Automotive Dealer Guide: Techniques, Contemporary Concepts, and Optimal Methods
Nowadays, almost no consumer visits a dealership before doing their internet automobile shopping. Digital marketing techniques are employed by astute car dealers to turn those internet visitors into actual customers. I give the best and most effective tactics based on my twenty years of experience.
What Distinguishes Digital Marketing from Traditional Marketing for Auto Dealers?
Digital marketing is the term for advertising conducted online via social media, emails, and websites. Beyond only where it shows up, digital marketing is different from traditional marketing. The practice is more client-focused and engaging.
A television advertisement from an auto dealership cannot highlight a particular customer’s age or other attributes. The TV advertisement isn’t interactive for that potential client. Furthermore, the dealer frequently has no idea how successful the advertisement was in drawing in new clients to the store.
Demographics and various types of prospective customers can be targeted via digital marketing. Dealers have quick and simple access to data on the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and the number of interested parties.
The Significance of Automotive Digital Marketing in the Present Era
Automotive internet marketing is essential since, compared to ten or fifteen years ago, people now browse for cars in radically different ways. Before they ever visit a showroom, the majority of buyers spend hours browsing the internet for their next vehicle.
The following information explains how much automobile shopping is now done online:
Research on the internet is done by 86% of prospective buyers of cars before they visit a nearby dealership, per a study conducted by digital marketing company Adtaxi.
According to a 2020 Cox Automotive study, consumers who purchased a car spent an average of 15 hours on the entire purchasing process, which included shopping, researching, visiting dealerships, and haggling. Nine and a half of those hours, or nearly two-thirds of the time, were spent online.
Seven out of ten automobile purchasers claim that their decision to visit a dealership is influenced by internet reviews, according to Digital Air Strike research.
Because of all of this, auto dealers need to be very visible online and interact with prospective clients. They must know how to target specific customer groups with their marketing and provide them with the information they require. All of that must take place before the buyer even contacts a dealership or makes a phone call.
(To find out more about how dealers interact with customers and sell cars, among other parts of the automotive business that are impacted by online shopping, see our guide on automotive digital retailing.)
How Much Does Advertising Cost at Car Dealerships?
For every new car sold, franchised auto dealerships lose almost $600. That equates to billions of dollars being spent on advertising annually. For car dealerships, internet advertising is becoming the most common medium for advertising.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) released its annual report for 2019 and states that new car dealerships spent $9.25 billion on advertising in 2019, or roughly $628 for each new car sold. That decreased in 2020’s first half, most likely as a result of the COVID pandemic. In the first half of 2020, new car dealerships spent over $3.73 billion on advertising, or almost $600 for each vehicle sold.
The largest advertising expenditure for new vehicle dealers in 2019 was 14.5 percent on television, with 56 percent of their advertising dollars going online.
Digital Marketing Channels for Automobiles
To reach potential consumers, auto dealers can and should make use of a variety of digital marketing platforms. We refer to this strategy as omnichannel marketing. A well-designed website, online videos, and pay-per-click advertising are examples of potential routes.
The following are the best internet marketing channels for cars:
Online Pay-Per-Click Advertising
PPC, or pay-per-click, advertising is a term that describes how important it may be to successful digital marketing. For specific keywords, a dealership will pay a search engine (usually Google) to display your link at the top of the result page. Each time a user clicks on the advertisement to get more information, they give Google a tiny payment.
PPC is still expanding in the car sector. PPC ad expenditure in the automotive industry rose by 22% in 2019 compared to 2018, according to data from eMarketer.
You can use graphics or videos, or just text with a link, in your advertisements. To draw in the right clients, you should investigate the most effective terms to use. To make sure you exclude irrelevant queries (such as those in which the user could be interested in learning more about “Mustang” horses rather than a Ford “Mustang”), pay attention to the negative terms you want to utilize.
“Programmatic display” is an additional element of paid internet advertising that enables you to show your advertisement to a highly targeted audience based on what they are reading on another website. For example, they might be reading an article about tiny SUVs or buying autos.
An attractive website with useful content for search engines
You should and can be found by potential clients even without paid search engine advertising. Let me introduce you to search engine optimization (SEO), which is the process of making material on your website more visible to search engines and users.
