One of the biggest marketing mistakes is treating online shoppers the same as offline shoppers. E-commerce isn’t just “traditional consumerism” on a different platform – it’s a whole new set of customer behaviors, expectations and values, resulting in a customer journey that’s unique to the online experience.

This change didn’t bypass the auto industry. On average, car buyers arrange only two dealership visits in search of the perfect vehicle – usually after extensive research online. Creating a marketing strategy to engage customers in the research stage isn’t just nice-to-have – it’s imperative when trying to get them into the dealership.

Google’s 5 Micro-moments

Thankfully, Google has come to the rescue. They’ve identified 5 key stages (which they call “micro-moments”) in consumer journeys online, and what’s more – they recommend a marketing model specific to automotive, based on their data and research.

Before we dive in, it’s important to remember that online shopping isn’t linear – customers tend to do their research on the go, whenever they have a few minutes to spare – and go back and forth between stages. If your website doesn’t support this kind of sporadic consumer behavior,  website visitors will bounce. Allow them to “save” vehicles they’re interested in, so they can revisit them at their convenience (it’s easy enough to do with cookies – ask your website provider).

 

1. “Which-Car-Is-Best” Moments

During the which-car-is-best moments, your customers are visiting manufacturer websites and watching review videos. They’re just beginning their research, so they might have a general idea of what they want, but are still open to different options. 

What does this mean for your dealership? 

It’s easier to influence buyers at this stage – but it’s also more expensive. These are top of the funnel prospects, and you’ll need to spend more resources to get them to convert.

If you have the means, creating relevant content is a great way to drive visitors to your website. Car reviews, vehicle comparisons and blogs, as well as video content are all great ways to gain trust and engage customers. 

The search terms in this stage focus on the brands or different types of vehicles (“Best SUV”, “Best hybrid for families”, “Brand X truck”) – make sure you use relevant keywords when building ad campaigns.

2. “Is-It-Right-For-Me” Moments

Your buyers have narrowed down their decision, and now they’re trying to figure out which model fits their lifestyle. They’re researching features like seating accommodations, hauling capacity, trunk space and even luxury options like sunroofs and backup cameras.

What does this mean for your dealership? 

Customers in this stage are still top-of-funnel, so take that into account. If you have the resources, use model features to inform your keywords and ad copy, and create relevant content for your website.  

3. “Can-I-Afford-It” Moments

Congratulations! Your customers know what car they want, and now there’s that small pesky question of pricing. In this stage, buyers are researching MSRP and list prices, sales, deals and trade-in values.

What does this mean for your dealership? 

Your customers aren’t at the top of the funnel anymore, but rather, have moved closer to buying, so showing them ads to remind them of their interest is crucial at this stage. Use search terms such as “manufacturer to dealer cash”, “model X sale”, “best brand lease deals” etc to build a list of keywords and ad copy for the best results.

On your website, make sure OEM and dealer offers are easily accessible, with as much information as possible, and use social media to spread the word about specials.

4. “Where-Should-I-Buy-It” Moments

This is a pivotal moment – your customers are looking for a dealership and can very well choose yours. They need information about the location and opening hours, but are also interested in the overall experience.  This is why dealership reviews on your website are so important.  

What does this mean for your dealership? 

This is the stage where customers are most likely to reach out, so make it easy for them to contact you. While lead forms may be slightly out-dated, your website should have a fast and hassle-free chat solution, as well as highly-targeted messaging and form-fills that catch the visitor at just the right moment for conversion. 

Search terms include phrases like “dealership near me”, “dealership X reviews”, “dealerships open on weekend” and “dealership in city X”.
Aside from relevant keywords and ad copy, make sure your ads have location extensions and a phone call extension. Consider advertising on google maps to increase visibility.

5. “Am-I-Getting-A-Deal” Moments

Your customers are on your lot, ready to sign – but they’re still on their phones, making sure they’re getting the best deal possible, comparing your terms and prices to those of your competitors.

What does this mean for your dealership? 

Know your competition, and make sure your salespeople know how to deal with objections and comparisons. And of course, it helps if your ads are the first to pop up when customers search for things like “best lease deal on 2016 brand X model”, “good price for X model in my location” etc.

Get to know your audience

The key to creating a killer marketing strategy for your dealership is getting into your customer’s mind. Ask yourself – what are they looking for at this moment? What search terms are they using? Which websites are they visiting? These questions should inform your digital media strategy across all channels – on search and display ads, on social media and on your website. It isn’t always as easy as it seems, and might require some research, but the payoff is definitely worth it.

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