Car dealerships are and will continue to be an essential part of the car industry and car buying process. However, it is clear from our previous blog that the car industry is moving online; more people are going online to research a car and find a reliable local dealership. Within this blog, we provide details of the top car dealer digital marketing priorities; what car dealerships need to do in order to take advantage of changing car buying landscape. As different generations have different online habits, there will be certain activities that will target everyone and some which will be specific to a certain generation.

Car Dealer Digital Marketing Priorities
We will look in detail at:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Mobile
  • Video
  • Reviews
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Friendly service

Google: In one study by Google a car shopper made 139 Google Searches on her way to buying a car. And the graphic above shows the key moments in the car buying process.1

The ‘Where should I buy it’ moment – For car dealers it’s important to be high on Google for the ‘Where should I buy it’ moment and specifically for searches for ‘car dealership near me’, ‘car dealership in town/city’ or ‘Ford Focus test drive’.

When you consider that there are around 40,500 average monthly searches for ‘car dealership near me’ and 12,100 searches per month for ‘used car dealership near me’ and a massive 153,900 searches per month in the UK including ‘car’ and ‘dealer’, it doesn’t just make sense to be high on Google, it’s imperative or you will be missing out on potential sales. (Figures from Google’s Keyword Planner). Getting high on Google could be through developing a good natural ranking on Google using SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or through paid advertising on Google (PPC), or both.

The ‘Am I getting a deal’ moment – It’s important to cover the best deal to stop your potential customer walking away either before they even get onto your forecourt or when the check the deal whilst at your dealership. Covering searches like ‘Ford Focus deals’ or ‘Ford Focus special offers’ for your area are the key here.

Car dealers can also look to sell your individual cars using Google Search.

However before you even look at Google AdWords Search make sure you have a good Google My Business listing with lots of content and plenty of good reviews. Google My Business is a free tool from Google and offers you the chance to get on page 1 of Google for car dealership searches in your local area.

Facebook – It’s essential to have a strong presence on Facebook and to use Facebook advertising and  retargeting where appropriate, as Facebook is widely used by various generations.

Car buyers from 18 to 60 are all over Facebook. In fact, with 1.49 billion members worldwide, and 22 billion ad clicks per year, Facebook is one of the few places where all of the different segments of your targeted audience all congregate.2  Facebook is the perfect way to get people to know your dealership, as you can post your dealership’s hours of operation, location, your phone number, your website and a brief description of what your dealership sells, as well as promote cars that are available and happy customers with their newly purchased car. Additionally, consumers can review your establishment as well as provide feedback that you can then respond to. One of the great things about Facebook is that you can target by behaviours, interests, demographics, connections, age ranges, languages or locations and you can layer these criteria on top of each other to ensure you’re getting rid of any questionable out-of-market clickers.

Facebook is also available across devices, so if someone visits your website on a desktop or laptop which they have told Facebook is connected to their account and you have Facebook retargeting pixels on your site, then you will not only serve ads to that prospect while they are on Facebook on that desktop or laptop, but also when they are on the mobile app on their phone.  The people this is reaching is continually rising, as, among automotive internet shoppers, 22% use a social media site as a source while shopping for their new vehicle, up from 16% in 2015.3  Among millennials, 68% admit that they are strongly influenced by social media posts, and social networking accounts for one in every five minutes spent on their smartphones, which is why so many brands are targeting them through social media, and car dealerships must follow.4  Essentially, having a good Facebook page with reviews from happy customers and targeting people through Facebook advertising is becoming increasingly important for car dealerships, and those who are already using it are at a huge advantage over their competitors.

Mobile first – Another crucial factor to ensure your potential customers and customers have a positive experience at the start of their journey with you is that you have a mobile-friendly and responsive website. Have you checked if your website is mobile-friendly?

With the majority of the car-shopping process moving online, and increasingly on mobile, it’s crucial that you be there when and where people are looking. The increasing use of mobile phones in our everyday life is evident, and looking for a car is no exception. With 84% of consumers using their mobile to research a car. 57% browsed for car inspiration on their mobile. 59% researched and compared prices and specifications on their mobile. 61% searched for nearby dealerships, requested brochures, and booked test drives on their mobile.5  Another survey of 500 car buyers found 100% of smartphone owners used their mobile device to perform car-shopping research.6 

If this wasn’t enough, 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile and nearly 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device.7 

A website that can seamlessly move from mobile to a laptop, to the local store was particularly important to millennials. But even Gen X spend the majority of their online life on their mobile (63%). 

