AdvertisingCommentary & Insights

Advertising
user experience
The Automotive Website Tragedy Still Exists and Frankly, I’m Shocked

By

We’re halfway through 2021 and we’re still seeing website tragedies in automotive. And yes, it really is a tragedy. When a dealership spends that much money for a solid website, competitive traffic, and SEO maintenance, you’d expect the website to be optimized for conversions and leads. If you want your website to attract most modern-day shoppers, there is some work to be done in the industry because, without this gem, dealerships can’t showcase their inventory, incentives, and dealership culture to the avid online shopper.  So let’s dissect some of the common mistakes that we are still seeing today and how you can fix them.  Overlapping CTAs One of the most common website tragedies is when CTAs (call-to-actions/buttons) overlap with each other. CTAs are your moment to shine, dealers! So if you’re crowding the button with bad UX (user experience), your expensive traffic is never going to convert into a lead-- and not just because of the aesthetic, but because it’s actually impossible to click the CTA underneath when something is blocking it.  This is a must clean-up situation so you can optimize for the most leads. Where can you start? Probably with consolidating on-site vendors so you can avoid these CSS mistakes, but if you insist on keeping separate vendors, I’d certainly recommend connecting the vendors to coordinate online real estate.  Stuck/Cutoff Overlays Dealership websites often have multiple pop-up overlays, including chat, that simultaneously interrupt a shopper's browsing experience. But what’s worse is that often the overlay is cut off, usually because it’s not optimized for every screen and every device. As you can imagine, not seeing the full engagement can lead to some frustrated online buyers.   To avoid this, dealers need to work with quality (not quantity) website optimization partners and ensure proper QA on every device. With our screen-obsessed generation, you never know if your next buyer will be searching for their vehicle on a tablet, iphone, or computer, but rest assured, they’ll expect the perfect user experience wherever they are.  Dead Specials Pages When consumers click on your specials page, they’re expecting gold-- how can they get the best deal and are you the store that’s going to give it to them? If your specials page doesn’t display any incentives, you’re losing an opportunity. Your dealership should be investing in technology that scans multiple data sources, in real-time, so you can pull any incentive opportunity for your dealership at any time. This way, your dealership doesn’t just rely on OEM incentives resulting in some dead days in the beginning of the month.  Lack of Transparency  Even if your store is not a one-price store, you can still show basic price transparency on your website and leave room for negotiation later. In this example, the sale price isn’t even listed which pushes away the modern shopper looking to understand ballpark prices before committing to a conversion online. Use transparency to attract all kinds of shoppers, but especially the experienced online shoppers.  While it’s important to look into all the new digital marketing solutions out there to build healthy streams of traffic, this is a reminder not to leave your website behind. Your website is your home base-- your lead magnet-- to represent your dealership and bring in more business in a world where 92% of shoppers will start their journey online. Let’s make it easy for them! 
target dart
One Size Does Not Fit All: The Importance of VIN-level Targeting

By

It’s always exciting when you purchase a one-size-fits-all shirt: it serves many purposes, anyone in your family can sport it, and you don’t have to worry about dieting to fit in it in the future. But while one-size-fits-all is the winning wardrobe choice for some, don’t let it become your marketing motto (especially when it comes to your VIN-level marketing).  Hyper-targeting your shoppers with VIN-specific vehicles helps you personalize your advertising and create that 1:1 digital experience for consumers. It also allows you to take advantage of your inventory so that you can move cars faster and avoid the dreaded lot rot.  VIN-level marketing could get tedious and complex, so it’s important that your dealership consider AI-powered solutions to help drive the personalized ads and messages so that you don’t fall into the one-size-fits-all trap of marketing.  Real-time updates The main benefit of VIN-level marketing is that you’re able to really advertise every single vehicle to every single buyer, making it easier to make the match between the two. But the ever-changing landscape of your inventory at the dealership means that you must keep your digital showroom (ads/messages) updated in real-time to match the real-life action. If a vehicle was sold, the VIN-specific ad leading to that VDP must be removed immediately so that your dealership isn’t sending traffic (and spending money) to links that no longer exist. The same goes for any pricing or disclaimer update, for example. If anything associated with a vehicle’s incentive, pricing, or disclaimer changes, the ad must be updated to match that to keep the customer experience seamless and frictionless. This is where real-time, synced updates become extremely critical to your VIN-specific marketing strategy. A human can’t possibly make these changes fast enough, so your dealership will want to consider automated, intelligent solutions.  Automated budget allocation Automated budget allocation, as opposed to manual, relies on machine learning and AI technology to move budget according to opportunity. For example, instead of pre-deciding which car models, campaigns, or ads will get which budget, the machine takes the total budget and makes nimble moves between campaigns and ads to maximize for leads. This is a critical component when considering VIN-level marketing, as well. Since the goal here is to market specific vehicles to the most-likely buyer, your dealership cannot be limited by preconceived definitions of success. The automated budget allocation can help move more vehicles faster by putting more money and resources into the ads that will bring the most leads.  Website optimization & consistency  We often think of VIN-level targeting as a way to drive traffic to a dealership’s website, but the strategy also encompasses the on-site experience. If a shopper clicks on a VIN-specific ad, it’s expected that they can continue that targeted experience on your website; dealerships should have the infrastructure in place to continue the conversation through mini landing pages and personalized messages that match the content on the ad. Scaling this personalization both on and off site will elevate your VIN-level marketing strategy and bring more leads to your dealership.  Boost aged inventory  Within your dealership’s complex VIN-level marketing strategy, there should also be room to “boost” aged inventory to make sure you’re properly advertising the vehicles you want to get rid of, quickly. VIN-specific marketing allows you to show very granular, specific ads to the right buyers at the right time, so it’s critical that you’re investing in a system that has the capacity to favor-- or emphasize-- older inventory when there is a browser likely to buy. This component often includes the automated budget strategy discussed above. Because moving aged inventory is a priority for most dealerships, it’s critical to consider this when looking at VIN-level marketing automation.  Today’s shoppers are high-maintenance and want to see specific and personalized messaging across the board. While VIN-level marketing gives dealerships an easy way to fill this customer craving, it must be coupled with the right strategy to make it work. Once your dealership masters this, there’s no going back to the one-size-fits-all marketing technique. 
Digital Advertising & Marketing Technologies are Helping Dealers Acquire Inventory Entering 2021

