2016 was a great year for auto dealers, but it’s no secret that things have slowed down since then. Of course, it’s impossible to maintain a peak, but dealerships are struggling to keep as much momentum as possible. Some are having more luck than others. What’s one of the secrets of success? Adapting marketing to better work in the digital age.
According to Advertisement Age, automakers and car dealerships spend about 35 billion on marketing in the U.S. alone. That’s ten percent of auto sales revenue! The problem is that some of that money is being wasted, and one of the major causes is outdated marketing strategies. There’s nothing wrong with traditional advertising, of course, but the days when a billboard and a few mailouts were sufficient are long gone. Traditional ad campaigns need to be supplemented by digital ones.
Modern Americans live much of their lives online, so online is one of the best places for advertiser to reach them. They shop on the internet, too. When consumers in the U.S. buy vehicles, they often begin on car sales websites, and in many cases will narrow down their choices concerning what and where to buy before ever setting foot into a dealership. Lastly, the fast pace of the digital age has caused Americans—and many others—to develop expectations of instant gratification. People are not patient when waiting for information, and traditional advertising presents the problem of latency. Instead, dealerships are utilizing social media, online advertising, chat platforms, and other technologically-driven measures to reach their customers.
This modern rush has also necessitated another change in auto industry marketing. In the past, many autogroups divided marketing responsibilities between two groups, with a sales team to manage variable marketing expenses (incentives, etc.) and an advertising team to manage fixed marketing expenses (such as advertising.) Today, it is increasing important for these two processes to streamlines and holistic. Communication and interaction between both teams is vital. In some cases, the teams may even be combined. Otherwise marketing strategies often become too slow, cumbersome, and disorganized to catch the fleeting attention of ever-busy modern consumers.
Lastly, successful companies in the automobile industry are using technology not only to reach potential customers, but also to build marketing models using digitally obtained data. The world is smaller; that’s a fact. Consumers no longer limit themselves to businesses in their immediate locality. To remain competitive, dealerships and automakers are using online analytical tools, real-time inventories, live chat interaction, and applications to create focused ads for their projected customers. For example, dealerships can now use online chat systems, integrated into their web pages, to interact with customers– sometimes even getting them pre-approved for financing– while also using chat logs to identify what consumers are looking for in their area. That data, of course, can be used to focus advertising campaigns as well, which makes the online shopping experience more personalized, prompting customers to think of the advertised business as “the right one for me.”
There are many other ways to employ digital marketing as well. Using advanced tools now available online, advertisers can identify the terms most commonly searched for by online consumers, and add those same terms to ads or webpages to attract more traffic. Furthermore, the same data can again be used to generate and send targeted ads. This, too, makes online car shopping feel more personal.
The world is constantly updating, and auto sales advertising must keep pace. If dealerships want to hold onto as much momentum as possible, and to increase sales today, it is important to pay attention to what modern consumers want, and take advantage of new marketing resources. Traditional advertising still has its value, but technology must be utilized to keep up with today’s customer expectations.