The good news is that car dealerships are relied upon during the research process, and often when a consumer finds an attractive and reliable website, they will then have a good impression of the overall car dealership. A good responsive mobile site should be essential, with average smartphone conversion rates up 64% compared to desktop conversion rates and 88% calling or going to that business within 24 hours.  Therefore, if you haven’t got a mobile-friendly or responsive website, you’re getting left behind.

Video – We’re seeing a big increase in videos being used within the car industry.

With more people searching online, videos are a great way to showcase a vehicles interior, exterior, performance, features, and specs. Videos are increasingly becoming the most engaging thing you can put on your website or social media profiles. They not only share information but tend to the consumer who doesn’t want to just read about features but see them. Not only can videos advertise your latest vehicles, but they can share your latest promotion or be informative “how-tos.”

On top of all of this, videos are easily shared on all social channels and in an email, enabling your content to reach an even larger audience.  Using a range of video types will help you establish a presence when consumers are only researching cars and will make them much more likely to trust and buy from you when they have made their decision. There are various statistics that show the increasing importance of these videos, such as 69% of people who used YouTube while looking for a car were influenced by it – more than TV, magazines or newspapers.8

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 2014.  Among automotive internet shoppers, 22% use a social media site as a source while shopping for their new vehicle, up from 16% in 2015.

The most popular social media site used by auto internet shoppers during the shopping process is YouTube (13%).  This will appeal to all generations, but as Gen Xers spend the most time browsing per week, then this will particularly attract this age group. Thus, in order to get ahead of the game and create a relationship with the consumer from the early stages of their research, videos will be essential. Whether on your website or social media pages, it’s a great way to get the attention of potential buyers.

Reviews – Having good reviews on your website or social media pages is important. Fewer people are asking their friends and relatives for advice or suggestions, and instead using on average six reviews to make their decision. As many as 44% of consumers will make their decision after reading reviews , this is particularly important for millennials as 8 out of 10 never buy anything without first reading a review.9 

However, Gen Xers also won’t buy a product until they’ve researched it thoroughly, and make extensive use of online reviews. Out of all generations, Gen Zers are most likely to leave reviews, with 40% giving online reviews ‘very often’ which in turn encourages others within their generation to purchase products or visit that dealership. 

Having good reviews will give your car dealership a sense of trust and confidence that many people worry they won’t find at a car dealership, and thus generate more customers for you. This is something as all generations value reviews and good reviews make it much more likely that the customer will remain loyal to you after they have made their purchase.

Email – yes, we are serious! For Gen Xers, email is important. Email is one of the best channels for reaching this generation.

Using email marketing can dramatically increase sales. When a prospect visits your dealership or website, they should be encouraged to give you their email address. People who rave about a certain brand of cars will usually opt-in to stay informed with that brand’s latest updates, whilst others may need some further encouragement by offering a special deal for this information.

Make use of an autoresponder that will assist in educating your opt-ins on how to decide on which car to buy, how to get better financing, provide financing solutions, and more. Depending on which model they’re interested in, it’s possible to send a customised email series focusing on advantages of the car, ownership tips, deals and more. Remember, a good email marketing campaign builds trust and can warm up a cold lead.10 

As buying a car is often a long process for many people, and Gen Xers in particular, this also keeps your car dealership in their thoughts making it more likely that they will come to you when they are ready to buy. However, in order to ensure a positive customer experience and increase the likelihood of a lead becoming a sale, you need to be able to keep track of your customers and market material specifically to them. Then, once the customer has conducted their research, with 68% stating they would be happy to put an order in less than a month after they’ve completed research, you’re still fresh in their minds.11

Social – For Gen Z and millennials, social media is becoming increasingly important.

It’s no wonder, as one in every five minutes spent by millennials on their phones is on social media.12  Some car brands such as Toyota have already begun to invest in social media influencers. Although this a new form of marketing, it is rapidly growing. The term “influencer marketing” increased by 325% in Google searches over 201713 making this the fastest-growing online acquisition method of last year. The biggest platform for influencer marketing can be found on Instagram. Last year saw a whopping 12.9 million brand sponsored influencer posts,  and that number is estimated to double this year, creating an estimated market size of nearly $1.7 billion. This method is generally working well for businesses, for every dollar invested in social influencer marketing, the businesses see an average of nearly 8 dollars value returned.  As Sara Spivey, CMO of Bazaarvoice, says, “Companies should encourage Gen Zers to share photos and videos with their purchases, create polls and contests on social media and, most importantly, listen and respond to their feedback.” 

