Greta Crowley, vice president of marketing for Autotrader
The automotive consumer journey – from browsing options to purchasing a vehicle – has changed drastically. Given this evolution of where and how consumers are shopping, it will be imperative for dealerships to closely evaluate how they are marketing their inventories online. With the right approach, retailers will be in a position to capitalize on these trends in car shopping well into the future, all while garnering a stronger return on their marketing spends.
In order to better understand this shifting landscape, consider a few key insights that Cox Automotive has observed in recent months. According to Cox’s Digitization of End-to-End Retail report, 76% of shoppers are open to the idea of buying completely online. Further, buyer satisfaction has reached a higher level than it has been since 2016 – over 70% of consumers reported being highly satisfied with their overall shopping experience in 2020. Shedding even more light on the past year’s seismic shift on consumer habits, the Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study: Pandemic Edition noted that car buyers are more decisive than they have ever been. The amount of time spent researching and shopping online dropped by more than two hours from 2019 – and the average number of automotive websites that consumers visited also fell during this time.
So, what does this mean for car dealers? It underscores the fact that they have less time to capture the attention of car shoppers – and need to tailor their digital marketing strategies accordingly. Auto dealers’ media buys should therefore align with the desired journey of today’s car buyer.
For retailers, an efficient marketing spend starts with the right platforms. Traditional big data partners may be a main fit for the general marketing community, but dealerships need a more targeted approach to generate quality leads. In fact, the Car Buyer Journey study found that third party sites were the most popular first and last destinations for buyers over OEM sites, Google search, and other locations – indicating they are a must for dealerships to consider when advertising.
Before a dealer’s customers decide where and what they are buying, they’re being influenced by other dealerships. Successful dealers realize that while their CRM is indicative of their strategy’s overall success, it doesn’t provide crucial insight into the consumer’s entire buying journey and purchase process. These dealers know customers are cross-shopping prior to buying. This knowledge allows them to make informed decisions about their marketing presence and prioritize areas where they reach the most customers – the most often.
Autotrader allows dealers to influence the customer’s buying journey at every stage of the buying process – starting at the beginning. Autotrader and KBB.com are the top two third-party sites shoppers visit when they begin their search and are essential for lead generation. In fact, Autotrader led the industry with over 17k total vehicle sales in January 2021 as well as nearly 10% growth in its close rate. Importantly, Autotrader’s average gross profit per lead is $117 – 69% higher per lead than competitors – underscoring the value of generating quality leads and really selling the experience of a dealership.
Additionally, proactive outreach to buyers will better capture their attention during a shortened window of opportunity. Features ecosystem like Personalization and Relevant Search, target in-market shoppers with interactive content and displays that simplifies and advances the whole process. Cox Automotive solutions such as Audience Explorer are in place for dealers to identify shoppers that are interested in their inventory based on their online activity, offering yet another data-driven means of optimizing their marketing efforts.
Ultimately, the fact that satisfaction with dealership experiences was higher during the pandemic than ever before shows that there’s immense potential amid this online shopping environment. Digital retailing has driven higher loyalty and trust over the last year – and that connection can be initiated by retailers through a sound marketing strategy that reflects an intimate understanding of today’s car buying journey.