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Strategies to Fuel More Sales for Your Auto Dealership in 2017

Consumers use multiple channels when shopping across industries and the auto industry is no exception.  Taking this one step further, consumers not only use multiple channels but they expect to receive the same personalized experience across each of these channels – a personalized, omnichannel experience.

According to a 2016 study by Deloitte on the omnichannel car shopping journey, “ In the past 12 to 18 months alone, the percentage of customers influenced by digital and mobile when making automotive purchases increased from 40 percent to 55 percent. Automotive consumers rely on digital tools for researching cars, spending up to 75 percent of their shopping time online.”

However, digital channels are not the only way consumers shop for cars.  The dealership still plays a paramount role and the in-person buying experience remains important in the car purchase decision. “In automotive retail, offline will continue to be a core component of the customer journey for now. Test drives for example are an important offline activity with 88 percent consumers 13 looking to test drive before purchasing.”

To reach consumers across channels at every stage of the buying cycle, automotive markets must include a multitude of strategies and tactics in the overall marketing mix.  Here is an overview of some of the top strategies to include to successfully market to today’s auto shoppers.

Email

Email continues to dominate as one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. Marketers across all industries continue to use email marketing as a primary means of customer engagement, acquisition, and retention.

Email must be personalized and relevant to produce results and cut through the clutter. With the explosion of so much data, auto dealer marketers have more access to data insights than ever before – which in turn means, more ability to deliver highly targeted campaigns based on a customer’s demographics, interests, lifestyle and other segmentation of their choosing.

According to statistics gathered from automotive dealerships nationwide, those who use email marketing are seeing tangible results – increased ROI, sales and customer bases. According to the research, “Email campaigns have on average a 9%-to-12% open rate, and of those, as much as a 14% click through.”

Websites

New car buyers spend 10 out of 13¾ hours (73%) shopping online, and used car buyers spend 11¾ hours online out of 15¼ hours (77%), according to a report by Polk & AutoTrader.com.

Car Buyers Shop Online

This is probably not new news, but this reinforces the point that your website and a strong on-line presence is at the center of the digital experience for your customers and prospects.

The majority of your digital content should drive traffic to your website. Email content, videos, and social posts are all high drivers of website traffic. Website landing pages are still one of the top ways prospects provide information or show interest in your products and services. So be sure to continually optimize your website with fresh content and continually share to third-party sites.

According to additional research by Millward Brown Digital/Google, in addition to your dealer site, consumers use manufacturer sites, third-party sites, professional review sites, consumer review sites and regional dealer sites.

Where Consumers Research and Buy Cars Online

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is an integral component of an integrated digital marketing strategy. According to research by Google titled “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior”, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find information before making a purchase decision. And of course, the higher you rank on sites such as Google and Yahoo, the better the results. 53% of searchers click on the first organic result, with 25% clicking on the second and third results.

Social Media

Social media marketing isn’t going anywhere and dealerships understand this as they seek to reach their customers and prospects. A successful social strategy begins with good content – from your customer’s or prospect’s perspective, not yours. Be sure to know your audience and create relevant content that helps solve their concerns such as safety ratings, videos that showcase car features, calculators to help determine payments, or even tips such as “planning for your next road trip”. Good content also establishes you as the brand that people will turn to for advice.

According to an Automotive Social Media Study by Digital Air Strike:

  • 32% of car buyers have seen Facebook ads and 16% have clicked on them
  • 67% of car buyers use dealer reviews
  • 71% of car buyers used a search engine to find dealers
  • 71% of car buyers choose the dealer with the most recent reviews.

Social media is a two-way street. Sharing content is a good way to get the conversations started, but be sure to engage with social users on a personal level. People appreciate the fact that a brand is reaching out to them and asking “how can I help?” not “what can I sell?” People want to do business with companies that they can trust and have established some sort of relationship with. Social platforms offer the perfect avenue to build trust and relationships with prospective customers and to establish a consistent on-line presence.

Direct Mail

With the rising emphasis on digital channels, old-fashioned direct mail is often overlooked. However, the advent of Big Data has given new life to direct mail marketing, giving dealerships and auto brands new ways to pinpoint consumers with tailored offers.By enhancing 1st party dealership data with 3rd party specialty automotive data, marketers can achieve a holistic customer view to craft highly targeted offers. So information you have on John Smith with the email jsmith@aol.com now becomes John Smith at 5555 Waverly Way, owner of a 2010 Ford Explorer that has been in the shop 3 times for various mechanical issues in the past 3 months. John also just recently retired and his online ID has shown purchase indicators (searches, likes, conversations) that he’s interested in buying a certain brand of sports car. Now it’s pretty clear to marketers what type of marketing message John will most likely respond to.

The use of auto data appending is especially pertinent in automotive direct mail marketing, because in this case the 360-degree customer view isn’t complete without the consideration of the current vehicles owned by the prospects. Some consumers are absolutely loyal to one brand of car and this information is necessary so that marketers don’t waste dollars sending offers for a type of vehicle the consumer would never even consider. This data can also be used for buy-back offers and to target customers in current positive equity who are looking to purchase.

While direct mail can see positive results, it’s really going to show the most ROI when it’s implemented as a multichannel campaign. The most popular channels to integrate with a direct mail campaign are email and social media (cited by 44% of survey respondents), and it’s important to consider your web page as well. Research shows that 44% of customers visit a brand’s website after receiving direct mail marketing, and 48% retain the piece for future reference. So make sure your website is optimized for mobile and ready for traffic before your piece is sent out.

Digital Advertising

The auto industry was the second-largest digital ad spender in the US in 2015, after retail. By 2019, 13.2% of US digital ad spending will be auto industry-related (eMarketer). As the consumer purchase path spans more digital channels, there is tremendous opportunity for automotive brands to influence consumers at key stages of decision making.

US Automotive Industry Digital Ad Spending

The use of data has become more sophisticated in the use of digital advertising, allowing for finely tuned audience targeting. Auto brands can choose to target consumers by a range of criteria and across platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and more.  Examples segments to target may include a mix of vehicle type, make, model, year, in-market consumers, vehicle history and garage data, demographics, and credit score ranges.

Car buyers are using more digital channels for their car buying decisions in addition to the actual dealer visit before making a final purchase. This presents huge opportunities for dealerships who implement a variety of channels to target consumers and drive them into the showroom.

Contact us to learn more about how our automotive marketing data solutions can help your business. 

Learn more about V12 Data's automotive marketing data

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