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When Online Marketing Creates Offline Opportunities - Do Dealers Understand the Full Reach of Digital Advertising?

When Online Turns Offline - Understand the Full Reach of Your Internet Advertising

In theory, one of the unique benefits about online advertising, versus print or broadcast, is the ability to fully measure the effect of the ad. You post a listing on a third-party site such as, a shopper sees it and calls or clicks, and you have instant feedback that the ad did its job. It’s even easy to run a report that shows how many calls, clicks, chats or other contacts you received off your online ads that day, week, month, etc. Yet those reports fail to tell the whole story. A recent groundbreaking study conducted by found that one out of every three dealership visitors who use an independent site will not call or send an email before coming to the store*. So that you’re not missing out on this traffic, let’s look at how you can measure the full value your online marketing efforts deliver.

Think of the Internet as a Launching Point

In the retail world in general, the internet has become the launching point for most shoppers. A July 2008 Nielsen Online study showed that customers at retail giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Costco and Walgreens consistently spent 30 percent to 60 percent more with them than offline-only shoppers. Many of those customers went online to research product choices and/or availability before coming to the store to make their purchases. These retailers have adjusted their business models to recognize the importance of their online presence, regardless of whether the internet was the channel used to make the purchase.

The same approach is beginning to be applied to automotive sales, according to Dennis Galbraith, vice president of advertising products and training at

“More than 75 percent of car shoppers today use the internet; of those, more than 75 percent use independent third-party sites,” he says. “That’s a huge change in the landscape from 10 years ago. Car shoppers know they can find detailed information about the vehicles that interest them online, helping them become better prepared when they walk into the store. If you’re making all your ROI judgments based on phone and email leads, you’re missing a significant part of the story.”

Look Beyond the Basics

This is not to say leads are not important; they are. Particularly in the current economic conditions, customer inquiries are your dealership’s lifeblood, and driving traffic now is even more urgent than usual. The question is: What constitutes a lead?

One way to measure the true value of online efforts is to look deeper into the reports that third-party sites such as can generate. Most dealers will look at how many phone calls, emails, chat sessions, clicks to their website, etc., were generated, while overlooking the hidden indicators.

“On you can look at how many customers printed a map,” says Galbraith. “That’s a pretty good indicator that a customer started on the web and then came to the store. Few shoppers would waste the ink and paper to print a map if they didn’t plan to come in. The same goes for car buyers printing a description of the car. Even if it never comes out of their pocket, they brought it with them. So if something they saw on the web doesn’t match what they’re hearing in the store, then they have a way of checking it out. A print-out on the front seat of the trade-in vehicle shows they did their homework well before walking in the store.”

Embrace Online

With that in mind, it’s important to understand the difference between using online advertising and really embracing it. For example, a dealer that is using online advertising will post a photo, a basic product description and the MSRP for a new vehicle or the Blue Book price for a used car. A dealer that embraces online advertising, says Galbraith, will post multiple photos, and/or a video, a detailed product description, a free vehicle history report and a price that’s competitive in the marketplace.

“The change dealers have to realize is that merchandising vehicles online isn’t advertising in the traditional sense. It’s selling,” he says. “The sales process now begins before the customer ever sets foot in the door. You need to approach the customer experience like you would on the floor, providing ample information, leading the customer through, highlighting important features and selling the dealership.”

If you’re still not sold on the impact, consider that half of dealership visitors who used before coming to the store plan to purchase or lease a vehicle that day. Leads don’t come any hotter than that.

Still Skeptical?

Of course, not everyone has bought into this new business model. Some general managers remain focused more on branding efforts using traditional media (e.g., TV, radio or newspaper) because it’s what they grew up with and where their comfort zone is. In addition, Galbraith says some will try to minimize the connection between online marketing and offline sales as a negotiating tactic.

“It’s really time to stop playing that game,” Galbraith says. “Dealers should start working with their salespeople and figuring out how to get more out of it instead. It’s easier to see what the results are than it is with TV, radio or even newspaper ads. Online marketing has proven itself to be the most effective driver of traffic to come along since the invention of the automobile. Investing in it is really an investment in the store.”

Additional Resources

To learn more about the walk-in study completed with Synovate, please visit the DealerADvantage Live archives. Galbraith discusses the innovative study and how you can leverage online advertising to drive more walk-in traffic.

