Last year, the car buying cycle changed as new trends and technologies emerged, and consumers accelerated the shopping process from home. For many people last year, the car-buying experience shifted to be almost exclusively online. Now is the time for car manufacturers and dealers to evolve online sales processes and digital advertising strategies to provide customers with a seamless and personalized digital customer journey.
Customers are comfortable doing business online, and people increasingly rely on online channels to research car options and gain information before making a purchase. Some customers even skipped the physical dealership altogether with the emergence of online showrooms and car delivery services. It’s become more important than ever to be present with consumers and understand their behaviors and preferences from the start of their shopping journey. Be ready to use creative tactics to build a successful automotive marketing strategy that stays top-of-mind.
Developing a full-funnel marketing strategy for automotive marketing
Shoppers are starting online: Research shows that the automotive customer journey lasts, on average, anywhere from five to twelve weeks and involves several steps, both offline and online, before making a purchase decision. Within the first week of the vehicle buyers’ journey, 95% of shoppers use digital resources as a primary source of information to build shortlists of cars and manufacturers they are interested in buying. This is why it’s imperative that you invest in digital marketing strategies that target high intent audiences so you can build brand awareness and create meaningful retargeting audiences to target later.
With the majority of car buyers starting the shopping process online without a clear idea of what car they want to buy, digital marketing tactics that familiarize consumers with your brand will help you stay top of mind when it comes time for purchase decisions. Strategies like connected TV, video, and audio advertising extend your campaign’s reach to targeted, yet broad, audiences on their most important devices and drive meaningful business outcomes for the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
Meeting users on all devices: When customers are exposed to your brand awareness messages, they will continue to narrow down their shortlist of brands, and shoppers who are serious about buying a car will dive deeper into doing their own research on your website, related sites, and competitors’.
During the consideration and research phase of the buyer’s journey, there are many opportunities to continue engaging customers who are showing interest. Automotive marketing strategies can leverage third-party data segments or utilize search retargeting to show ads on relevant websites your customers will be visiting. Search retargeting utilizes users’ online search and browsing activity, allowing you to reach an audience showing intent signals around making a car purchase. It curates targetable audiences based on their previous online searches and intent. You are also able to further refine the audience targeted with search retargeting by optimizing your campaign around the recency of user’s intent signals to mirror your sales cycles and ensure you are only targeting customers in the consideration phase
Another one of the most important tactics during the consideration phase is cross-device targeting. Cross-device targeting is a strategy that will reach potential customers and continue driving engagements. Once a user sees one of your ads, cross-device targeting empowers you to find the same customer on their desktop, mobile, and tablet devices and ensures you know when a customer converts on a secondary device. Along with understanding an audience’s habits across devices, you can build a complete cross-channel profile of your consumers, giving you more data that can be used to target them effectively.
Driving the message home: At this point in the buyer’s journey, customers are coming very close to making a decision and are ready to go onto a dealership lot to test drive their car before purchasing. There are still a few more tactics you can employ to make sure you’re reaching your bottom of funnel prospects at the right time with the right message to bring them into the dealership.
Retargeting is almost always the final step when creating a digital marketing campaign. Now that you’ve created several engagement points with your audience, through display ads with actionable CTAs, completing requests for more information, or setting up a time to visit your dealership, you will now be able to retarget those customers who are on the brink of making a purchase decision. When a customer is this far along in the marketing funnel, you know they are itching to buy a car on your lot. Retargeting ads allow you to recapture their interest, coax them with reminders, and bring them into your physical showroom to make a sale.
Track offline attributions
When customers are getting close to making a purchase, your digital marketing campaign isn’t always the final touchpoint before making a sale, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an impact in getting to that point. That’s why it’s invaluable to set up offline attribution tracking. Offline attribution fills in the missing link based on geolocation data and all of the previous interactions a customer has had with your digital campaign. It provides both the sales and marketing teams a full picture of the interactions that lead up to a sale. This kind of information can help improve campaigns and drive sales when customers are on the car lot.
Automotive marketing strategies are changing, but by keeping your digital advertising up to date, capturing and utilizing the most relevant data, and honing in on actionable leads, your marketing and sales teams can capitalize on the huge amount of car shoppers researching online right now.
About the author:
Zack Rosse is a Content Specialist at Choozle – Easy Digital Advertising®. Always learning and connecting the dots, Zack helps translate some of the tougher answers to simple questions marketers ask themselves. Outside of the office, Zack loves hunting for old vinyl to add to his collection and picking up garbage on his favorite walking trails.