By

Experts believe sales of new vehicles will close 2020 down approximately 15%, which would mark one of the industry's worst annual declines since at least 1980. In any typical year, this type of ending would illustrate a significant disaster. However, in 2020 there are more than a handful of industry executives thanking their lucky stars it wasn't worse.  There is new hope that 2021 will bring about a rebound in sales activity, driven by new thinking and digital marketing techniques dealers have adopted to help acquire the right inventory and target new customers. The Dark Days of 2020 During the initial first wave of COVID-19 in March and April, sales of new vehicles were obliterated as auto plants closed and many auto dealers could not open their showrooms. During this time, J.D. Power forecast retail sales would decline by as much as 80% in April and had this been true it would have rivaled near-recession sales levels for the year. However, beginning in May dealers began to reopen and consumer demand rebounded quicker than anyone expected. As a result, sales in the second quarter dropped nearly 34%, and incentives such as 0% and payment deferrals helped that percentage from dropping further. Industry observers are expecting final sales of new vehicles for the year to register near 14.5 million for the year, down from roughly a steady 17 million level the previous five years. Inventory, Not Consumer Demand, Created Problems Inventory levels, not consumer demand, may have prevented this number from ending higher for the year. Because of inventory challenges for new vehicles, many consumers opted for used cars and trucks, which not only offered more supply levels but also came at a lower price point.  The issue began early in the pandemic when automakers shuttered factories and closed dealers stopped the sale and trades of vehicles – drastically altering the natural flow of supply and demand. With fewer low-cost new vehicles to purchase, many consumers turned to used vehicles. And when fewer lease turn-ins and trades were happening, that forced a severe shortage of supply, creating high prices at auction. Savvy dealers have been leveraging technology, social marketing and new thinking to circumvent traditional auction houses and the higher-priced inventory that comes with it. New Thinking Driven By Digital Marketing Today's more progressive dealers are activating creative, new ways of sourcing used cars, such as Facebook lead ads featuring "We'll Buy Your Car" or "$1,500 Over KBB for Your Trade" messaging. According to digital advertising leader, PureCars, one dealer group of more than 30 rooftops deployed such a campaign in August and drove over twice the trade leads they were accustomed to, resulting in an abundance of used car acquisitions. Keyword search advertising on Google, Bing or other search engines may not be considered "cutting-edge" today, but it's still a tactic many dealers fail to think of first in their fixed operations advertising strategy. By missing out, dealers could be losing low-hanging fruit to third-party vehicle maintenance providers, especially during seasonal occurrences such as AC work in the summer, or tires and breaks in the winter.  What's more, today's digital advertising technology allows for re-targeting and ads placed ahead of video content on popular sites such as YouTube. The entire purpose is to capture more traffic for fixed ops business, not only because this is good revenue, but these customers represent a prime captive audience for potential sales and trade-ins once they're in the waiting room.    These dealers are also leveraging digital and search marketing techniques to acquire used inventory through Fixed Ops and equity mining as well. This type of innovative thinking has dealers poised to leverage digital marketing in more ways to not only gain better control over their inventory levels, but overall sales and customer satisfaction levels. 
Harmful Dealership Advertising: The Lollipop 1 Model

