Mobile Marketing: The Devil Is in the Details

More than two-thirds of your potential customers are using mobile—are you ready?

One thing’s for certain when it comes to mobile marketing: If you don’t mind the details, your competitors will.

Who remembers the days of catering to internet shoppers that were bound to a desk, tied to a boat anchor of a computer connected to a comically oversized monitor? Thankfully, times have changed—to an almost absurd degree.

Now, depending on which study you read, two-thirds to three-quarters of Americans consume digital media and do their internet research and shopping on pocket-sized handheld devices. In slightly more than two decades, the very nature of the internet has been transformed thanks to dramatic technological downsizing.

From this downsizing, mobile marketing—once a small subset of the internet that businesses didn’t have to pay a whole lot of attention to—has become a top-of-mind concern for dealers. In 2015, Google’s “Mobilegeddon” algorithm change, which penalized websites that weren’t mobile-friendly, was a wake-up call to many dealerships that mobile could no longer be viewed as an afterthought.

The question no longer is “Should we be focusing our marketing efforts on mobile devices?” The answer is obviously yes. Instead, dealers should be asking, “How can we be the best at mobile marketing?”

There’s no one easy answer to that question. Dealer Marketing Magazine interviewed three industry experts well-versed on all things related to mobile marketing. The inevitable conclusion based on their responses: With mobile marketing, the devil is in the details.

In your mobile marketing strategy, are you considering such factors as geo-sensing, daypart advertising, native ads, an omni-channel approach, cross-device compatibility, and call-to-action buttons? If not, you probably aren’t minding the details to the degree necessary to get maximum return on your mobile marketing spend.

To be sure you’re considering all the details of a robust, effective mobile marketing program, check out the following “virtual roundtable” featuring our experts: Dan Moore, senior director of marketing, VinSolutions; Gary Galloway, automotive digital marketing evangelist, Netsertive; and Jeff Hart, president and CEO, OneCommand. Thank you, gentlemen, for sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

One thing’s for certain when it comes to mobile marketing: If you don’t mind the details, your competitors will.

Dealer Marketing Magazine: How well are dealerships currently doing with their mobile marketing, and why?

Dan Moore: I think dealerships are well aware that they have to be in the mobile marketing game. When you think about it, mobile is a utility—and it’s a utility everybody has their hands on all day. Dealers and marketers all know that.

But would I say new car dealers are doing mobile marketing well? I think we’re still chasing perfection. When you think about your marketing holistically, you have to think about how and where mobile can realistically help you. You have to look at the big picture and assess your current marketing efforts: Are your nurture emails readable on a phone? Are you doing geo-sensing to seize opportunities? Are you taking advantage of the right possibilities?

Every dealership will find room for improvement in mobile marketing; the key is to do the work to determine where you have the most untapped potential.

Gary Galloway: Dealers, like other marketers, are aware that mobile marketing is a huge opportunity. It’s a marketing vehicle to capture the attention of local buyers. In fact, in our survey of auto dealers, 74% told us that mobile advertising is “important.” That’s why 65% of dealers currently utilize mobile marketing, mostly in the form of mobile-optimized websites and mobile search advertising.

The one mobile challenge dealers must overcome today, however, is increasing their knowledge of how to continue implementing mobile into their marketing mix. For example, 68% of the same group of auto dealers told us that their use and understanding of mobile is still subpar.

Last year was the first that total internet usage on mobile devices surpassed a desktop computer—a trend that we don’t think is going to plateau. Not to mention, within our network, we discovered that mobile represents the largest and fastest media growth when compared to desktop and tablet usage.

It’s pretty clear, now more than ever, education is critical for dealers to successfully implement strategies that will drive quality foot traffic into their showroom. Some dealerships still don’t have their contact information or address prominently placed on their mobile website. This is one of the first boxes that dealers need to check when developing a mobile strategy.

Alongside that, dealers need to be critically thinking about their mobile display advertising approach. With a majority of consumers now using mobile devices, dealers need to create and serve ads that are optimized for those screens.

Jeff Hart: The term mobile marketing gets thrown around a lot, with very little background explanation about the practice. Most marketers even think solely of SMS text messages or a mobile app when referring to mobile marketing.

But the term mobile marketing is so much more than these two channels of delivery; it is any form of marketing that is intended to reach a consumer on their mobile device. With this definition, it quickly becomes clear that most dealerships have some room for improvement in their mobile marketing strategy.

Much of the dealership marketing created today is not done so with the end user’s experience in mind, but rather developed to promote vehicle incentives, service specials, or brand awareness. This is where we see the greatest room for improvement for these dealerships. Although it is important to promote the dealership to consumers, it is imperative that these efforts take into account how the marketing will be received by these individuals on their mobile device.

