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Digital Marketing Series: Tips and Tricks for Automotive Dealers [Part 2]

As a continuation of Part 1 of our Digital Marketing Series, John Houmis, Senior Vice President of Client Engagement and Experience, sat down for a Roundtable Q&A to address some hot-button digital marketing challenges that automotive dealers frequently face. In Part 2, Houmis provides more tips and tricks to help automotive dealers strategically improve their digital marketing efforts.

Q: How can dealers personalize and make their offerings unique in the digital world of car shopping?

Houmis: At Ansira, our mantra is “experience is everything”. Providing the best online experiences for customers is paramount, but it’s important that dealers make sure that both their in-store and online processes work together harmoniously.

Your competitors are looking for solutions to many of the same challenges, so it’s critical to ensure that the consumers who are engaged with your digital presence find value.

Ansira understands that customers’ experience on websites, in their inboxes, and in the store must feel cohesive to drive brand loyalty and continued sales. While buying a sandwich is not the same investment as buying a new car, dealers could take some cues from other industries, starting with personalization.

Cars are so similar today that buying one can become a toss-up for the consumer. Differentiating your dealership from others with things such as loyalty, value-add programs, community involvement, and charitable efforts has a major impact on where consumers choose to spend their dollars today.

Q: How does a digital media plan change with luxury brands?

Houmis: The traditional brand concept of driving experience, performance, passion, or exclusivity is becoming outdated.

To stay relevant in today’s market, luxury auto marketers must preserve their original identity while embracing new perspectives such as the younger generation, digitalization, and sustainability. Tailored and unique experiences are much more important to affluent customers when they shop for luxury cars.

Focus on the Value-Adds

Dealers’ digital marketing should speak to those value-added aspects and market differentiators – things like vehicle pick-up for maintenance or vehicle delivery. Many luxury brands carry the traditional features of comfort, convenience, entertainment, and safety. They are also packed with cutting-edge connectivity elements, autonomous driving options, and the latest advancements in electrification technologies.

Discerning buyers appreciate the creature comforts, but the ease of doing business and subsequently servicing their cars with white glove care needs to be highlighted across social media, advertising materials, and of course, websites. Another area where there must be a tight plan is messaging throughout the lifecycle of the consumer.

Q: Is “The Deal” Still Important in Dealership Marketing?

Houmis: “The deal” today is more about affordability for the consumer and less about over-the-top messaging. Most consumers are seeking financing in some manner, which means that for those buyers, the total monthly payment is critical. Shoppers must see the value in your dealership offers and competitive comparison messaging.

Consumers today have done their research before they contact your dealership – they’ve run the numbers, zeroed in on a make and model, and will be armed with not only your offer information, but what is being offered down the street.

Be Flexible with Your Messaging

Digital marketing messages today must be fluid. Adjusting messaging based on the current market will enable you to better connect with shoppers and promote competitive payments or value affordability messages within advertising efforts. This is especially true of your core brands and volume segments.

At Ansira, we saw the impact flexible messaging had on consumers during the height of the pandemic. While each state, city, and county had different regulations on wearing masks and social distancing, Ansira helped dealers across the United States and Canada share hyperlocal information about how and when they were open, what social distancing protocols were in place, and how to best engage customers who were either shopping for a vehicle or that needed service.

Q: How can dealership marketing be useful for customer retention?

Houmis: One of the biggest challenges dealers face today is brand loyalty and customer retention. The auto industry is behind in regard to modern loyalty mechanics when measured against other consumer-facing industries.

A Good CDP Strategy is Paramount

Most dealers don’t have a single view of their customer base. Their data is scattered everywhere across their DMS and CRM systems, service schedules, and so forth. “CDP” or customer data platform, is the current buzz term. But the real question becomes: what do you want to accomplish with a CDP?

Some talk about conversion rates and cost-per-lead metrics, but a true CDP should be so much more – it should empower dealers to craft custom initiatives specific to their goals and strategies.

Ansira has worked with several clients on building their customer databases and CDPs. From our deep experience in auto and customer analytics, we know for certain that dealers will not have success with an off-the-shelf CDP.

Start with a data strategy to establish avenues for zero-, first-, and third-party data sources, and lean on your data analytics partner to determine if connecting those data sources with a CDP is right for you.

Your digital marketing mix of paid and owned efforts plays an instrumental role in finding, capturing, retaining, and growing your consumer base.

Q: How is social media being used effectively for dealer marketing?

Houmis: Social media can be a powerful marketing tool, but a dealer should have a strategy and active community management. This is something that’s often overlooked, and one reason most social media strategies fail. Community managers create strategies that assist with establishing their brand online, generating leads, and ultimately driving sales.

Almost all dealers use social media by utilizing one or more of the following:

  • Organic: Publishes content and builds a following without any paid media behind it.
  • Paid: Uses paid media to gain interactions and reach.
  • Reputation Management: Manages the conversations about your brand online; this can be done through search engine platforms, ratings, and reviews.

Success with social media is driven by a combination of all three components and dealers can showcase their inventory through visually appealing posts with high quality images, videos, and descriptions. Dealers can run promotions, discounts, and campaigns to attract customers, engage with their audiences by responding to comments and messages, and share testimonials and reviews to build credibility.

Dealers can also provide educational pieces to establish themselves as experts and collaborate with influencers to create brand visibility.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, there are a variety of ways that dealers can improve their digital marketing tactics as digital marketing is incredibly multifaceted. With so many areas to focus on, it’s imperative that dealers identify what their goals are. Once goals are identified, dealers can choose where they want to focus their efforts before adding more pieces to the puzzle. Always keep in mind that no matter what component of digital marketing you’re focusing on, owned and paid tactics should always be employed. If you’d like to learn more about Ansira’s services and solutions for automotive marketing, contact us today.

By John Houmis

John is Senior Vice President of Client Engagement and Experience
and is a results-driven marketing professional with more than 30 years of
experience in the automotive industry. He has compiled expertise in digital marketing, strategy, and customer relationship management, and has a
proven track record in driving brand growth and revenue.