Why Auto Dealers Must Embrace Digital Marketing

Why Auto Dealers Must Embrace Digital Marketing

You may have heard it time and again, but if you aren’t using digital in your marketing plans, you are losing out. Simply put, traditional marketing no longer works like it used to for auto dealerships. According to research by DealerSocket, traditional advertising such as radio spots, TV ads, and billboards bring in an average total profit of $1,702 per vehicle, while digital marketing brings in $2,514 per sale. Consumers research and shop across digital channels and dealers must go digital to target and acquire new auto customers.

Digital marketing includes channels such as websites, email, social media, and mobile. Not only does digital marketing bring in more revenue per car sold, it also costs much less. DealerSocket found that it costs $150 of digital marketing to sell one car compared to $1,581 in traditional media. This translates to paying 10 times more than necessary if you use traditional strategies.

This is not to say that traditional media should be left behind. It certainly has its place, but dealerships must move away from solely using traditional advertising channels and begin to implement more digital targeting options. As consumers become more digitally savvy, they expect to be catered to through digital channels. By not targeting these consumers in the ways they expect to be reached, dealerships are losing out on an entire target audience of online car consumers.

According to a study by SiriusDecisions, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now completed digitally.  Consumers use digital channels to research and to decide which dealership to ultimately visit. During this important phase of research, you need to ensure that your dealership is one of the options being considered.

Here are 7 digital strategies to be considered at the very beginning of the search journey all the way through to the final purchase.

  1. Search
    Research by G/O Digital revealed that 30% of consumers immediately go to search engines when starting the car-buying process. A dealership’s online presence is a huge factor in determining success at this initial point in the purchase journey. Strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies will ensure that car-buyers can find your dealership in search results. A comprehensive SEO strategy should include your website, keyword optimization, pay per click campaigns, link building, online reputation management and quality content.

  2. Online Reviews
    According to a study by Digital Air Strike, a huge percentage of car buyers turn to online review sites before making a purchase. In fact, 70% of car buyers say that online dealership reviews influence where they choose to go. Additionally, 24% consider review sites to be the “most helpful” factor when it comes to making purchase decisions. Be sure to monitor your online reviews, quickly and constructively respond to negative reviews, and continuously encourage your customers to leave reviews about their purchase experience.

  3. Mobile
    It’s the age of “Mobilegeddon” and your website, content, and marketing messages must all be optimized for mobile. When a consumer visits a page that is not mobile-friendly, they will quickly leave in search of a competitor who can deliver an optimized mobile experience. Research by cars.com shows that 63% of car shoppers examine merchandise online via mobile while physically shopping at an auto lot. “Of the mobile content sought out by these shoppers, 51% pertains to price, payments and offers, and 29% is inventory information. These numbers indicate that large numbers of customers are relying on mobile not just for preliminary research, but also as they make final decisions about what to purchase and where.” Based on the increasing use of mobile throughout the purchase journey, from initial research to final purchase, mobile has never been more important for car dealerships.

  4. Email
    When done properly, email marketing is a highly effective channel for dealerships. Personalization is key to creating emails that convert. Research by G/O Digital shows that 35% of car buyers want emails tailored based on their interests. Additionally, 28% said they would click on an email from a dealership if it included information about a style, color or model they’re interested in. And if consumers are sent an impersonal email (i.e. not specific to their interests or location), 23% are less likely to visit that dealer’s website and 32% feel irritated or resentful toward that dealership.  With the sophistication of today’s data sets, emails can be targeted by a huge range of selects, such as exact make and model of current vehicle being driven, blackbook value of car they currently drive, people most likely “in the market” for a new car, and other demographic selections such as income, ethnicity, hobbies, children and more.

  5. Social Media
    According to the CMO council, 1 in 4 car buyers talks about buying a new car on social media and 38% say they will consult social sites before they purchase a vehicle. Facebook is also hugely popular with social automotive consumers – 84% of automotive shoppers are on Facebook, and 24% of them have used Facebook as a resource for making their vehicle purchases. Social media is a hugely important way for the automotive industry to connect with new car buyers. Not only is social media full of real-time purchase indicators, but dealers can use social to build brand loyalty, improve the customer experience, and influence purchase decisions. When using social channels, be sure to share plenty of engaging content on different social channels, post pictures of inventory, engage in conversations on your social pages, monitor social reviews, and have your contact information easily accessible (location, hours, email, and phone).

  6. Social Media Advertising
    In addition to having a social presence and interacting on social platforms, consumers can be targeted with extreme precision through social advertising. If just beginning with paid advertising on social, a great place to begin is on Facebook. Consumers can be targeted by a range of demographics such as age, income, geographic location, gender, and more. Specialty auto data can also be used for targeting consumers on Facebook, such as information on Vehicle Type (car, SUV, truck, van), Make, Model, Year, Financial (i.e. median home value and credit score range), and other segments including vehicle history data and garage data.

  7. Online Video
    Online video marketing is becoming a huge trend this year. Posting videos can boost engagement and interest in dealerships by displaying inventory and information where most consumers research first, making your dealership the go-to place for interested car shoppers. According to a study byGoogle, 64% of people who used YouTube while buying a car were influenced by it- more than TV, newspapers, or magazines and auto review videos on YouTube have been watched more than 3M hours in the first 9 months of 2015, of which more than 1.2M were on mobile, more than 2X as many as last year. When creating videos, keep them short. Videos between 30 seconds and 1 minute are shared 18% more often than videos longer than 1 minute. The top 3 types of content that shoppers are interested in are test drives, features and options, and walk throughs.

Overall, digital and traditional marketing should complement each other. A good marketing strategy should blend different channels and elements based on each dealership’s unique audience.

To learn more about targeting and winning with today’s multi-channel automobile shopper, download the Automotive Marketing Data Success Kit.


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