The 2016 election has affected the auto retail industry, especially those dealerships located within this year’s battleground states.
Recent digital performance data points to decreases in shopping activity on dealership websites and a dip in sales for dealers located in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Consumer anxiety over the outcome of the election and its possible ramifications on the economy certainly aren’t making the situation any better. But perhaps what’s really causing this dip in shopping activity is the rise of digital advertising costs. With both traditional and digital marketing channels flooded with campaign ads, we’re witnessing a classic case of supply and demand. Ad vendors can charge a lot more because there’s so much advertising demand. Many political campaigns can afford it; many car dealerships can’t.
So what are dealerships to do to get back in the game and prevent the 2016 election from steamrolling marketing opportunities? Here are three strategies to consider:
1. Focus ad spend where ROI is maximized.
First off, let’s all take a breath. The 2016 election is so omnipresent that it’s seemingly inescapable (if you’re reading this in a battleground state before polls close on Tuesday, November 8, turn on the TV right now to prove this point). But that also means millions of people are online looking at polls, reading articles on various websites, and closely combing social media for political news. The electorate are also car buyers, and they’re plugged in.
Review your digital advertising strategy and focus ad spend where ROI is maximized. Look toward areas like specific vehicle ads, targeted ads, etc. This is a good time to consider pivoting away from mass media options and investing in additional display-based advertising that targets specific customers and vehicles.
2. Look forward to mid-November.
Like anything else, the election will come to an end. As the smoke begins to clear post-November 8, start re-evaluating your strategy and focus on finishing the year strong. The holidays are typically a good time of year for traffic and sales, and with Thanksgiving and Black Friday only a few weeks away, there’s plenty of traditionally strong shopper interest for which to be thankful.
3. Capitalize on the election.
While recognizing that the majority of this article has painted the 2016 election as a significantly negative event for car dealerships, there’s a silver lining in the short-term. As was mentioned above, the election is practically all-consuming, all places, all the time. So, if you can’t beat them, join them. Consider developing election-specific content or specials on your website that recognize the country’s biggest story, and tap into the national conversation. We’re not suggesting you take sides here, but that you develop incentives or promotional material with election themes to position your brand to a massive audience already tuned in to today’s politics.
Cast your ballot if you haven’t already, and prepare your digital strategy for post-election traffic, filled with eager shoppers ready to put 2016’s race for office behind them, and looking forward to a peaceful holiday season.
James Grace is the director of analytics product management at Dealer.com