AdvertisingCommentary & Insights

Advertising
A Career of Disruption

By

“True disruption means threatening your existing product line and your past investments. Breakthrough products disrupt current lines of businesses.”  – Peter Diamandis  Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Owen Moon, CEO of FIXED OPS DIGITAL and a new Expert Panel Contributor for Dealer Marketing Magazine. For most of my 22-year career in the automotive industry I have considered myself to be a disruptor. My career started in early 2000 when I was hired to help an automotive focused advertising agency create and sell a comprehensive sub-prime program. For the next few years, hundreds of dealerships across the country utilized our program to break into what was at the time a relatively new, but lucrative market. This program included everything from Marketing, F&I, Inventory Management, Software, Leads Handling, and even BDC Training. I would spend the first few years of my career travelling around the country helping our dealer partners implement this program into their dealership culture. Looking back, I considered this experience to be the best education anyone could’ve gotten to learn the auto industry from the inside out. A few years later I once again found myself in a unique situation as one of the early adopters of personalized database mailers. At the time using variable data fields to personalize the information for each customer was a relatively new concept. I remember when we ran our 1st “buyback” direct mail campaign and helped a dealership sell 35 new KIA’s in a weekend utilizing a target list of 2,000 previous customers. In a weekend we helped sell as many new KIA’s as they usually sold in a month! Over the next few years, we would develop and execute multiple personalized database mailer strategies for dealerships across the country!  As technology began to evolve the “next thing” again presented itself. I was introduced to a new strategy called GeoFencing. Geofencing is a real-time location-based marketing tactic that uses geolocation data to target users within an established geographic area. Then delivering ads based on where they are or in what locations they have previously visited. I moved my focus to helping dealerships execute targeted geofencing campaigns. I also spent a lot of this time speaking at conferences and 20 groups showing dealerships the power of this new type of mobile marketing. Then came 2018. The auto industry was booming! Dealerships were spending most of their marketing budgets utilizing digital strategies and the industry was full of vendors and agencies who were more than willing to help! In such a crowded vendor environment I again found myself in a situation focusing on a new concept. This time in the service department. FIXED OPS DIGITAL was born and for the first 12-18 months there was just as much educating going on as there was executing. As FIXED OPS DIGITAL started to grow, we took pride as being the industry leaders in online service marketing. As 2020 rolled around we knew that service marketing was going to continue to get more attention. We had no idea that both Covid and the new vehicle inventory shortage would only magnify this! Today FIXED OPS DIGITAL is the Premier Service Marketing & Technology Company servicing over 650 dealerships in the United States and Canada.  Are you a disruptor?! Then I applaud you. Disruptors are risk takers. Disruptors are educators. The challenge with being a disruptor is that the first couple years are usually the hardest. Trying to educate and gain dealership adoption can be tough. As a new Expert Panel Contributor for Dealer Marketing Magazine, with the opportunities and challenges today’s automotive market is facing, I look forward to bringing my years of experience being a disruptor to provide valuable insight.      
Oops They Did It Again

