Driving auto shoppers to your website is the cornerstone of all successful digital marketing strategies for auto dealers.
However, this position has some dealers wondering whether linking the shopper to their vehicle display pages is a good use of their advertising spend.
Non-progressive dealers have been on the losing side of this battle for the past few years. The value of increasing auto shoppers to your website without the ability to track them back to a specific lead has caused some dealers not to understand the value of inventory marketing. Many of these naysayers do not truly understand the value of promoting their inventory to auto shoppers when they are deeper in the sales cycle.
In today’s complicated media mix, many dealers still prefer to devote marketing dollars to radio, television and newspaper. Albeit, these channels are great for branding your dealership, but in most cases, they do not get the dealership’s inventory in front of the consumer when it comes time to find a specific vehicle and make a purchase.
When consumers are ready to buy, and are shopping for a specific vehicle to purchase, the first place over 90 percent of all consumers go is the internet. Many dealers leverage sites like Autotrader.com and Cars.com. Both are good sites with good audiences; however, many dealers believe advertising on these sites are sufficient and checks the third-party box.
The challenge with this approach is twofold. First, consumers are searching many third-party sites looking for the right vehicle and not all consumers shop only these two sites. It is important to promote your inventory on as many third-party sites as possible. Second, when a consumer is interested in a specific vehicle, the shopping experience is designed to keep that shopper on the site.
A general manager of a Land Rover dealership was asked by a good friend to help him purchase a Ford Explorer. The general manager went straight to the Internet to begin assisting his friend to find the right Ford Explorer that fit his needs. Not to the newspaper.
Not directly to a Ford dealership website, but instead to third-party automotive shopping sites. After a little time searching online, the general manager was linked to a Ford dealership’s vehicle which he ultimately referred to his friend. The friend bought the car two days later. I make this point because even when “car guys” are searching for vehicles, the Internet and third-party sites are the first stop.
What we believe (what we know)
Before the phone rings or door swings, you need to get the auto shopper to your website. The goal of every dealership should be to get as many real auto shoppers to their website viewing their inventory. Aggressive distribution and promotion of your inventory to as many auto shoppers is critical to increasing sales volume.
Double the value
Inventory Marketing is an efficient way of leveraging third-party sites and search engines to promote a dealership’s inventory. If an in-market auto shopper is interested in a specific vehicle, they arelinked directly to the vehicle display pages of the dealership website. The intrinsic value of linking the consumer to the website is foremost; however, once the shopper is on the website, the dealership is now branded to that shopper.
With inventory marketing, you get the value of advertising a specific vehicle and branding the dealership all with just one click. Branding has everything to do with identity. Over 70 percent of inventory marketing traffic has not been to the dealership website prior to being linked in. Now the shopper knows your dealership name, they can look deeper into the vehicle they are considering and they can look at other inventory. The vehicle information and your dealership name are often the first thing people see.
What can be more cost-effective? Consider the costs of other forms of advertising and how effective they perform. Most dealerships are not effective in tracking the success of radio, television and newspaper advertising. Other types of digital advertising are effective but aren’t cost effective. The “pay for listing” model that some third-party automotive sites charge are driving dealers to look for other alternatives, but it is imperative dealers embrace the value of getting their inventory in the “consideration set” when it’s time for a consumer to make a purchasing decision.
Pay for performance
The value of linking programs can be directly tracked on a per customer basis. Each time a customer is linked to your site, it is tracked in Google Analytics. This is important to know so dealers can track their ad spend directly to the number of auto shoppers that were linked to their site.
The “pay for listing” model does not guarantee any performance. The dealership gets their inventory listed but is not paying for results. With inventory marketing, the dealership only pays when an auto shopper is landed on the dealership website.
Smart Dealership Retarget
Retargeting has become an essential tactic for smart automotive marketing strategies. Visitors abandon the dealership website for many reasons: comparison shopping, just browsing or not being ready to buy yet.
Retargeting allows dealers to show ads directly to auto shoppers after they’ve left the site or vehicle display pages, providing them multiple shots at converting the consumer.
That is why retargeting has become an essential tactic for most progressive dealerships. It increases the effectiveness of inventory marketing and other marketing efforts, increasing brand awareness, strengthening vehicle recall, and driving auto shoppers down the funnel to ultimate conversion.
Retargeting the specific vehicle the consumer was shopping for even increases your conversion rate. While using inventory marketing combined with retargeting, a small piece of code is added to the website, which places a cookie in each visitor’s browser, adding them to the inventory marketing database. That shopper can now be retargeted with a vehicle specific campaign customized for them based on the vehicle they were considering.
As a result, inventory marketing and retargeting campaigns are highly-targeted. These campaigns yield higher-than-average engagement, which are very efficient in terms of the dealership ad budget and gives you a second and third chance to convert a shopper.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When utilizing inventory marketing and retargeting, you not only get a second chance, but a third, fourth, fifth and more.
As mentioned earlier, attribution with marketing makes many dealers frustrated to understand which parts of their advertising strategies have the biggest impact. This is because the return on investment on many types of marketing is, in many cases, un-trackable and unpredictable.
With inventory marketing and other forms of digital marketing, measuring channel-specific traffic such as total visits, new sessions, bounce rate and conversion rate can all be tracked in Google Analytics.
Analytic data is great, but a challenge for car dealers with digital marketing that drive visitors to the website, is the difficulty in tracking the sold unit back to the click. If correlating the lead to the click is the only way you are willing to allocate ad spend, then you will be losing many sales opportunities.
The mission should be to dramatically increase the website presence for your dealership. Of course, at the end of the day, the goal is to increase vehicle sales, but what smaller goals should be set to get more in-market auto shoppers to your website. If you accomplish this smaller goal, the goal to increase sales becomes much easier.
Advertising and branding are single components of the overall marketing process. Both components work as a cohesive unit toward gaining more exposure for your dealership, but the various advertising tactics and products built in the dealership’s strategy should always be focused on selling inventory.
A product that promotes the dealership’s inventory to in-market auto shoppers then linking them to the dealership website should be included in every dealerships marketing strategy.
Tony French is president of Automotive Internet Media