How We Started

JL Vans on average sell between 60 and 70 quality used vans per month. That equates to a possible 840 customers’ each year, which means they are able to annually collect roughly 840 customer email addresses. Now, that is an immense amount of data but what good does it offer when in most cases it just ends up buried within dusty folders or left unattended within a limited DMS system.

JL Vans knew there was a great deal of value to be harnessed from customer data and recognised that they were fortunate enough to compete within an industry that naturally allowed them to not only collect a great deal of it but consistently too. Combining that notion with the growing phenomenon known as ‘big data’, being the forward-thinking outfit that makes JL Vans, they wanted a solution that would allow them to better utilise their ever-growing data trove.

 

Jamie Lewis, owner of JL Vans, explained to us at the time:

“We are always capturing customer email addresses but unfortunately we rarely ever make anything of it because we just don’t have the internal resources to do so. Yeah, every now and again one of the lads might spend half-an-hour or so sending out a few emails to thank a customer for the purchase of their new van or whatever, but it never really goes beyond that.

 

We get side-tracked and then before you know it mistakes are made and then things are not done how they should be. We understand the importance and obvious benefits of email but due to a lack of time, as well as it being a very mundane process, we simply don’t have an answer to it yet.”

The point made by Jamie was not new to us, in fact, due to our own motor trade experience we were very much aware of the often-seen problem, but we provided the answer.

A New Approach

JL Vans quickly moved away from their cumbersome manual approach to our fully-configured automation powerhouse tool that has allowed them to explore a new range of benefits and opportunities that were unattainable before.

However, JL Vans priority was neatly focused on one thing – to not let go of the 840 customers’ they added to their database each year and to give themselves the best window of opportunity for attracting them back.

 

Rick Bower, Sales Executive of JL Vans, explained this to us during our meeting:

“Repeat custom is key for us. The value of an existing customer can be more than that of a new one because they are a lot easier to sell too. This has become even more noticeable when you consider the increasing competition and challenging nature of the online landscape where each customer can now browse every choice available and compare every factor that ultimately influences their purchase decision.

 

So for us, extracting the value of our existing customers’ is now a focal point for us over the coming years.”

JL Vans are now able to control how they wish to communicate with their entire customer database, from the presentation of the email, to the text and purpose of the email, to the precise timing of when that customer should receive the email. However, the core value of this lies behind the very fact that this is now done automatically whilst still maintaining individual personalisation to each customer, and that is the solution to harnessing the value of data.

• Personal email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10% – Aberdeen
• 23% of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later – Campaign Monitor
• Email is 40 times more effective at generating sales compared to Facebook and Twitter – McKinsey
• 92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it every day – Pew Research

With JL Vans new capability, Jamie Lewis talks through his vision:

“We all know maintaining customer relationships is an essential component for any business but obviously this was something we were unable to do up until the beginning of last year. So by partnering with Cloudstill, we saw an innovative solution that suited our needs while also bringing a number of new benefits to the table. Having a tool that allows us to automatically communicate with each one of our customers’ in whatever way we see fit, well, that sold it for me. Not only am I saving my entire team the time and headache of trying to do it all at once but I am also saving money by avoiding the cost of potentially having to hire a full-time admin to do the job manually later down the line.

 

I admit, at first, I struggled to see how it could work so nicely because my immediate thought was it might be some sort of bulk email send similar to what happens when you add a load of recipients to a standard email but it is totally the opposite. Each one of our customers’ now receives personally tailored emails that are relevant to them as an individual so we end up creating the right impression and avoid looking careless and lazy. For me this was very important because the essence of actually maintaining and growing relationships is to show you care about each customer and this is achieved by addressing them specifically, so to fulfil this time-consuming process automatically is absolutely fantastic.”

Having discussed the requirements of JL Vans, we then proceeded to implement customer check-up emails that are delivered to the customer every 6 months after the date of vehicle purchase.

JL Vans are acutely aware of there being a real art behind effective emailing so they carefully considered the tone of each email and how it should resonate with the customer during that particular time period.

