Dealers and their ad agencies have been asking Google for more transparency and guidance as they work to keep pace with the tech giant's growing portfolio of marketing tools.
Google heard them and is releasing what it calls its first dealer "playbook" to lay out the basics and best practices for its platforms. The playbook, which will evolve alongside Google's products, was set to be unveiled today, Sept. 18, during the Digital Dealer Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Automotive News was briefed on the document in advance. Google plans to release the playbook later this year.
Google says the playbook will help dealerships maximize their digital-marketing performance and capture consumers who are increasingly turning to mobile devices to research vehicles. The playbook will break down what consumers are expecting from dealerships in the digital age, while providing information on Google's platforms such as search and YouTube. It also will dig into Google's measurement capabilities.
The playbook comes as dealerships are investing millions of dollars online to attract consumers who are doing more research and visiting fewer dealerships before making a purchase. In a recent study, Cox Automotive found that 40 percent of buyers only went to the store where they purchased or leased.
Shift in behavior
1. Foundational fundamentals. Focuses on website experience and basics in paid-search campaigns.
2. Brilliant basics. Covers the basics in video and display advertising. Also helps dealerships and ad agencies use AdWords to maximize ads appearing in front of potential buyers.
3. Today's differentiators. Examines ways dealerships can separate themselves from the competition.
4. Future growth levers. Looks at leading-edge strategies used by the most Google-savvy dealerships. Includes insights on how dealerships can automate their marketing messages.
A better understanding of Google's platforms could aid stores in tracking down leads who often have their minds made up before coming to a dealership and are looking for somewhere to make the deal.
Peter Leto, Google's head of industry, automotive retail sales, says the search giant is seeing a shift in consumer behavior and is looking to bring these insights to the forefront of the industry.
"We have so many products out there, so many features, so many targeting options. It's hard to understand which ones should I do first versus second, and how should I prioritize this? That's what the playbook is trying to get involved in," Leto told Automotive News. "It's not just about, 'Should I do Google search or YouTube?' It's about, 'What type of video should I run on YouTube, how should I be charged for those videos, and how should I target people across those videos?' Those can be confusing components."
Leto said the playbook addresses a frequent question it gets from dealers and agencies: How to best use Google?
The playbook is built on four pillars dubbed:
- "foundational fundamentals,"
- "brilliant basics,"
- "today's differentiators"
- "future growth levers."
The foundational fundamentals, for instance, are areas that dealerships should be "knocking out of the park," Leto says. If not, he said, stores should go to their agency partners to see what the problem is and hold them accountable.
The fundamentals portion is built on several subcategories, including the importance of a functional website that doesn't turn off consumers.
For example, Google says consumers expect mobile sites to open within three seconds. But the average load time for sites on mobile devices is 22 seconds, a huge discrepancy that could cause potential buyers to back away. It's an issue that automakers and website providers need to address, Leto said.
"Today's differentiators" includes strategies that have been adopted by more savvy dealerships to stand out but still aren't used by many stores. This covers ad tactics for certified pre-owned vehicles, for example.
"Why aren't dealers advertising CPO based on today's market conditions? There should be an opportunity, but most dealers aren't doing that," Leto said. "The more sophisticated dealers are there, but the rest aren't."
Then there is "future growth levers," which lays out where Google plans to go with its marketing tools. This pillar gets into Google's measurement offerings.
Jonah Cole, a product manager for search engine marketing at Dominion Dealer Solutions, says it'll be up to vendors to interpret the playbook and apply its lessons to dealerships that all have their own objectives.
"Google has this macro data [saying,] 'This is what we see on a large scale,'" Cole said. "I've got to apply that to my dealer in Kentucky who is selling Toyotas; I've got to apply it to my dealer in Detroit who is selling Hondas."
Ashley Barnes, Internet sales director for Ourisman Chevrolet-Buick-GMC of Alexandria, Va., says the playbook is needed.
"I think it's something everyone's always wanted," she told Automotive News. "Everyone searches Google, everyone's on Google. When you're on Google, what are you looking for?
What are the customer's expectations?
Because that is something we don't really know."