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Adapting Automotive Marketing in a Shifting Landscape: Strategies for Dealers in 2024 

In an engaging Roundtable Q&A, Angie Cordova, Vice President of Product Management at Ansira, delves into the dynamic world of automotive marketing. With the industry facing seismic shifts due to a multitude of factors such as volatile inventory levels, elevated interest rates, technological advancements in marketing, and tight advertising budgets, dealers are grappling with the task of sustaining consumer traffic and boosting online sales conversions. Angie offers a wealth of insights and strategies for dealers navigating this ever-evolving landscape, covering topics like discount declarations, highlighting vehicle availability features, and optimizing the search for fuel-efficient vehicles. Explore the full interview to uncover valuable knowledge.

Q: With auto manufacturers pulling back on incentive spending, the tactical nature of dealership marketing can no longer rely on ultra-low offer rates. What should dealers be focusing on now, in place of low rates, to get customers attention? 

Cordova: With ultra-low rates no longer the dominant mechanism to get consumers’ attention. Dealers must rely on other mechanisms that can be leveraged to combat this, like declaring their own discounts to stay competitive in their local market, and turning to vehicle availability features on their websites and social platforms. Website features that consumers are accustomed to in other industries, such as booking a hotel room or buying airfare, can be powerful in showing how many similar vehicles are in inventory, or how many other consumers have recently viewed that vehicle. We know fuel efficiency is one of the primary filters consumers leverage to narrow their search results and dealers can create a frictionless experience on their website by enabling consumers to find fuel-efficient vehicles easily through pre-selected filter chips, navigation options, and inline advertisements directly on the search results page.

Q: There is now a complex set of factors that dealers big and small need to contend with: unpredictable inventory supply, higher interest rates, reduced dealership staff, etc. Given these new challenges, how should dealers be adjusting their marketing plans to reflect the ‘new normal’?

Cordova: In an industry where the only thing that’s constant is change, dealers should be nimble with their marketing plans. A thorough, holistic review of their marketing plan is essential to ensure it’s serving them well. Are there things on the website, SEO, or advertising strategies that are impeding the consumer’s digital experience? Look at what the data is saying. After the data review, make adjustments based on what consumers are (and aren’t) doing. Be bold with a ‘fail fast’ mindset – try something new, and if it doesn’t work, change it. If dealers are struggling with low inventory, create an incoming inventory page to consolidate the vehicles that are in transit, in the factory, and/or on order into one view. Consumers have high expectations for what they want in a digital experience, and on average they form an opinion based on what they see in just 0.05 seconds. Approximately 38% of consumers will stop engaging if they find content and layout unattractive, or if the images take too long to load. It is imperative to make sure the content on the website is meaningful to consumers. People in the US visit 130+ websites on average per day, yet consumers only shop for a vehicle every 3 to 5 years. Draw influence from other industries and simplify your search results and details pages to mimic what consumers are accustomed to in other industries.

Q: With many dealers taking a hard look at their marketing budget, how can they become more disciplined with their spend, without spending more?

Cordova: Stretch spend by letting technology and automation do the heavy lifting. Using third-generation AI logic, Ansira can optimize spend across multiple channels at once and/or across multiple publishers at once. We’ve seen that 61% of consumers are entering the website directly through the search results page, which is a result of using robust SEO strategies that drive organic traffic and longtail search terms. All this combined means dealers need a comprehensive partner that maximizes their spend across advertising, website, and SEO strategies.

Q: Traditionally, so much marketing focus has been placed on new vehicle sales. Can dealers utilize similar marketing measures to attract in-market consumers for used vehicles sales?

Cordova: Absolutely. Marketing measures typically applied to new vehicle sales can be extendable to used-vehicle sales, too. However, we don’t have to limit dealers with just those metrics. Marketing measures can be tailored for used vehicles, like using inline advertisements and filter chips on the search results page to provide easy visibility and filtering options for consumers. Showcasing used vehicles with an SEO strategy can lead to organic traffic growth and, ultimately, a personalized website experience. Dealer-created offers and consumer urgency messaging encourages consumers to engage. Dealers should look at the data and let it inform their decision making. Did you know consumers click more often on phrases containing “used” vs “pre-owned” in the navigation? If adjusting the verbiage on the website means more consumers will click on it, why not try it?

Q: With more consumers keeping vehicles longer, should dealers be increasing their marketing focus towards service for existing customers? What are the most efficient ways to promote service and parts to existing customers?

Cordova: Dealers should have a marketing focus on service offerings for their existing customers. This is not new, but because of the pandemic and other factors, focusing on service has gotten a boost in recent years. Ultimately, this all comes down to the experience the dealer provides. Are dealers providing a frictionless experience for consumers to access service and parts related information on their website? Did the customer feel cared for throughout the purchase process or the last time they visited the dealer’s service department? If yes, those are reasons the customer will come back the next time their vehicle needs service. Other ways to encourage engagement and awareness include reputation management, responding to reviews, email marketing campaigns at the right frequency to spark customer interest, online service schedulers, easy access to the service department’s hours, and ensuring hours are accurate in Google Business Profile and on the website.

Q: One new development that has come about from COVID is dealers’ increased focus in acquiring used vehicles, from both their existing customers and the general public. What types of marketing capabilities can be deployed to help dealers find these potential ‘sellers’?

Cordova: Believe it or not, there are several ways for dealers to find potential ‘sellers’ to grow their used vehicle inventory. On the single-most trafficked page of the website – the search-results page – create an inline advertisement to increase consumer awareness. Ads do not have to be monetary! Dealers can promote their vehicle acquisition program in a meaningful way on the search-results page and, better yet, the ads are next to actual inventory the dealer already has, which organically encourages a consumer to consider their trade-in options.

Q: With all that is possible for dealership marketing and all the new areas of opportunity, how much of the marketing function should be outsourced and what should be kept in-house?

Cordova: I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Outsourcing or hiring in-house is going to depend on each dealer, their goals, their local area, and the pain points they need to overcome. That said, we’re all experts in our chosen craft. Ansira has people that are digital experts specifically trained to maximize results for dealers, driving brand awareness at the national to hyper-local level, securing more eyeballs on advertisements and ultimately generating more consumer traffic to websites. Dealers excel at selling vehicles and creating an experience for their customers in their brick-and-mortar store. Some dealers will have the technical chops to strategically define their digital marketing plan and execute it, but that may take time away from other priorities at the dealership. Whether it’s inside the dealer walls or outside help, the goal is to find someone to generate quality consumer traffic with a high likelihood of conversion.

 Angie’s expertise has shed light on the strategies and adjustments required to navigate this “new normal.”

Whether it’s reimagining the approach to discounts, optimizing the consumer experience, or tailoring marketing measures for used vehicle sales, her recommendations provide a roadmap for success. Dealers should balance outsourcing and in-house functions to generate quality consumer traffic and high conversion rates. If you’d like to learn more about Ansira’s services and solutions for automotive marketing, contact us today.

By Angie Cordova

Angie is a seasoned digital product expert with a passion for websites, advertising, and data-driven insights. With nearly two decades of experience in the automotive industry, Angie excels at bridging the gap between consumer desires and meticulously tailored product solutions and experiences. Her innovative approach and strategic mindset have been instrumental in driving clients’ success in the digital landscape.