Given the meteoric rise of social media, viral marketing, and social commerce over the last few years, it’s safe to say that digital marketing has officially reached maturity. And this trend is only headed upwards. According to the latest B2B Content Marketing report, 67 percent more leads will be generated by companies with an active blog in 2016, and mobile advertising is set to increase by 45 percent by the end of the year. The simple truth is, we’re headed toward a market that is increasingly online and mobile-driven. And this goes for everything from music to clothing to, you guessed it, cars.
According to the Automotive Digital Survey conducted by Accenture, around 75 percent of drivers are now interested in conducting the entire car-buying process online (so much for kicking the tires). This means that if digital marketing isn’t already a big part of your dealership’s sales strategy, you run the risk of falling further and further behind as the digital marketing space continues to rapidly expand. Still, despite the overwhelming trend toward digital marketing, auto dealerships have been surprisingly slow to keep up. So here are four key tips to help bring your digital game up to speed.
I can’t stress the importance of mobile user experience enough. It has now been almost two years since mobile access surpassed fixed Internet access for online users, and the gap is getting wider. Mobile is king and those who gear their marketing and design toward the mobile market will increasingly come out ahead when it comes to ROI.
The main thing to keep in mind when considering your mobile presence is speed. If your site is slow to load, or difficult to navigate on a mobile device, users will simply move on to the next site. However, this isn’t to say that you necessarily need to do a complete website overhaul. Simply cutting down on overly large images and limiting the amount of click through pages will go a long way toward streamlining your site. However, if you do have the time, or money, a mobile-first redesign could do wonders for your overall digital marketing strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Like pretty much everything else these days, the first place that people go for information on car shopping and local dealerships is Google. Which means that search engine visibility is crucial. But it’s not enough to show up on page 25 of a Google search. Research shows that if you aren’t listed on page one or two, you might as well not show up at all. (Honestly, when was the last time you clicked past page one of a Google search?). A good SEO strategy, including keyword optimization, link building, and online reputation management, can be the difference between standing out and getting lost in the crowd. But, be that as it may, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Google is constantly updating its search algorithm, which means you need an SEO team that can stay ahead of the curve in order to get your dealership in front of as many eyes as possible.
One way to help boost the efficacy of your SEO is to minimize your page count. Spreading keywords across multiple pages can dilute your search engine visibility. If possible, opt for scrolling, rather than click-through navigation on your site to pack as much SEO punch as possible into your homepage (this will help improve your mobile user experience as well).
A 2015 survey of 2,000 car buyers by Digital Air Strike found that 75 percent of them rely on Internet research, including social media when selecting a car dealership, and 66 percent of car buyers reported that they have clicked on Facebook advertisements in the past. This means that a strong social media presence (both paid and unpaid) is a great way to stay engaged with your customers and create memorable relationships with potential buyers.
Don’t spread yourself too thin here. You don’t need to show up on every platform available. Focus your efforts on a few major outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and make sure you stay engaged with regular (preferably daily) posts to keep your dealership fresh in buyers’ minds. It also helps to be responsive. If someone leaves a nice comment about a good experience at your dealership, respond with a friendly thank you. If someone complains, try to hear them out and apologize for their poor experience. They’ll remember that extra personal touch.
Whether it’s an onsite blog, or your Facebook feed, make sure your content is engaging and interesting. If your posts are repetitive and boring, people will tune them out, or ignore your site altogether. Fill your blog with useful information, helpful tips, and interesting auto-industry news. Don’t be afraid to be funny, or lightheaded. Buyers want to connect with people, not companies, so injecting a bit of your natural personality into your content.
You should also try to keep your feed diverse and lively by mixing up your media from time to time. Sprinkling video content, photos and third party content (i.e. retweeting some funny auto-related content from another source), is a great way to keep your customers engaged.
You can also use interactive content like surveys and contests to create experiences for your customers get potential buyers involved with your company (and surveys have the added bonus of providing you with valuable information on your customers’ preferences and buying habits).
Stay Up to Date
The digital sphere is always changing and always moving forward, so if there is one absolutely critical strategy when it comes to digital marketing, it is to pay close attention to the digital landscape. Check the digital marketing blogs, keep an eye on the competition, and stay up to date on your analytics. The auto dealer market is still behind in the digital world, so if you get your cyber-house in order now, you’ll have a head start on the rest of the pack.
Author: Eric Stroderd
Eric Stroderd, a third generation auto industry professional, founded MyDealersupply.com along with other companies centered around growing, servicing, and supplying dealerships across the United States.