By

Would you ever give a little child a lollipop and then take it back? Outrageous, right? This causes upset, hurt feelings, destroys trust, and creates anger.   You create this same dynamic with customers when you advertise deceptively, whether it is intentional or not. In these cases, consumer protection laws often triple damages and will require you to pay for the customer's attorney's fees when the lawsuit is filed. This means a $50,000 vehicle could easily climb to a $150,000+ resolution. I've seen it, and it happens. It's ugly.  Here is a recent tale of woe. My fiancé and I were looking for a luxury SUV for her. We narrowed it down to one sleek model, which we will hereinafter call the Lollipop 1 Model. (This is to protect the guilty.) The payment on the web advertisement on the dealer's website clearly showed $679/month for 36 months for this particular vehicle. So that we don't get too deep into the weeds, I will focus on this issue only, although other advertising trigger terms were problematic.  I called the dealership and identified myself as an automotive compliance consultant and I was interested in the Lollipop 1 for $679/month. Could I buy the one advertised on the website for $679? After some back and forth, Katherine in the DBC dictated that I could NOT buy this one, but they could GET me one for $679 with less equipment on it (aka a "base model.") Further, they did not have one in stock, and I would have to "factory order" it. This was definitely not mentioned in the original ad disclaimer. I pushed back and said the website asserted I could buy THIS one for $679/month. The DBC rep said that she would get back to me on Monday. Unsurprisingly, she did not call me back. No one likes to deal with a "problem." On Thursday of that week, I emailed once again and then called the GM, the owner's son. (Let's call him "Austin.") Austin said that he had checked with their lawyer. Hold on, there Austin, your lawyer? As a dealer, why would you call your lawyer on such a simple issue... Okay, what did the lawyer say? Austin reported the lawyer (allegedly) said that the ad was "okay" because it was being pushed by the manufacturer and the dealer could sell us a Lollipop 1 for the $679 (the base model).  Let's break this down: Even if the disclaimer had said the $679 was for the base model of the Lollipop 1, and even if it had clearly stated the sale would be a factory order, it is still a bait and switch advertising violation and triggers Unfair and Deceptive Acts & Practices (UDAP) laws. As a dealer, you cannot show pictures of one vehicle and then disclaim your way out of it. That is false advertising. A few days later, this dealer changed their websites. I understand factory special lease terms change at the beginning of the month. Got it. The original stock number I had looked at was gone, and a substantially similar vehicle had popped up with a payment of $689 for 36 months with the other terms being the same. Weeks later, the second vehicle lease deal morphed into a significantly higher payment of $1086.25.   The manufacturers' disclaimer read, "Monthly lease payment based on MSRP of $61,795 and destination charges less a suggested dealer contribution resulting in a capitalized cost of $54,989. Excludes tax, title, license, options, and dealer fees." So, the Lollipop 1 payment of $689 comes "plus options."   There are at least three (3) problems here:   First, the dealer showed photos (though factory photos) of a vehicle that a consumer could not purchase for the advertised amount.   Second, the manufacturer was pairing this disclaimer language with all of the dealer's inventory as it "pushes" that language to the dealers' website.   Third, nothing was mentioned about the factory ordering. It's false advertising through and through, no matter how you look at it. Someone at your dealership or a responsible professional third party (but not someone in the sales department!) should be monitoring your website on a monthly basis, without deviation. If not, you will find surprises on your desks from either lawyers or regulators when this occurs.   Austin's dealership has a good reputation. They are professional and courteous and owned by a lawyer. However, the fact remains you manage what you monitor. If you do not have a designated person or qualified outside party to review this information each month, you are causing yourself a problem. Even a high-quality dealership like Austin's create problems for themselves. Consider an enterprise risk operational review to help you manage unconsidered issues. When you end up with a customer and their lawyer in your office, complaining of false advertising, bring some lollipops. You'll need to give one to everyone in the room as there will be many nerves to soothe, especially yours.
The Importance of Reviews in Your Google AdWords Strategy

