In the past, a vehicle sale started and ended on the showroom floor. Today, many of the discovery and purchase steps take place online.

Online retail giants like Amazon have conditioned customers to expect timely and relevant communications across channels, plus a personalized buying experience informed by past behavior.

For automotive retailers, meeting these expectations requires different capabilities within your CRM.

Before, a CRM was primarily a system of record, a place to organize and store customer information. But today, your CRM is a system of engagement.

What does that mean? Your CRM can help facilitate and orchestrate the customer journey through more personalized and seamless interactions across all customer touch points.

Yes, your CRM is an essential business tool. But it’s also a way to interact with your customers personally to build trust, and so you can optimize your profitability.

How do you know if your CRM is a system of engagement? Look for the following four capabilities.

Data aggregation and analysis

Your employees need to be able to deliver relevant information and messages that help build a deeper connection with your customers. A CRM built to engage makes this task easier by aggregating and analyzing customer data. It should also optimize across channels to capture every customer interaction on every device. This way, employees can see the customer’s history and create personalized messages that speak to their needs.

Integration with key systems

The more integrations you can access, the more powerful your CRM becomes.

Think beyond the DMS. An engagement system should communicate with your website, digital shopping tools and third-party integrations. By using this data with your CRM, you can improve the customer experience and enable your staff to have more productive customer conversations.

Intelligence tools and process automation

Predictive and behavioral analytics allow your CRM to analyze and contextualize customer data, inferring customer intent and behavior. With that information, you can segment customers and send out highly targeted communications.

And it pays to leverage pertinent customer data. Open rates for untargeted emails are in the teens. Open rates for targeted emails range from 25% to 30%.

Process automation automates tasks and content based on customer details and segmentation data. You can set up trigger events so customers receive a relevant message through their preferred channels immediately after they perform an action (email, phone call, website form, etc).

Unified customer data management

CRMs designed for engagement give managers a global view of customer activity across all stores in the same dealer group. This ensures that a customer will still be treated as a valuable repeat customer if they call or show up at a different store in the dealer group.

Unfortunately, 99% of dealers don’t enable this feature because stores in the same group may be in competition for the same customer, so they don’t want to share information. That’s crazy! A customer belongs to your brand, not a specific store.

Sharing information enables customer personalization that breeds loyalty and repeat business. It’s better for everyone in the long run.

When you examine your CRM as a system of engagement, remember to prioritize its ability to personalize communications, integrate with key systems, create process automation, deliver intelligent insights and unify data management.

These capabilities will help you deliver a personal, seamless buying journey across channels to win the business of today’s vehicle shoppers.