Car dealership marketing strategies should incorporate digital and online ideas to meet customer needs

Selling cars isn’t like it used to be. Whereas once you could depend on a steady flow of potential car buyers after a few ad placements, consumers are now taking more active roles in the car buying process. They’re no longer letting your sales team do all the talking.

Instead, they’re getting the facts through their own online research before taking any action. Updating your automotive marketing strategy—specifically your automotive digital marketing strategy—is the best way to guide consumers to your dealership.

Why online automotive marketing matters

The move toward web-based interactions has hit just about every industry, but potential car buyers in particular are taking to the internet to make the best purchasing decisions possible. The automotive industry is one of six industries where the majority of offline purchases are consistently preceded by online research, which includes looking at reviews.

By focusing on online automotive marketing, you can get found and chosen by shoppers in your area, whether they’re looking for new or used cars. Only 8% of used car buyers rely strictly on salespeople at your dealership to make decisions. The other 92% are largely swayed by the information they find online.

As we move forward, car purchases may begin to occur online as well. Already, 54% of Americans would prefer to complete the car buying process from the comfort of their homes, which means car dealers must begin catering to shoppers who want convenience first.

Spending extra time thinking about your online marketing strategy will allow you to control how quickly car shoppers find you, as well as what they see, so you can gain leads and convert them faster.

4 best automotive marketing strategies

Given that modern car shoppers are largely starting their customer journey on the web, automotive marketers must take their strategies online, too. This isn’t just an extra task added to your to-do list. Digital marketing actually provides a handful of unique opportunities to showcase your products and convert leads you may have never previously reached.

Below, we’ll outline our top four digital automotive marketing strategies to help you promote your dealership and make sales.

1. Video marketing

Video content is king in the auto industry. For many car shoppers, seeing is believing, so they need to understand the complete look and feel of a vehicle before they can envision themselves in a new car. Whether you’re adding video to your website, sharing it on social media, or uploading it on YouTube, online video can offer your potential customers an experience that persuades them to buy before they leave the house.

The effectiveness of video in encouraging consumers to take action is proven. Research from Google shows that over 40% of auto shoppers who watched a video about cars or trucks ended up visiting a dealership as a direct result. With your video doing much of the work, your on-site sales pros will simply need to give a final push to persuade visitors to buy.

Online videos that produce the most results for car dealerships typically showcase a vehicle’s build and major features. These may include video test drives, accessory demos, and even 360 virtual reality videos that fully immerse viewers inside the car setting.

Overall, this automotive marketing strategy is all about creating proof that your cars function as claimed and showing, rather than telling, viewers why the given vehicle provides the experience they want and need.

2. Online review management

As trust in car dealerships continues its steady decline, keeping up with your online reputation management is a great opportunity to get more car buyers to your dealership. A big part of this is responding to your online reviews (even giving professional responses to the negative ones) and actively working to increase the amount of positive reviews you have.

In addition to general review sites like Google and Facebook, auto marketers should also be paying close attention to feedback on auto dealership review sites, including CARFAX reviews. These platforms are destinations for serious car buyers, who are more likely to choose your dealership if your customers have good things to say. After all, online reviews are just as powerful as a peer recommendation—but they also can reach thousands of consumers at once.

When you pair your automotive marketing strategy with Podium Reviews, your customers will automatically receive invites to review you on all the platforms that matter. As you start getting more reviews, you can respond to all your customers on a single platform for a more streamlined process.

3. Creating a user-friendly web experience

Building a website designed for the consumers who need it is essential to capturing their attention. Your website should load quickly and be easy to navigate for all consumers, whether they’re on their smartphones, tablets, or computers.

Your website should also take search engine optimization (SEO) into consideration. Inserting keywords throughout your site and blog copy will not only help you rank higher for relevant terms, but it will also allow you to give car shoppers the answers they need. Consider what features they may be looking for—for example, “best gas mileage” or “best luxury cars,” depending on your target audience.

When developing a user-focused SEO strategy, you should always take into account local SEO. Car buyers tend to shop for dealers near them, which means a complete Google My Business listing can make a big difference. You can get our local SEO checklist to ensure your listing is set for attracting nearby buyers.

In addition to organic SEO, you can also add Google pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to your automotive marketing strategy. Google actually offers a Model Automotive ad format, which is designed specifically to target car buyers and lead to a 30% higher engagement rate. These search engine ads will catapult your company to the top of search results pages for the keywords you’re targeting, helping you generate more leads faster.

4. SMS marketing

With nearly 80% of Americans owning smartphones and the majority of all online traffic coming from mobile devices, catering to this consumer behavior can put you ahead of your competitors. Smartphone users spend hours each day on their phones, leading to an average 82% open rate for all text message marketing campaigns. Using SMS marketing will help you reach your potential customers on a platform where they’re actively looking for messages.

In fact, 68% of car shoppers are very open to chatting online with car dealers. This means car buyers want to interact with experts—as long as it’s convenient to them. This is an opportunity for your representatives to have a direct influence on shoppers while they’re still deciding where to visit.

With Podium Webchat, you can blend the best of live chat and SMS by adding a button to your site that captures leads and allows you to continue your conversation through text. This powerful tool enables your dealership to build relationships while helping shoppers move further through the customer journey in real-time.

Create an experience customers prefer

In order to become the preferred car dealer in your area, your automotive marketing strategy must prove to car shoppers that you’ll lead them to a successful car buying experience. By using modern channels to promote your dealership, you’ll stand out even in a saturated auto market.

Of course, understanding your audience is always necessary when creating a marketing plan. Getting to know your customers’ journey before you start your marketing will allow you to meet them on the right platforms at the right times. Here is the Ultimate Guide to for Dealerships to help you update your strategy.

Max Steckler
Max Steckler Head of Strategic Automotive Partnerships

Max Steckler, is an auto professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects auto dealerships and businesses with their customers.

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