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How Paragon Honda Used Google Assistant To Update ‘Outmoded’ Dealership Visits

"We expect the use of voice to continue to grow and that experiences like this one will complement other options that we or Paragon provide the customer," says Guy Schueller, Google's Industry Director, Automotive.

Honda Paragon in Queens NY, is billed as the “largest certified pre-owned Honda dealership in the world.” Despite Paragon’s title, Brian Benstock, the dealership’s general manager and VP, admits that the notion of a car buyer going to showroom to make a purchase is “outdated.”

While most people still don’t buy cars online, the digital experience is clearly central to the automotive purchase process: about 86 percent of prospective car buyers conduct online research before deciding to visit a local dealership, according to new research from digital marketing agency Adtaxi.

Similar research from Think With Google confirms this behavior: In fact, twice as many consumers reportedly start their research online versus at a dealer, presenting “a huge opportunity for brands and dealers to influence customers before they get to the store.”

Still, dealerships don’t exist on car sales alone. So, to meet customer expectations, Paragon Honda set out to transform its customer assistance by removing friction from one of the biggest customer pain points: vehicle maintenance and service.

“Our customers want to live their lives. They don’t have the time to drive out to the dealership, drop off their car, and wait for it to be serviced. Technology has changed their expectations, and we knew we needed to change our approach to service and marketing in order to meet those,” says Benstock, in a ThinkWithGoogle post.

Paragon Honda worked with digital marketing firm Team Velocity on a three-step approach to transform the way it assists customers.

The broader concepts behind this approach can be applied to almost any marketer in any industry. It comes down to considering the customers’ needs every step of the way. To make those steps seamless, Google Assistant was the key aspect of the program, Guy Schueller, Google’s Industry Director, Automotive, tells GeoMarketing.

To determine if the experiment in enhancing the dealership experience worked, Paragon used Google store visits to measure how search ads helped generate visits to its dealership. This helped the dealer better understand which keywords and campaigns were driving people to its dealership, and, according to Paragon, revealed that search was nearly 5X more cost-effective per vehicle sold compared to other media.

GeoMarketing: How did the use of the Google Assistant for Paragon Honda come about? Had they worked with Google before on other envelope-pushing initiatives?

Guy Schueller: Paragon Honda has often been a leader when it comes to driving innovation in the dealer space. While this was our first major Google Assistant-auto dealer collaboration, Paragon has been utilizing our suite of marketing solutions – everything from Search to YouTube to store visits measurement to video advertising- for quite some time.

What were the goals of this effort? Was it largely considered experimental, or were there specific benchmarks established (discovery, engagement, store visits, inquiries?)?

With regards to the Google Assistant pilot, we didn’t establish hard benchmarks. Our goal with this test was to determine how dealers could start to integrate with the Google Assistant and voice technology to better assist their customers. We don’t yet have a scaled solution for dealers, but if dealers are interested in staying updated on our progress, they can submit their information in our interest form at BookWithGoogle.

Did Google and Paragon mainly see the Google Assistant as an alternative or complementary customer service tool?

We see this as a complementary customer service tool. Not every customer will want to make service appointments using just their voice – just like not every customer wants to pick up the phone and call the dealership. We expect the use of voice to continue to grow and that experiences like this one will complement other options that we or Paragon provide the customer.

Are there any new features with regard to the Google Assistant that were tried out with Paragon? Anything you can say about next steps?

The new feature that we tried out was allowing customers to book service appointments using just their voice. This means that wherever the Google Assistant lives, customers can simply say “Ok Google, talk to Paragon Honda” and book their service appointment from there. As for next steps, the experience will launch in the next few weeks and we’ll then evaluate the feedback to determine how we move forward.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.