October 21, 2004, 12:00 AM

What car dealers lose by ignoring e-mail marketing

Up to 70% of a car dealer`s customers now have e-mail accounts and targeted e-mail promotions generate 5% to 35% response rates, which can be up to five times the response rates of traditional direct-marketing programs, says 365 Marketing Technologies.

Though automotive dealers are gradually getting better at e-mail marketing, there is a significant sales upside to dealers who take the time and trouble to do it right, according to research compiled by 365 Marketing Technologies, a Tampa developer of e-mail marketing programs for the automotive industry.

According to 365 Marketing, up to 70% of a dealer`s customers now have e-mail accounts and targeted e-mail promotions generate 5% to 35% response rates, which can be up to five times the response rates of traditional direct-marketing programs.

E-mail provides dealers the ability to quickly send sales and marketing promotions without the two- to three-week lead-time required by direct mail.

Research shows that 96% of online consumers want dealer correspondence via e-mail, according to 365 Marketing. Specifically, 96% of car shoppers found e-mail coupons beneficial and 86% like receiving service reminders and coupons from their dealership via e-mail.

The pay-off for better e-mail marketing for dealers is more repeat business. About 90% of a typical dealer’s advertising and marketing budget is geared toward first-time buyers. But car buyers who give repeat business to a dealer are likely to spend about $1,200 more on their next purchase, says 365 Marketing.

“Dealers are getting better at e-mail marketing, but they still have a long way to go,” says Deanie Gregory, founder of 365 Marketing. “In many cases, there are still significant technology and cultural barriers that prevent dealers from taking more advantage of the web.”

If dealers do dedicate more time, resources and efforts to an e-mail marketing program, they may be very surprised at the results. “Some of our dealership studies show that 95% of BMW customers have an e-mail address and 76% of Chevrolet owners have an e-mail address as well,” Gregory says. “This statistic represents some good marketing opportunities.”

Among the emerging customer groups ripe for dealer e-mail marketing campaigns are senior citizens. “They have time, like to save money and want convenience,” Gregory says. “There are more and more of them online researching their next vehicle purchase.”

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