In fact, comScore recently reported that the average American consumes 65% of all digital media on their mobile device, which means dealerships can no longer ignore mobile marketing, and must begin to design their marketing efforts around the consumer experience on mobile.


DMM: For a dealership that has neglected optimizing for mobile, or feels it’s not getting the results it desires from its current mobile marketing efforts, what steps are necessary to get up to speed?

DM: First and foremost, you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What do we need to do with our marketing? What is our strategy?” It could be awareness, lead gen, nurturing . . . as long as you’re chasing specific results.

Then you have to decide how mobile fits into that big picture. Without identifying those goals, your mobile marketing could feel like a flop—because you don’t actually know what success looks like. So once you get up to speed in that regard, make sure you’re tracking the right metrics in order to draw the right conclusions about how successful your mobile marketing is.

Bottom line: The worst thing you can do is optimize for mobile with no plan and no complete picture of its performance.

GG: Forrester Research forecasted that by 2020, 90% of car purchases will still be made at a local dealership, with all of those leads being influenced by something a buyer saw on the internet—a majority of which we know comes from mobile devices. Given that nearly all car buyers—97%—“ROBO” (research online, buy offline), there’s no reason for mobile to not be included in a dealer’s marketing mix.

If mobile advertising results aren’t matching expectations, it might be time to adjust the strategy or tactics being implemented. One mistake we regularly see dealers make is “daypart advertising,” the act of running ads only during store operating hours. In reality, this is a flawed strategy.

Local buyers are looking for information during all times of the day. In doing this, dealers miss out on clicks, conversions, and ultimately, sales. To ensure your dealership maintains a consistent and competitive mobile presence, your advertising should reach at least 70% of local buyers every hour of every day.

In some cases, there may also be issues with the keywords a dealership is using to optimize their mobile campaigns. This is an area where individual dealerships can work closely with their OEM or brand, who often have the collective knowledge of what keywords are working for similar dealerships in similar locales.

JH: There are a lot of little things that can be adjusted to provide consumers a better mobile experience with a dealership. Googling a dealership’s website on a mobile device and testing how it renders is a great first step.

Does it look good? Is it easy to find the inventory? Can you easily find the schedule-service page? How do specific vehicle description pages look? Can visitors access the dealership’s contact information or chat window, if needed? Can you read all the text and calls to action? Or do you have to zoom in and out for readability?

These are all things that should be reviewed on a Windows, Android, and Apple mobile device. If anything seems amiss with the website, the dealership should contact the web provider to determine how to fix these issues.

Next, dealers should focus on specific digital channels used in their marketing mix that will reach consumers on a mobile device. Chances are most dealerships use email to market to customers, and according to Litmus, more than 50% of emails are now being opened on a mobile device.

It therefore makes sense to create email marketing campaigns with the intention of delivering on mobile. Emails should have big, clear call-to-action buttons that are “tappable,” not clickable; increased font size for easy mobile viewing; important information should be at the top of the email to leverage the above-the-fold theory; and be designed with mobile responsive elements. And [they] should be tested across Windows, Android, and Apple devices to ensure rendering on mobile is correct.

DMM: Which departments at dealerships typically have least benefited from or taken advantage of the movement toward mobile, and why?

DM: Fixed ops. Not a lot of dealerships have put much horsepower into making this department more digital, and there’s just tons of opportunity.

If you think about it, this is a department in competition with brands like Jiffy Lube and Midas, who do put a lot of horsepower into mobile marketing. When your customers choose those brands over yours, that’s probably going to be why. So mobile marketing can give dealerships an in to the fixed ops game that they don’t currently have.

Of course, you can also use mobile to enhance the customer experience—providing access to the status of their vehicle and other modern conveniences—but I’d start by using it to get customers in the door.

GG: New and used car sales, along with fixed ops, typically benefit most from mobile marketing strategies. In all three cases, dealers must capture and retain the attention of buyers in their competitive local markets for their product or service.

Fixed ops in particular is a $310 billion business, yet dealerships are capturing less than 27% of the market. In part, this is because dealers have not appropriately advertised their fixed ops offering, or retained the attention of new or used car buyers. Dealers traditionally put advertising dollars behind new car sales, but dedicate just 3% of their marketing budget towards service and parts. This is a huge missed sales opportunity and one dealers can address through a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy.

JH: A dealership that hasn’t made the switch to delivering marketing with the intention of reaching a consumer on a mobile device could be affecting every department in their store. But, if I had to say which department is benefiting the least from not taking advantage of mobile, it would definitely be the new and preowned sales departments.

