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A Short Guide to Digital Marketing for Auto Dealers – 4 Essential Steps for Success

car social media

Today’s consumers are more modern, digitally-connected and always on-the-go. To target today’s auto shoppers, dealers must also follow suit – which means being on-line and becoming just as digitally connected. And dealers are listening. In fact, according to research by eMarketer, digital spend is on the rise and will only continue to climb over the next 5 years.

automotive digital ad spend


According to Google stats, 82% of car buyers are in the market for three months or less will use seven or eight digital sources on average. 

digital ads spend

Here are 4 essential steps to become super savvy at digital marketing and ultimately, drive more cars off your lot.

1. Email

Email continues to dominate as one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. Marketers across all industries continue to use email marketing as a primary means of customer engagement, acquisition, and retention.

email marketing for automotive


Email must be personalized and relevant to produce results and cut through the clutter. With the explosion of so much data, auto dealer marketers have more access to data insights than ever before – which in turn means, more ability to deliver highly targeted campaigns based on a customer’s demographics, interests, lifestyle and other segmentation of their choosing.

According to statistics gathered from automotive dealerships nationwide, those who use email marketing are seeing tangible results – increased ROI, sales and customer bases. According to the research, “Email campaigns have on average a 9%-to-12% open rate, and of those, as much as a 14% click through.”

2. Websites

New car buyers spend 10 out of 13¾ hours (73%) shopping online, and used car buyers spend 11¾ hours online out of 15¼ hours (77%), according to a report by Polk &

internet shoppers

This is probably not new news, but this reinforces the point that your website and a strong on-line presence is at the center of the digital experience for your customers and prospects.

The majority of your digital content should drive traffic to your website. Email content, videos, and social posts are all high drivers of website traffic. Website landing pages are still one of the top ways prospects provide information or show interest in your products and services. So be sure to continually optimize your website with fresh content and continually share to third-party sites.

According to additional research by Millward Brown Digital/Google, in addition to your dealer site, consumers use manufacturer sites, third-party sites, professional review sites, consumer review sites and regional dealer sites.

digital channels


3. Search Engine Optimization

SEO is an integral component of an integrated digital marketing strategy. According to research by Google titled “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior”, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find information before making a purchase decision. And of course, the higher you rank on sites such as Google and Yahoo, the better the results. 53% of searchers click on the first organic result, with 25% clicking on the second and third results.

internet search for cars

4. Social Media

Social media marketing isn’t going anywhere and dealerships understand this as they seek to reach their customers and prospects. A successful social strategy begins with good content – from your customer’s or prospect’s perspective, not yours. Be sure to know your audience and create relevant content that helps solve their concerns such as safety ratings, videos that showcase car features, calculators to help determine payments, or even tips such as “planning for your next road trip”. Good content also establishes you as the brand that people will turn to for advice.

According to an Automotive Social Media Study by Digital Air Strike:

  • 32% of car buyers have seen Facebook ads and 16% have clicked on them
  • 67% of car buyers use dealer reviews
  • 71% of car buyers used a search engine to find dealers
  • 71% of car buyers choose the dealer with the most recent reviews.

car buying decisions

Social media is a two-way street. Sharing content is a good way to get the conversations started, but be sure to engage with social users on a personal level. People appreciate the fact that a brand is reaching out to them and asking “how can I help?” not “what can I sell?” People want to do business with companies that they can trust and have established some sort of relationship with. Social platforms offer the perfect avenue to build trust and relationships with prospective customers and to establish a consistent on-line presence.

Car buyers are increasingly using the internet and digital channels for their car buying decisions. This presents huge opportunities for dealerships and opens up possibilities for those dealers that can rise to the digital challenge.

To create targeted marketing lists for personalized email campaigns, learn more about AutoID.

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Tags: Auto, digital, email, industry, marketing, media, seo, social, website


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