In the sea of digital retail, small fish can hunt like sharks.  - Photo by Wachiraphorn via GettyImages.com

In the sea of digital retail, small fish can hunt like sharks.

Photo by Wachiraphorn via GettyImages.com

Smaller dealerships have always had trouble competing with larger franchises armed with a sizeable staff. To challenge their rivals in 2020, smaller dealers need to invest in a digital marketing strategy. Without a digital presence, you are simply missing out on a key audience. Our data shows consumers now spend 61% of the car buying process online.

Smaller dealers typically spend their marketing and advertising budget on traditional spots such as billboards, radio, and television. These old tactics no longer have the audience reach to justify their expensive price tag. Digital campaigns have a much larger impact for a cheaper price.

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This new trend in automotive retail isn’t going anywhere. As such, your website needs to do more than it ever has before. It should serve both as a lead generation tool and extension of your overall digital experience.

So, what are the keys to a proper digital strategy for your small dealership? And how can they be implemented to drive profits for a dealer’s business? The following components are key to an effective strategy:

1. Tailor Your Digital Strategy to Individual Consumers.

As digital retailing has transformed the way shoppers purchase goods, car buyers expect a highly personalized experience. Consumers expect specific inventory recommendations and incentive information to be presented to them as soon as they arrive on a dealer’s site. Using data to automate these recommendations and incentives help dealership staff save a significant amount of time.

Securing a spot in that first results page leads to increased exposure, clicks, and eventually sales.

2. Get to Know SEO.

Search engine optimization is the most important investment in any digital marketing strategy. Our data shows 91.5% of consumers click on sites found on the first results page. Securing a spot in that first results page leads to increased exposure, clicks, and eventually sales.

3. Customize Your Content.

Once a consumer finds your dealership, the next thing they’ll look for is more information about it. And that information should feature custom content and dealership branding that is relevant, makes your dealership stand out, and speaks to customers in a compelling way.

With a thoughtful digital strategy, you will leverage interactive content that highlights what your business does best. Digital marketing specialists will help make your site compatible on both desktop and mobile and visually appealing to the consumer.

Video content is a highly effective — and not necessarily expensive — way to improve SEO.  - Photo by surachetsh via GettyImages.com

Video content is a highly effective — and not necessarily expensive — way to improve SEO.

Photo by surachetsh via GettyImages.com

4. Dive Into Video.

Creating engaging, custom video may sound expensive, but it’s actually a cost-effective digital marketing tactic that caters to a younger demographic. Remember, millennials are responsible for a significant portion of inventory sales.

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5. Manage Your Reputation.

More than half (59%) of shoppers state that reputation is the single most important factor when choosing a dealership to work with. That means a dealer’s reputation is more valuable than convenience, brand, or even price. As a result, whether and how you respond to reviews is essential as shoppers’ trust in and reliance on online reviews continues to grow.

6. Maintain an Immaculate Digital Storefront.

A dealer’s website should be as crisp as their physical showroom. Insist on consistent messaging and a well-designed appearance throughout your site.

7. Don’t Neglect Your Inventory Pages.

To deliver consumers a more consistent and streamlined journey to purchase, equip inventory pages with the option to start transactions online using features such as valuation tools, available research information, and pricing specifics.

Facilitating a faster path to purchase starts with including information on vehicle deals rather than solely presenting the vehicle details.

8. Ask for Help.

There is tremendous power in digital marketing throughout the automotive industry at the moment, but it takes time and effort to accomplish a solid digital campaign. Smaller franchised dealers should consider starting a partnership with a third-party expert who can do the majority of the work for them.

Remember, it’s a team effort. And, like any great team, it’s important to play to each other’s strengths.

A dealership staff knows the automotive industry, their market and business, and how to move inventory better than almost anyone. Similarly, a digital marketing expert can help present that business’ website in the most compelling manner. By hiring a third party to focus on the digital side of a your business, you enable your staff to focus more of their energy on selling vehicles and less time worrying about marketing tactics.

If done correctly, the proper digital strategy can help drive consumer engagement and dealership profitability. Leveraging digital experts and an online platform may be the missing link to growing a any small business. Smaller dealers should give serious thought as to whether it’s time to unlock it. Doing so will undoubtedly help your business give the larger chains a run for their money.

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

Read: NADA: Franchised Dealership Payrolls Up Nearly 2%

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today

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