Digital Advertising as the Car Shopping Experience Evolves

By Scott Blodgett 

As car shopping moves from traditional retail to an online environment, your customers will be leveraging digital channels more than ever. Screen time will certainly increase as we spend more time at home, as we’ve seen happen in Europe with a 50% increase in internet traffic.  The methods in which we research, shop and buy things – including cars – have already started to change. Whether that is researching cars on Kelley Blue Book, watching virtual test drive videos on YouTube, or using online car buying tools to purchase a vehicle, the way in which we market ourselves to shoppers needs to align with how media is consumed. 

Adjusting media allocation and aligning creative messaging are two key components of this new shopping experience. Automotive search queries are expected to decline, yet online activity is expected to rise. Investments in channels such as video, display and social will help grow demand that can then be captured when things return to normal. The messaging that is included in all digital advertising creative needs to be personalized and aligned with both consumer needs and OEM marketing investments. 

Media Mix Diversification 

Video and display advertising are two channels that focus on building awareness with engaging content in order to increase consumer demand. As shoppers consume media in a variety of places and platforms, it is critical to have a strategy that is focused on your audience versus a single platform. Car shoppers who are interested in a Silverado 1500 are reading the news online, using Facebook to check in with friends and family, and browsing videos on YouTube to pass the time. Promoting a consistent message across all these platforms drives efficiencies at a lower cost than traditional print and television advertising. 

One challenge we are looking to solve at Dealer.com is related to creative. Video production and creative services can both be very expensive. We’ve built products with our dealer partners in mind, decreasing the overhead and lowering the barrier of entry into these demand generation focused channels. 

Here is a real-world example: General Motors is offering 0% APR financing for 84 months on the 2020 Silverado 1500 for well qualified buyers. All GM dealers should be including this in their marketing materials. Our video and display products were designed to do just that: 

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Inserting dealer-specific messaging is also a great way to communicate updates to potential customers, especially since the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving. With this running on multiple platforms, including YouTube and Facebook, and serving to an audience of Silverado 1500 shoppers, you have a great branding strategy. 

Personalized Advertising Experiences 

Customers expect personalized and custom-tailored experiences today more than ever. And the data proves that performance across digital properties improves when users are served content that meets their expectation. In studies conducted by Dealer.com, we’ve seen a 2-2.5x increase in activity on Vehicle Detail Pages and a 12% increase in lead conversion when shoppers are served personalized content on Dealer.com websites. Combined with a personalized advertising experience, this is a win-win. 

Here are a few recommendations to drive results: 

  • Leverage in-market shopper data to strengthen audience targeting across all channels and platforms.  
  • Segment audience-based website activity and serve them relevant content. Actively browsing inventory, looking at service schedulers, and engaging with digital retailing tools are all indicators of different stages of the buying lifecycle. 
  • Promote inventory using creative that matches the shopper’s interests. Dynamic inventory ads are available today.  
  • Focus advertising spend on inventory that needs the most attention. One effective way to accomplish this is combining Facebook advertising with vehicle scoring algorithms. 

As automotive shopping behavior evolves, being able to adapt will be paramount for long term success. Diversifying marketing portfolios, focusing on creative messaging, and personalizing customer experiences will position you for growth in the months to come.