By

In our last article, Online Reviews: The Golden Key to a Solid SEO Strategy , we dove into how reviews can impact your Google SEO investment to increase your appearance in consumer searches. Reviews will also impact the ROI of your Google Adwords campaigns, and so it's important to understand how reviews come into play for advertisers before you commit to a substantial pay-per-click budget. First and foremost, your reviews impact your Google Seller Score, specifically, it is your average rating that counts here. Google Seller Ratings showcase advertisers with high ratings (must be above 3.5 stars) aggregated by Google from reputable business review sources. This should be seen as a base requirement, and the good news for dealers is that the vast majority are above this threshold. A point to keep in mind is that better seller ratings display higher in search results reaping the benefits of building a strong reputation. Better seller ratings also have higher conversion rates, which can influence the ROI of your AdWords spend. Google states Seller Ratings can boost your text ads' CTR by up to 10%, which can make a big difference to any company battling with their competitors on Google ads. Looking past seller ratings, we can see in a study by Brightlocal (below) how your average review score on Google impacts your click-through rate. You can see that a 5-star dealer can expect to get 24% more clicks than a 3-star dealer. The obvious benefit is that you get more clicks to your website, but ad campaigns that get a higher click-through rate get a higher quality score from Google and are thus rewarded with a lower cost per click. The bottom line here is that a 4.5-star dealer can spend significantly less to get the same amount of clicks that a 3.5-star dealer would get, and why would anyone purposely want to spend more for the same end benefit? On a side note, if you have recently invested in separating your Google Service and Parts pages, and a primary focus now is to generate more calls, driving directions, and web clicks, then it's important to know that Google has a new ad format which allows a dealer to promote their GMB listing and their reviews in map search results (the map pack) to drive these actions from your Google My Business page specifically. The final point here is to reiterate what was said in the beginning and that dealers need to stop thinking of review counts and average ratings solely as a measure of customer service, but instead that your reviews, specifically on Google, are a basic building block to a successful advertising and SEO strategy, and so an integral part of your marketing program.
Hindsight is 2020: Tech Supports These Issues We Didn't Know We Had

By

We talk a lot in our industry about meeting the customer where they live and creating a frictionless sales experience. While these things are important, they are also expected in 2020. If you think about the technology we encounter every day, we're tapping into a whole different level of seamless customer experience. Automotive has yet to take advantage of this strong digital-first wave, and dealers may not be aware of their biggest pain point, because we're often not aware of our challenges until technology introduces a new way of doing things.  Taxis.   When we were all hailing taxis ten years ago, we actually thought it was quite convenient.   I don't have to wait for the bus or sit next to a stranger on the train. I took private transit, and I'm feeling like a king.  And while waiting in the rain for a taxi wasn't ideal, we never thought there was another way. Uber and Lyft certainly proved us wrong and quickly.  Credit cards.  Going out with friends and throwing credit cards at the bill was second nature.   You can take 50% from this card, 10% from this one since he only got a cocktail, and the rest on the silver card.  But if you've ever gone to happy hour with a bunch of millennials, "I'll  Venmo (cash app) you"  has become the most used sentence. One person pays, and the rest-- with a click of a button-- sends money to their friends. No pile of credit cards to explain to the waiter and no hassle.   Technology has presented solutions to problems we were never consciously aware of. Over and over again, we're shocked at the obsolete way we used to live. I still can't believe I used to go on a run with my credit card in hand so I can grab a coffee on my way home. Once Apple pay introduced a sleek solution to my inconvenience, I'll never go back.  So what does automotive have to do with taxis and credit cards?  In a word, everything.  Manual ad creation. The dealership landscape is dynamic. Inventory moves fast, disclaimers are updated, incentives emerge... It's hard to keep up. The manual legwork it takes to create a campaign around every piece of inventory is exhausting, which is the exact reason it doesn't actually happen.   While we are all manually creating content, ads, and inventory specials marketed to generic audiences, technology is putting endless resources into thousands of data points and marketing every single car as if it's the only car on the lot. It speaks to multiple data sources and creates infinite combinations of ad templates that match up to different audiences to help your dealership move more inventory and sell more cars efficiently, at any scale. It's too good to be true because it is  actually  too good for any human to be able to comprehend and outperform. See what I mean by hindsight?  Here's what you can expect when moving from manual to automated: Lightening speed updates:  Because your campaigns will be automated, any ad that is no longer relevant-- inventory that was sold or out-dated incentives-- will be taken down and flipped out for another ad so that you're constantly sending traffic to relevant, attractive offers.  Optimization at any scale : When your paid ad strategy is run by technology, you no longer need to dedicate endless hours of work to creating campaigns, down to the VIN-level. Technology can scale the dealer inventory and incentives into hundreds of ads in a matter of moments.  Specific targeting : Technology-driven marketing learns your data faster than any human and turns it into a machine so that you're always putting the exact message in front of the specific shopper that should see the ad. As shopper habits change from minute to minute, technology can, and should react instantly.  So if you're like me and just can't believe you ever waited in line for Starbucks now that you can just order by app and pick it up instantaneously, take a look at your manual efforts and see if you can use technology to make your hindsight 20/20 vision...in 2020.  Now excuse me while I order an Uber and my next Vente for pick up on my way to work.