Andy Forster, Sales Manager of JL Vans, explains further:

“There is nothing worse than constantly getting bombarded by emails, especially when they have no specific meaning to the receiver. So taking this into account we were able to lean-on Cloudstill’s unique personalisation feature and subsequently drew up periodic emails that directly spoke to each customer that was relevant to their position in time since we last sold them a van. In doing so, we are building as well as prolonging the lifespan of each customer to us by showing a caring attitude across roughly the first 3 to 4 check-up emails and then gradually introducing the soft-sell as they approach the thought of possibly buying a new van again.

 

I think it really is a great addition to the business, the only thing I am required to do is simply add each customer to the system and then let it work in the background – knowing every customer is now taken care of in the best frame possible.

 

So we now remain competitive by avoiding complacency and not taking customer retention for granted, we also demonstrate professionalism through highly optimised branded emails that specifically speaks to each recipient, and we most importantly continue to keep our business in the minds of every customer.”

JL Vans are now able to monitor the response of each customer by viewing their individual timeline that shows the emails they have received and opened as well as any links that have been clicked on. With a high-level of email open rates, JL Vans can rest assured knowing their messages are being received loud and clear, giving them the best platform for increasing repeat business.

As shown within the interface shot below, Warren Ball, is a customer who was imported from an Excel spreadsheet that JL Vans started recording a year prior to joining Cloudstill. His vehicle purchase date recently became a year-old and therefore triggered his ‘1 Year Follow-Up Email’, which he opened, read, and clicked the link to JL Vans stock page.

Rick Bower, explains further:

“Although we take great comfort in knowing that our entire email marketing and customer communications is now being taken care of whilst we focus on the day-to-day runnings of the business, it is still excellent to see who is opening our emails and clicking certain links and who is not. We have a very high email open rate and this is said to be down to the manner of our emails not being very intrusive and being spread across a much wider time-frame. We avoid those typical looking marketing emails that we naturally turn-off too and instead stick to the plan of adopting professional looking letterheads, as this creates the feeling of importance and is likely to be more welcomed by our customers.

 

Although we have a number of other emails pipelines running such as, review requests for our various online platforms and warranty upgrade reminders etc. We are really seeing an increase in traffic to our site from previous customers’ and this is purely down to stock links being accessed from customer check-up emails, so being able to see this is very encouraging. I am now sent an email notification if a customer of mine clicks an email stock-link and then depending on my relationship with that individual, I will usually give them a ring at some point later in the week. It helps as it is no longer a cold-call but a warm call because I know they must be considering the idea of a new van and I might start with something simple such as, ’How are you finding your Ford Transit, Geoff?’ etc.

The Results

As Rick Bower mentioned, JL Vans now have multiple email pipelines that are currently running in the background – all implemented for different objectives, respectively. JL Vans have now used us for well over 12 months, which means their system is now delivering a huge amount of individual emails every month – here is a rough breakdown:


60 – 70 new customers added = 60 – 70 purchase follow-up emails sent.
60 – 70 six months old customers = 60 – 70 six months check-up emails sent.
60 – 70 twelve month old customers = 60 – 70 twelve months check-up emails sent.

On top of this, there is a high-proportion of emails that are being delivered for warranty upgrade proposals and MOT reminders, as well as individual stock adverts.

So we are now looking at a possible 210 – 260 emails going out each month and this will continue to grow at an exponential rate as new time-points arrive within the next batch of customers lifespan.

 

Jamie Lewis, rounds it off with the following words:

“The Cloudstill system is now a fundamental tool for us. It is highly effective, bringing numerous benefits to the direction of my business, and it comes at a very affordable monthly price with immediate support behind it.

 

Knowing that the only thing required off my staff is to just add each customer to the system and then everything else will be taken care of is very comforting. It now takes no longer than a few minutes for us to look after arguably the next 3 to 5 years of the customers’ lifespan, significantly improving our chances of continuous repeat business – it now pays for itself.”