‘Tis the season for dealerships to push year-end deals and fight to hit their goals for 2017. But 2018 is around the corner and there’s a lot to prepare for in the coming year.

You don’t want to head into 2018 without these tips for reaching vehicle shoppers who have more options, more information, and less time than ever before.

1.      Start By Being Customer-Centric

Customer-centric marketing is what happens when a company prioritizes the customer’s needs and desires. Not only is the goal of customer-centric marketing to acquire high-quality customers, but also to keep them and build strong, lasting relationships. This has been an increasingly key marketing strategy across the board.

6 Tips You Need to Know to Reach Vehicle Shoppers in 2018 Click To Tweet

Remember a few months ago when this image/graphic was circling the internet?

Maybe as you’re reading this, you’re trying to figure out what killed your showroom traffic. Maybe you’re tempted to blame the internet or third-party websites.

I would argue that showroom traffic and direct mail campaigns aren’t dead at all. They simply need to evolve. It’s the survival of the fittest and dealers need to get on board.

Like the graphic states, technology is not the problem. In fact, it might just be the solution.

But what does it mean for automotive dealers like you?

2.      A Solution that Addresses the Problem

As I stated before, technology is the solution to your customer-centric marketing needs. We all know that consumers are visiting fewer and fewer dealerships before purchasing a vehicle. They’re shopping online.

In fact, they’re spending around 60 percent of their total buying journey looking for their next vehicle. More than half of these shoppers are doing this shopping across multiple devices.1

Remember when Blockbuster did their no late fees campaign?

This not only didn’t solve the problem, but it actually made things worse.2

Don’t simply put a band-aid on the gaping hole in automotive marketing.

Remember, the goal here is to be customer-centric with your marketing, not reactionary. Address the problem by creating or implementing an educated response. And, according to my research, the educated response is to dive headfirst into the world of digital marketing.

3.      Dive Into Digital Marketing

Rather than fighting with the digital world (or technology in general) in order to achieve results, like the nearly forgotten companies in the graphic above, the solution I recommend is to work with it.

Have you read anything about Walmart’s answer to Amazon? By focusing on customers’ needs like same-day delivery, grocery delivery, additional product offerings (allowing shoppers to purchase from other retailers through Walmart’s website) and more, their digital sales rose 50 percent in the U.S. during the third quarter – double the growth rate that Target posted for its online sales and higher than Amazon’s growth rate for revenue as well.3

Consider how you can be using the Internet (digital marketing) to get the results you need. There’s technology available to dealers that can allow them to combine direct and digital marketing for the ultimate omni-channel marketing campaign that focuses on what vehicle shoppers want (and need) in order to purchase a vehicle.

Shoppers start online, which means you need to be there. If they search “dealerships near me”, you’re gonna want to be the answer.

Find a strategy that allows you to combine technology with data and gives you the power you need to understand and control it.

If you can reach shoppers where they’re at and drive them from online to your dealership, then you’ve mastered the art of customer-centric marketing. This is the goal of a successful digital marketing campaign.

It’s just up to you to find it and use it.

4.      Incorporate Direct Mail Marketing Into Your Digital Strategies

You might be thinking direct mail marketing is the dinosaur of the marketing industry. Maybe you still use direct mail marketing, but you feel it’s time to move on to cheaper, more efficient methods that are more “customer-centric”.

Between increased postage prices and the rise of digital marketing, the return on investment for a traditional direct mail campaign doesn’t appear to be worth the trouble.

But, I would argue that direct mail is more powerful than ever before – when used correctly.


Well, for one, overall response continues to increase. There was a slight decrease in overall mail delivered, but this is likely due to better targeting and more budget allocation towards digital marketing – but that just means the market is less saturated.4

And two, it works with the pesky little millennial market we’re always trying to catch. Surprised?

It’s true. Seventy-seven percent of millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising, 90 percent of millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable, 57 percent have made purchases based on direct mail offers, and 87 percent like receiving direct mail.5

By combining direct mail marketing with the digital marketing that automotive shoppers love so much, dealers are able to reach every shopper with marketing that advertises to them in the ways they want and expect. Which simply means this type of cross marketing delivers better results than direct mail or email only campaigns.

5.      Consider the Calendar Year

According to data over the last five years, shoppers are going to shop more during certain times of the year. Beginning of the year, end of the year, and all the holidays in between are key selling times for dealers.6

Weather can have an impact too, as we saw this past year after a particularly brutal hurricane season.7

While weather isn’t easily predicted, you can always consider how you should market during certain times of the year. We recently studied just how impactful the holiday season (November/December) can be to marketing campaigns and found the results to be significant – with the right strategy.

In order to really prepare for 2018, you’ll want to make sure you’re considering any factors that might help with sales – Presidents Day will arrive faster than you’d think.

6.      Understand the Buyer’s Journey

Walmart has managed to achieve a customer-centric marketing method that gets results. So how can you, as a dealer, follow their example and apply it to automotive marketing?

Do the research.

The 2017 Car Buyer Journey revealed that walking in remains the most common initial point of contact between a shopper and a dealership. This means that they’re doing their shopping online first and then finding a dealership.

The study proved that third-party sites are the most used sites for online car shopping and most shoppers are undecided at the beginning of their journey.

It also revealed that dealership websites drive dealership visits. In other words, before purchasing or leasing a vehicle from a dealership, buyers went to that dealership’s website.

So, you need to get shoppers from third-party sites and onto your website. Or, provide all the answers shoppers are getting from third-party sites on your website – make it a one-stop shop.

Think With Google provided us with five micro-moments that occur during a vehicle shopper’s buying journey.8

They also released research earlier this year that proved “being there and being useful” in consumers’ initial auto searches led directly to dealership visits.9

You need to know the answers shoppers need in order to make a decision and purchase a vehicle from your dealership. You need to provide those answers or know where they go to find these answers and how you can greet them through every step of their journey with the information they need, at the moment they need it.

Get Ready to Sell More Cars Than Ever Before

Alright, that statement might sound a bit aggressive, but if you’re on top of these trends before 2018, you’ll be able to out-market the dealers who focused too much on 2017.

Customer-centric marketing is key and can be accomplished in a plethora of ways. Don’t forget what I said about direct mail marketing. It might not seem like the best choice, but the data shows that it works. And, don’t get stuck on one channel.

If you can combine different marketing methods with other winning strategies, you’ll be on your way to better results than ever before.


  1. Car Buyer Journey 2017
  2. https://www.google.com/search?q=blockbuster+no+late+fees+failure&rlz=1C1NHXL_enUS734US734&oq=why+blockbuster%27s+no+late+fees&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0l2.10882j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  3. http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/16/investing/walmart-earnings-digital-jet/index.html
  4. https://thedma.org/marketing-insights/marketing-statistics/direct-mail-statistics/
  5. https://catalogmailers.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170808-USPS-Still_Relevant-A_Look_At_How_Millennials_Respond_To_Direct_Mail.pdf
  6. https://ycharts.com/indicators/auto_sales
  7. http://www.businessinsider.com/hurricane-harvey-effect-on-new-car-sales-2017-9
  8. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/five-auto-shopping-moments-every-brand-must-own/
  9. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/dealership-micro-moments-auto-searches.html