Special Report Case Study Relevance Is Key at AutoNation
By Lisa Yorgey Lester
"Relevance is the most important thing for a marketer to address," says Scott Zientarski, director of database marketing with AutoNation, an automotive retailer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. According to Zientarski, advancements in printing technology have allowed AutoNation to capitalize on opportunities derived from its database marketing activities and to abandon its previous one-size-fits-all approach for more personalized communications.
One of the most notable ways the auto retailer is creating customized communications for its customers is through its service program. AutoNation represents 285 dealership locations across 18 states. Its service program includes all customers who've purchased a vehicle from an AutoNation dealership or who've brought in their vehicle for service.
A miles-driven algorithm is used to select customers whose cars are in need of service. These customers then are sent an outbound e-mail as well as an automated telemarketing message indicating their car is due for a specific service. If 30 days have passed, and the customer hasn't responded by making a service appointment, AutoNation follows up with a personalized direct mail piece and another phone call.
Messaging is tailored for each of the retailer's 58 database segments and delivered through the appropriate channel with the help of DME, a direct marketing communications company based in Daytona, Fla. For example, if the car is under warranty, a follow-up message may address noncompliance with a manufacturer's warranty if the needed work isn't completed within the appropriate time. Or, if the vehicle is no longer under warranty, the messaging may speak to the safety and reliability of the car if it isn't serviced.
According to Zientarski, the reason for a service visit is addressed in the body of a letter enclosed in a #10 envelope. An additional offer is made via a coupon. For example, if the customer's vehicle needs new tires, the letter will include the tire measurements and tire meter within the body of the letter. The coupon may offer a discount on tires.
To customize the contents of the follow-up direct mail piece, DME uses Xerox's iGen3 Digital Production Press, which allows it to affordably print full color pieces in small quantities. By using an 81⁄2˝ x 14˝ form instead of an 81⁄2˝ x 11˝ form, it can print the letter and a personalized coupon in one pass. The coupon then is trimmed and nested in the letter as an insert.
Within two months of adopting a personalized approach to the multichannel service program, Zientarski says AutoNation realized an 8 percent improvement in response.