These days, vehicle shoppers are visiting fewer and fewer dealerships before purchasing a vehicle. Instead of doing their shopping at a dealership, they’re spending nearly 15 hours, over the course of several months, researching vehicles online.

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They research pricing, determine their trade-in value, compare makes and models, and locate dealers near them – all from the comfort of their homes, offices, mobile phones, etc. This means walking in remains the most common initial point of contact between a vehicle shopper and a dealership.

What This Means

Consumers today are in control. They’re doing the research and making decisions based on their own discoveries. They don’t wait for your sales team to answer their questions. They find all the answers they need online.

In order to reach today’s vehicle shoppers and influence their buying journey, you must understand how consumers shop for cars – step by step.

How the Buyers Journey Begins

Sixty percent of vehicle shoppers are undecided at the beginning of their search!

This means that you consistently have a large pool of in-market shoppers who are willing to consider your dealership. All you have to do is convince them that you have what they need. The problem is, you no longer have control. They’re doing their research and narrowing down their choices on their own.

These shoppers are spending 83 percent of their time searching for information on third-party sites like Edmunds, KBB, Car and Drive, blogs, and forums – even Facebook and YouTube are used by vehicle shoppers to narrow down their search.

In fact, third-party sites are the most-used sites for online car shopping.

This is due to two different issues.

One, consumers find dealership websites helpful during parts of their shopping experience, but don’t find them as trustworthy as third-party sites. And two, they don’t provide all the answers consumers need to know before purchasing a vehicle.

What It Looks Like

These shoppers narrow down their search moment by moment. They begin their research with a broad range of makes and models. Then, they narrow down their choices one after another until they’re ready to choose a vehicle that’s right for them, at a dealership near them, that offers that vehicle at a price that works with their budget.

Nothing else will do.

This means that they’re searching for information at home, at their office, in their car, at the mall, etc. When they’re in the market, nothing is off limits.

They’re searching everywhere on the Internet and they’re doing it all the time. This means you MUST provide a truly consistent omni-channel message. While one channel might not have as strong of an effect as another channel – because shoppers will interact with each channel differently – every channel a shopper interacts with is critical to making a sale.

Each channel is necessary for providing a shopper with the information they need to purchase a vehicle and each channel is a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Why Just Any Digital Marketing Strategy Isn’t Enough

Today’s technology allows dealers to produce consistent marketing messages designed for each of the channels (and devices) used during a vehicle shopper’s journey.

Because of this, many dealers are turning to marketing agencies to help them set up a successful digital marketing strategy in order to meet vehicle shoppers repeatedly and effectively throughout their buying journey.

Unfortunately, for many dealers, it’s difficult to track whether they’re getting the most out of their digital marketing budgets. Dealers look for increased showroom traffic and sales, but are not always able to diagnose the shopper’s marketing interactions that led to their visit and purchase.

This means their current digital marketing strategies may not be getting the results promised.

In order to get the most from your digital marketing strategy, you must consider a few necessary components.

1.      Campaign Management

You strategically organize your dealership’s lot carefully and strategically and you (or your agency) must take the same approach to setting up the account structure of your digital campaigns.

Campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads must be organized in the best possible way to entice shoppers and result in more vehicles being sold.

In addition, you must continually optimize your digital marketing strategy towards driving the most leads at the lowest costs.

This means consistently reviewing your results and adjusting your plan for any upcoming campaigns accordingly. Look for any opportunities that might be available and use data that aligns with your business goals.

If you consistently monitor and adjust your digital marketing strategy, you’ll get the best ROI each and every time.

2.      Data Analysis

Any good digital marketing strategy requires research before creating or spending your digital ad budget.

There are three separate types of data to consider in order to deliver the best results.

Offline data allows you to perform a market analysis that identifies geographic pockets of in-market vehicle shoppers with the highest propensity to buy. This means that you won’t waste your ad spend on out-of-market consumers.

With online day, you can digitally analyze your online marketplace and to spy on your competition. This allows you to craft better messaging and to target campaigns where it will hurt your competition the most.

But, ultimately, your dealership’s data management system (DMS) is your most valuable asset. Use your DMS to create custom audiences that allow you to digitally defend your customers online. This is important because it will help you maintain your market share. You can also use this data to exclude audiences who won’t respond and conquest customers from your competition.

3.      Marketing

The real marketing begins once you choose what tools, channels, and techniques you want to implement.

You digital marketing must outperform any other and there are a few key strategies that can help you achieve this.

VIN-specific paid search technology uses expanded text ads for model-specific paid search campaigns. These ads feature information relevant to a specific VIN (car) such as price and mileage. When one of these ads is clicked on, it takes the shopper to the vehicle details page for that specific vehicle on your website. This provides the shopper with the exact information that he or she wants and is delivered in their exact time of need! Plus, you can dynamically populate the keywords, ads, and ad groups multiple times per day. This maximizes your ad dollars by only bidding on vehicles that you currently have in stock, each day.

VIN-specific Facebook remarketing allows you to reach one of the largest markets in the world. It’s an elite marketing tactic that allows you to serve VIN (vehicle) specific ads on Facebook to shoppers that previously viewed that VIN’s vehicle details page on your website. These ads are more contextually relevant to consumers and, because of this, produce better engagement, CTRs, and conversion rates – which is more cost-effective for you!

VIN specific display remarketing capability allows you to catch your shoppers’ attention with marketing they can’t ignore. It allows you to serve highly relevant, VIN specific ads to previous website visitors via the Google Display network, which covers 90-95% of all websites online! This capability defeats banner ad blindness and results in quality clicks to your website.

And, if you haven’t considerd digital marketing for your service department, then you’re missing out.

Digital influences nearly 60 percent of vehicle purchases at dealerships and this influence is even strong for post-purchase service.

Today, nearly 25 percent of ALL automotive searches are parts, services, and maintenance related. How are you taking advantage of this market?

If vehicle owners are most concerned with the price of service at dealership service departments, then you can use digital marketing to change this perspective! This is your chance to defend your dealership against third-party mechanics.

By being up front and transparent with your prices online and using digital marketing to reach the incredible percentage of vehicle owners who are online, you can drastically increase the number of consumers who visit your service bay!

The Results You Need

A successful digital marketing strategy solves the problem of reaching vehicle shoppers. It meets shoppers where they’re at with information that’s relevant to them.

By following their buying journey and serving ads that speak directly to their needs, you’ll be able to advertise to customers the way they want and expect.

As a result, you’ll gain more leads, more sales, better customer retention, and increase revenue overall.