It’s that time of year again: awards season. There’s speculation everywhere about which entertainers will walk away with the top prize, and for good reason. Awards — or even nominations — have a powerful effect on public perception. It’s a lesson Hollywood knows better than anyone … but one the auto industry still needs to learn.
Third-party awards dramatically influence how consumers perceive the vehicles on your lot. According to recent market research, three out of four consumers said awards from companies like Kelley Blue Book or Consumer Reports strongly or somewhat influence their opinion of a vehicle. The positive press from an award makes consumers confident that your vehicle is a smart purchase — and can convince them to choose your vehicle over the competition.
So if awards can deliver a boost this big, why aren’t more OEMs and dealers shouting theirs from the rooftops? To take advantage of the benefits and differentiation these awards offer, you need to take a tip from Hollywood and put your awards front and center. These four tips will help you leverage your inventory’s award-winning status to drive more value and increase sales.
1. Promote, Promote, Promote
No matter what your vehicles win, consumers won’t remember you’ve won it unless you remind them. We receive so many advertising messages every day that unless information is repeated, we’re likely to forget it. Conventional marketing wisdom suggests repeating an idea seven times for it to stick, but the exact number is less important than repetition in general.
For consumers to remember and value your awards, you need to promote them repeatedly, and in all the places your consumers are looking. And for the vast majority of consumers, those places are online.
According to Autotrader’s 2016 Car Buyer Journey study, the average consumer spends 59% of their purchase process online, logging about 5.2 hours on third-party sites, 1.4 hours on dealership sites and 45 minutes on OEM sites. While you might keep those proportions in mind as you allocate your coverage, all three types are big parts of the online shopping experience. Your awards should be prominently displayed on all of them.
2. Be Consistent and Credible
One of the biggest benefits your dealership gets from awards is a credibility boost. It’s one thing for you to say your vehicle is the best in its class. But when an impartial company says it, that claim holds more weight. However, unless you promote your vehicle awards effectively, you can lose some of that trust.
If you present conflicting messages about your awards across different sites — even if it’s a mistake — consumers will start feeling skeptical about your claims. And if you don’t back everything up with links to third-party sites, you’ll start sending up red flags.
But the reverse is true, too. “Consistently promoting your awards will build consumers’ trust in your messaging, and increases your value proposition,” said Rob Lange, director of industry insights and education at Cox Automotive Media Solutions. “It’s a powerful way to convince consumers that your vehicle’s the one for them.” To preserve your credibility, evaluate your messaging from the consumer’s perspective. Are you using consistent language? Do you back up your claims?
Some companies are working to make consistency easier. For example, Kelley Blue Book Syndicated Editorial Content generates tiles that promote vehicle awards for specific makes, models or VINs. If you’re part of Kelley Blue Book’s Price Advisor Participating Dealer program and your OEM has signed up, Syndicated Editorial Content will generate identical tiles to advertise awards on OEM sites, dealer sites, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. Plus, the tiles link to a vehicle awards page on KBB.com, building credibility into your listings.
3. Differentiate Your Dealership
You’ve probably noticed that once an actor receives an award, their public persona changes. Suddenly they’re not Joe Smith — they’re Oscar-winning Actor Joe Smith. This is another smart marketing lesson dealers can learn from Hollywood. Just like an Oscar boosts an actor’s overall reputation, an award doesn’t just raise the value of the specific vehicle that wins. It raises the value of your entire dealership.
Along with promoting awards on vehicle listings, you should make them part of your overall messaging. There are plenty of ways to do this, from including awards in your email or print advertising to promoting them in your service department. Autotrader even offers a special Dealer Differentiation space on its dealership description pages. There, dealers can highlight all the awards and accolades that make their dealership special.
“By promoting awards in your messaging, both in person and online, you’re not just selling the car,” said Howard Polirer, director of industry relations for Cox Automotive. “You’re also selling your dealership. You’re selling the experience.” Giving your awards the airtime they deserve will prove that besides selling award-winning vehicles, you’re an award-worthy dealership.
4. Showcase Awards in the Showroom
Promoting awards online is a big piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only piece. Consumers perform the bulk of their research online, but the actual purchase still happens in person. And when they get to your dealership, it’s your job to keep your awards top-of-mind.
Feel free to go low-tech at this point. Clings, toppers, hanging tags or stand-up signs are all great ways to emphasize awards within the dealership. They give consumers clear visual reminders of the awards they’ve already seen advertised online. Remember, consistency is key!
Don’t rely on clings or signs to tell the whole story, though — your sales team also has a big role to play. “Awards are a powerful sales tool,” Lange explained. “They give salespeople great talking points, but the credibility of a third-party award also raises consumers’ trust in the salesperson. An award-winning vehicle basically sells itself.” Educate your sales team on your inventory’s awards, and make sure they’re ready to promote them during walk-arounds. Then watch the sales roll in!
Everyone loves a winner, and automotive consumers are no different. So why hide your awards where no one will hear about them? By following these four tips, you can put the spotlight on your award-winning vehicles where it belongs, getting more consumers into high-quality vehicles and earning more profit. How’s that for a win-win?
Howard Polirer is Director of Industry Relations and Rob Lange is Industry Insights and Education Director, both for Cox Automotive. The two automotive retail education veterans have 40+ years of experience between them.