As 2013 gets underway and dealers begin to fine tune their lead source and advertising strategies, it’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of customers use the Internet to help them determine what car to buy and where to buy it. Although new-car shoppers plan to spend an average of 27 hours researching and shopping online before purchasing or leasing a vehicle1, there is still an existing disparity related to dealership media spend online versus traditional advertising. According to the annual Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence Online Shopper Study, consumers spend per week an average of 14 hours watching television, 10 hours listening
to radio, four hours reading newspapers and three hours reading magazines. *Even with the statistics mentioned above highlighting consumers’ time spent primarily online, dealerships still over allocate media dollars towards conventional advertising, such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines.
In the last several years, and with good reason, there has been growing emphasis on the value of proper merchandising of VIN-specific inventory on third-party classified and dealer websites to drive traffic. The winning formula of widespread listings and great merchandising proves the search results page (SRP) to vehicle display page (VDP) conversions sell cars.
But, what about the customers still researching and deciding which make and model to buy? Dealerships need to maintain top-of-mind consideration among potential customers by advertising online in the early stages of the car-buying process. By placing ads directed toward early-stage shoppers on third-party websites, dealerships will have a greater chance of being remembered when the consumer is exposed to the dealership-specific ads throughout their shopping experience.
What are you doing to brand your dealership to these shoppers prior to them conducting specific vehicle searches? Dealer online ads on third-party research and classified-inventory sites are an undervalued advertising area that requires serious consideration in your online advertising strategy. Allocating more media dollars to these types of ads can drive incremental revenue by attracting interest from outside your current market.
To gain incremental business and capture customers prior to their vehicle-specific searches, you need to be online where the customers are. Therefore dealers need to set marketing objectives for their online advertising, which includes addressing these questions: Are we available to the customer? How is our ad going to stand out from competitors? And, how will the customer know to choose us?
Since customers today spend more time online researching a car before even making it down to the vehicle detail page (VDP), dealers need to place ads on Web pages higher up in the path to influence shoppers. With the number of hours spent using traditional media dwindling and the number of hours spent using online media increasing as previously mentioned, it makes sense for dealers to allocate more media dollars toward online efforts and reduce spend on traditional media. For instance, nearly 7-in-10 new-car shoppers on KBB.com are in the research phase of the vehicle shopping process1 and 59% of shoppers narrow their search down to one model in just the final week before purchase. **By influencing shoppers from the beginning to the end of their car-buying process, dealerships are sure to be remembered when the customer is ready to purchase.
Key features to include in online ads:
- Link to current dealership inventory
- Specific vehicle specials
- Link to dealership website
- Financing offers
- Hours of operation
- Sale event information
- Dealership address
- New-vehicle arrivals
- Dealership phone number
*Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence Online Shopper Study, Q1 2012
**J.D. Power and Associates 2012 New Autoshopper Study
Rob Lange is the national sales training director for Kelley Blue Book. You can reach Rob at: firstname.lastname@example.org.