automotive expertise.
Time to be truly digital
So, if you’re worried about how you’ll get through all of the enquiries still hanging over from December or you’re concerned because your sales team is now running at half capacity then there is a solution.
By introducing intelligent conversational marketing processes then you can become a truly digital dealership, unleashing the power of automation and AI.
It will provide a critical profit opportunity throughout the current lockdown, build customer loyalty and then enable you to scale up rapidly when the time is right.