How digital signage drives sales in auto dealerships
What's better, a high-gloss poster of a Mercedes in the Alps, or gripping video of that same Mercedes zipping through the mountains?
The Automotive Broadcasting Network is betting that the answer is as obvious to everyone as it seems, rolling out its digital signage network to auto dealerships across the U.S. — providing in-house, long-format informational programming as well as showroom video walls to create a visceral buying experience.
ABN Executive Vice President Robert Orndorff highlighted some of the benefits of digital signage in auto dealerships in a recent interview, pointing out the medium's ability to create a wow factor in the showroom, its defensive marketing capabilities and its ability to create sales uplift in the non-sales areas of the dealership.
And one of ABN's customers, Chris Zamora of Honda of Superstition Springs in Phoenix, backed up those assertions in discussing digital signage in his own dealership.
Zamora compared the older-style, printed brochures and posters common to dealerships for years to the static signage in a shopping mall.
"When I go to a mall, I don't even see the static stuff anymore," he said. "And people going into dealerships, they walk by them and don't pay attention to static stuff, but with the digital signage, it really catches their attention."
And digital signage moves away from the expense of constantly printing new material "that no one pays attention to," Orndorff said.
"We just don't consume that kind of material that way anymore; there's just a paradigm shift away from that," he said, also pointing out the flexibility of the medium to change immediately to shifting marketing or branding plans. "Digital signage is a great medium for being timely and relevant, so everything digital signage means to other vertical markets these dealerships are getting too. It translates really well."
Creating a dealership specific channel through digital signage also creates an important "defensive marketing" capability for dealers, according to Orndorff. The dealers aren't just showing cable TV in various waiting areas, which means they can make sure their competitors ads aren't playing in their dealership, he said. "So it's never the case where I'm sitting at a Mercedes dealership and having service work done, and I'm in the buying cycle ... and I see a great BMW ad on TV and decide not to talk to the dealership about a new Mercedes while I'm there."
And not only that, Zamora said, but his customers tend to pay more attention to the Dealer TV digital signage network than they do to regular TV anyway. At one time, he said, he'd had both a regular TV showing afternoon talk shows and a digital signage screen in the same waiting area — and no one paid attention to the regular TV, preferring instead to watch videos about cars and car care.
Another of the key areas digital signage benefits auto dealers is in creating sales out of the service area of the dealership. The screens can promote the idea of trading-in while the customer is at the service desk and again in the service waiting area.
"So now when our salesperson approaches the customer about a VIP trade offer or the Vehicle Exchange program, the customer has already been exposed to the messaging several times," Zamora said on the ABN website. "At this point our sales people are not talking to a cold customer, who hasn't thought of trading his or her car. They are talking to a very warm prospect and because of this the sales people have success converting the customer."
Auto dealership showrooms are created to be high-energy, visceral experiences where customers are supposed to feel something, Orndorff said. And digital signage helps make that happen in a way that printed collateral just can't.
"Now a poster on a wall done really well is pretty good, but when you start talking about a video wall, showing running footage? That's on the wall behind that car that you're looking at?" he said. "Then you've created a very impressive environment, and dealers absolutely get that."
And Zamora said that digital signage helps dealerships that may have been the newest on the block at one time compete with the newest kids on the block — an opinion with which Orndorff agreed.
"To redo a showroom, the architecture and the construction, that's a big, big deal, but if you can strategically position some gorgeous looking screens and put some great content on it, the mission's pretty much accomplished," Orndorff said.
Finally, automotive dealerships tend to be early adopters of outward-facing technologies, Orndorff said, and even they are dealing with the threat of showrooming more common to lower-dollar-value brick-and-mortar retailers.
"I believe and we believe, and certainly our customers believe, that digital signage and automotive is not an if, it's just a matter of when," he said. "Digital signage engages prospective customers of dealerships even in that showrooming effect. Because it's unavoidable that when you walk into one of these large open spaces and you see these screens and a car is top of mind, you have a moment to get their attention in a way that you wouldn't have by any other medium. And I think dealerships get that, and I think they'll get it more."
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Christopher is the managing director of the Interactive Customer Experience Association and former editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.www