Automotive dealers have found that innovation and perseverance are among the most important characteristics required to operate a thriving dealership in a challenging economy. Some dealers are achieving elevated levels of success by using a variety of incentive programs embedded in their email marketing campaigns.

The Green Stamps of the 21st century

In 1896, Sperry & Hutchinson began offering stamps to retailers who would then distribute them to their customers based on the amount of the purchase. These S&H Green Stamps became the primary retail incentive program for generations of Americans who pasted the tiny stamps into countless millions of collectors’ booklets in order to exchange them for premiums such as housewares.

The 19th century activity of licking stamps for incentives may no longer be applicable, but the concept is stronger than ever through the 21st century version: loyalty cards. Automotive dealerships everywhere are promoting their loyalty cards through their email marketing to build business in the parts and service departments; in test drive programs; as a dealership-specific form of rebate; as a thank you for purchasing; and as an incentive to buy a new vehicle or outfit it with specific options and accessories.

Select the Loyalty Card Type that’s Best for Your Dealership

Loyalty cards essentially fall into three categories:

  • Open – These monetary cards usually carry the Visa or Mastercard symbol and are preloadable by your dealership for any desired amount so that they can be used anywhere as a conventional credit card. Over and above the incentive advantages comes the added promotion of having your dealership’s logo on the card, which is clearly visible whenever your customer uses it.
  • Filtered – These monetary cards are intended only for particular brands or dealers and thus can only be utilized towards purchases at the specific dealerships. Some dealers use them to provide a fixed dollar amount off a parts or service bill, while others provide a percentage discount off invoices. These cards can be set up as a single use or can be reloadable.
  • Accumulative – These incentive cards are the closest to the Green Stamp model as they cannot be redeemed for cash values but function as loyalty promoters as customers obtain points loaded onto their cards for back shop and other purchases that can be redeemed for particular rewards such as merchandise, vacations, event tickets or services.

Set Up Your Loyalty Cards through Payment Providers or Do It All In-House

Most dealerships offering open and filtered cards do so through a payment solutions provider which can supply either type and seamlessly manage the transaction through your existing POS systems. Filtered cards technically do not require a payment provider to handle the details as the process can be as simple as training your personnel to extend a 10% discount to any customer who displays the card when completing a service, parts or accessory purchase.

Conventional rebates and cash-backs have reached a saturation level through their overuse to the point where the customer now expects to receive them. Loyalty cards allow a dealership to differentiate itself from the competition through targeting their customers via their email campaigns. Engaging your subscribers by informing them that they can benefit from your loyalty card program is a great way to build foot traffic in your dealership which can boost each of your departments.