Photo by Howard Lake via Flickr

Photo by Howard Lake via Flickr

To be clear, I don’t believe that email marketing was ever “not big,” as in auto dealers had abandoned it. Most have been marketing via email for years with great results. But recent advancements in technology have prompted dealers and their agencies to take a fresh look at email marketing and its capabilities, and they like what they’re seeing.

Email marketing is becoming the preferred channel for many dealers for the following reasons:

1. Email Is the King of ROI.

Email marketing is incredibly inexpensive when you compare it to display, SEO/SEM, print mail and even social media. When executed well, email provides the highest return on investment for marketers, and it also provides attribution. Every time you send out a campaign, it’s easy to look in your DMS and see how many of your customers took advantage of that offer.

2. Email Can Be Hyper-Personalized.

It’s now possible to embed code in different areas of your emails so you can speak directly to each customer based on their place in the buying cycle, their service needs and their previous engagement habits. This process can be automated so that if one recipient is nearing the end of a lease, they will automatically receive an offer for a new lease. If another customer has 25,000 miles on their car, they will automatically receive an offer for a 30,000-mile service visit.

Email newsletters also highly engaging, as long as the content is valuable and not totally focused on sales. Technology even exists that allows dealers to tailor the content of their newsletters to each recipient’s interests and preferences!

For example, in an enewsletter sent from your store, one recipient might see an article about your factory’s latest new model, while another recipient might see an article about why it’s important to get their transmission flushed. This hyper-personalization results in higher open rates and click-through rates.

3: Email Feeds Predictive Analytics.

The purpose of automation, segmentation and machine learning is to ensure that your emails campaigns are highly relevant.

Automated emails, also known as “trigger” emails, are sent out based on actions or events in your DMS. Appointment reminders, service reminders and even sales follow up emails can be automated to provide a better customer experience.

You are probably familiar with database segmentation for email campaigns. You’ve got your new-car customers, used-car customers, lease customers and service customers. But smart segmentation goes beyond the obvious. Certain campaigns may be ideal for some age groups but not others, or for families rather than singles. For luxury brands, an effective strategy is marketing to customers’ aspirations, instead of based on the car they currently own.

Machine learning adds another layer of intelligence that increases relevancy even more. Predictive analytics can be used to look at data such as previous buying habits, what a customer clicked on in the last newsletter and which offers they responded to. The most relevant offers are then presented to them in future emails.

4. What’s Old Is New Again.

The rise of digital advertising, SEO/SEM, mobile apps and social media has garnered a lot of attention in the last decade. As a result, marketers have felt the pressure to learn and master these new and important marketing channels. Now that some of the novelty is wearing off, marketers can step back and analyze their performance, taking a more agnostic view.

What they’re finding is that dealers can spend a lot of money on these channels without seeing optimal results. Search engine algorithms are always changing. Social media ROI is difficult to measure. It is challenging to keep up with these niches, and doing so requires a high degree of special knowledge.

Additionally, the latest marketing trend is to shift from a multichannel approach, which attempts to maximize the performance of individual channels, to an omnichannel approach, which is focused on the consumer’s perception of your dealership and promotes consistent branding across all channels. As a result, marketers are approaching email marketing with renewed interest in how it can be used as part of an integrated, omnichannel experience.

5. Email Offers an Enhanced User Experience.

Email marketers have known for a long time that including images in emails can increase engagement and response rates. It turns out that embedding videos and GIF animations in emails increases engagement even more.

Email is the ideal channel for sending a variety of content designed to entertain, inform, build trust and ultimately to prompt the customer to click on an offer or through to your website.

6. Email Offers Integrated Variable Fields.

This isn’t exactly a new capability, but it’s worth mentioning. Integrated variable fields are still one of the biggest benefits of email. When your email marketing solution is integrated with your DMS, it’s easy and fast to create a custom email campaign for any offer.

In summary, email marketing continues to evolve with technology enhancements that are appealing to your customers. Major trends involve personalization, relevancy, automation, segmentation and machine learning. Soon all of us will see our inboxes become much more visual and interactive. Email remains the preferred communications channel for most of your customers, so make the most of it in 2018!

Dean Martin is director of marketing communications at AutoLoop, where he works with dealers, groups and OEMs to create unified strategies for sales, service and retention.