As the automotive industry moves towards ecommerce sales, Key Principles has identified an opportunity currently unknown to the car dealership sector.
Unlike Google, Microsoft Advertising allows car dealers to use Bing Shopping ads to display their used cars on the Bing search engine. As you can see in the screenshots below, we are advertising a Used Mini Clubman and a Used Mercedes Benz.
Figure 1: Used Mini Clubman on Bing Shopping
Figure 2: Used Mercedes Benz on Bing Shopping
Why is this important?
As more and more car dealers move to websites with online shopping functionality, this channel suddenly becomes a new opportunity that is currently not being utilised by online car dealers, as far as we are aware. At the time of writing this article, we completed a search for a broad search “Buy Car Online” (see Fig 3 below) and no Shopping adverts featured, even though there are dealers clearly using traditional text ads to target this keyword. The chance to actually showcase your cars with a photo and the price on Bing Shopping makes this a real opportunity.
In fact the number of advertisers on Bing compared to Google suggests not only are there no Shopping adverts so there is zero competition – now that doesn’t happen very often with online advertising, but even the Bing Search ads offer an opportunity, especially when you compare this with the level of competition on Google (see Figure 10 later in this article which shows the car dealers targeting this broad search on Google).
Figure 3: Advertisers target ‘buy cars online’ on the Bing Search Engine
Additionally, after Boris Johnson advised in his broadcast on Sunday 10 May 2020 that individuals should avoid public transport, car buyers in the current environment actually need to buy cars to get to work and want to buy cars ASAP. With dealerships not open yet, if you can safely deliver a car to a customer, with online payment, you can be selling cars right now. In fact, you don’t need to even take online payment to sell and deliver cars right now, but if your car buyer can’t pay for their car online, you’ll not be able to use Bing Shopping.
Of course, the big online car websites are currently selling and delivering cars, but none are using Bing Shopping, and few are using Bing Search, to promote their cars at the moment.
We know people are eager to buy cars, you only need to look at the Google Trends data to see this. So, whether you use Bing Shopping or not, you do need to be in a position ASAP to be able to sell your cars safely and efficiently.
Figure 4: Google Trends Data for ‘Buy Car Online’ Last 90 Days
Interestingly with Google Trends, ‘Buy Car Online’ specifically for the UK is showing an upward trend even in the last 90 days.
Figure 5: Last 90 days Buy Car Online UK Trend
Figure 6: Last 90 days Buy Car Online USA Trend
Figure 7: Last 12 Months Buy Car Online USA Trend
So, looking at the data from the USA, if the UK follows a similar trend, people interested in online car sales will pick up further and the COVID-19 environment is likely to lead to the trend accelerating as more and more sales of all kinds happen online.
Looking at buying online in general, we’ve reviewed Google Trends for the UK in the last 90 days and found the following:
Figure 8: Last 90 days Buy Online UK Trend
There will of course be a drop in online buying of all kinds but looking at the UK data for the last 90 days, the peak for ‘buy online’ was around 29 March 2020, shortly after the UK went into lockdown on 23 March 2020. Online sales overall are holding up well and may never return to lower, pre-COVID-19, levels as consumers buying habits change and stay as the ‘new norm’. The current graph suggests it will stay, but as we move further away from full lockdown, there may be a drop off in online sales – we will have to watch Google Trends and our ecommerce clients data to see how things play out.
What does this mean for car dealers?
It is well known in the PPC industry that Bing generally offers a lower cost per click than Google, which is why we always recommend Microsoft Advertising to our clients. However, on top of this Shopping via both search engines is also lower cost than traditional text-based adverts. This places Bing Shopping at the lowest cost per click for paid search advertising.
The cost per clicks being lower means that, if you leverage the channel correctly, any car sales online through Bing Search and Shopping will lead to more profits for you as your cost per enquiry and cost per sale will very likely be lower with Bing and Microsoft Advertising.
Those that are fast to adopt the Bing Shopping channel will also have the channel to themselves for a time, competition will be low or non-existent as other dealers try to catch up.
