The car buying process has changed, and top performing dealerships are responding. Consumers now rely on digital channels at every step in the process, from researching models to comparing prices and even purchasing their chosen vehicle.
With so much online activity, car dealers can no longer afford to assume their presence in the neighborhood is enough to land them the sales they need. Reshaping marketing efforts to include a richer mix of digital helps car dealerships stay in business and thrive. It starts with tuning up digital marketing campaigns.
A few years ago, we offered “digital” as an option – not anymore. It’s a prominent component in our marketing – for every campaign.
Digital marketing is now essential, not optional.
For decades, the system was fairly consistent. Car dealers largely serviced automobile buyers in their areas. Competitors consisted of local dealers. Shoppers did not have many other alternatives, so they relied primarily on local dealers to provide them with information. There were few, if any, options for comparing prices.
Internet and email marketing have changed everything. Today, buyers have greater access to information through many more channels. Dealers can no longer depend on prospects to come to the local lot to research, test-drive, and purchase vehicles. Most prospects search online at least for their initial information, so dealers need to seek out customers. Strategic use of digital marketing can build brand awareness, assist customers in research and narrowing of options, and help complete the purchase.
“Digital experience” is now a leading consumer touchpoint.
The global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company recently reported 50 percent of automobile buyers make buying decisions online. Clearly, car dealerships who respond to this figure by focusing on digital marketing have a lot to gain.
The firm surveyed 9,000 potential automobile buyers. It asked for their impressions of the importance of 24 different touchpoints and their effect on willingness to purchase a vehicle for a specified price. The leading touchpoint was live experience. In second place was digital experience, which includes using search engines and consumer websites, the ability to get information from potential sellers, and the actual car-buying experience for those who consider purchasing online.
Digital marketing is redefining the sales funnel. In the past, traditional consumers made purchasing decisions in a linear fashion that could be described as a funnel. There were roughly five steps of interest, with the number of potential consumers decreasing in a funnel-like manner at each step.
- Brand awareness, typically before making the decision to purchase.
- Brand familiarity, often when first seriously thinking about purchasing a car.
- Consideration of different options.
- Purchase of the car.
- Loyalty to the brand and the dealership that sold the car.
With the growing use of digital, the process is much less straightforward. Rather than starting with a single brand and model in mind, shoppers actively evaluate a number of different options. They may narrow the field to a few options, but only select a product and a dealer at the moment of purchase. Dealers then have the chance to build brand loyalty for the future.
Successful dealers are able to capitalize on this new digital marketing shopping process at each step.
- Offer information on dealer websites about each car model in stock.
- Have customer service representatives available virtually, on the phone, and at the lot to answer questions.
- Send targeted emails to shoppers who express interest.
- Use social media to build brand awareness, disseminate information, and offer special promotions.
- Follow-up after purchases with emails and offers.
This in no way suggests dealerships should neglect their on-site activities. But digital marketing with Client Command can do a great deal to enhance them. For example, a major goal of our marketing is attracting car buyers to lots so they can test-drive cars in person. Alerting prospects to dealer incentives and limited offers can prove irresistible bait in attracting customers to the dealership. Then it’s up to the sales team to close the deal.
In many ways, our strategy is “same as it ever was.” It involves being dependable, being present, and helping each customer make the best possible buying decision. We stay in front of your customers with relevant offers and the right communication – each step of the way.
It’s an awesome feeling. When car sales are strong, life is good.
Inventory is perfect. The dealership is clicking on all cylinders. Car buyers are plentiful and everyone is making money.
Now, be honest. How frequent are month’s like that at your dealership? Are they pretty regular occurrences or do consistent sales and sustained growth month after month feel as impossible as nailing jello to a tree?
The truth is, every dealership can have a good month occasionally. The real test is maintaining that same success even in the slower times. The times when things like prolonged periods of rainy or snowy weather, annual community events like back to school, long year end seasonal holidays, and uncontrollable variables such as inventory delays and lack of manufacturer incentives are working against you.
Every dealership has been there. The month starts unpredictably slow. Sales aren’t where they should be and the decision is made to take a wait and see approach. The middle of the month rolls around and nothing improves.
Panic starts to set in. Options are considered like: upping the media buy, changing creative strategy, adding additional last minute tactics, or cutting the losses from getting any bigger and trying again next month.
Trouble is, these panic decisions don’t address the real problem: there’s no true plan for attracting enough of the right kind of car buyers to the dealership on a regular basis.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE & THE ANSWERS BECOME CLEAR
While the short-term options above can be a temporary fix, there’s a much clearer and sustainable marketing solution for targeting the right customers your dealership needs for consistent results.
The solution is to stop blindly spraying bird shot style media tactics in all directions in hopes of hitting anybody listening. Instead, flip the script and abandon the old traditional way of identifying and reaching an unpredictable audience. Use technology to focus your advertising efforts on harnessing the power of the data in your DMS combined with predictive analytics from your market to create custom audiences unique to your dealership and its needs.
When analyzed properly and appended with robust data sources and intelligence, your DMS can be transformed into a crystal ball of insight that can tell you which of your current customers are primed for another purchase, as well as, which people in your community (that you’ve never done business with before) are perfect conquest targets for your services.
The key is to look at the intelligence through the correct optics. By tapping into the right data, it’s no longer necessary to unpredictably use tv, radio, and other forms of mass media to hopefully target the necessary revenue producing car buyers you need each and every month. Instead, focus your efforts on actually reaching and engaging the people who want to hear from your dealership and are truly interested in what your store can provide. It’s efficient, sustainable, and (most importantly) consistent in delivering results.
It’s no secret car buyers have changed the way they shop for cars. With that, they’ve also changed the way they filter letting in marketing messages. It’s the dealerships that can instinctually connect via messages and channels that audiences are willing to pay attention to that will benefit from the best returns on their marketing investments and continue sustained long-term success – even in the periods when everyone else is slow.
Make the switch and learn how to lead your marketing efforts with the insights specific to your dealership’s data and you’ll create a force so powerful Darth Vader would be jealous of what you can do.