Most companies have a countdown to Christmas, where they try to get the most sales before December 24. However, the National Retail Federation (NRF) states that the holiday shopping season lasts until December 31. Depending on their customer base, some retailers might even be able to take advantage of the first few days of January.
It’s understandable that your staff wants to take some time off for the holidays, but you also need to make sure you are making the most of this season. You have the power to get a whole seven extra days of customer engagement and sales if you plan correctly. Use this guide to keep going and end the year on a strong note.
Track the Local School Calendars
The first step as you plan for the end of the year is to look at school calendars. Check the winter break dates for the public school district as well as any major private schools in your area. You want to know when kids get out and when they return to class.
This is important because parents often build their time off around the school year. When kids are home, at least one adult has to stay with them. It could be an opportunity to bring those adults to your showroom. If they are already taking a day off, they might have the free time to visit your location and test drive a vehicle.
In 2024, New Year’s Day falls on a Monday. Schools in your district may have that entire week off before returning on January 8. This actually gives you 13 days after Christmas to win over customers with holiday sales.
There’s also a marketing element to this strategy. If you are trying to connect with parents when their kids are out of school, put together activities for kids and families who visit your showroom. For example, consider renting a snow machine if you live in a warmer climate so kids can have a snow day for the first time. Set up a play area where kids can roam in a safe space while their parents work out the paperwork for buying a car. Keep cocoa and cookies on hand in the waiting room.
Promote these holiday activities and events to engage families on your digital channels so your dealership becomes a more inviting and fun place for kids. This will also have a lasting impression throughout the year if your showroom is known as a place where kids are welcome and entertained.
Map Out Your Marketing Schedule
Once you have an idea of what the holiday season looks like, you can plan your marketing content schedule. Most companies have pre-Christmas and after-Christmas sales, with different brand messaging for both. The Christmas sales focus on giving gifts to others, while the after-Christmas sales are meant for your own personal shopping goals.
According to the NRF, 68% of consumers go shopping the week after Christmas. This is because they have more free time and they want to get good deals on discounted items. Effective marketing teams will have a Christmas plan in place but will also have content and messaging geared up for the after-Christmas rush and New Year’s shopping. Here are a few marketing tactics you can try:
- Treat yourself after the holidays: Invite customers to reward themselves after a busy holiday season with an upgraded car or SUV.
- Explore the latest models: Adults deserve toys, too. While Christmas might be for kids, New Year’s sales are meant for grown-ups.
- Gear up for the new year: Encourage customers to start the year off right with a reliable car that better meets their needs.
- Take advantage of extended sales: When in doubt, keep your holiday sales going and invite customers who might have missed out to take advantage of extended deals.
You can decide which marketing strategy is best based on your target audience. You also might utilize multiple types of messaging to reach different types of buyers during this time.
Explain Why After-Christmas Sales Are Ideal for Car Buying
Two key aspects of marketing are persuasion and education. You need to persuade customers that now is an ideal time to buy a car and explain why this is a strategic move. A large part of your after-Christmas marketing might focus on the education aspect of promotion.
For example, research shows that October through January 1 is the best time to buy a car because that’s when dealerships try to sell older inventory to make space for new models. You can incorporate this directly into your marketing messaging. Let customers know that their window to get a great deal is closing as the clock ticks down to the new year. You can even promote December as the best month for car buying and the last week of the month as the best time for good deals.
This messaging aligns customer goals with your own sales needs. You want to maximize the number of sales by the end of the month and the end of the year, while your customers want to get good deals. Both parties benefit significantly from these end-of-year sales.
You have the power to create firm deadlines through your marketing messaging that entices customers to act now. Your deals might continue into the new year, but your immediate buyers don’t need to know that.
Know Your Car Buying Audience
Car manufacturers often focus on the Christmas season with commercials depicting significant others giving each other cars. These ads often feature surprised loved ones who see the car for the first time in the driveway with a large red bow attached. However, there isn’t a lot of clear data answering whether or not this is a real trend. As you develop your marketing materials at a dealership level, consider who your audience is and how they make financial decisions related to car buying.
The people who buy cars as presents are often purchasing from luxury brands. Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW dealerships might see a significant uptick in customers around the holidays because of this trend. However, this is less common for families that need financing help to purchase a car. It’s more likely that a couple will buy a car together and decide on an ideal model that meets their needs. They might buy a car in December as a mutual Christmas gift to each other.
Consider these trends as you develop marketing content and materials for Christmas and post-Christmas sales. For example, you might notice that your first in-person touch with customers in the showroom occurs in mid-December as customers test-drive potential vehicles. They might return during the last days of the year to make the final purchase. The overall buying journey is extended because of the holiday.
One way to align your marketing and sales team during this time is to develop specific holiday buyer personas. These personas focus on customer behavior during the last month of the year. Focus on holiday shopping trends and how they change by demographic, income level, and car-buying goals. This will make everyone more effective at meeting the needs of these customers.
Allocate Your Budget Through the New Year
As you increasingly prioritize the final days of the year, you can allocate an appropriate budget to ensure you reach key customers during this time. This could actually be an opportunity for you to stretch your marketing spend as other retailers stop advertising to customers during this time.
In 2023, the USPS recommends ordering items online and shipping them to loved ones before December 16 to ensure they arrive before Christmas. Many online retailers set similar deadlines before Christmas each year. While companies across the country have after-Christmas sales, these aren’t as significant as the pre-Christmas rush. As a result, they might pull back on their holiday ad spending and digital marketing efforts.
This is great news for car dealerships who want to bring customers in during the last few days of the year. You might notice that fewer companies are bidding on ad space and important keywords that you use to drive traffic to your website and social pages. You can reach the same number of customers — or even grow your reach — while decreasing your ad spend due to lower cost-per-click rates.
Compare your marketing campaigns from last year during this time to your project ad spend and reach this coming year. You might even want to look at your marketing efforts on a day-to-day basis to see how engagement shifts. There could be opportunities to reach large audiences in the days following Christmas when other brands are taking time off.
Expand Your Marketing Efforts to a Larger Region
Expanding your reach is the final step to getting the most out of the holiday season. On average, Americans will drive 469 miles to score a deal on a new car. The perfect time to do that is during the last few days of the year when the deals are hottest, and people have time off.
Look at your current geofencing and see if you can expand your marketing efforts to reach large audiences. Your customers might plan a road trip during the final days of the year to visit your showroom and buy a new car. If your audiences have family in the area, they could stop into your showroom while staying with relatives during the holiday season.
You want to get the most out of your marketing budget to drive the most sales this December. If you are reaching a saturation point with your existing market, bring in people from new markets who were previously out of range.
Work With a Marketing Partner to Craft Effective Messaging
December is the most important month for car dealerships across the country, and every day counts in this month. Don’t make the mistake of stopping your Christmas sales early or forgetting to bring customers to your showroom during the last days of the year.
One way to make sure your marketing efforts are effective is to work with a marketing partner who supports car dealerships. We work with automotive businesses across the country and know their pain points and needs. We do our best to support these teams into January so they maximize their sales.