3 Keys to Modernizing Dealership Digital Marketing

March 30, 2021

The automotive industry needs a fresh take, and so does its marketing strategies. Managing Director of Digital Marketing, David Raminick, talks about how technology and customer knowledge will drive digital marketing engagement that understands your customers’ ambitions and desires.

2020 disrupted the shopper journey and accelerated changing the sales process, causing some growing pains in the automotive industry.  While the pace of innovation was fast and furious throughout the pandemic, the output is still a work-in-progress.  In fact, all these new tools may have introduced more friction into the system and present significant new challenges for automotive retailers.

In a recent Automotive News article, executives from large public dealership groups agree that automakers have become disconnected from the holistic view of the sales experience. Hindering both dealerships and the brands they represent.

Rachel Richards, CMO Sonic Automotive said, “There’s so many different tools and technologies that get partially there, but not the whole way there.”

All this rapid change presents significant challenges for automotive retailers, but ample opportunity to go forward.

But enough about the past year. It’s 2021. What now?

What about the consumer?  Where is their digital level of comfort?  Consulting firm Deloitte’s 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study found that 71% of American consumers still want to buy in person.  Ultimately, customers are looking to do research online and limit their time in the dealership but still desire a portion of the process at the store (no more than 1 hour).  

This means a digital-centric approach is essential for growth.  But how can we make this seamless with the dealership experience? It seems like a daunting task, but you already hold the keys to success: customer data.

Dealerships are in the driver’s seat when they put a solid process behind the enabling technologies to create the ideal experience for today’s automotive shopper. However, this cannot be accomplished solely with technology. This is why I believe all the available solutions have not yet solved the problem. Consider this…

3 main components to modernizing dealership digital marketing

1. Automation

We are soon to be entering a cookie-less world which will drive an enhanced need for new ways of personalization.  A greater emphasis on customized content/creative execution will require improved measurement capabilities (i.e., server-to-server) due to walled gardens dominating presence.  At first blush, it appears that automation is the answer.  Not so quick.

2. Transparency

This can only occur with a truly consultative approach, curated towards each dealer individually.  No template can be applied across-the-board in every case.  To generate value from the technology, a data-centric process that is unique to each dealer is imperative.  This method works when the “consultant” is agnostic to any vendor, solution, or platform.  To add value, the dealer needs to see what they see, own their own accounts, understand their digital strategy, and have the final say on all decisions. It must be all about the dealer, and the data will prove the performance. 

3. Dealer Profitability 

Maintaining the discipline to uniquely understand that dealers’ business challenges and apply the proper tools at the right time will lead to optimizing their profit opportunity. 

The path to moving forward may not be as simple as making a bet on a Digital Retailing tool. But adding a consultive approach to dig into the details and design an effective digital strategy will drive the optimal results. Sales increases due to better-placed ads with more relevant messaging accumulate. Of course, more sales means more customers and yet more data, so the system is self-propelling. The potential to leverage data for sales is possibly the tip of the iceberg. Using data to delight and retain customers could prove to be the real long-term benefit of embracing this new thinking.