According to a Kenshoo study, 70% of buyers start their car research with a search engine. A prominent position on a search engine results page confers a benefit to your website: customers view it as more reliable than a pay-per-click advertisement. Thus, you should strive to rank highly in organic, or non-PPC, search results.
Additionally, you should have a well-designed website with content that appeals to car purchasers, who are searching for in-depth details about specific models without resorting to gaudy or unprofessional gimmicks. The modern online automobile buyer seeks out all the information required to complete an online auto transaction. Find out more about giving car buyers a more engaging online experience.
Too many calls-to-action (CTAs), or interactive elements that ask for a viewer’s name and contact information, can be seen on the websites of many auto dealerships. Having said that, you should aim to balance the number of CTAs on your page so as not to overload visitors or drive them away. Learn more about boosting the conversion rate of your car website.
The use of voice search is growing. To find the top car dealerships, prospective clients can query Siri on their smartphone or Alexa on their smart speaker. Make sure your material is optimized to respond to straightforward inquiries.
Read Moz’s piece, which goes over all the SEO fundamentals for auto dealerships, to learn more about SEO.
You may also enhance your search engine results by adding a blog to your website that offers basic consumer information about vehicles and car buying.
Customers won’t limit their search to just one type of car when they start looking for one. Additionally, they should have a broad understanding of automobiles and car purchases. For example, a lot of customers will use search engines to find out the advantages and disadvantages of leasing versus buying a car. Your dealership is likely to rank highly for that query if you’ve written a blog post about it. To find out what queries customers have most frequently regarding autos and car purchases, you can conduct internet research. Answerthepublic.com is one free internet resource that gives you access to frequently asked questions.
Additionally, having a blog will make customers think of your dealership as a reliable resource for guidance and information.
It is not enough to concentrate solely on SEO website optimization. In order to ensure that individuals searching for automobiles in your metropolitan region find you, you also need to optimize it for local SEO.
With more and more people accessing the internet via their phones, local SEO has become even more crucial. Currently, local results appear in about half of all smartphone searches. People are always on the go and need to know where to buy a Ford 150 or get a pizza. When customers search for a car, you want to appear in the results.
Create an account on Google My Business and include your address and other geographic details. Additionally, you should provide local information on your website.
A digital marketing strategy must include social media. A study conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer Council found that 38% of automobile purchasers check social media before making a purchase.
Make an account on all of the social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more. Assign employees the responsibility of maintaining such accounts active by posting frequently about your dealership, and buying cars, and automobiles.
Social networking networks also offer purchased advertisements. You may target particular potential clients, such as residents of your metro region who have been looking for SUVs, which is a clear advantage. You can also quickly see your return on investment for buying those advertisements with social media. You may find out exactly how many individuals clicked through from one of Facebook’s ads to your website by using their stats, for instance.
Online automotive video viewership is surging, and those films have a big impact on prospective automobile purchasers.
A Google survey found that 64% of users who viewed YouTube while making a car purchase were impacted by it. That’s a larger number of buyers than those impacted by car reviews, TV, newspapers, or magazines.
You may make quick films that demonstrate:
A vehicle being tested
Testimonials from pleased clients
brand-new cars and showcase special features
Advice about auto maintenance and repairs
The videos can drive more traffic to your website and increase the number of hits on your online and social media advertisements. They can also aid in increasing website traffic by optimizing your videos for search engines. When uploading a video to YouTube, it’s advisable to include a textual transcript of the video. Although viewers typically cannot see the transcript, it will improve the video’s ranking in Google search results.
Advertising to your consumers on how simple it is to buy from you and save time, etc., will put them in the driver’s seat when the time comes for them to be in the market for another vehicle. They can also educate their customers since they last made a purchase or had maintenance at a particular dealership.
In the digital age, email is about as antiquated as it gets, but it still works well.
First, you should email both your previous and present clients. Forward to those who have purchased from your dealership or had auto repairs done by you. Remind them how simple and affordable it is to purchase from you when they finally find themselves in the market once more for an automobile.
Additionally, you can request email addresses from potential clients via your website and other marketing materials. Based on the feedback from your customers, send tailored messaging. Make sure you just send them the information they request and personalize the emails as much as you can. Always include links in your emails so that prospective clients can visit your website. Depending on the kind and quantity of responses you receive, modify the email’s length and tone.