By

Oops, they did it again.  I just unpacked my new desktop computer, screens, camera, and enough cables for you, me, and every adult on the planet. (Well, not quite but definitely an abundance!) Along with my new goodies, I purchased, and I quote, the “Download Microsoft Office Home and Business 2021 All Languages Online Product Key License 1 License.” (Please note “Business” is part of the title here.)  So, when I bought this, I had an expectation I could use it for my WORK as a consultant, because I run a “Business.” When downloading the product, it wouldn’t sync with my Outlook. At. All. (There’s no telling how many times I attempted this with different variations and permutations.)    After six (6) hours on the telephone and online chats with Dell and Microsoft “support,” and my web host provider, I learned I had purchased the wrong product. After much typing and chatting and phoning, I finally learned from these fine folks, you see, “Business” doesn’t actually mean I am able to use it for a “business,” because I was informed that “Business” is really the “Home” version. Insanely aggravating, right?  Silly me, I thought the word “Business,” actually meant you could use it for a business. The software I purchased was $229.24 for a one-time charge but now Microsoft told me the new price for you know – business business - was $99 per year. Honestly, after six (6) hours struggling with tech support, I really didn’t care, I just wanted this nightmare to end. (Doesn’t that sound like a customer coming out of F&I after a long transaction?) And please allow me to mention I resent the word “support” here because none was given!     My Microsoft situation is a textbook bait and switch advertising ploy and is in breach of federal laws. I’m sure Microsoft has plenty of lawyers to argue about this. (By the way, if you’re a class action lawyer looking for a new case, Microsoft might be your next target…) This story illustrates two (2) important considerations in running your store: 1.     If you are having customers accuse you of bait and switch advertising, examine both your website and your other ads, including television, radio, internet etc. (Have you, as the dealer, looked at your online reviews recently? This is a terrific way for you to “listen” to customer feedback.)  If the terms are not “clear and conspicuous,” then likely the ad would be considered deceptive in some way. Because of competitive pressures, I know some dealers who advertise this way intentionally (so BEWARE!) and some who do it unintentionally. Either way, if you pay attention to Joe Public’s feedback, you will learn about process kinks at your store, and you can improve on procedures and avoid false advertising accusations and problems.   2.     In my experience, there is (almost) always a disconnect between the advertising and the sales staff, which leads to claims of bait and switch. The ad agency or in-house ad person should be training the sales staff on advertising specials and how terms were calculated mathematically. When Sally arrives at the lot and requests the advertised deal, then the sales person should be able to articulate clearly “how the deal works” and understand how to communicate this to Sally courteously and effectively. Otherwise, when Sally is told she cannot get the deal, (for whatever reason the sales agent creates), she will be (rightfully) upset. This is a classic scenario where the dealership can make improvements and avoid pitfalls by conveying information to the customer clearly and concisely. This potential negative situation occurs when the sales agent simply doesn’t have the information to properly do their job.This is easily fixed through training.   There are both federal enforcement agencies concerned with these issues, as well as the state Attorneys General.  As an example, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro issued an advisory on March 3, 2022 warning of unfair and deceptive practices which violate the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law. Here are three (3) salient points specifically about dealers directly from his advisory: Represent and advertise goods or services at their actual price, comply with the terms of warranties given to the buyer; and not engage in fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding. Sell a motor vehicle under the terms or conditions, including price or warranty, which a motor vehicle manufacturer or dealer has advertised or otherwise represented. Disclose any hidden charges in any advertised price of a vehicle, as well as the expiration date of any advertised price. Don’t be the dealer who ends up saying: “Oops!...I did it again, I played with your heart, Got lost in the game…”  It didn’t go well for Brittany Spears in 2007 and it won’t go well for your business either.  If your sales staff gets lost in the game, and plays with customers’ heart, you are going to create irate prospects, which (1) you won’t sell, so you will lose the sale and, (2) even worse, these bait and switch behaviors will attract regulators and lawyers.   Then, it’ll be your “Oops,” which will lead to a hefty fine, lawsuit, or worse…both!
facebook marketplace
RIP Facebook Marketplace for Dealers?

By

Facebook Marketplace underwent some changes in September and no longer lists vehicles from partner catalog feeds. This includes the entire marketplace experience: homepage, search function, etc.  There is a lot of debate on how this will affect the industry. But before we get into the juice, let’s clarify how dealers can still reach buyers on Facebook, even with this change. Create vehicle listings from the “inventory” tab on your dealership/business page Dealers still have the option to upload their inventory from their personal business pages (instead of having this also aggregated in Marketplace). While this is still a free option, the click rate on the inventory tab on business pages is quite low, so it’s critical to monitor this. It will be interesting to see if click rate and engagement rate will increase as Marketplace becomes more lean with inventory after this change.  Create AIA ( Automotive Inventory Ads )  AIA gives dealers the ability to upload an entire catalog of vehicles to Facebook so that the Facebook pixel can then target the best shoppers with the right inventory at the right time. The upload process is similar to the one disconnected with Marketplace, where you can send a feed automatically to Facebook. While this is not a free option, it’s an efficient way to get your vehicle listings seen by in-market shoppers (including placements on Marketplace among other placements on Facebook).  Manually create listings in Marketplace  This option does allow for dealerships to continue to showcase inventory (certified pre-owned only) on Marketplace, but since it’s manual the dealership would have to upload every/all relevant listings with all associated information. This is extremely time consuming, and for some, probably not worth the hassle.  So, what’s the field predicting with this change?   Some think it really won’t matter since AIA is the same idea, just paid, and will include ads on Facebook Marketplace when relevant. This is probably true for larger dealerships and/or Franchise dealers who have the means to do this through AIA.  Others think this will be a beneficial change for small and independent dealers since they usually entered manually anyway. Now, these smaller dealerships will also increase visibility since the larger franchises won’t have the capacity to upload manually. Cutting the competition and the noise can skyrocket results for these dealerships.  Lastly, some predict it will be similar to Craiglist’s change a few years back where they also eliminated the overwhelming amount of organic posts and in turn, helped shoppers find what they are looking for faster with a cleaner user interface.  What happens next? Like any big change in automotive, it’s going to be critical to watch trends for the next few months-- understand if this change was good or bad for your business. Do you have fewer leads? Do you have more qualified leads? Is your marketing team being more productive on other channels? Did your predictions for the change match reality? These are all important questions to tackle as we go into October and November and learn as an industry.  *This article was inspired by a forum thread in Dealer Refresh . 
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.