Nick Brunotte, Director, DHG Dealerships
In a time of disruption in the automotive industry where an increasing number of vendors are presenting digital marketing products, it is important for dealers to consider the efficiency of their digital marketing efforts and associated spending. Utilizing software, data and benchmarks from unbiased sources has great potential to provide dealerships with insights and information about their marketing strategies to help them be more efficient, effective and profitable.
Why Digital Marketing
Today’s customers are more tech-savvy and digitally connected than ever before; as such, those customers will most likely seek dealerships who are up to speed on all things technological and digital. A 2016 report from Think With Google examined digital interactions faced by consumers during the process of leasing a vehicle, and the findings reported key micro-moments that shed light on consumers’ points of view when making their decision. Such micro-moments included:
- Which car is the best?
- Is it right for me?
- Can I afford it?
- Where should I buy it?
- Am I getting a deal?
Why are these micro-moments important? Consumers may do much of their research based on the context of such micro-moments on mobile devices, meaning they will explore dealership websites and use search engines to collect information and narrow down their choices. Having a strong digital marketing presence means your dealership is more likely to be reached by such consumers, whether through social media, customer-facing website or online shopping tools.
Advertising is typically one of the top expenses for dealerships, so accountability for those expenses and evaluating their effectiveness should be top of mind for dealers. Traditional advertising, i.e. newspaper, radio, billboards, television, etc., in many instances may incur more cost to a dealership than other digital advertising sources. Focus areas for advertising have already shifted to social media, content marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
Common Pitfalls with Digital Marketing Fundamentals
Fundamental aspects for digital marketing tend to necessitate the most improvement for dealerships. Below are some digital marketing fundamentals and common pitfalls associated with each, potentially affecting dealerships’ potential to reach a target consumer base.
Overall Website Customer Experience – An updated customer-facing website can be a great asset to a dealership in terms of interacting with a consumer. Merchandise should be updated and easily accessible for searching and browsing, as well as including all relevant information like prices and mileage. If the website generates a less than desirable experience for the consumer due to outdated information, this could push the consumer to look elsewhere.
Website Operation – Today, most consumers spend more time than ever searching online for vehicles long before they decide to visit a dealership. Consumers may be less likely to engage a website that lacks ease of navigation or operates slowly.
Third-Party Sites – An evaluation can help dealerships determine if they may be over-investing or duplicating efforts with their money in regards to selected vendors for their websites. Most dealerships require the support from third-party sites to stay competitive in the market online; however, dealers should carefully evaluate and consider if their chosen vendors are helping their online presence or distracting potential consumers with ads from competitors. Therefore, investing advertising funds into third-party sites should not serve as a replacement for a dealership website that is well-designed and fast operating.
Social Media – Social media can be advantageous to helping dealerships communicate their narrative and brand to consumers, including car buyer testimonies, videos and even efforts within the community. Social media also allows dealerships to reach their target audience based on relevant factors like location and search history. However, social media efforts take time to gain momentum as well as prove beneficial to sales. The long-term effort can become overwhelming, which may be why some dealers do not place much investment into social media as part of their marketing strategy.
Planning for the Future
Dealers may hope to gain potential consumers using the most cost-effective means of marketing. A great starting point for dealers to evaluate their digital marketing efforts is by conducting an audit of any digital marketing channels and providers used by their respective dealerships, while also evaluating their marketing expense.
The results of such an audit can help dealers make adjustments to their marketing efforts and work to develop a better overall marketing strategy that prioritizes digital marketing efforts. In addition, dealers should consider continuous monitoring and adjustments to their strategy as the industry fluctuates and new products and providers enter the market.
Nick Brunotte is Director, Dealerships Digital Solutions at DHG Dealerships. He can be reached at 704.644.4816 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DHG Dealerships is one of the largest professional service teams providing assurance, tax and advisory services to dealers across the country. We collaborate with key industry stakeholders to enhance the insights we bring to our clients and provide them access to valuable resources. For more information, visit dhgdealerships.com.
 Dealer Guidebook – A guide to Google’s tools for dealers and their agency partners. Think With Google, November 2016.