• Where’s My Damn “Ups”? (Retail Marketing in 2016)


    Earlier this year, we were told by one of our retail automotive clients that he needs more “ups” in one of his dealership showrooms. For those of you outside the retail automotive business, “ups” are the prospective customers who drive directly to the dealership when they are shopping for a new car, truck, or SUV. We pointed out that if he looked in his CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software system, he would find that we had grown his online leads from just under 700 to over a 1,000 and his appointments from 198 to 270 in four months. The problem was that after viewing the CRM data, the dealership sales staff never followed up on the leads or even on the people who had made online appointments.

    As you might have guessed, the way people are buying retail products has changed dramatically over the last five years. During this past January’s NADA (North American Dealers Association) convention in San Francisco, almost every seminar that discussed marketing for automotive dealerships  showed that the vast majority of all car buyers (one automotive 2015 study has this figure at 80 percent) begin their shopping online, whether they were motivated to go to the website by a radio or TV ad or they just did an online search for the best price on a particular make and model in their geographic area. Five years ago, the average person visited five dealerships. Today, they visit 1.5. If they are under forty-five years old, they visit even fewer (see

    Expect the number of retail visits to drop even more when the final data is released for 2015. According to Rocket Fuel and Qualtrics, who surveyed 600 retail buyers for the 2015 holiday season, the following changes represent the shift from in-store buying to online buying for retail in the 2015 holiday season (from 2014):

    Automotive: +35%

    Appliances: +96% (WOW!)

    Games and Toys: +15%

    Sports and Outdoor Gear: +19%


    There are also categories that continue to dominate in-store buying, but these tend to be more personal items such as jewelry, clothing, beauty, and cosmetics and items with hundreds of categories and subcategories such as housewares and home and garden supplies.

    The trend is the more commodity-like your product is, the more you will find your customers doing the majority of their shopping online and stopping by the retail store just to complete the sale and pick up their product (if they haven’t made the entire purchase online).

    As an owner or general manager selling these commodity-like products, it is imperative that you have a comprehensive retail marketing strategy, from initial engagement (perhaps using distinct and impressive creative in your traditional media) to inquiries (including lightning-fast responses to e-mails, texts, and even phone calls) to online shopping and e-commerce pages that use your digital marketing strategies. We foresee, in the not-too-distant future, retailers such as automotive adding several experienced digital marketing salespeople to their business development center to focus entirely on online sales.

    A CRM system such as Salesforce or Infusionsoft will give you the ability to track all of your prospects through different levels of the sales process and as they traverse your sales funnel. Furthermore, this system gives you, as an owner or CMO, the ability to instantly track and measure the results of your salespeople. Lastly, it creates a direct link between your marketing and the sales results, allowing you to tweak the marketing strategy until you get the best ROI.

    Sometimes marketing strategies are based on just providing the best price, but they should also be based on offering great value through customer service. Use your retargeting strategies to keep the item in front of your customers no matter what other websites they visit.

    If you are a retailer in 2016, understand that your “ups” are no longer just people who arrive in your retail showroom (or store), ready to be sold to. They are now the unseen and savvier digital shoppers poking around your website. You had better be there to greet them, engage them with compelling content and timely responses, and close them online, if necessary.