Automotive internet marketing also is known as digital marketing. These campaigns encompass all online outreach that is designed to appeal to potential buyers. This type of marketing is crucial for businesses to connect with and stay in front of customers searching the internet for goods and services.
Every dealership might employ a unique digital marketing strategy to improve online presence. Social media outreach, online ads, interactive website tools and even blog articles can be part of an internet marketing plan for a dealership. For new dealerships creating a plan, here are five automotive internet marketing strategies to magnify the dealership in the digital space:
- Social media campaigns (contests)
- Automotive blogging
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns
- Online ads
- Website experiences
Social Media Campaigns Can Be Simple
The most popular social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the newer TikTok. The popularity of platforms is defined by the number of monthly active users and the demographics of these users, too.
For example, while Facebook has the most monthly active users, it isn’t known to be widely-used by younger generations like Gen Z. Instead, TikTok has gained popularity with younger users. TikTok’s popularity has even prompted other social media platforms like Instagram to pivot to a new content format that favors shorter videos and competes with TikTok.
Social media has become a popular means to reach different demographics and increase a business’s influence and visibility online. Dealerships might choose to engage on numerous social media platforms, or they might only utilize one or two platforms to focus on a specific demographic.
Dealerships that want to engage with younger buyers might consider creating a TikTok account. However, they also might stick to more widely-used platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
Activity on social media is important to engaging with potential customers and current customers, too. Dealerships should keep their accounts updated regularly—ideally once a day, but, at minimum, once a week.
Social media platforms are free to download and use, but additional features might include a monthly fee. For example, Twitter has rolled out a paid subscription per CEO Elon Musk’s guidance.
These platforms also can be the ideal space for unique campaigns or contests that help generate interest, brand awareness and foot traffic in the dealership. Social media campaigns could include:
- Special promotions
Some businesses include a giveaway via social media. This might include swag from the dealership or company that is given to the first 50 customers who become ‘followers’ on a dealership’s newest social media account. The giveaway also might be tied to a holiday or another event. Winners might be selected at random, or the winner could be associated with the 10th person to post a comment.
Special promotions also could be launched via social media. Maybe the dealership only offers a promotional deal to social media followers. The ‘deal’ might include a reduced price for a particular service (like an oil change).
Companies also launch contests via social media. Again, this might be tied to ‘following’ the dealership, and winners are selected at random. Dealerships can creatively use social media to promote contests or the contest may only be available to the dealership’s social media followers.
Automotive Blogging: Optimize the Blog and Generate Interest
Dealerships can start a blog that is linked to their website. Automotive blogging should be optimized for the web using popular keywords used in internet search queries. There are numerous programs that can help businesses conduct keyword research to create effective online campaigns, boost their rankings and optimize blog content, too.
Blog articles can focus on new car models for the dealership, highlight team members and address common questions from customers related to car care and maintenance. Some dealerships might optimize their blog to include content about popular sites in the area or even create an article that includes the team’s recommendation for their favorite restaurants in the city.
Articles should weave keywords organically into content. Readers shouldn’t be able to discern that a specific phrase is an SEO keyword. In addition, dealerships should not utilize black hat SEO techniques like ‘keyword stuffing’ to boost rankings on the search engines. Black hat SEO tactics can result in Google penalties; this can tank rankings and, if the violation was especially egregious, the website might be removed from search queries.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaigns
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns are a form of online advertising. These campaigns allow businesses to bid on popular search query keywords that are tied to their ad and business. When an individual searches for the keyword, the ad will be shown to them.
PPC campaigns can be an effective technique for boosting visibility. However, dealerships need to be sure to choose the best keywords for their business. In addition, bidding the highest amount for a keyword doesn’t guarantee a ‘win.’ If the ‘Quality Score’ is low, the high bid might not matter. Wordstream provides an easy equation to help businesses understand this score: “user experience + relevance to keyword + expected CTR = Quality Score.”
Essentially, the landing page has to be good; the click-through-rate (CTR) of ads needs to be high and the keyword must be relevant to the ad. Wordstream explains that no one really knows the full details behind the algorithm for Google’s Quality Score meaning that no one can know for sure how much importance each piece of this puzzle plays in the overall score. The site does mention that CTR is very important to the score. Ultimately, if ads are clicked often, this is a good sign for Google.
PPC campaigns online ads, but the digital space provides many more options for dealerships who want to advertise online. Meta offers advertising opportunities via both Facebook and Instagram. These ads can be targeted to a geographic region and/or a specific demographic.
YouTube offers video advertising opportunities. Some dealerships might prefer to create a standard commercial and launch their ad via the popular video-centric social media platform. YouTube has more than two billion users across the globe.
Carousel ads are a popular online ad design that dealerships might consider if they need to advertise a variety of different vehicles at once. These ads let users scroll through different products; each vehicle, for example, would link to a unique site or page. Dealerships can link to a form that allows customers to enter their data or the ad could link to a page about a particular model.
Website Experiences Engage Customers
Marketing efforts focused online also include any experiences offered via the dealership’s website. Slideshows, augmented reality and any other unique experience that adds value to the user experience (UX) all are valuable marketing tools.
The majority of car buyers research their options before buying a vehicle. Each buyer might have a different focus for their research; some might focus on price, but others might dig to uncover safety ratings and other specs important to their buying decision.
Each age group and generational cohort approaches the car purchase differently. For example, Baby Boomers are known to simply buy what they want; they don’t talk to friends or family when making their decision. ACV Auctions reports that Millennials are research-focused; they check out different car sites (third-party and manufacturers), and they compare prices and other specs. ACV Auctions explains that Gen Z favors in-person experiences when buying a car; they want their sales person to be knowledgeable. Inspira Marketing explains that Gen Z also doesn’t want their time to be wasted, and the site notes that this generation has a proclivity towards negotiating (they aren’t afraid to haggle).
Marketing to each generation requires a different focus. Baby Boomers might care less about online content. However, Millennials are diligent in their research. Gen Z likes the in-person experience, but they don’t want their time wasted. Gen Z also researches their options, but they might talk to their friends or family members.
Both Millennials and Gen Z are comfortable online. Gen Z hasn’t known a day without the internet or social media, whereas some older Millennials might remember the time before the internet took hold. Gen Z also is comfortable with more immersive technology like augmented reality; in fact, Retail Dive reported that a survey from Snap (the parent company of Snapchat) revealed that the vast majority of Gen Z respondents who were polled (92 percent) wanted to use augmented reality as part of the shopping experience.
To accommodate the research needs and shopping interests of both Millennials and Gen Z, dealerships can incorporate immersive experiences on their website. For example, extensive photo slideshows allow these buyers to see all the visual details about a favorite model. Interactive spin photos let them explore their favorite vehicles by using a mouse or their fingertip to rotate a 3D image of a model to see it from all angles; panorama spin photos let buyers use their fingertip or a mouse to look around the interior of the car.
Creating an augmented reality showroom for immersive exploration also could increase engagement and the user experience for members of Gen Z. Augmented reality tools let users drop a digital image of a vehicle into their space using their phone to guide the experience. They can walk around the car or even look inside or change the paint color. Immersive and interactive digital experience can help Gen Z and Millennial buyers better understand their car options and find the model that’s best for them.
Digital Marketing Heightens the Dealership’s Brand
Automotive internet marketing is inclusive of online strategies that help to elevate the dealership’s visibility and reach customers in the digital space. Explore online advertising opportunities, launch a social media campaign/contest, invest in PPC campaigns, start blogging and create immersive and interactive experiences that improve the user experience and aid the buying journey.