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In October 2019, Strong Automotive Merchandising partnered with Google to host the third Digital Marketing Summit in Austin, Texas. Here is a snapshot of what dealers learned.

The Power of Search and Consumer Behavior

By the time customers arrive on your lot, 98 percent have already decided what vehicle they want. This means it is more important than ever to have a robust digital presence. The path to purchase is long and complex, with customers cross-shopping by brand and model type. The time to influence buyers is during the research phase, with 81 percent researching for 3+ months before purchasing.

Millennials represent the generation with the largest purchasing power. Sixty-two percent of these digital natives will continue to research once they’re on the lot. But that doesn’t mean everything is online. Phone calls are still the number-one source of customer-to-dealer contact. Legacy leads fare worse, with 71 percent of buyers not submitting a lead form before purchasing.

Special events and holidays are the best times to invest more in paid search. Fifty-one percent of shoppers wait for an event, and 22 percent plan to purchase around Black Friday or end-of-year.

To integrate paid search with other marketing efforts, Google can match direct mail lists with Gmail accounts to retarget users around the web.

Strong Digital Marketing Summit

Parts and Service Landscape

The service and parts department is a large profit center for any dealership, yet paid search campaigns targeting those customers are often neglected. Each year, consumers spend $350 billion on vehicle repair. Dealers capture 30 percent of this spending.

As vehicles age – the average car on the road is 11.8 years old – there will be an increased need for service. Parts and service represent enormous opportunities for dealerships to increase profit. In fact, the profit margin for the average repair order is 56 percent, versus 5 percent for a new car sale.

Google’s research shows that in the past year there were 8 million Toyota parts- and service-related searches in the Austin metro area alone. Dealerships captured just 2 million of those searches, meaning that there were an additional 6 million searches available for capture by Austin Toyota dealers. With the right paid search campaigns, dealers could easily gain fixed ops customers.

Google’s research shows that one in three cars will need a major repair in 2020, and 75 percent of those customers will turn to a search engine to find a service center. Will you be there for them?

 

Online Video and Leveraging YouTube in 2020

Video has fueled 20 percent of all digital growth since 2016. YouTube accounts for a large part of that, boasting 2 billion monthly logged-in users.

YouTube is a unique tool for reaching in-market shoppers before they walk onto your lot. Ninety-five percent of car buyers report that video prompted them to take action.

In the months leading up to a purchase, walkaround and test-drive videos are most popular. One month out, shoppers are watching vehicle comparisons. In the final two weeks before the sale, shoppers spend their time watching vehicle feature videos.

Google uses real-time signals from Maps, Search, YouTube, and Gmail to identify in-market shoppers. This feature differentiates YouTube from paid search.

Google has provided creative guidebooks for YouTube, available upon request to STRONG.

 

Inspire Your Community with Local Marketing

The qualities that define dealerships make it difficult for anyone to stand out. Price, quality, service, and features are all benefits touted across the board.

We can motivate customers to act through promotions, fear, peer pressure, innovation, and novelty. But those effects are short-term. To attract and retain customers, dealers should focus on inspiration more than motivation.

Inspiration improves employee engagement and aides in the hiring process. Instead of hiring only salespeople, you’re hiring people who love their community. Knowing your community, your customers, and their interests makes you relatable and builds trust.

By connecting with customers and being aware of community differences in your DMA, you can bring a larger purpose to life.

 

Fact vs. Feeling: Learning to Trust Data

The Harvard Business Review found that people are subject to three common flaws in decision-making. First, we give unequal weight to information that confirms our assumptions and prejudices. Next, we are disproportionately influenced by the first information we receive on a subject. Lastly, we tend to invent patterns where they don’t exist to confirm our assumptions. All of these biases support the recommendation to make decisions based on facts, not feelings.

There are five areas where intuition tends to disagree with data.

  1. The Ad Sells the Click. When sales are down, it’s important to examine all of the 10–15 steps involved in the purchase cycle rather than blame the ad itself.
  2. Stock Photos Lower Engagement. Ninety percent of shoppers prefer real inventory photos. Switching from a stock photo to even a low-quality lot photo yielded a 180 percent increase in VDP views.
  3. Data Science Isn’t Mining Your Database. True data science involves connecting multiple data sources and finding trends that help identify future customers.
  4. Anecdotal Evidence Misleads. You are not your customer. Use data to make marketing decisions rather than referencing your own preferences. Be aware that averages can mislead. Look at data for your specific store.
  5. Social Science Works for Marketing Strategy. Digital marketing can help you establish relatability, credibility, and memorability. All are sociologically proven to help brands influence customers.

 

Preparing for the Future

Strong Automotive Merchandising is a certified Google Premier Partner. To apply any of the strategies discussed at the summit, give us a call and schedule a marketing review with your account executive.

 

Highlights From Last Year

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