A lot sure has changed since I first wrote about car dealers and digital back in 2011.
Back then I wrote about Ford and other manufacturers leading the way but unfortunately leaving their dealerships behind when it came to moving their advertising spend into digital.
At the time the local car dealer still owned the local traditional media space but that was the extent of their advertising – Newspaper and radio.
So where is the auto industry at when it comes to digital? Let me paint a picture with some data, advertising data to be exact. If you don’t care for the numbers scroll on past the next two paragraphs.
Let’s look at the industry as a whole, at least from a United States perspective. Recent research from the 2014-2015 Automotive Advertising Outlook suggests half of auto advertising budgets would be spent on digital. The impressive finding was that the amount spent by dealers, both franchised and independents, was to climb 21.8%. The automotiove industry represents the second biggest advertising industry in the U.S.
Now when we look closer to home, at the Australian industry – The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) of Australia released it’s ‘Online Advertising Expenditure Report‘ highlighting that the automotive industry has an 18.5% share of online advertising to be spending much more than the second-placed finance category with a 11.6% share. It’s a positive sign for the industry but unfortunately the digital advertising spend by dealers represents just 0.4%. That’s one mighty difference in digital advertising spend between the manufacturers and dealers.
In summarising, U.S. based dealers are spending their fair share of advertising on digital and Australia’s are not. Is it something to do with the manufacturer/dealer arrangement? Is it just a sector not quite confident about the opportunity? Is that even a fair call?
Let’s just look at another stat taken from the U.S. based report above – ‘The average amount spent to advertise a new vehicle today is $522, down 21% from five years ago‘. Such is the opportunity with digital and admittedly a few other factors.
So if you’re still lagging behind in your digital advertising spend there’s every chance you’ve missed other digital opportunities – So these tips are for you. Implementing them will likely be just a fraction of your monthly advertising campaign in the local newspaper.
Get your website right!
We have little time these days, we want to find the information we want in the shortest time. So make sure your website is easy to navigate and it is fast!
Specifically, we probably want to find out about the vehicle models, features and also the prices. So it’s also important to give us all of this. Pictures are not going to be enough, so you may want to embed manufacturer videos or TVCs on your site.
Make sure that you have sufficient contact information. Some dealers make it so hard to contact them, it doesn’t give us the best impression of your customer service offering. When we see just a contact form we feel like we’ll never be answered.
Use your website to integrate all platforms, this means include links to all of your social media profiles and a subscribe form for your e-newsletter. Please don’t hide them as a token effort, make it look like you want to engage with us.
Help Us Help You – SEO and SEM
We turn to search engines to find the information or the website we’re looking for. So if you fit the bill, then we essentially want to find your website. So help us, help you. Improve your search engine performance to make it easier for us to find your website. Otherwise, we’ll find someone else’s.
Search Engine Optimisation is the valuable practice of executing a strategy with the objective of performing better in search. Not only ranking higher and driving more traffic, but sending better traffic.
Search Engine Marketing is one of the most valuable advertising options available. Where SEO can take a lot of work and not be guaranteed, SEM and specifically Google Adwords can guarantee you a position within the search results, it’s just going to cost you. But with the right strategy you can minimise the cost you pay per click and provide a better return on your advertisement. A real benefit of search engine advertising is that you can manage your budget daily, access reports to evaluate its success and produce real-time advertising.
Join the Social Media move – We Have!
We are online more than 20 hours a week these days, more than we are watching television and this is where we engage with our friends and look for information. If you’re not where we want, when we want then too bad, someone else will be.
Facebook is a good place to start. Claim your URL, create a cool landing page for new users, create a promotions tab, send out event notices and so much more. Promote it on your website, include the Facebook URL on all marketing material including new owner handbooks. Even use Facebook advertising to gain new ‘Likes’ and generally broaden your reach. Make sure you’re aware of the advertising opportunities targeting ‘custom audiences’.
LinkedIn is loosely described as the professional version of Facebook. Less members but a more specific purpose. Create a company profile for your dealership and optimise the listing with services, etc and keep it up to date with promotions. I would think that by actively using the listing in such a professional environment it would be a great opportunity to generate promotion for vehicle leasing and other business services.
UPDATE: Check this link out – ‘LinkedIn Proves Ripe Platform for Auto Brands, With Members 2X More Likely to Buy [INFOGRAPHIC]‘
Twitter is another of the popular social media tools and one that may not appear relevant to a dealership but you may find it useful. Imagine the customer service opportunities, someone tweets you to see if you have a particular vehicle in stock and you reply; you can tweet a customer when it’s time for a service or time to pick up their vehicle; and you could also use it to generate promotion for an sale event.
There are a number of other social media tools that could be of use to a car dealership including YouTube and Foursquare.
We use our mobile as much as you
Are you using an iPhone, Blackberry or an Android? Do you use it for emails, alarm, calendar, web…Well, so are we. It’s a pretty powerful marketing tool when you think of it. The fact is we as consumers are spending more time on our mobile phone than ever before.
So what does that mean to your marketing? Everything. You’re already scheduling thousands of dollars in newspaper advertising, maybe trial some mobile advertising. The stats will tell you if it’s worth it for you.
Then you can take another view and ask your customers if they would be happy to receive SMS messages when our regular service is due. The database can then be used occasionally to promote a sale, even encouraging a viral campaign by sending messages to customers and inviting them to circulate an invitation to a sale event.
It would also be worth your while to make sure you’re aware of developing technologies including iBeacons and NFC.
Check out how ‘Toyota accelerates Corolla campaign with multiple mobile engagements‘.
This Augmented Reality campaign from Lexus might also spark some interest.
Think about a content marketing strategy
The process of purchasing a new or used vehicle can be a long one. There is going to be a great deal of research before making a decision on a vehicle so it is worth identifying how you can help the customer with this process.
Try to get a better understanding of what they are looking for? Where they are getting that information from? How is this information impacting their purchasing decision?
Then develop a strategy to fill the information gaps and help to inject your dealership into their purchasing equation. If you can be of help you will establish a sense of goodwill and if they come to the conclusion they’re after a vehicle you sell, well you’ve staked a claim that they should buy from you.
The marketing gap between the car manufacturers and dealers is simply an observation of mine. For the car dealers who are proactively participating in the digital space I congratulate you. For those who haven’t then take what you want from my ramblings and all the best.