How the Internet Has Revolutionized Automotive Marketing

The Car-Buying Process is Forever Changed

Long gone are the days when the only things separating your auto dealership from a successful transaction were an elaborate showroom full of quality vehicles and a charismatic salesperson. As with many aspects of life, the rulebook on automotive marketing has been rewritten thanks to the Internet.

It’s estimated that 84 percent of American adults currently utilize the World Wide Web, with even greater usage among coming-of-age members of the Millennial Generation. The Internet’s impact on society has been so profound that it’s been referred to as the “eighth continent.”

From an automotive marketing standpoint, the Web has served as a major agent of change. The Internet now arms prospective car-buyers with knowledge, confidence and preconceived notions before even stepping foot in a dealership. Hard drives have replaced test drives, as the average vehicle shopper today only visits a small handful of dealerships before making a purchase. In fact, one study found that three-quarters of drivers would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online, avoiding dealerships altogether.

Nowadays your dealership’s online presence plays an immense role in your overall brand perception, impacting everything from customer loyalty to dealership profitability. Here are three ways the Internet has revolutionized automotive marketing:

1. Online Research

The Internet has become a car buyer’s best friend, acting as a goldmine for useful automotive information. Websites now offer comprehensive data pertaining to everything from vehicle valuation and history reports to automotive reviews and resale opportunities. Everything a would-be car-buyer needs is continuously right at his or her fingertips.

As an automotive marketing department, you need to embrace your customers’ newfound access to vehicle information. Since car-buyers are increasingly conducting research online before purchasing offline —and selecting a dealership with little or no in-person interaction —you should strive to convert your dealership’s website into a premier online automotive resource.

Your customers’ digital experience must extend beyond simply locating vehicle inventory. They want price quotes, all relevant vehicle information and access to exclusive deals. They perceive online car shopping as fun. When you succeed with making your website reflect an enjoyable, interactive car-buying endeavor, then increased revenue generation opportunities will follow.

2. Social Engagement

To truly capitalize on the digital era and bolster your dealership’s online presence, you must get social. Your automotive marketing plan should incorporate defined strategies and objectives for engaging prospective customers on your dealership’s social media pages for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. People love to use social media to share their exciting moments with their online audience, so car-buying represents a perfect opportunity for you to connect with customers and assist them with this pursuit.

More and more car-buyers are relying upon the opinions of their peers online when making vehicle purchase decisions. When you interact successfully with prospective customers on your dealership’s social media sites, you can better control the online messaging surrounding your dealership and its product offerings, cultivating customer loyalty and discouraging negative reviews. At the end of the day, your dealership’s favorable online reputation represents one of your most powerful marketing assets.

3. Email Marketing

Thanks to the Internet, you have tools at your disposal to communicate more efficiently and effectively with your customer base than ever before. A strategic email marketing campaign drives customer traffic to your website and, ultimately, your dealership. It’s a necessary component to any successful automotive marketing plan. Segment your CRM data, send targeted email blasts that speak to your car-buying prospects and measure the results.

Keep your dealership top-of-mind with your customer base by blasting emails regarding timely service reminders. When your car-buying customers take advantage of your dealer-owned complimentary maintenance program, you can send them routine service reminders enticing them back to your dealership to fulfill all their automotive service needs. It may seem like a simple, friendly reminder to get your oil changed or replace your brake pads, but you know better —it’s a customer retention strategy designed to boost bottom-line results.