Key Automotive and Dealership Marketing Strategies

Dealerships need to differentiate from their competition to help generate leads and get noticed. New customers are important for sales growth, but so is the retention of past customers. Dealerships need to ensure that the current customer base keeps coming back for their future purchases.

Advertising can help dealerships be seen by potential car shoppers, but many dealerships market themselves beyond traditional ads. In addition, ads won’t necessarily impact retention. Marketing needs to impact the customer experience and help solidify the dealership’s brand, too. Looking to improve loyalty and amplify the dealership’s brand? Try these dealership marketing strategies to boost customer retention and generate new leads.

Marketing Strategies to Boost Customer Retention

Good customer service also means a positive customer experience. When customers feel respected and appreciated and when they trust the dealership, they will keep coming back. This leads to repeat business for the dealership, and a customer’s positive experience also can translate to word-of-mouth leads for the dealership.

If a friend asks where a customer bought their car, a positive experience at the dealership could lead to a recommendation from that customer. What are some marketing strategies that dealerships can utilize to amplify the customer experience and keep customers coming back?

Dealership Marketing Strategies

Loyalty Discounts and Programs

Dealerships can offer discounts on basic services to customers who purchased their vehicle at the dealership. This could include lower priced oil changes, tire rotations, etc. Dealerships also could offer customers a free oil change for their new vehicle.

Dealerships also could offer a loyalty program. This program could be similar to those offered by major stores. The dealership could allocate a point system for every service or purchase. Points could be used for discounts for a service or perhaps a free basic service.

Loyalty discounts and programs show customers that they are valued.

Positive Shopping/Buying Experience

The shopping and buying experience could leave a buyer feeling that they never want to enter that dealership again. On the flip side, the experience could be so positive that they want to tell all their friends how the team went above and beyond.

What does the customer’s experience say about the dealership? Are customers happy? Is retention high? The dealership culture plays a part in how the customer feels and in how the sales team manages both the sale and the customer relationship.

One key marketing strategy to elevate customer retention and referrals from customers is to audit the customer experience through the lens of the dealership culture. Evaluate the culture by looking at a few major questions that could indicate a positive (or negative) culture:

  • Does the team support each other? This includes celebrating each other’s successes.
  • Are outside individuals looking for a place on the team?
  • Are sales suffering?
  • What’s the general mood of the team? Are they happy?

In addition, there are a few other questions that Garry House recommends that dealerships might contemplate when evaluating culture:

  • Do managers accept ho-hum performance?
  • Is negativity brushed aside or overlooked?
  • Do team members understand the expectations?
  • Are these expectations enforced? Are expectations reviewed?
  • Do leaders lead by demonstrating these expectations?

If the team members are unhappy or outwardly negative, then customers likely won’t want to come back. The attitude of the dealership’s team could drive and influence the feelings of customers. After all, if team members don’t feel valued, will they really want to go out of their way for customers?

Dealership Marketing Strategies

Marketing Strategies to Boost Visibility

Aside from traditional advertising, marketing communiqués can help dealerships expand their outreach and visibility to hopefully boost leads and move inventory. Marketing encompasses numerous different strategies—including advertising. Marketing strategies to boost leads could include influencer partnerships, video content, search engine optimization (SEO) and even more immersive experiences like virtual reality and augmented reality.

Influencer Partnerships

Local influencers could be a key ally to engaging with potential customers and boosting both the dealership’s visibility and sales. However, dealerships may focus their attention on influencers that align with their brand.

Dealerships may focus on local sports figures, radio personalities, etc. Dealerships also could focus their attention on local Instagram or TikTok influencers. These social media sites could help dealerships reach key demographics.

Video Content

Does the dealership need to create video experiences? Video might not be the medium for all dealerships, but sites like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok that are video-centric, creating this type of content could help dealerships increase their online visibility and perhaps elevate their coolness factor, too.

While YouTube videos can be longer, TikTok videos are shorter snippets. Before jumping into TikTok, dealerships may want to explore this platform to see what works and what just doesn’t seem to resonate.

Video content also can allow dealerships to get creative and have a little bit of fun with their content.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about how a business ranks via search engines. When content is optimized for the search engines, individuals searching for a particular topic will see the dealership website or the dealership’s blog content at the top of their search or near the top.

SEO is important for online visibility, because dealerships may be competing for the attention of online shoppers. Using key search phrases related to specific vehicles, automotive topics and other popular subjects, dealerships can optimize their content to mirror and focus on the interest needs of online shoppers.

According to Cox Automotive’s Car Buyer Journey Study Pandemic Edition, buyers spent more than seven hours researching and shopping for a car online. For many of these buyers, the study revealed that the dealership site was the last destination for their research needs.

Why is this information important? When shopping online, buyers are likely typing in phrases related to their search. If the dealership optimizes its website effectively, the dealership site could appear higher in the search rankings to catch the eye of the online buyer.

Not all dealerships are well-versed in SEO. A digital marketing agency or an SEO specialist can help guide the dealership in creating content that makes them more visible online.

Dealership Marketing Strategies

Immersive Content

If the car search is going online, then dealerships may want to integrate website experiences that help capture the attention of online shoppers. Augmented and virtual reality experiences can provide shoppers with a unique solution to visualize car inventory and explore vehicle options.

The pandemic forced many dealerships to offer online shopping when they couldn’t open to foot traffic. Many dealerships may have had to pivot online quickly; however, now that many dealerships may have become more comfortable with offering buying tools online, they may branch out their offerings.

Dealerships can use augmented and virtual reality to create immersive online showrooms that allow customers to explore vehicles from home. Augmented reality and virtual reality provide more detail than simple two-dimensional photos.

Virtual reality experiences can show the vehicle in 3D imagery. Visitors may be able to interact with the online model and turn it around to view it from all vantage points. Visitors also may be able to look inside the vehicle and explore the interior space. Virtual experiences may include the use of a headset; some dealerships may offer true virtual reality experiences in the showroom. Others may offer virtual online experiences that include interactions with 3D models—no headset required.

Augmented reality works a bit differently. Users engage with augmented reality experiences through their smartphone or tablet camera. Using the camera, the user captures the real world environment. Augmented reality experiences will then project a digital image in the environment captured by the camera.

Augmented reality lets users drop a vehicle image into their garage or driveway. When the image is placed in the environment, users can then use their camera to walk around the vehicle and explore it.

Dealerships can create their own augmented reality or virtual reality experiences or they may partner with a company that specializes in these experiences. However, both augmented reality and virtual reality can transform and elevate the user’s online experience and differentiate the dealership from its competition.

While dealerships may employ traditional online or print advertising to grab the attention of customers, they also can utilize marketing strategies to elevate their brand, generate new leads and help strengthen customer loyalty. Loyalty programs, dealership culture, optimized content, video content, influencer partnerships and immersive experiences all can help elevate the dealership’s visibility, generate leads and, hopefully, boost sales, too.