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Market Insight: Women make their mark

WOW factor: The Women on Wheels workshop provides a hands-on approach for basic vehicle maintenance and safety awareness.

Educational workshops for women provide tangible benefits to car companies, dealers

Market Insight logo17 Feb 2012

By TERRY MARTIN

WOMEN have a strong influence over motor vehicle sales in Australia, with figures from various government, industry and media sources indicating that women purchase more than 50 per cent of all new vehicles and have the final say in most new-car transactions.

Many car companies clearly recognise this in their sales and marketing campaigns, such as placing women behind the wheel in advertisements of vehicles that are regarded as key models for this audience.

When the research shows that women account for two-thirds of Australians aged under 35 who are looking to buy a light-sized car, the casting choice for a car company’s TVC naturally narrows towards this demographic.

But at the grassroots level, a community-based organisation is also providing car companies and their dealers with a means to bring potential customers into the dealership and to strengthen relationships with existing owners.

Now in its 13th year of operation, Women on Wheels (WOW) – which before 2007 was known as Motoring Women Australia – runs free workshops for women across Australia that offer practical advice and basic skills for handling common car maintenance issues, such as putting air into tyres, checking oil and lubricants, changing a wheel and jump-starting.

128 center imageThe company works with the nominated dealer for six weeks prior to the event, handling all aspects of event management as required, including providing facilitators on the night.

The program puts a spotlight on the dealership’s facilities, personalises the experience at the service centre and fosters goodwill in the process. It can lead to direct vehicle sales, parts and accessories sales, and regular servicing at the dealership.

Significantly, car companies are increasingly supporting the concept and have the ability to introduce their own branded program.

Hyundai, for example, runs a program called ‘Hyundai Women in Motion’, and Holden has come onboard this year after running pilot nights in Sydney late last year.

There is no hard data on vehicle sales coming as a direct result of the program, but figures provided to GoAuto by WOW shows more than 14,000 women have attended workshops over the years and that annual attendance overall has grown to more than 1700 participants – a figure which is increasing rapidly.

Results from participant surveys completed at the end of each workshop show that the average ‘new to dealer’ rate is around 55 per cent, meaning more than half of the women who attend a session have never before visited that particular dealership.

As the accompanying graph shows, this figure dropped to around 40 per cent last year due to the introduction of Hyundai’s dedicated program, which draws participants from the host dealer’s existing customer base.

However, the increasing number of women attending these events – be they existing customers or otherwise unconnected to the brand – is clearly good business for the car companies involved, not least because the satisfaction rate from workshop participants has grown steadily over the past five years.

WOW’s customer satisfaction index (CSI), which is calculated from the company’s workshop surveys, reached 98.6 per cent last year. Participants are asked questions to gauge their level of satisfaction regarding the overall event, the clarity of information provided and relevance to them.

As WOW co-owner Jacqui Morrison-White explains, there is also an opportunity for participants to provide verbal feedback on the program.

“We have, and continue to use, the participant feedback to improve the WOW program and we are constantly making improvements to both the content and the delivery based on both participant and dealer feedback,” she said.

Another measure of the program’s effectiveness is seen through written feedback from dealers and participants.

One Nissan service manager, for example, said the program had produced around $1900 in sales from a single night – all from customers who had never before set foot inside the dealership.

Other dealers have written of the excellent feedback participants have provided after the event, the positive experience the workshops have had on the service staff involved, and a high degree of general support from the wider community.

Ms Morrison-White said WOW began working with Hyundai in 2008 and, on average, has run about 50 workshop nights a year throughout the Korean brand’s dealer network. The specifically branded version of the program was developed in 2010.

“Each night attracts between 35 and 55 ladies, so that’s about 1500 to 2700 ladies per year that are coming to Hyundai dealer sites, experiencing their products, staff and facilities,” she said.

A 2001 report for the national Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) titled ‘The Way Ahead: Women and the Motor Vehicle Industry’ catalogued a wide range of problems – and found significant levels of dissatisfaction – experienced by women when it came to purchasing a car and having it serviced and repaired.

Among the strategies for improvement outlined in the report were to “provide comprehensive information, training and advice to women about buying a car, repairs and services and car maintenance”.

A decade on, the WOW program has become part of the solution.

While the sales and marketing benefits can be seen for car companies, dealers and the broader industry, less tangible but no less significant advantages such as more confident, better-informed, safer and generally more satisfied drivers also flow through.

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