Why Dealers Need Facebook Retargeting (and 4 Ways to Use It)

Why Dealers Need Facebook Retargeting (and 4 Ways to Use It)

Any decent automotive digital marketer will tell you that good messages require good targeting. But even here in 2019, targeting is still a challenge for dealerships running Facebook ads.

A recent vehicle hunt reminded me of how fragmented the automotive marketing world is.

Out of the possibly hundreds of preowned Ford F-150s I browsed, only a small fraction had the features I wanted — and I visited only a fraction of that fraction more than once. Even the dealers who had my contact info didn’t seem digitally interested in keeping tabs on my needs. I found myself yearning for a simple “here’s what I’m looking for” form to fill out and for someone to help me find my truck digitally (because phone calls aren’t a strong suit for my generation).

The idealistic sales funnel I was supposed to follow was, in reality, more like a twisting labyrinth of walled-in listing sites where you might find something you want, but you’re certainly not seeing it all. For this motivated and qualified lead, my experience was both frustrating and exhausting.

After jumping back and forth between individual dealer sites, Facebook Marketplace, Cars.com, CarGurus, Craigslist, and even our local TV station’s own listing site, the search results page (SRP) filters had been imprinted into my brain.

Had anyone (or anything) been paying attention to me as I tediously set my “filter/sort” criteria on dozens of SRPs, they would have begged the nearest dealership to just take my money and put me out of my desperate shopping misery.

Why Retargeting Is Important for People Like Me

Retargeting is a method of showing ads to people who have previously visited your website. Dealerships install a small piece of code called a pixel on their websites to keep tabs on their web traffic.

Retargeting campaigns can do a wide variety of functions for a dealership’s website:

  1. Convert visitors into known leads.
  2. Qualify leads who revisit key pages on your website.
  3. Build brand awareness in your local market.

When done correctly, retargeting ads show the next relevant step in the sales funnel. For example, if someone went to an F-150 SRP or vehicle detail page (VDP), they might later see an ad about why that dealership is the best place to buy pickups.

In other cases, the retargeting ads are dynamic, containing the specific vehicles someone viewed. This involves a retargeting pixel, plus an inventory feed within Facebook.

Many people, including myself, take an erratic and frustratingly illogical approach to car shopping. Qualified shoppers like us are slipping through the cracks of the Internet — landing on your competitors’ sites or third-party listing pages.

Marketing Land puts it concisely:

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. With retargeting, you not only get a second chance, but a third, fourth, fifth, and more.

In the highly competitive world of digital marketing, you want to utilize every advantage possible and maximize the value of each of the visitors you drive. In the case of retargeting, you are leveraging your own first-party audience data, which . . . is the most valuable type of audience data.

Dealers who invest even a small amount of time with retargeting can yield impressive measurable return in sales. The first step to success involves knowing the key audiences within the traffic on your website.

4 Key Audiences for Dealers Retargeting on Facebook

Audiences in Business Manager on Facebook.

To get started, navigate to Facebook Ads Manager, click the menu at the top left, and select Audiences.

From here, you can create audiences based on lists (commonly known as Custom Audiences) or do what we’re talking about in this post: build audiences based on traffic to certain pages of your site.

Here are four ideas to get you started on the right path with automotive retargeting on Facebook.

1. Your Most-Visited SRP

How to retarget SRP traffic on Facebook.

Anyone who has made the effort to come to your general inventory pages — but hasn’t yet eyed a specific vehicle — might be interested in diving further into your products and services.

If you haven’t had the chance to qualify your main SRP traffic, a top-of-the-funnel retargeting campaign is a great way to learn more about this audience. The key thing here is to exclude specific VDP traffic, since those will fall into a different, more specific bucket (keep reading!).

2. Obsessive (But Indecisive) Shoppers

Retargeting obsessive VDP shoppers.

When I honed in on my final three F-150 trucks, I must have visited each one at least 15 times within the course of just a few days. Had a dealership been using the formula above, they could have reached out during a critical point in my journey.

A key thing to consider here is frequency: more than 10 VDP visits within a 10-day window. Imagine someone in kicking tires in your lot for 10 days straight. Wouldn’t your sales staff want to help ’em out?

3. Campaign-Oriented Traffic

How dealerships can retarget UTM campaigns in Facebook.

We just celebrated Memorial Day here in the States, and most of our clients jumped in with the obligatory “Memorial Day Savings” events.

Imagine if you could retarget people who received, opened, or clicked your dealership’s email about a certain sale. Well, you can! In fact, you can retarget any UTM parameter.

For the uninitiated: UTM parameters are tags or labels that are added to the end of a link to show Google Analytics the source, medium, term, content, or campaign from which the traffic is originating. For example:


With consistent UTM tagging, you could retarget any traffic associated with a certain campaign — and give some extra exposure for your Memorial Day Savings Sale, etc.

4. VDP Traffic for a Specific Model

Retargeting audience of new VDP viewers.

If you want to get more specific than targeting all of your VDP traffic, you can also create audiences around specific models. For example, when I browsed every F-150 VDP on chastangford.com, all of them contained this URL string in bold:


By identifying a common URL string, you can then build an audience of everyone who visits those F-150 VDPs. With that audience, you can then run relevant Facebook ads about how to take the next step.

As a reminder: all four of these core audience recipes require the Facebook pixel installed on your site. We have a great resource on installing the pixel, but if you’re looking for specific help, feel free to contact us at any time!

Cumulus: A Powerful Facebook Dynamic Retargeting Tool by 9 Clouds

If you want to get even crazier with Facebook retargeting for your dealership, take a look at our Cumulus product, which connects your inventory to a Facebook product catalog — automatically feeding your vehicles into your Facebook ads and removing them as they sell.

These vehicles are dynamically retargeted, meaning anyone who views vehicles on your website will see those same vehicles in an ad on Facebook. How cool is that?!

Plus, these vehicles can be placed into product sets within Facebook, allowing you to show — for example — your entire inventory of preowned F-150 trucks in one ad targeted to finicky and distractible shoppers like me.