Consumers are using their mobile device more frequently during their purchase life cycle than their maintenance life cycle. Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before when purchasing a vehicle because they turn to online resources to inform themselves about their vehicle of choice.

According to Edmunds, over half of these consumer researchers are using a mobile device to seek information. They know what trim level, color, and options they want before stepping foot onto a dealership’s lot. If these online shoppers stumble upon a dealership’s website that is cumbersome and frustrating to use, chances are they will abandon their search and find another dealership website for their information.

Also, the benefits a dealership could receive from utilizing mobile during the sales process are huge. Every consumer who is in the market for a vehicle dreads the dealer’s lengthy purchasing process. Some dealerships have moved to capturing buyer, trade, and desired-vehicle information through a mobile process. This way the staff can take all information in a fluid and natural process while talking with the consumer on the lot, instead of sitting at a desk and punching in their information after everything has already been discussed.

Even though the sales department is more affected by the mobile movement, a dealership should not ignore the opportunities of capitalizing on service mobile marketing. Dealerships need to take a holistic approach to their mobile marketing efforts in order to be successful. They need to think about how they convey a unified brand, as well as cohesive product and service offerings, to consumers for every department within their dealership, while taking into account the consumer’s mobile experience.


DMM: What new mobile features or trends have emerged in the past year that are relatively unknown or are being underutilized by dealerships?

DM: The way things are today, there’s something new every day—but the reality is this: Don’t get caught up in the hype. Don’t latch onto every shiny object. Stay latched onto the basics, and put your extra effort into perfecting them.

When you think about things like your paid search, your targeting, and your display, think about how you can take those tactics beyond the desktop and into the mobile arena in creative and compelling ways. And take the time to inspect how well they’re working. That’s what moves the needle much more significantly than brand-new releases that don’t quite stand the test of time.

GG: There are two opportunities that dealers have not yet capitalized on: social media and digital video advertising. To date, 9% of dealerships have run a social media or video advertisement. Yet three-fourths of national ad agencies say that these strategies are more effective than traditional TV or display advertising.

Many now recommend that dealers shift up to 25% of their TV advertising budget toward digital video, as it leads to higher, more meaningful conversions—many of which can now be tracked and attributed to marketing efforts. When we surveyed dealers, we found that 31% plan to reduce their traditional TV spending in favor of video, while 15% will increase their TV ad budget.

The rise of the millennial generation has contributed to the growth of social media and video advertising. According to a comScore report, this generation consumes video content more than any other generation—with nearly half watching on their mobile device.

Alongside that, social media usage has become habitual, with Americans spending more than 30 hours a month on social media apps—26 of which are on Facebook alone. Becoming serious about mobile means embracing these two tactics and leveraging them appropriately to beat out local competition and attract the attention of buyers.

JH: When looking at mobile marketing, specifically providing the end customer with the best experience possible, native advertising is an emerging trend dealers should be on the lookout for.

Native advertising is where the ad experience follows the natural form of the page it’s being placed on. It’s simply about marketing to the consumer without them knowing that you’re marketing to them because the advertisement looks like it’s part of the content.

There are really two forms of mobile advertising: the most widely used in the automotive industry, banner ads, which stick out on the page like a sore thumb; and native ads, where the marketing appears to be ingrained in the makeup of the page’s content.

Native ads become increasingly important due to in-app advertising. Most consumers have apps downloaded to their phones, and these apps make their revenue from mobile advertisers. Lots of mobile app platforms are moving to native ads versus banner ads due to the end experience for the user.

Native ads are also extremely beneficial to the advertiser. In fact, Facebook reported consumers engage with native ads 20% to 60% more than standard banner ads. Native ads also lead to less ad fatigue, and actually drive higher retention and click-through rates than banner ads. If dealerships aren’t currently capitalizing on the native ads trend, it’s definitely time to get started.

DMM: What industries outside of automotive are best utilizing mobile marketing, and what can auto dealerships learn from them?

DM: There are great examples all over the spectrum. You’ve got retail powerhouses like Amazon, who not only have excellent mobile marketing, but also provide excellent mobile usability once consumers get to their site.

But take a step down from a giant like Amazon, and think about something like your dentist’s office. The dental industry is attacking mobile devices: There’s always some kind of communication coming through to get you to make and keep your appointments. And that’s a strategy automotive has to really take a look at: embedding a dealership brand in the consumer lifestyle by attacking the handheld utility people rely on so heavily.