Additionally, think about sending out email newsletters on a regular basis to those who subscribe. These newsletters may provide information about new automobile models, exclusive offers, or helpful tips related to purchasing a car.
Customers who have consented to receive messages from your business may also receive a text message from your dealership. Reaching customers using this approach is more effective and faster than using emails. More and more people are visiting business websites—including auto dealerships—on their mobile devices. Clients who get one of your texts can visit your website right away.
Make your own entries in web directories for businesses. These comprise both more regionalized and nationwide directories such as Yelp. Ensure that your profile is full and includes connections to your social media pages and website.
The success of your dealership depends on its online reviews. As was already noted, 70% of automobile purchasers claim that dealer reviews found online influence where they chose to purchase a car.
Make it easy for customers to provide reviews for you on your website and other platforms, such as social media, Google, and Yelp. Make sure to keep an eye on those reviews and give thoughtful feedback on both favorable and negative ones. This strategy is just a portion of what you have to be doing to manage the web reputation of your business. Additionally, you should keep an eye on how your dealership shows up in general search engine results.
Remember to include a link to your website on outside review platforms.
Links to Other Websites
Dealers should include every item in their inventory, both new and old, along with every detail about each car on reputable third-party websites that buyers frequently start their search on. Autotrader.com, Cars.com, Edmunds.com, and CarGurus.com are among the websites.
It would be equivalent to placing your cars behind your dealership instead of in front if you didn’t post them on these sites.
The popularity of streaming video is skyrocketing. Nowadays, over 147 million adult Americans watch video material on Roku, Hulu, Amazon Fire TV, Sling, and other comparable services. In fact, streaming video is thought to account for 80% of all internet traffic.
Use these platforms to advertise. The term “over the top” advertising refers to this kind of advertising since it circumvents cable and regular TV networks. Compared to traditional broadcast advertising, it is more focused and less expensive, among other benefits.
In 2019, mobile devices accounted for 53.3% of all internet traffic, according to Broadband Search. In contrast, 16.2 percent did so in 2013. Mobile devices accounted for 58% of all organic search engine visits in the United States during the fourth quarter of 2019.
Individuals are using their phones to look for local auto dealers and then access their websites on the go. Make sure the content and appearance of your website are mobile-friendly. On a mobile device, your website should appear fluid and simple to navigate.
Although direct mail isn’t digital, it can support and enhance your online marketing initiatives. A direct mail postcard with links to your website can be sent to a specific recipient. These links can provide additional details about special sales events, new cars at your dealership, and other information.
Digital Marketing Strategies for Automobiles
Selecting the right channels for your digital marketing requires careful consideration of your whole plan.
Top Internet marketing techniques for car dealerships:
Recognize Your Shoppers’ Locations and Make Sure You’re There: Consumers research automobile purchases using a variety of websites and resources. The four best:
Thirty-two percent go to independent aggregator websites such as autotrader.com.
Thirty percent do some research or use a search engine to find their desired car.
One-fourth go to websites for local dealers.
14% go to websites for brands and manufacturers.
As you market, give careful consideration to at least the top three areas. Dealers with the greatest possibility of impressing prospective clients are those who are well-represented and excel in those areas. (See “Marketing for Remote Sales” for more information on how to conduct successful digital marketing for today’s clients, especially those who are prepared to make purchases from a distance.)
Provide the Correct Content for the Correct Channel: Depending on the device a customer is using, different research objectives and responses apply. With a desktop computer, for instance, customers can more easily:
Utilize the software on your website to personalize a new car.
Compare information about rival cars.
Obtain details about warranties.
Using a mobile device makes it simpler for them to:
Speak with loved ones while they are buying cars.
Speak with a salesperson or the dealership.
Arrange a test drive.
Look up the locations of nearby dealers.
When developing different sections of its website, your dealership must take consumer behavior into account. Remember that when focusing your digital advertising on individuals and mobile devices,
Make Sure Your Digital Ads Aim at the Correct Audience: Consumers have certain requirements when it comes to automobiles and dealerships. When looking for a Mercedes S-Class Sedan, buyers pay attention to details and amenities that a buyer of a Toyota Corolla might not. They anticipate that the dealerships’ marketing materials will make that clear.