Building an online presence is going to be increasingly important for brands hoping to capture Gen Z and millennial consumers, and finding a local social media influencer is a great way to start.

Friendly service – Of course, the most important aspect of a good business is providing a friendly service once the consumer is at your car dealership.

Most people are moving their research online because they’re scared of car dealerships, but once they find one they like they remain loyal to them. In terms of disliking car dealerships, 52% of car shoppers feel anxious or uncomfortable at dealerships.

Millennials lead the pack in their dislike, with 56% saying they’d rather clean their homes than negotiate with a car dealer. Gen X-ers aren’t fans either and faced with alternatives 24% say they’d rather have a root canal than get into car negotiation.  Among millennial women, 62% feel pressured to buy right away and 49% said they felt tricked into buying features they didn’t need. And one in five car buyers are worried about extra costs, jargon, or being confronted by too many deals. 

However, the percentage of car buyers visiting multiple dealerships has been declining in recent years. Yet of the 4,002 consumers polled, only 17 said they like the current car buying process just as it is. The rest said they “want significant changes, particularly in the test drive, deal structuring, financing paperwork and service phases.”14 So if your dealership can do something different, the consumer will appreciate it.

Most people still prefer to shop in store, and find comfort in professional advice, but don’t enjoy the long process and negotiation that is associated with traditional dealerships. At 84%, Boomers were highest amongst all survey groups in expressing their preference to shop in-store, and 67 percent report that if an item they want is available online or in a nearby store, they prefer to purchase it at their local retailer rather than order online.  Then, when the consumer finds your car dealership and you offer a friendly service they are likely to be loyal to you. Millennials, in particular, are 64% more loyal to brands than their parents, and Gen X shoppers are loyal with 40% standing by the brands they love.  The percentage of consumers as a whole who purchased or leased from a dealership where they had previously purchased or leased from has increased to 31%.15  Therefore, it’s worth going the extra mile to ensure a great customer service as they will likely return to you for their next purchase.

To summarise, car dealerships must take action to keep up with how the industry and our society is changing. These car dealer digital marketing priorities provide some ideas of the types of activity needed for all car dealers such as ensuring your at or near the top of Google for key search terms, that you have a good Facebook page, an emailing list, and great customer service. Crucial as we continue to spend more and more time on our mobiles is a fast, mobile-friendly website. Creating videos that showcase your cars and investing in social media influencers for an improved online presence will also help. These are just some of the activities that can greatly impact your business. It’s clear that much of the process of buying a car is now being done online, and the industry will continue going through changes as technology advances, so it is vital that you are there for it and ready for it.

For help with your digital marketing, come to Key Principles. Call us on 0115 880 0211, email hello@keyprinciples.co.uk or contact us using our form. We would love to hear from you and help you grow your car dealership.

PS Download our Car Dealership White Paper: Marketing for Car Dealerships
and the Need to Move Online here.

 

References

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-car-buying-process-reveals-auto-marketing-opportunities/
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-mark-zuckerberg-would-market-your-car-dealership-adam-stone
  3. http://www.v12data.com/blog/25-amazing-statistics-on-how-consumers-shop-for-cars/
  4. https://salesfloor.net/2017/08/generations-shopping-habits/
  5. http://www.weve.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/autos-2017_websitecompressed.pdf
  6. http://localvox.com/blog/car-dealership-online-marketing-strategies/
  7. https://www.sweor.com/responsivewebdesign
  8. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/five-auto-shopping-moments-every-brand-must-own/
  9. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/millennial-online-review-products-research-internet-trusted-recommendations-a8245781.html
  10. http://www.jormall.com/web/marketing-concepts/integrated-marketing-strategy-for-car-dealerships/
  11. http://www.themarketingblog.co.uk/2016/04/97-of-new-car-buyers-conduct-online-research-before-visiting-dealerships/
  12. https://www.tapbuy.io/en/blog/millennials-vs-gen-x-can-adapt-shopping-habits/
  13. https://medium.com/crobox/under-the-influence-the-power-of-social-media-influencers-5192571083c3
  14. http://time.com/money/3826562/buying-cars-online-hate-car-dealerships/
  15. https://www.coxautoinc.com/learning-center/2018-car-buyer-journey-study/

With over 25 years’ experience in marketing Jackie Key, Managing Director at Key Principles, which was set up in 2005, helps small, medium and large businesses grow through marketing and online marketing.