Using women-centric advertising and sales strategies can help move truck sales, boost profits. BY ANNE FLEMING
Truck sales continue to soar nationwide, and while many dealers don’t realize so, this trend provides them with a bonus opportunity to particularly increase market share in the women buyer’s segment that is responsible for over half of all vehicle sales.
In September 2015, sales of pickup trucks increased 11.3 percent month over month compared with 2014. Through September, year-to-date sales of pickups were up 10.5 percent over 2014, according to motorintelligence.com. Women represented 15 percent of truck buyers in the first nine months of 2014 (19 percent of midsize model sales and 13 percent of heavy duty trucks). Those figures were up over 2013 sales to women.
Full-sized trucks are prime moneymakers for Detroit, and Japan is looking to follow. Since the majority of women currently buy smaller cars that offer less per-unit profit, persuading them to convert to truck ownership on their next purchase offers dealerships a chance to fatten their own profit margins.
Women typically buy trucks for many reasons including utility, business requirements and recreation. Crew cab models, which represent 70 percent of truck sales, provide the interior room of a car with exterior space to haul heavy equipment, toys and sporting gear. Plus, a truck that transports the family all week can then be used to haul a travel trailer for a weekend outing.
Current truck designs include many luxury features that make the vehicle easy to drive and comfortable. Major automakers are starting to think about women buyers when they design truck models, and hiring women for their truck engineering teams. These engineers are bringing their experience in designing cars to the truck segment and helping the OEMs focus on making vehicles that appeal to a wider audience.
Strategies For Truck-Oriented Ads
Auto manufacturers have created several woman-centric truck branding ads for national campaigns. As for dealers, here are some tips to develop regional and local advertising that will appeal to women considering a pickup truck:
1) Broaden your audience. Be sure your truck ads are gender-balanced. On your website, take steps to feature images of women using trucks.
Don’t just present work situations; also show women with families enjoying the convenience features a truck provides. Camping trips, tailgating at sporting events and hauling the kids’ sporting equipment are all great ways to present the versatility a truck offers.
2) Show truck reviews from women. Your website and social media pages should include links to reviews and comments about trucks by women owners and shoppers. Also be sure to include reviews about your dealership. Women researching a vehicle purchase like to read reviews, especially those posted by other women.
3) Speak to your demographic. Trucks usually are a pretty easy sell in rural areas and to businesswomen who need a truck for work. However, don’t neglect the ways that trucks are practical in a number of city settings. Be sure your local target demographic is represented in your advertising.
4) Host events like women’s truck days. Many women still may not think about pickup trucks as an option when they are shopping for a new vehicle. Try host a special monthly event for women and help them learn how a truck can easily fit into their lifestyle.
The bottom line: Marketing and advertising, especially on your dealership’s website and social media, are a quick and easy way to help expand women’s thinking to consider the practical aspects of owning a truck.
Strategies For Making The Sale
When selling to women car shoppers, dealers know it is never wise to make assumptions about the make and model she is likely to buy. Apart from representing half the market share of vehicle buyers, women also influence an estimated 80 percent of all sales in this country.
They may not be the primary driver, but women prospects who walk through your dealership’s door still are viable targets for a pickup truck sale. Even so, given that women today represent only 15 percent of truck purchases, you have to acknowledge there may be some obstacles in persuading them to convert from car ownership.
Here are five tips to help your salespeople overcome any hesitation by or concerns of women shoppers in committing to a larger vehicle:
1) Emphasize comfort. Gone are the days of bumpy rides and uncomfortable interiors with trucks. Be sure to tout luxury features like leather, heated seats and chrome. Also, features such as standard running boards and adjustable pedals may be a welcome surprise for drivers of smaller physical stature.
2) Put vehicle size in context. Unless a woman is used to driving a very small car, driving a truck shouldn’t prove a lot different than handling a large SUV or a minivan. Superior handling found in today’s pickups will help convince her, so be sure to encourage your shopper to take a test drive.
If necessary, your salespeople should be prepared to spend time reframing the old stereotype that trucks are big and bulky and only for a specific (male) audience.
3) Tout the visibility advantages. Trucks have a big advantage over cars when it comes to visibility on the road. A pickup’s extra height and advantageous lines of sight around its rear corners make for confident driving, even in heavy traffic and tight spaces.
4) Point out the versatility. Crew cabs are a versatile, convenient design for women drivers, the perfect hybrid of car and truck. They also are good matches for family driving and can be much more convenient than an SUV because of the easy access to the truck bed for loading and hauling gear.
5) Present a pickup as a second vehicle. A truck can be an ideal second vehicle for a family that also owns a smaller car, since each vehicle than can be applied to its best use within the family’s activities.
The bottom line: Understanding how a woman shopper tends to view pickup trucks, and then showing her the comfort, style and versatility of today’s models, may help your salespeople to convince her to upgrade from a smaller, less profitable (for your dealership) car.
What’s Ahead For Women And Trucks
In December, Becky Blanchard took over as director of Chrysler Group’s Ram brand, becoming the brand’s No. 2 executive. Other women who are front-and-center in the engineering and design of pickup trucks including Anita Burke at GM, Jackie DiMarco at Ford and Diane Allen at Nissan.
Blanchard was quoted in media reports that her move to pickups was a natural career evolution that mirrors customer trends. “A lot of cross-shop data show people are moving from SUVs and minivans into trucks,” she said. “You don’t have to sacrifice anymore to own a truck.”
As women engineers move into truck design from other roles at the major automakers, they can bring knowledge of what women customers have really wanted in other vehicle brands. This cross-pollination will continue to drive innovation and help convert more women into truck lovers.
The continued rise in truck sales and the increased market share of women truck buyers help create an equation for increased profits at your dealership. Using the information and selling tips shown above should help create a win-win for your women customers and your dealership alike.