For most people, buying a car at a dealership is an overwhelming and intimidating process. In order to make the process easier, increasing numbers of auto shoppers are taking their car search online. Last week, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that 83% of shoppers will explore alternatives to shopping for cars at a dealership, according to one study. According to another study also quoted by the paper, 44% of car buyers expect to buy their next vehicle over the internet.
The industry is changing. Americans still need and want to buy cars, but they will be doing more online. If consumers go into a physical showroom at all, they’ll probably have done extensive internet research first. In order to stay on top of these rapidly changing industry trends, auto dealers will need to synchronize their online and offline marketing efforts. Here’s how you can show the customer a unified brand, and increase sales by integrating your campaigns.
1. Connect Online Ads to Brick & Mortar Locations
The Globe and Mail piece discussing changes in the auto industry identifies one Canadian Volvo dealership as a success story worth following. Last August, Volvo opened sales for one of its new models early to online customers, provided that the buyer pick it up from a dealership after paying a deposit online. The tactic provided an internet-based discount—which customers love—and an incentive to go into a dealership. It’s a perfect example of taking an online campaign offline.
There are additional ways to do this besides Volvo’s example. Customers love to check up on and check into local businesses through apps like Yelp and Foursquare. Your auto dealership should have a presence here, to co-ordinate marketing messages across platforms, communicate with customers, and send out rewards digitally.
2. Connect Online Platforms
The image most people have of buying a car involves walking into a showroom and having an employee answer questions about features, pricing, warrantee commitments, and so on. The internet has made this image somewhat outdated, but the fact is that many dealerships may still expect to answer questions face-to-face.
Research consistently shows that customers are getting their questions answered online, and this is true with buying automobiles, too. Social media is a particularly popular channel that many dealerships might not have in mind. A Nielsen study shows that customers are 5 times more likely to let trusted social media content influence their buying decisions than 5 years ago.
In order to increase your chances of making sales, your online presence needs to be coordinated across all platforms. This doesn’t just mean an up-to-date website that’s responsive and easy-to-use—although it does mean that, too. It means having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and making sure that customers can easily find these channels from all the others. It also means making sure that your message and advertising are going out uniformly over all your social media channels.
3. Provide Customers With Hashtags
Now that your online platforms are connected, you’re ready to run a great ad campaign. The next time your dealership is having a sale or a promotion, use your social media-savvy to manage your online presence just as effectively as your offline presence.
Since most of your customers will undoubtedly be going online for more information, make sure to provide a helpful structure. At your event, provide your customers with hashtags that they can use to sort through all the information. The content marketing strategists at Wishpond explain that one of the key online marketing strategies is using hashtags for promoting brands and campaigns.
A brand hashtag is a unique hashtag promoting your business. When managing a sale, your brand hashtag is how your customers and prospective buyers can stay on top of everything going on at your dealership. Provide this so that they can continue conversations online. Campaign hashtags are how your customers can follow a particular promotion–something like “#Sedanathon2015.” Once they leave the store, they can follow the campaign hashtag to check on availability. If they haven’t gone into the store yet, this hashtag will let them know what great deals await them if they choose to come in.
From the information overload to all the money they’ll spend, buying a car is big deal to customers. However, from the process of getting bonded to keeping up with a rapidly changing business environment, being an auto dealer has its own unique challenges. By taking advantage of these tips, your dealership can merge its online operations with offline ones, and help your customers find you.
Do you have an online success story? Let us know in the comments below!
Todd Bryant is the President and Founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping auto dealers get bonded and start their business.0
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