* Value of Third Party to Dealer Walk-In Traffic; Synovate 2008

Original Article published by DealerAdvantage at:

About the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

The Automotive Digital Marketing (ADM) Professional Community website is built on a perpetually growing"Viral Expansion Loop" Networking Platform and serves Car Dealers, Dealership General Managers and their management teams, including Internet Sales Managers, BDC Managers, Marketing Managers, Sales Managers, Service Managers, Service Advisors, Parts Managers, Fixed Operations Directors and their teams. Launched at the beginning of January 2008, ADM has emerged as a valuable and proven resource for the entire spectrum of automotive marketing and Internet sales related professionals. Interactive Media and eCommerce Professionals at car companies (OEM) and tier 1 and 2 advertising agencies who want to see, hear and read what the best Digital and Interactive Marketing professionals in the automotive industry have to say about relevant and timely topics visit ADM on a regular basis or subscribe to the many RSS feeds available within the ADM community.

ADM is a great place for Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive marketing and advertising practitioners, as well as Webmasters, dealer web site managers, automotive software developers and information technology solution designers to get new ideas and stay up to date on the challenges facing retail automotive Internet sales practitioners. ADM serves Automotive CRM and Lead Management suppliers, vendors, application developers and their affiliated sales professionals as an online exchange for strategy, tactics, best practices, files, resources and contacts that create powerful networking relationships within the auto industry.

Did you know there are now over 1,750 members on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you reached out to connect with important ADM member contacts by asking them to be your Friend?

Did you know that there are over 4,000 photos listed on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
And, do you know that many of these images are actually charts and graphs of the latest marketing trends and research? Did you know that many of these photos are actual ads used by dealers that worked exceptionally well? There have been over 4,000 photos uploaded and made available for use by all ADM members.

Did you know that there are more than 650 videos on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you seen how many of those videos are actual examples of marketing campaigns and business processes used successfully by some of the leading and most successful dealers in America?

Did you know that there are over 450 blog posts on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
When was the last time you posted a blog entry and let important ADM industry professionals know what you are up to? Have you checked ADM for the latest articles published by writers who walk the talk? Members have created more than 460 blog posts within their ADM provided websites that feature online file storage and personalized blog hosting at no cost to ADM members.

Did you know that there are over 400 forum topics on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you checked the forum lately to see what your associates, clients and colleagues are saying?
Have you posted a forum discussion to see what other professionals have to say about the topic?

There have been over 400 discussions started and still active with ongoing comments and information being published daily within the ADM Forum.

Did you know that there are more than 25 professional groups on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you joined any groups so that you can send messages to all other group members?

Did you know that there are Important Upcoming Automotive Digital Marketing Events listed on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you posted what you or your organization considers to be important upcoming events on the ADM calendar so that other professionals will know about them, consider attending and register their intent? ADM members can create calendar events using the ADM site application that allows image and logos, links to registration pages, location maps that integrate with Google Maps, Outlook Calendar integration, invitation mailings using uploaded email lists, RSVP tracking and event management features and a whole lot more.

Did you know that there are more than 500 songs on Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community?
Have you checked out what other automotive professionals are listening to?
Did you know that many of these songs are automotive marketing and Internet sales best practice Podcasts, and that many other MP3 files available are examples of highly effective radio spots, along with powerful and engaging dealer website soundtracks?

If you are interested in visiting and perhaps joining the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community, go to:

> The ADM Professional Community is all about car dealers using the web to generate sales leads and Internet sales. Automotive Internet sales and digital marketing professionals working with Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, Chevy, Honda, Nissan, GMC, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Mercury, Mini, Jeep, Volvo, Saab, Hummer, Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Saturn, Lexus, Porsche, Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, Subaru, Volkswagen and other automotive franchises are ADM's most prolific members. Used car and automotive remarketing professionals will find a treasure trove of data, files, best practices, strategies, tactics and great contacts within the industry available at ADM.

ADM is proud to serve as an online meeting place, networking tool and idea exchange for car dealership suppliers and automotive web solution providers such as ADP Dealer Services, The Cobalt Group, The Reynolds and Reynolds Company, BZ Results, ADP Dynamic Websites, Automotive Websites, Dealerskins, Izmocars and Izmo CRM, TK CarSites, Autobase, DealerTrack, Arkona, Reynolds Web Solutions, Clickmotive, Xi Group and other dealership technology suppliers and vendors.

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Tags: Advertising, Chevrolet, Dealers, Digital, Ford, Honda, Marketing, Nissan, Offline, Online, More…Opportunities, Reach, Toyota, Understand, Web, advertising


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