So how does it work?
You can start using Microsoft Advertising for Search campaigns right now. For Shopping campaigns on Bing, the key requirement for Shopping campaigns is that you must be able to buy the product, in this case your cars, on the website. If you have an ecommerce enabled website and an appropriate feed of your stock, you can use Bing Shopping to promote your used cars.
With our experience, as a Google Shopping Certified Premier Partner, who also works with ecommerce businesses, we are ideally placed to help car dealers exploit this opportunity, sooner rather than later.
Key to ensuring this channel works well for you is the need to ensure the feed meets the strict Microsoft Advertising guidelines. The feed also needs to be optimised to show the ads perfectly and photos should be included for all cars on the feed.
Key Principles is adept at manipulating the feed to ensure only cars that have photos are included in the Bing Shopping campaign, although of course it is always best to have photos of each and every car on your website. In fact, we would recommend that as a policy you should only be adding cars once you have some great photos of them. Videos are also great in helping to sell your cars in a virtual, online world.
Completing the above will ensure the advert shown in Bing Shopping is a fully optimised listing and will only show the used cars you have in stock.
Why do it?
At the end of the day, the most important factor with any online advertising is that it makes a return for you. Of course, buying of your used car stock needs to be effective and efficient, and most importantly enable you to have a reasonable profit margin on each sale. In terms of returns, we have seen a Return on Ad Spend (revenue to ad spend) with Bing Ads more than 2000%. As an example, we have generated over £33,000 worth of revenue for an ad spend with Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising) of less than £1,500. This return was possible because of a number of key factors including zero competition at the time, and a Bing Shopping set up by Key Principles that targeted car buyers closer to purchase. Of course, Return on Ad Spend is not the most important metric here as we need to be aware of the profit on each car sold. This is where the car dealer’s ability to buy low and sell higher will provide the car dealer with a good return on investment also.
Of course, we hear all the time the notion of ‘But nobody uses Bing’, ‘I don’t use Bing, surely no one does’. The reality is that significant numbers, more than 10%1 of the UK searches on the search engines, are actually using Bing and there’s been a slight trend towards Bing in recent years2. The increased use of voice for search also suggests Bing will gain further market share3. Still so many companies don’t want to bother with Bing, but in this current environment where return on investment and return on ad spend must be in all companies’ minds, it makes sense more than ever to be using Microsoft Advertising.
In fact with our expertise in paid search, we can ensure you achieve a great return on investment by targeting longer search terms where individuals are closer to knowing exactly what they want, ensuring that your adverts appear during the moments that really matter to the car buyer and to you.
Fig 9 Market share held by the leading search engines in the United Kingdom (UK) as of April 2020 from Statista
Chart needs adding – need to search once and grab the chart
How many cars are sold online in the UK?
Getting hold of any statistics on cars sold online seems pretty difficult to come by in the UK. However, we know that individuals will buy a car online and not just less expensive models. We have experience of cars being sold online for as much as £28,000. Of course, the likes of Cazoo will be selling cars online, there’s no doubt about this. And Bristol Street Motors, Vertu Volkswagen and Car Store are advertising using Google Ads for terms as broad as ‘buy car online’.
Figure 10: Advertisers target ‘buy cars online’ on the Google Search Engine
Completely crazy of course when you can be so much more targeted; spend less with Google, often sell as many and make more profit. Maybe these dealerships are looking to build their brand awareness with such broad terms being targeted, maybe they are seeing in the data that targeting such a broad term is worth doing for them and presumably they have deep pockets, but for most car dealerships, this simply would not be viable if you want to achieve a return on investment. We know how to be more targeted, so perhaps they will see the light and contact us too. 😉
When to do it?
We would recommend that any car dealerships with online payment facilities should be looking to exploit Bing and specifically Bing Shopping while others try to catch up.
If you want to move fast, then speak to the team at Key Principles. We’ve done this already and we can do it for you. Call us on 0115 880 0211 – we are ready and waiting to help ambitious car dealers sell more cars profitably.