How to Market Your Dealership’s Digital Retailing Services in 2021 and Beyond

How to Market Your Dealership’s Digital Retailing Services in 2021 and Beyond

In 2021, it’s clear that digital retailing for auto is here to stay, and so is the need for effectively marketing these services for your RV or auto dealership.  

The COVID-19 pandemic taught dealership owners and marketing managers a very important word:

Pivot 

Dealers were required to pivot in nearly every aspect of their business as showrooms closed down and vehicle production was delayed or halted completely. 

Many turned to promoting online shopping and financing options along with at-home test drive and service offerings. Whether or not these services were part of your process before the pandemic, your dealership is very likely using these tools now. 

In this post, we’ll explain how dealers have found success with digital retailing during the pandemic, and how you can (and should) continue to promote these offerings in a post-pandemic world

An Overdue Digital Adaptation for Auto 

Purchasing a vehicle is a very personal event, which is why auto dealers have historically relied on in-person interactions to communicate the value shoppers can find when they purchase a vehicle from their dealership. 

What happens when a global pandemic greatly reduces these in-person interactions? Auto dealers found out by following in the footsteps of other industries before them that implementing digital retailing into their business models was necessary to stay in business. 

In addition to viewing inventory online, dealers were able to move most, if not all of the purchasing process online. 

While the initial transition from emphasizing in-person interactions to online interactions caused some kinks (and likely still do) in day-to-day operations, many dealers are overall pleased with the positive impact these services have had on business. 

Take a look at these findings from a Cox Automotive independent study:

  • 79% of franchise dealers and 65% of independent dealers said they see value in continuing digital retailing once things return to normal.
  • 26% of franchise dealers and 21% of independent dealers believe they are more likely to expand their digital retail offerings in the future.
  • 66% of dealers say they have dedicated digital retailing staff compared to 52% of dealers pre-COVID.

While no owner wants to shut their showroom doors again, many are finding that incorporating digital retailing is not only possible, but is also an efficient way to move leads along in the buyer’s journey

Improve Customer Satisfaction with Digital Retail Offerings

Another reason to keep digital retailing around? Customer satisfaction is on the rise

In fact, a J.D. Power study reports that customer satisfaction in regards to digital retailing services like online inventory, credit approval, and ease of paperwork is up nearly 50% from January 2020

What’s also telling is that 44% of online car shoppers are now selecting the exact vehicle they want from inventory on a dealer’s website – up 13% from January 2020. This statistic should remind auto dealers of the importance of keeping your website up to date with real images of the vehicle when possible. 

When things go “back to normal” and in-person interactions become more frequent at dealerships, some shoppers will continue to opt for online methods. Another finding from the survey is that almost one out of four buyers say their purchase experience during the pandemic will make them less likely to shop in person in the future.

This comfort with automotive digital retailing is telling, but not surprising. After all, Americans are spending an average of nearly 6.5 hours out of their day online. Why wouldn’t this include car shopping?

Now is the time for auto marketers to build on what we’ve learned during COVID-19 to not only utilize digital retailing, but to market it effectively.

Four Ways to Market Digital Retailing at Auto Dealerships

If your dealership already implemented digital retailing services such as the ability to select a vehicle from online inventory, review finance and insurance products, and complete the purchasing process online, do your potential customers know this? 

More shoppers will be looking to purchase their next vehicle online than ever before. Because of this, auto dealers must understand how to communicate their digital retail offerings. 

1. Have a FAQ Page Available On Your Website

People have questions. Whether it’s about digital retail offerings, dealership hours, or they’re looking for more information about tires, it’s important to compile concise answers to these questions on your website. 

2. Incorporate Video into Content

Along with a FAQ page, many people learn best by watching. 

Technology can be tricky sometimes. If you have a blog post that explains how to complete the vehicle purchasing process online, consider including a video that shows this process step-by-step. 

Additionally, walk-around videos are a great way for shoppers to get an idea of what a vehicle actually looks like and the features that are included. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, video has to be worth 10,000!

3. Take Care of Your Fixed Ops Customers

Many dealers have gone to promoting their fixed ops (like service) as they find themselves with low inventory

Service pick-up and drop-off and other at-home services are in high demand. Do what you can to serve this core group of customers. 

If they continue to have a good service experience with you, there’s a good chance they’ll think of your dealership first the next time they are in-market for a new vehicle. 

4. Do As Much Digitally as Possible

To promote your digital retail services, you’ll need to do it, well; digitally!

Many of our clients who continued running online ads and incorporating email marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic reaped these benefits:

  • Highest web traffic ever
  • Above-average Facebook ad click-through rates
  • Above-average email open rates

And while COVID-19 won’t last forever, promoting digital retailing at your dealership shouldn’t end. 

Build on what you’ve learned, and continue to meet customers where they are at in the buyer’s journey

Use Digital Retailing to Its Full Potential

Having digital retailing tools available is one thing, but are you using them to their full potential at your dealership? 

As a digital marketing agency who has worked with many dealerships during COVID-19 and years prior, we’re able to give some guidance in our new resource: Staying Connected With Leads During COVID-19

In this guide you’ll learn best practices to help you continue to provide the optimal customer experience during a pandemic and post-pandemic world.

And if you have specific questions about marketing digital retailing for your dealership, consider a free digital marketing assessment with 9 Clouds!

Download the digital retailing guide