Cars have been a core of American culture for more than a century, but what we value and prioritize in our automobiles changes over time. As the marketplace changes, so do the most-effective ways to connect with consumers and bring them into the dealership. The rise of online research and shopping brought several shifts to auto industry marketing over recent decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for seamless virtual services.
Fortunately, with the right strategy and focus, today’s roadblocks are opportunities to gain momentum in a new and more effective direction. Here are several marketing challenges faced by auto dealerships in today’s marketplace and how to prosper despite them.
Name recognition matters. The more people who think of your dealership when they are shopping for cars, the more vehicles you will sell. Billboards, TV ads, and radio ads were traditional ways to expose your dealership name to a larger local audience, but in today’s world of online information, content is the key.
Studies indicate that up to 89% of car buyers do some online research before the purchase. Since buyers are online, let them get to know your brand there. The best way to gain recognition as a business is to offer people valuable information on social media, through blogs, emails, and your website.
Good content is the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy. The more valuable informational content you produce, the higher you’ll rank on Google for specific keyword terms and the more visitors you’ll get on the lot. This is a long-term solution.
The downside is content is labor-intensive to create well and consistently and can take time to pay off in online and in-person traffic, which is why some companies run paid search ads while implementing a content strategy.
Downloadable guides can be a name and SEO-building free offer for auto dealerships. Provide free online lists of local vacation spots and resources. A free guide might include:
- Driving and car guides of any kind
- Best boating (or other outdoor activity) spots
- Little known camping sites for summer exertions
- Community events calendar
With increasing competition, dealers who engage in price wars find themselves in an unsustainable race to the bottom. Instead, revise the marketing conversation. One way to establish your dealership as worth more is with an outstanding digital experience.
When shoppers land on your website for the first time, it’s similar to when people walk into your showroom. If they see clutter and confusion, they may turn around and leave. You want to make a professional impression and welcome them.
Shoppers want a great price on their new or used vehicle, but they also value outstanding service and reliable support. To stop competing purely on the price of a vehicle, provide an excellent digital experience as an extension of your exceptional customer service. From attractive and detailed vehicle listings to the look and functionality of your website, a smooth online customer experience makes the right first impression.
The way people buy cars is changing. Fewer millennials own cars than older generations. The advent of car-sharing vehicles spurred a radical transformation in some consumers' behavior. The choices consumers are likely to make are changing in surprising ways.
To speak to today’s car buyers, watch trends in the industry and your inventory. Take advantage of available analytics to understand what information people are reading, where they go online to find it, and where they spend most of their shopping and research time.
For the car dealer, it’s essential to understand the values that attract or repel car buyers. A dealership that aligns with buyers’ values will win their business. At the same time, buyer trends are a moving target.
Did you know you can get industry articles automatically by using Google Alerts? Type in a topic, like:
- Car buyer trends
- Automotive news
- Automotive marketing
Google will send relevant, new articles from around the web to your email. You can customize the frequency of your alerts and optimize your results to receive the most relevant news. It takes less than a minute to set up, saves hours of research time, and makes sure you get updates as they happen.
You can also join and subscribe to our Dealership Winning Information Network (D-WIN). At J&L Marketing, we host a virtual Q&A discussion twice a month. A community of general managers, dealers, fixed ops directors, and controllers navigate automotive industry changes and quickly get the answers they need.
The web and the marketplace are dynamic. By keeping an eye on consumer shopping trends, you ensure your dealership is represented where most buyers can find you.
Car shoppers expect detailed vehicle information, but they also want it to be easy to find. Data-heavy pages can be hard to read and look cluttered. If they are not organized properly, product and listing pages can be challenging to scan.
Shoppers won’t search long for information they want if they don’t see it the first time. A scannable layout with clear headers leads buyers to their answers and keeps them happy.
Providing a smooth user experience holds shoppers on your website or listings longer and brings them back again. The more often they see your brand, the more familiar it becomes. Look at your inventory across all devices and make sure it looks good and responds smoothly.
Managing your dealership’s incentives is challenging. Keeping up with OEM and current rates is one thing, and knowing how to merchandise and market them best is another. It’s vital to track current rates while looking for ways to streamline your process.
As OEM incentives and cash-back programs change, it can be hard to keep your marketing efforts up to date without expert support. To get the most from incentives, share them each time with your customers across all marketing channels, including your website, social media accounts, and emails.
The pandemic accelerated an existing consumer trend toward used cars. The typical consumer now prefers off-lease and used vehicles over a new one. This trend adds pressure to already stiff competition and eats into the warranty work with new car sales.
Used cars are an affordable alternative to public transportation. Buyers want a private vehicle but are cost-sensitive. Not only did used car sales go up, but conglomerates like AutoNation and CarMax saw a sharp rebound of stocks in 2020.
Even as demand drives prices up, buyers can browse a large inventory of used cars online. If your dealership’s used inventory isn’t included in high-volume car search engines, you could be missing out on active buyers.
The supply peak of used cars may have passed, but buyer demand for mainstream used cars is robust.
Technology can play a significant role in providing your customer with complete automobile care. To increase your service yield requires that you:
- Identify your customers’ needs
- Communicate them to the customer effectively and with useful timing
- Provide effective call to actions
Educate them about what work needs to be done and invite them into the dealership to accomplish it.
To minimize service opportunities falling through the cracks, incorporate the following checks and questions into each customer intake:
- Is there an open recall?
- Did the client decline any services last time that might need to be done now?
- Are there typical repairs needed by this particular vehicle?
The sharing economy has not changed people’s love of the ownership experience. For each person who uses a rideshare app, there are many who cling to their cars. Yet, it would be hard to deny that the rideshare economy is causing changes.
As in any shift in consumer behavior, a decline in one area is an opportunity to reinvent the dealer business model and uncover new revenue streams.
For example, what if your used car fleet sitting in the lots could tap into this growing marketplace and become a flexible revenue source? Embrace technology that seamlessly enables car-sharing to become a car-sharing hub and contribute to a greener economy.
The changing landscape means staying ahead of trends or hiring experts who do. We are firmly in the digital age. Shoppers are used to buying things online and having them delivered. While they still prefer to purchase cars in person, most of the communication before and after the sale happens online.
Dealerships who embrace content marketing and the online sales process and combine it with digital after-sales and service packages are more likely to thrive in an increasingly virtually run world.
Digital marketing yields consumer feedback and data previously unavailable. By monitoring and documenting customer data and trends and using that information to improve your business, you have a road map of informed decisions toward profits.