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SOCIAL media is becoming an increasingly powerful tool to sell vehicles but very few automotive manufacturers and dealer groups are active on platforms such as Facebook.

Facebook client partner Paul Balbo, speaking in a workshop at the recent AADA Convention and Expo, said using Facebook Messenger was one of the new concepts available that can dramatically boost the number of customers available to retailers.

He said the direct-messaging Facebook Messenger app – commonly used as a personal communication tool by more than 90 per cent of Australians – is now being expanded to become a “core customer service channel” that connects customers with sellers.

“Shopping is a human connection that when you look back, built physical relationships when buying a car that was initiated by people’s needs and then fulfilled by a dealer’s expertise,” he said.

“Dealers used to be able to really control that sales period. Now e-commerce and digital transformation has drastically changed how consumers find and discover products for themselves.

“Using direct messaging to communicate with businesses now represents an amazing opportunity that I think is quite untapped for the auto industry.

“And it’s certainly, as we think of driving more of these digital and commerce experiences, we believe Messenger is going to be a place where that evolves significantly.”

He said Facebook started just like any social engagement platform that was “all about likes, comments and shares”.

“Then we evolved to a business objective platform where we were telling you to focus on things like region, car sales, servicing – those types of things.

“Now, as we move into the next evolution of our business, we’re going to start asking you to focus much more on commerce and the opportunities around commerce.”

Mr Balbo said commerce has always been at the heart of the Facebook platform with businesses adopting some of the platform’s tools and then using some advertising and messaging opportunities.

“We now expect this e-commerce trajectory to grow significantly in 2020 from a reach of 1.8 million people to reach 2.43m people, and we expect that to continue”, he said.

“From a commerce perspective, Facebook is an environment where people will come to search and find your products. And then it is an environment for your products to find buyers.”

Paul Balbo

He said Facebook coins the term “conversational commerce” to the Messenger app.

“Businesses use messaging tools to create commerce and shopping experiences,” he said.

“As an example, if you’re on Instagram and you see something you like, you swipe, copy and start having a conversation with a small business and you buy that product.

“The way digital platforms are growing is making them become a more personalised experience.

“We think that there’s an opportunity for manufacturers and dealerships to think about how that can become increasingly centered around how they deal with customer inquiry.

“You have the opportunity in this market with Messenger to connect with more than 90 per cent of Australians using the app. So it has a huge reach.

“And so we really think that there’s an opportunity to bring Messenger in as part of a customer service channel.”

Mr Balbo said Facebook gave dealers the opportunity to showcase their vehicles.

“It is also an opportunity for consumers to come and find your product and allow you to continue to build connections,” he said.

“There’s a huge opportunity to integrate Messenger as a click-to-converse tool with customers who are in the market.

“There’s also ways in which you can plug Messenger into dealer websites. You could have QR codes in dealerships and scan for people to be able to then start some sort of shopping experience.

“And then we are also looking at ways in which we can then pass some of these inquiries into your CRM flows in an automated way. So there’s lots of development happening here.

Mr Balbo said that three in four Australians have communicated with a business by direct messaging and that more than 700,000 people are active users.

“So it’s an amazing opportunity that I think is quite untapped for the auto industry. As we think of driving more of these digital and commerce experiences, we believe Messenger is going to be a place where that evolves significantly,” he said.

By Neil Dowling