Buying a vehicle, or finding a place to service it, is one of the most loaded and personal choices a consumer is asked to make. The automotive industry has always been a people-forward business, and in the digital age, a genuine connection with customers is still key to converting leads into new sales. But while technology offers new ways to make that vital connection, its rapid evolution also means the marketing landscape is full of new minefields and hidden opportunities.
Supply chain delays over the past few turbulent years have exacerbated eroding consumer patience and trust in the automotive industry. People shopping for a car today are likely coming into the process with intense post-pandemic economic anxiety. They're looking to feel secure while contemplating such a huge expense.
The modern shopping experience begins online as auto businesses invest in virtual showrooms, strategic social media promotion and even online car sales. As with other retail industries, consumers are starting to spend the majority of their time doing their own research and will get their information from a variety of sources. This is why even smaller, local automotive businesses must take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) and smart digital marketing strategies to stay competitive.
Scoping the Data: How Modern Consumers Think About Shopping for Cars and Auto Services
Car buyers spend 59% of their shopping time online researching
95 percent of automotive shoppers go online to find dealerships and answers to their questions
68% of online interactions start with an online search engine
The first five organic results on Google account for 67.6 percent of all page clicks
53% of online internet shoppers use a mobile device while researching automotive information
30% of all mobile searches are related to geographical location
74% of consumers consult social media when making a purchasing decision
Millennials consider slightly more vehicles in their search than Baby Boomers and take almost four and half hours longer on average to make a decision in the buying process
6 out of 10 car buyers are open to considering multiple vehicle options when they begin their shopping process
3 Ways Automotive Marketing Is Moving Forward - and How You Can Keep Up
Everything Starts Online
Whether they're part of the Baby Boomer generation or Gen Z, consumers who drive are searching for automotive businesses online. They have a variety of sources at their disposal, and their attention will likely be split across different social media sites, buying guides, and search engines. Sticking to traditional media advertisements is no longer an option, and digital marketing must be comprehensive and flexible across platforms.
High-Pressure Sales Tactics Have Diminishing Returns
With the steady rise of smartphones over the past fifteen years, consumers have begun to prioritize transparency and gravitate toward buying experiences with the least amount of friction. The stereotype of pushy car salesmen has always been a hurdle to overcome for the industry, but with a ready option for people to bypass human interaction, dealerships should emphasize their brand integrity and easy-goingness in their advertising to compete as an attractive option.
Buzzy, tech-savvy automotive upstarts like Carvana and CarMax have seen financial difficulties lately due to their unsustainable business models. Like most tech-facing companies, they've been artificially buoyed by venture capital for a long time, and the returns have been difficult to yield, but that does not mean they won't continue to leave a cultural impact on consumer expectations. When used strategically, digital communication improves customer experience.
Optimized Advertising is a Must to Stay Competitive
People today live in a media-saturated environment and are seeing more ads per day than they ever have before. In 2007, a survey from market research firm Yankelovich found that an average person sees up to 5,000 adverts every day. Today, researchers say that the average person sees around 10,000 ads per day, though only a quarter of that or less will be relevant.
Consumers are becoming fatigued by the amount of ads they see, but one way to cut through the noise is to tailor your ad strategy to people who are more likely to respond to your specific products and services. As AI changes the game for all industries, automotive businesses can use active listening technology and highly personalized streaming video to reach out to customers with cars on their mind, instead of casting out traditional ads to general audiences and hoping something sticks.
OTT Advertising: Smart Options for Localized Brands
"Over-the-top advertising" refers to ads placed with TV streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. These services have been dubbed "over-the-top" because they skip over the heads of traditional TV providers, not subject to broadcast schedules or geographic locations. Flexibility on data-rich platforms offers exciting opportunities for advertisers, but developing strategic OTT ads is a different art than traditional TV spots.
While the potential pool of customers for the automotive industry is large and diverse due to the United States' car-centric infrastructure, dealerships can still get serious mileage out of targeted ads. Instead of hoping to catch a TV viewer in one of the limited windows of time they might be thinking about shopping for a car, auto dealers can use OTT advertising to target and retarget a motivated consumer.
Autotrader analysis found that 46% of car shoppers use multiple devices to access the internet when researching online. Professionally designed OTT ads allow max flexibility, formatted for many screens. A business needn't be married to creative work that isn't producing results with OTT advertising, which can be switched on a dime easily in response to real-time analysis.
Meet Customers Where They Are:
Streaming platforms account for 25% of time consumers spend watching their TV, according to a recent Nielsen survey
Automotive shoppers are 71% more likely to be influenced by digital advertising across multiple retail categories than the average consumer
Get Hints About Who's in the Market for a New Car
When a consumer is thinking about making a large vehicle purchase, or even just where to bring their car for service, they're likely to talk about it with the people around them a lot. Active listening technology picks up on the throwaway comments people say around their smart devices, deploying your ads straight to the very screens they're spending their time on.
Digital marketing agencies who use active listening technology can create buyer personas using past client data, identify what keywords your top potential customers are likely to be gabbing about, and continually target motivated auto consumers. Rapidly improving with the help of AI, active listening technology's return on investment is huge, reducing click and acquisition costs to reach audiences of all sizes.
Reach Beyond Keywords for SEO Effectiveness
While optimizing content for keywords is still an important component of boosting your visibility online, there are many factors to take into consideration when trying to amplify your company's reach.
Publish and Share Quality Content That's Not Just Sales Talk
One part of building a trustworthy reputation for your company online is to continually post well-researched content to your website and social media channels that speaks to the types of automotive questions your customers are searching for. By becoming a reliable source of information, you not only boost traffic to your website, but you connect with customers and maintain an active, "lived-in" feel online. Prospective buyers will be more attracted to a brand that continually positions itself as a community resource and car authority rather than a zombie website or profile filled with dull sales promotions.
Paid Search Campaigns Pay Off
Optimized SEO can get your content to the first page of Google automotive results on its own - but knowing how and when to spend some of your marketing budget on a paid search campaign can launch your business much further.
Paid search is a cost effective strategy for companies of all sizes because under the pay-per-click (PPC) model, companies don't pay search engine providers until somebody clicks their ad. Google's chief economist Hal Varian estimates that businesses make an average of $2 for every $1 they spend with Google Ads.
While paid search campaigns can be powerful, they aren't a replacement for quality digital content. Google assesses ads for quality and the usefulness and relevance of their landing pages, assigning quality scores that impact how prominent the ad will be.
Reviews Are the New Word of Mouth
The popularity of social media lies in its ability to directly connect people, breaking down old information hierarchies. Some of the most influential voices and trendsetters of today are popular because of their amateurish, down-to-earth communication style. Consumers see information that comes from a fellow consumer as being more trustworthy, and will walk into your dealership with more confidence in their potential deal. Car shoppers are five times more likely to visit a dealership with positive customer reviews, and Yelp appears in the top five search results for 92% of Google web queries that include a city and business category.
One common-sense way to increase positive reviews is to be consistent in encouraging satisfied customers to let people know what they think. Automated messages with a link to a review platform can help keep a dealership on top of this task, making it a seamless experience for customers who might be more inclined to take a minute of their time. Responding to reviews is also key to maintaining an overall positive, approachable online identity for your brand.
Due to the high stakes surrounding automotive purchases, consumers are spending a substantial amount of their buying process online, looking for a trustworthy voice who understands their specific needs. With new advances in digital marketing, automotive companies can finely tune their content to convert general interest into real sales.
A specialized digital marketing agency is a must while navigating the ever-evolving technology and trends of doing business in the 21st century.