2016 saw a lot of change in the automotive industry, and a lot of talk about the change. We heard about big transformations as dealerships shifted to a more digital business. We discussed, predicted, and began to change.

2017 has arrived and we’ve moved from future to past tense: no longer on the cusp of change, we have changed. In 2017, you can get all the information you need on any car model, you can start pre-qualification forms online, and you can even buy a car online and get it delivered right to your doorstep.

Digitization is no longer a suggestion. It’s a requirement.

That doesn’t mean the brick and mortar dealership is no longer crucial. Even though shoppers can now buy cars online and order test drives to their homes, most still want to visit a dealership and take a test drive before buying a car. What’s changed is that customers now expect to be able to research and start the buying process on dealership websites. The website has not replaced the showroom– it has become it’s extension. This means that your top priority needs to be creating the best retail experience online so that in-market shoppers will trust your dealership, learn from your website, and eventually walk into your store.

The best way to create a great shopping experience online is to personalize your website and respond to your visitors just as you would in person. People love shopping online, but they don’t want to have to dig for the information they need. And they certainly don’t want one-size-fits-all information. Therefore, in order to leverage today’s technology to meet your dealership’s goal of selling more cars to all kinds of buyers, your website needs to be smart and customer-focused.  

Here are three must-haves for your dealership website to keep a positive, shopper-focused website.  And no, this is no longer a nice suggestion to get ahead. It’s a requirement for success.

  1. Smart email marketing campaigns.  Dealerships are blasting email campaigns to all kind of shoppers. But without targeting emails to specific types of customers, these campaigns could be one of your biggest marketing mistakes. Emails are a great opportunity to engage your prospects when they aren’t necessarily thinking about you, but make sure to reach out to them with exciting offers and content that are relevant to them. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you structure your email marketing campaigns:
    1. Tag your customers.  Tag your customers in your CRM based on categories or interests. If you have customers that always lease, they should see email campaigns regarding leasing. If you have service-focused customers, make sure they’re getting their “$10 off next service visit” coupons. Tagging your customers will help organize them based on interest so your dealership can send them a personal email accordingly.
    2. Lead nurture. Use your email campaigns to nurture leads that may be unengaged or lost to competitors. Don’t mark these leads in the same category as happy customers or service customers.  Build a funnel specifically for lost leads to make your outreach more relevant and personal.
  2. Intelligent on-page targeting strategy. 2016 was all about bringing qualified traffic to your website. This is still important. However, it will fall short without a high-impact engagement strategy on your website.  
    1. Target based on traffic source. Use technology that tells you how your website visitors found you. Did they click on your ad or do a google search? This customer might be a good fit for a store-wide offer. Maybe they already get your newsletter and clicked on a link. This shopper would probably be better suited to more specific offers and content. Your showroom salespeople try to get a sense of where customers are coming from – equip your website to do the same. Reach out to your website visitors in a way that acknowledges how they found you and any relationship you already have.
    2. Target based on VDP.  Track your website visitors’ behavior to understand what they are interested in on-page. If someone views a specific VDP, be sure to follow up with special OEM offers or interesting content on that specific car model. If the shopper expresses interest in leasing rather than buying, use that data to engage them on-site with a leasing offer.  
  3. Video marketing. We are no longer waiting for video marketing to become the next big thing. It is the next big thing. Use videos to engage your visitors – they want to see it.
    1. People are creatures of habit. People are so used to watching videos that the average time US adults spend watching videos every day is about 5 hours and 31 minutes. When consumers are so used to clicking the “play” button, they’ll watch your video too.
    2. Increases time on site. On-site videos can increase average time spent on a website significantly.  And once visitors are already committed to staying on your website, they’re more likely to browse a bit more, look at your VDPs, and maybe even convert on a lead form!

If you’re not implementing these strategies already, you sure should start! 2017 is going to be faster, harder, and way more digital. Don’t get left behind.  


Ilana Zur, Head of Business Development at AutoLeadStar. Ilana will be speaking at the 2017 CBT Conference.


Learn more about Ilana in her speaker profile page.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave comment

There are 0 comments