Should Retailers Adapt Communications
for EVs?

Published: May 2023

We know that many consumers still have reservations about how and when electric vehicles (EVs) might fit into their lives. Recent stats from Cox Automotive, presented at the NADA show in Dallas, indicated that the top five barriers cited by consumers when considering the purchase of an EV were: ‘too expensive’ (54%), ‘lack of charging stations in my area’ (46% – down from 57% in 2021), ‘limited range’ (40%), ‘cost of battery replacement’ (37%) and ‘concern about the battery retaining charge’ (36%).

Overcoming objections such as these is not a simple task, but it’s a nettle that needs to be grasped by dealers as they seek to create more EV enquiries and then convert those enquiries into sales.

At the start of January 2023, the Society of Motor Manufacturers confirmed that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) had seen the greatest increase in registrations in 2022 compared to 2021, with 267,203 vehicles sold, an increase of 40.1%. One in three new cars sold in the UK were battery-electric models in December alone. The data might suggest electric vehicle adoption has its own momentum, but should more retailers adopt EV-specific marketing strategies or stick with familiar methods regardless of powertrain?

Is Marketing an EV Any Different?

Consumers need education, guidance and reassurance at various stages through the EV enquiry-to-purchase journey, so creating EV-specific marketing strategies and contact plans is essential.

The key is to capture the attention of those considering a shift to electrified mobility from an early stage. Our own research has shown that 64% of potential buyers conduct all their research online and only intend to visit a showroom once they are ready to buy. However, just because customers aren’t physically present doesn’t mean they can’t be successfully engaged via digital channels. For example, by using EV-related keywords, a dealer can target relevant, location-specific audiences with their social media advertising.

One difference when marketing EV stock comes in terms of customer education. EV driving is new to many, so it is essential to pre-empt potential concerns by ensuring the right information is readily available. Customers will want to understand the EV-related technical specifications of the vehicle, such as battery range and charge time, as well as available variants and the amount of road tax they might have to pay. Keeping the adverts simple but including EV-specific information can be vital.

New converts to electric mobility may also be uncertain of the aftersales requirements of an EV, so marketing should address that. Outlining service plans and pricing early on, so the customer knows what to expect, may facilitate the sale and boost long-term retention.

Of course, data accuracy remains the cornerstone of any successful marketing campaign, allowing communications to be issued at the right time. Dealers can use our marketing automation platform, VoiceBox, to segment customer data into groups based on specific criteria, for example, buying cycle or powertrain of interest and target them via email and SMS marketing.

Furthermore, gathering comprehensive data, such as accurately recording the fuel type of interest, will improve engagement with future marketing and sales communications as they will be specifically tailored to the customer.

How Should Sales and Aftersales Messages be Adapted?

A common mistake many dealers make is simply replicating well-established and successful contact strategies for internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. Importantly, the nature and frequency of communication needs to adapt for EV sales to reflect the likelihood that 1) more information will need to be shared to tackle those aforementioned purchase blockers, and 2) more questions will need to be answered – and promptly.

The EV world has developed its own vernacular, and a dealer’s outbound emails, SMS and social media content has a role to play in breaking down misconceptions and guiding people into the purchase funnel. Data accuracy has always been important, but up-to-date contact histories are crucial for mapping how EV prospects respond and whether they have lingering concerns.

It should also be borne in mind that certain questions and concerns will manifest once again through the period of ownership. For example, colder weather impacts battery performance, so service departments should be ready to offer reassurance and guidance. Dealers can create marketing messages explaining that the battery’s performance will change with the weather while emphasising the importance of seasonal health checks.

One simple yet crucial tip is ensuring sales and aftersales teams log the powertrain type in the dealer management system (DMS). We analysed data from over 450 dealer clients across multiple DMS data feeds and found that many dealers are not accurately recording the fuel type – either at the point of initial enquiry or post-purchase. Without this, those EV prospects and customers will be lost in the greater mass of data, preventing implementation of the tailored contact plan at the outset.

Through contact with our wide network of dealer clients, we have heard that many EV customers are paying more regular visits to the workshops due to vehicle recalls and tech update programmes. These additional touchpoints can generate further revenues, for example, by marketing accessories or giving customers a chance to look at the next generation of EVs in the showroom.

With EV sales, sharing a more diverse range of content, not just relating to the vehicle, is equally important. For example, sharing information from third-party sources such as Zapmap can give confidence that adequate public charging points are available. Some dealers have directly addressed that common concern by partnering with a reputable charge-point installer.

In short, the methods used to communicate with EV customers are no different from ICE buyers, but the information shared in the messaging needs to reassure and educate. These are both vital for winning customers’ trust when it comes to purchasing an EV for the first time and could also prove beneficial for maximising post-sale revenues.

For support creating your bespoke EV customer journey, contact us today.

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