If you grew up at least partly in the ‘80s, then you will definitely remember Ferris Bueller’s wise advice to us all: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
It’s sage advice, but as I look around me most days at my kids’ soccer games, at restaurants and bars, in stores and malls, and particularly at the coffee house, no one seems to be looking around. Most people have their heads down staring at their glowing hand-held computers.
Here are some recent statistics to support my observations:
• 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device. (Source: pewinternet.org.)
• Nearly 75% of U.S. adults will use a smartphone in 2017 as market penetration continues to increase. (Source: geomarketing.com.)
• Average time spent per day on mobile devices has increased from 2 hours and 15 minutes in 2013, to an expected 3 hours and 23 minutes in 2018. (Source: geomarketing.com.)
• Apps account for 89% of mobile media time, with the other 11% spent on websites. (Source: smartinsights.com.)
While you may be mildly surprised at the current rate of digital consumption, these statistics certainly should not be earth-shattering for savvy marketers. You already know that you need to do whatever you can to reach your customers via the Internet, and that often means reaching them on their mobile devices.
But, knowing you need to do something and executing on how to do it are two completely different animals. When most people think of connecting via mobile devices, they think of apps. Then they subsequently think, “I can’t afford to build an app to connect with my customers.” The good news is that there are several ways to take advantage of your customers’ growing use of mobile technology to market to them on a more personal basis.
Just as there are many apps that techs can utilize for their work within the shop, there are also apps to connect shops with their customers. The gist of these apps is simple — you get your shop listed on XYZ app, and car owners can list their vehicle and request service via the app. My gut instinct tells me that this is a very price-competitive space, but it probably doesn’t hurt to have your shop in the mix of available places for users to take their vehicle if you’re trying to drum up new business.
Social media is one of the most commonly accessed mediums from mobile devices. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat — to name a few — are some of the most popular social platforms shops are leveraging to interact with those in their community. These platforms offer endless opportunity for you to connect with your customers via social media, but how can you best utilize this technology?
• First and foremost, make sure that you have accounts set up for your business on each of these social media platforms. It takes only a few minutes to claim your space and create accounts. Then, when you have customers in your shop, be sure to remind them to connect with you on all the various social media platforms.
• Be active! Be sure that you are regularly posting items to each of these platforms. Popular post ideas include helpful tips for auto maintenance and discounts on maintenance. Simple coupons for an oil change or other service can give you immediate feedback on the strength of your social media reach as you begin to see those coupons being brought into your shop.
Ask for Approval to Text
Texting your customers can be tricky, as no one likes to have their phone blow up with unsolicited ads. Also, not everyone has unlimited texting, so some customers might be hesitant to receive direct texts. Make opting in for texts optional on your service forms and on your website when a customer is scheduling service.
One great way to get your customers on board is to advise them that you will text them when their car is ready and when their car is due for scheduled maintenance. People get busy, and having a simple reminder on their mobile device that it’s time for an oil change, tire rotation or other standard service makes you more of a valued partner in the care and maintenance of their vehicle.
Be sure that all your service forms require your customers’ email addresses. This has value on multiple levels:
• First, I recommend starting your own e-newsletter which can be sent out monthly (to begin with). This can be used to provide links to articles regarding vehicle maintenance, recent recalls and other items that might interest your customers. Create an account in Mailchimp or another user-friendly email tool and get started.
• Next, with their approval, you can also send emails directly to customers regarding their scheduled maintenance, recommended maintenance, and/or recall information specific to their vehicle. This shows a level of personal commitment to your client and the health of their vehicle.
• Vehicle maintenance discounts and coupons can make your emails a direct value to your customers and will help ensure that they read your messages when they see them in their inbox. The key to any email is to always include a call to action that warrants your customers’ response. These could include a link to your website service scheduling tool, a phone number for them to call to schedule their upcoming maintenance, or simply a “bring this coupon” in for your upcoming service.
Finally, if you can gather personal information on your client like their birthday, which is readily available on Facebook if they connect with you, you can make your mobile communications unique by sending out well wishes and birthday greetings, including discounts off service during their birthday month, for example.
All of these ideas are designed to not only capitalize on everyone’s preoccupation with their phones, but to also bring back some long-lost one-to-one communication with your clients in this age of technology. If executed regularly, these personal touches can have your bays full more often with happy, returning customers who value you as a partner in the upkeep of their vehicles — not just as a service provider.