GG: Consumer package goods, home goods, and retail brands have excelled at using mobile to attract and retain the interest of buyers—from the point of discovery to a sale. We continue to see innovative and unique strategies come from these industries. Of note, we’ve seen the adoption and implementation of beacon technology to help better attribute online actions to in-store sales—a tactic and technology dealerships will likely hear more about and will need to consider in the future.

Digital promotion is another mobile-based strategy that many home goods and retail brands have implemented to drive in-store traffic and sales. With many auto dealers building promotions around key holiday periods, thinking critically about translating that campaign to mobile will be key to dealers’ future success.

JH: Amazon and Zappos have done a great job. These merchants make it really easy for consumers to do business with them since they can find exactly what they are looking for, regardless of the device they are using to search. Online retailers ensure their mobile marketing channels, like websites and emails, are completely device-compliant and render properly to provide an enjoyable shopping experience for consumers.

Online retailers also take their mobile marketing a step further by providing consumers an omni-channel marketing approach. Essentially, they take into account all devices, platforms, and contexts of their customers’ experience to create unified and integrated marketing.

If you’ve been to either of these retailers’ websites, you may have noticed that they are able to collect your information about a specific product of interest. Then, when you login from another device, they are able to capture your information again and serve targeted ads based off your product of interest. This can go on and on, depending on how many devices a consumer uses.

Although this is pretty sophisticated marketing, pieces of it are usable for any marketer. If you haven’t done so, try using Facebook’s tracking pixel. You’ll be able to target website visitors with targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram. Also, many vendors now have a tracking pixel of their own, so they can collect data from consumers visiting your website and then retarget them with emails, direct mail, native in-app mobile ads, and more.

DMM: In a scenario where almost every dealership is doing mobile marketing, what will separate the ones who are doing it best from the “just good enough” pack?

DM: It’s the mobile experience. That’s where you can gain or lose the most competitive ground. When people come to your site, are they getting relevant or wasteful content? If you’re trying to acquire new business, are you taking people to a dedicated page that structures their experience, or just dropping them on your home page? If you’re retargeting people, are you retargeting them on multiple devices, or just desktop?

Every prospect will want to interact with you—and with your competitors—multiple times on multiple devices. You have to ask yourself: Are you ready? Will you give them an experience your competitors can’t deliver?

GG: It won’t be long now before mobile becomes habitual for all dealers. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, it’s important to look ahead and think critically about how to separate from the competition. A mobile-optimized website and mobile search strategy won’t be enough to retain the attention of fast-paced, technologically savvy buyers.

Dealers will need to create a consistent mobile user experience that addresses a variety of touch points, including search, website, display, video, and social media. This omni-channel approach to marketing is critical moving forward as car buyers need consistent, repetitive messages.

Sentiments from Thomas Smith’s 1893 guide, Successful Advertising: Its Secrets Explained, still hold true today: To ensure products remain top of mind, consumers need to see an ad repeatedly—up to 20 times—before taking an action.

This is particularly true of car buyers in 2016, who are now inundated with advertising and brand messages across every digital touch point. To separate your dealership from the crowd, build an omni-channel mobile marketing strategy that reaches local buyers frequently, and in deliberate ways.

JH: The simplest answer is that dealerships have to test, test, test their mobile marketing. Each platform, device, and channel is different, and because of this, nothing is predictable or consistent. Not to mention, the world of marketing is constantly changing and evolving, so what may have worked yesterday doesn’t work today. If dealerships test all marketing to make sure that it is rendering properly on both desktop and mobile, they will begin to separate themselves from the pack.

Above and beyond testing, dealers will have to design their marketing in a holistic, multichannel approach. Designing a mobile marketing campaign with the end consumer in mind is a big step in the right direction, but dealers need to leverage cohesive branding for both their sales and service departments, then deliver their campaigns through multiple channels to increase campaign reach.

Remember, not every recipient of a dealer’s campaign prefers to consume their marketing in the same way. By offering multiple touch points for consumers, dealerships increase their campaign’s effectiveness, and deliver more response from their marketing.

By testing each piece of marketing and delivering campaigns through a multichannel approach, dealerships will ensure that their brand is well represented, and provide an enjoyable shopping and ownership experience. Consumers will want to do business with these dealerships because they aren’t hassled or inconvenienced by their mobile marketing, and they’re receiving dealership marketing through their preferred method of communication.

At the end of the day, consumers are bombarded by advertisements from retailers in a variety of industries, but any marketer that takes into account the experience of the consumer will get noticed.

Kurt Stephan


  1. Avatar
    Eddington Pindura September 10, 2016

    It’s just amazing, even mind boggling when you bring in WhatsApp and social media into it, Instagram, Pinterest etc? Not mentioning email, you touched on it. Great read!


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