To stand out in a sea of options, auto dealers are devoting more time and resources to building digital storefronts that capture and engage down-funnel car buyers and service customers. 
 - Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh via Pexels

To stand out in a sea of options, auto dealers are devoting more time and resources to building digital storefronts that capture and engage down-funnel car buyers and service customers.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh via Pexels

The new shopping habits of millennial and Gen Z consumers are radically altering the car-buying process. According to Cox Automotive’s 2019 Car Buyer Journey report, the average new-vehicle buyer now spends 53% of their shopping time online; for used-car buyers, it’s 63%. Furthermore, 80% of consumers say they visit a third-party site at some point, more than dealer websites (46%) and OEM sites (27%) combined.

This presents a challenge to all dealers: How do you differentiate yourself from your competition in the vast internet?

This challenge is compounded by online shoppers who often have a short attention span. If they can’t quickly find the information they want, they will either leave a site to shop somewhere else or give up on the process altogether. That’s why more dealers are using digital marketing tactics that cover all the bases and encourage customers to click through to your site to begin the dealmaking process.

To do this, you must coordinate your campaigns across multiple marketing platforms to highlight your OEM incentives, dealership specials, and sales events throughout the year. Here is how that’s done:

1. Get Your Digital House in Order.

You must demand consistent communication across all of your digital channels, including auto shopping sites, news and entertainment sites, search engines, social media platforms, and your own dealer website. You never know where your next shopper will first encounter your brand. You must invest the necessary resources to have a digital storefront that is as well-branded, beautiful, and polished as your showroom.

2. Shoot Custom Video.

Custom video solutions have become one of the most effective ways for dealers to engage with potential buyers. Some shoot their own. Others partner with service providers. Your goal is to capture active car shoppers’ attention by highlighting specific priorities — special pricing, sales incentives, individual inventory, and dealership events.

Once complete, your videos can be embedded on your landing page, shared on social media platforms, or used on advertising channels.

3. Put Service in the Spotlight.

Fixed operations is another area that every dealer should be promoting through digital marketing. Dedicated campaigns do exactly that, highlighting your service business through professionally designed landing pages. Online shoppers become more knowledgeable about a dealer’s service capabilities and more likely to visit when they need maintenance or repairs.

4. Watch Your Back.

Social media reputation management is another crucial element to any digital marketing campaign. While engaging with customers online, your dealership also becomes open to harmful reviews or negative comments. Whether true or fabricated, the reality is this negativity can scare away future buyers.

Many dealers have appointed a social media manager or prefer to monitor those channels personally. I recommend finding a specialist or service provider. You need the ability to deliver immediate, personal responses to negative — or positive — comments and reviews in real time. Daily reports that can be reviewed by key dealership executives help keep your business leaders informed of social media chatter and the general perception of your business.

Whether you execute these tactics in-house or with the help of a partner, your ultimate goal is the same: Create a digital storefront that maximizes customer engagement and allows you, as a dealer, to focus on what you do best — selling cars and providing service.

Erica Danford is vice president of managed services for Dealer.com (div. Cox Automotive).

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today

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