Email powers marketing at Chevrolet

Email is in the driver’s seat at Chevrolet. “Email is the glue for all of the channels because it’s so versatile,” says Craig Vore, design and integration lead at Outsell, a Minneapolis-based company that works with select Chevrolet dealers on digital marketing. “You can add in mobile elements and social elements and video elements so easily,” Vore says.

Outsell and Agency 720 work with regional Chevrolet dealers in more than 27 markets, using a mix of email, social, and mobile channels to acquire and retain customers.

For example, the Chevrolet dealers use email to promote their SMS Service Club, a loyalty program that customers can opt-in to receive coupons via text message. “[Chevrolet] uses email to drive awareness of this club,” Vore says. “Customers can text instantly from the email to join. We encourage dealers to talk to customers about joining, but we always see the most opt-ins on the days the email message goes out. At a dealership [customers are] thinking about what they need serviced; they may not be immediately ready to sign up for a club.”

The dealers also use mobile to drive email opt-ins at events. “If you’re at a sporting event, you can have a flyer with a ‘text this to this for a chance to win a prepaid gift card and reply to the text message with your email address for more details and more incentives.’ From there they can sign up for your full email list,” Vore says.

Dealers’ primary use of email marketing, however, is to encourage potential customers to book test-drives at dealerships. “We’ll send emails that have appointment schedulers for an automotive dealership so that you get the commitment right there,” Vore says.

The dealers can look at what the recipients are clicking on in the email and on the Chevrolet website to better inform the customer experience in the dealership. For example, if a customer clicks on a specific car or searches for a particular model on the site, the dealer can trigger an email to invite that consumer to come in and test drive that particular model. The data is also tied to the dealership’s individual inventory, so the dealer can make sure the car is in stock and ready.

After a customer has purchased a car, dealers can follow up with customers via email and drive them back into dealerships for vehicle maintenance. These are trigger emails based on when a car is due for service, and the email will include a call-to-action encouraging the customer to visit the showroom, as well as explaining the benefits of servicing a car regularly.

Last year the Chevrolet dealers used a sequential behavioral email push to promote a year-end sales event. Through this “Chevy Drip” email campaign, Chevrolet and its dealers announced special deals and newly released incentives, pushing the urgency of the deal. Based on how a recipient clicked on the emails, the next email message was altered to be more personalized.

The campaign drove open rates up 260% and led to 1,000 vehicles being sold incrementally throughout the season. “The better the information that we can build into an email program, the better the experience is,” says Harold Kobakof, CEO of Agency 720. “A good email experience translates into traffic in dealerships and that translates into transactions.”

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