By Michael Goetz
It goes without saying that customers go online for vehicle buying research and decision-making. Some do just a bit; some do more. Some try to do all of it there.
According to The 2001 Google Automotive Shopping Behaviour Study, customers spend up to eight hours researching their purchase and visiting on average 18 sources during this process.
“And then they go to the dealership and it’s like they’re starting from square 1,” says Peter Jansen, Lincoln Canada’s national sales manager.
Jansen said that when Lincoln researched everything to do with luxury buyers about a year ago, what came out “loud and clear” was that luxury buyers value their time above almost anything else, and having to start the buying process again at the dealership level was a serious point of frustration.
This got the Lincoln brain trust thinking that there should be a way of bridging the customer’s online world to the next stage at the dealership.
Net result: Lincoln Concierge, which will launch in the U.S. in Q2 and in Canada in Q4.
Real-live Lincoln people will be on hand 24/7 via the Lincoln website, to help and interact with customers as they go through their online research.
The automaker says Lincoln Concierge reps can communicate with car shoppers through web chats, email, and telephone. They can help customers comparison shop, build and price, and answer any questions they might have about any Lincoln vehicle or service.
And when the customer is ready for the next step — a test drive hopefully at the dealership — the Lincoln Concierge will ease the transition.
They will find the right dealership and dealership representative, hand over the customer’s “portfolio information,” and even schedule the test drive.
“The customer obviously has to agree to the passing of the information,” says Jansen.
But if they do, the customer will be rewarded with a “better first introduction” to the dealership world. Dealership staff will already know the customer’s name, profile, vehicle choice, etc. Jansen says the process recognizes how luxury buyers like to do things — expediently.
“They are busy people. They want to have an expedient transaction.”
Luxury buyers also need to eat. So another new Lincoln initiative is Lincoln Date Night. Starting this spring, select Lincoln dealers will be offering “new-to-Lincoln” customers the chance to take the new Lincoln MKZ for an overnight test drive — and to dinner at a fancy local restaurant on Lincoln’s tab.
According to Jansen, for Lincoln to grow it will need to attract new buyers to the brand. It will identify appropriate conquest-type customers by gathering “hand raisers” at auto shows, and on Lincoln's websites. Then Lincoln and participating dealers will offer these select customers the Lincoln Date Night package.
“We can provide a real wow moment to these individuals,” he says. He adds the aforementioned research into the luxury buyer that created Lincoln Concierge also revealed that luxury buyers are all about great experiences. A night out, a great restaurant and getting there in a great car are great experiences via Lincoln, and hopefully will tie customers to the brand.
“We’ve heard from luxury buyers that even when they like another brand of luxury car, then tend to stay with their current one, if that brand offered them a great experience.”
He says Lincoln Date Night is restricted to the new MKZ sedan and starts this spring.
A vendor will work with local dealers to come up with three local restaurant recommendations, which properly reflect the Lincoln luxury brand experience. But the recommendations are only that — if they want to, Date Night participants are free to go to Taco Bell.
Lincoln is picking up most of the costs associated with the Date Night, but not all. Dealers also have to chip in, and Jansen notes that may mean some dealers will stay home on Date Night.