When advertising the wide range of vehicles your dealership offers, keep this in mind. When interacting with customers, keep these differentiators in mind—you might offer different brands at different price points. Send each customer the appropriate digital marketing message.
To discover more ways to engage customers, check out our innovative recommendations for remote selling strategies.
Conduct A/B Testing: Make sure to evaluate the efficacy of different digital marketing channels. Examine the effectiveness of every message in a marketing channel by testing it. Comparable customers are sent two versions of a message as part of A/B testing to discover which gets a better response.
For instance, two options for a message to similar groups could be included in an email campaign. It is advisable to monitor which supporting materials result in a greater percentage of emails being opened and links inside the email being clicked.
You could also experiment with A/B testing on social media networks. For instance, send the identical Facebook message to various Facebook audiences.
Recognize Good and Bad Conversion Rates: The average rate at which prospective customers click on a link in an email or on a digital advertisement, for example, is a conversion rate that applies to all forms of digital marketing. Only 1.5 to 2 percent of conversions occur on average across some channels. To find out what constitutes a “good” conversion rate and to make sure that your efforts are hitting that mark, find out what the average conversion rate is for each channel.
Keep an eye on and track every outcome. You can easily keep track of results using a lot of digital marketing tools. But occasionally, you’ll need tools to keep an eye on the performance of your digital marketing. Call tracking software, for example, keeps track of incoming calls that might be the consequence of particular digital marketing.
Think About Hiring a Full-Time Digital Marketing Specialist: A lot of dealerships use marketing and advertising organizations. Numerous organizations with experience in car marketing exist.
Dealerships should still weigh the benefits of employing a full-time specialist to focus solely on digital marketing. Given that 90% of prospective auto buyers begin their search online, a dealership’s success depends on its digital marketing strategy. Hiring a full-time digital marketer—a specialist whose sole concentration is on strategically marketing your dealership—can yield an astronomically high return on investment.
Creative Ideas for Auto Dealership Marketing in 2023 and Beyond
Technology will keep altering the way auto dealerships promote their brands and vehicles. In the future, digital marketing will be significantly impacted by artificial intelligence (AI).
Trends in auto dealership marketing to keep an eye on:
Virtual Reality on Websites: Customers will be able to see semi-virtual reality films of a showroom, a new automobile being sat in, or even a test drive from the driver’s perspective by visiting dealership websites.
Chatbots: These are becoming more and more common on websites with a sales emphasis, such as those owned by car dealers. They stand for AI’s initial infant steps. Chatbots can converse with website visitors fast and effortlessly. Chatbots can respond to user queries and offer information depending on their website activity (for instance, Facebook Messenger bots enable you to communicate with over 1 billion monthly users). These initiatives may persuade those users to visit the dealership or speak with a sales representative. The capacity of chatbots to interact with potential clients will only grow.
Additional Artificial Intelligence: By incorporating AI into websites and other applications, auto marketers will be able to target customers with customized marketing messages at the appropriate time. Dealerships may better target their marketing with AI by providing the appropriate content through the appropriate channels to the appropriate customers.
Digital Marketing Platforms for Automotive Industry Increase Online Marketing Effectiveness
Dealerships are provided with the necessary tools by digital marketing platforms for the automobile sector to promote their vehicles and services more efficiently and intelligently. Additionally, the system can assist dealerships with online consumer engagement, question-answering, and sales process navigation.
These platforms can assist your dealership in reaching out to potential clients when they are beginning their car search—online. They may give clients all the information they require at the appropriate time, resulting in a satisfying experience even before they enter the dealership.
Case Study on Digital Marketing for Automotive
Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford in the Dallas metro region now has the marketing and tooling it needs. The executives of the dealership are aware that the majority of consumers now shop for cars primarily online before going to the showroom. Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford customers can click a “shop online” button on the company website to access a wealth of information on individual cars and the car-buying process.
“I think the future of any Ford dealership when it comes to digital retailing, is that you’re either going to get on it or you’re going to be left behind,” says dealership general manager Brian Huth. In the end, buyers do want to handle and feel the vehicle. However, they don’t want to cope with the inconvenience of putting in endless hours attempting to close the deal. You’re essentially going backward if you’re not moving toward a digital realm, in my opinion. This represents the future’s trend.
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