Digital marketing is no longer an optional marketing channel and it’s no longer an add-on.
Digital marketing today is the base for all other marketing – especially in the automotive industry.
In fact, whether you realize it or not, today’s automotive industry depends on digital marketing.
This is because 95 percent of all car buyers use digital as a source of information.
Whether car buyers are seeking information about a specific brand, comparing models, or even searching for vehicle service or repair near them, it all begins with digital marketing.
Guy Schueller, Industry Director, Automotive, at Google said the following:
“The competition for shopper dollars has never been more fierce, but the opportunity to reach them has never been greater.”
This is true for every brand, every region, and every local dealer.
Digital marketing has opened the door to a new world – a world where consumers are in control but are easily persuaded.
You just have to determine what you want to persuade them to do and what channels you want to utilize to accomplish this.
One-third of in market shoppers collect all of the information they need in two weeks – or less. After that window has closed, it’s too late. They’ve already determined what they want to buy, how much they’re willing to spend on it, and, more than likely, the dealer they will purchase it from.
In order to influence a shopper regarding the brand or model they choose, you must provide them with the information they’re seeking (which car is best, is it right for me, can I afford it), and fast.
The first step to this is discovering where your shoppers go to make these decisions.
In the automotive industry, search is the most common starting point for shoppers.
The important question you must ask yourself is, how are you maximizing your opportunity to reach shoppers who are actively searching your brand?
If you’re not utilizing paid search to protect your brand or compete with other brands, then you need to start now.
When shoppers are in the market for a new vehicle, they immediately turn to search – like Google or Bing for the answers they need.
When you incorporate paid search into your marketing strategy, you’re ensuring that your dealership is providing the answers to shoppers’ questions.
In-market shoppers consider an average of 3.7 brands. If you can be there and be helping during their initial searches, then you have a shot at your competitor’s customers.
In fact, studies have shown that you can increase brand awareness by 46 percent simply by showing up in mobile search ad results.
2. Utilize Video (YouTube) Marketing
There is no doubt that video advertising (and video marketing in general) is on the rise.
One Google guidebook stated that there are two times as many test drive videos on YouTube as there are test drives on physical dealer lots.
That statistic might come off a bit discouraging, but here’s the good news: these test drive videos result in showroom traffic.
In fact, more than 40 percent of car shoppers who watched a video about cars or trucks visited a dealership as a result.
The truth is, you can’t afford to overlook video marketing.
Not to mention, Nielsen performed a study where the measured the impact and effectiveness of television advertising compared to digital video and the results were almost hard to believe.
This study revealed that when viewers were shown ads across both mediums, only 45 percent of viewers paid attention to television commercials, versus the 83 percent of viewers who paid attention to digital video ads.
Brands have a huge advantage in this space! If you’re already producing television ads and promoting them, then why not re-purpose your television ads, upload them via YouTube and Facebook, and reach your advertisers across the web?
3. Take Advantage of Display Advertising
Display advertising is like an online billboard. You’ve probably seen them as you browse the internet.
Display advertising can actually be many things – static ads, HTML5 ads, YouTube (again, this is important), Gmail ads, remarketing ads, and more.
How you serve display ads to your car buyers can vary wildly and display is an area of digital marketing where ad dollars are oftentimes not spent efficiently.
Because of this, it’s important to audit your display ads frequently.
You want to increase brand awareness, but you also need to maximize your ad dollars by making sure you’re serving to the right audiences.
One of the most important reasons to use display advertising (besides creating brand awareness) is for remarketing purposes. As car shoppers travel from site to site, whether they’re shopping for a vehicle or checking Facebook, display remarketing will allow you to serve advertisements that directly correctly to their recent searches and/or vehicle page views.
Then Do the Research
The most common mistake that is found across the board is the failure to understand what is happening both offline and online.
It’s important that, before you spend your first ad dollar online, you conduct a thorough offline and online analysis of your market. This will allow you to maximize your advertising dollars and minimize wasted ad spend.
This analysis should help you understand where your ideal customers are and what they are buying. Are they buying from competitors? What are the top zips you are losing market share in? What are the top models or vehicle types that your audience is interested in?
You need to know who your competitors are offline – and if they’re the same competitors that you have online. They won’t always necessarily be the same.
Maybe brands that have struggled historically are shifting their budgets online to catch-up. Or maybe brands who are monster offline competitors, have a weak online presence.
This information will allow you to build out a laser focused strategy and protect your budget from unnecessary spending.
Don’t Just Set it and Forget It
Digital Marketing is an ever-changing industry that requires constant monitoring in order to ensure you are keeping up with the latest trends and shifts in consumer demand.
These trends can severely affect your marketing campaigns and, because of this, it’s important to understand what consumers want and how to handle your digital marketing.
You must learn from innovators in your industry and in other industries (consider Amazon) to learn what will make your brand a competitive force in today and tomorrow’s automotive industry.
Don’t let the ever-changing world of the automotive industry pass you by. Start with a plan and make sure you’re consistently monitoring it to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what strategies you could include that might boost your results.
By staying up to date on the trends of the moment and the future, you’ll see your brand’s awareness, engagement, and sales explode.
Finish By Helping Your Brand Sell More Cars, One Dealership at a Time
It’s no secret that today’s customers are no longer headed to dealerships to find out the information they need.
They’re spending all of their time (or at least most of it) searching for vehicles online and making their decisions before they even consider heading to a dealership.
It’s important for you to remember this as you seek to achieve your brand’s goals.
If you’re hoping to increase brand awareness, then you need to find the right digital channels for you and execute your marketing flawlessly. But, if you’re end goal is to sell more cars, then you cannot forget to consider your dealers.
If your dealers don’t stay ahead of today’s digital marketing trends then you will give your competition the opportunity to advance. Most dealers are unable to give car shoppers the digital experience they expect, which results in a poor opinion of the brand they represent.
This is why it’s critical for you to find a marketing strategy that works for you, and then make sure you make said strategy available on the dealer level.
Give your dealers the resources they need to win car shoppers online and provide the shopping experience they expect from your brand. If you can do this while continuing to do your own brand marketing, you’ll see overall brand awareness spike and you’ll sell more cars as a result.
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Tyler Wilson is the Digital Marketing Strategist at J&L Marketing. He continually creates and optimizes our digital marketing solutions so our clients grow predictable sales through a proven marketing process.