Social/Digital Media

Search Optics dives deep into digital marketing trends

SAN DIEGO - 

Search Optics recently released results from its first annual digital marketing trends survey, which analyzed the needs, wants and decision-making strategies of more than 160 U.S. automotive dealers associated with a variety of leading automotive brands.

The phone survey, conducted in partnership with Incept Corporation, yields insight into critical digital marketing challenges facing automotive dealers today, as the importance of digital marketing rises.

“Digital marketing plays an enormous role in the success of today’s automotive dealers, from driving traffic to the lot to advancing the sales cycle through the use of digital strategies,” said Troy Smith, president and founder of Search Optics. “The survey provides clear insight into the greatest challenges dealers face as the speed of digital change in our industry advances at a rapid rate and winning more business depends heavily on their ability to keep pace.”

As part of the survey, Incept researchers questioned dealers about their expectations and satisfaction concerning digital marketing service providers.

Dealers who participated in the study unilaterally agreed that their most important goal with digital marketing is to obtain both results and a reasonable return on investment. More than 80 percent also said search engine optimization (SEO) is the most important service acquired through external marketing partners.

Additionally, dealers communicated a strong need for insights and strategic guidance from their providers.

According to the survey, SEO is the most popular service dealers seek digital marketing service providers for, followed by website, paid search, social media, email, display advertising and video services.

More information on the survey and its findings are available on the Search Optics blog in a post titled “Five Essential Questions to Ask Your Digital Marketing Service Provider.”

Boosting Facebook posts is smart investment for your dealership

TAMPA, Fla.  - 

Facebook for dealerships is a pay-to-play marketplace when you have a business page. It’s nearly impossible to reach your entire audience without putting an advertising budget behind it. This post will give you a basic understanding of Facebook boosting (advertising) and audience targeting to help expand the reach or your dealership’s messaging.

On all of your posts, you’ll see a (Boost Post) button, which brings up a separate window with options to reach more people. Facebook gives tons of options and if you are willing to experiment with some of your advertising budget, it’s definitely worth the investment.

Facebook Boost Audience Options:

  1. People who like your Page
  2. People who like your Page and their friends
  3. People you choose through targeting

The first two audiences are self-explanatory, but the third option is the most valuable one. Facebook gives you the ability to reach people on Facebook who don’t already like your page and display your posts to them. Utilizing this type of audience is how you grow your audience and how you grow your business.

You have a lot of options at your disposal and creating a well-defined audience is where you will see the best results.

What is a well-defined Facebook audience?

Instead of selecting one of the first two options, select (Create New Audience). Give your audience a name and determine who you want your ads to go to. You can target just men, just women or both. You can also target states, cities and even specific zip codes.

Pro Tip: Review your sales records and determine the top zip codes your current customers are from and target those.

Not only can you choose from gender, age and location, but you can also target by interest. Interest targeting lets you choose from a long list of options to help you reach consumers that may be interested in what you’re offering.

How to use interest targeting on Facebook 

Your dealership is hosting its annual open house and you have specific units in inventory that your dealership wants to sell. You can target people who have interest in those brands by selecting them from the list. Now you have targeted messaging which will resonate with the people you are trying to reach.

How to determine if you should Boost one Facebook post over another:

By now, we hope that you have learned from the LotVantage Marketing team that Facebook has decreased the organic reach for pages. Essentially, that means that in order for your posts to be seen by the fans you have following you, you will need to set aside some money for a marketing budget and spend it on Facebook Ads and boosting your posts.

In order to make the best decisions on which posts you want to promote, we suggest basing your choices on which posts will be most helpful to your audience and further your goals of promoting your brand awareness. The typical “happy customer” photos are not something we suggest boosting. However, the release of a new model, dealership offers and discounts, and useful product maintenance information are things worthy of Boosting.

In truth, knowing what will be worth spending your money on is going to be experimental until you see what gets you the most attention from your audience. Pay attention to the posts that are most popular and compare that content to those of which were less popular, and you will have created the most masterful plan of attack for your dealership’s Facebook marketing.

Mastering Facebook advertising:

If you find that you are unfamiliar with general marketing strategies and would like an introduction to Facebook Boosting, advertising and targeting, please email us at hello@lotvantage.com for more information.

Adam Goldberg is the marketing manager at LotVantage, a provider of digital marketing solutions for automotive, marine, powersports, RV, trailer and outdoor power equipment dealerships. He can be reached at agoldberg@thatus.com. You can also access more social media tips at motors.lotvantage.com/blog. 

CarMax begins home delivery program in NC

RICHMOND, Va. - 

CarMax is joining the development parade of finding ways to retail used vehicles without the buyer having to step foot on the lot. As outfits such as Beepi and Carvana gain steam, CarMax recently announced it is launching a test of home delivery in Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte is the first city for CarMax Home Delivery, which allows customers to select, finance, test drive and buy a vehicle, as well as trade in their current model, all without ever going to a store. More than 20 years ago, CarMax claimed it had revolutionized the industry by delivering an “honest, transparent and high-integrity buying experience.”

CarMax says it’s now extending that “revolutionary” experience from the store to the Internet through the development of online customer-focused innovations.

Home Delivery is currently only available within a 60-mile radius of Charlotte. CarMax offers Home Delivery for no additional cost. However, like in-store purchases, a fee may apply for vehicle transfers from stores outside of North Carolina.

Each vehicle still comes with CarMax’s five-day money-back guarantee and a 30-day limited warranty.

“We believe in customer empowerment — it’s why we went into business more than 20 years ago,” said Jim Lyski, chief marketing officer at CarMax.

“We will continue to lead the industry by delivering the car-buying experience customers want, wherever they want it,” Lyski continued.

Just like CarMax’s in-store experience, Home Delivery users can receive personalized customer service throughout the shopping and purchasing process. CarMax specialists are instructed to help the customer find their ideal model, apply for financing and trade in their current vehicle.

Once the customer has chosen from the nearly 50,000 vehicles in inventory, CarMax will deliver the vehicle to the customer’s home or work so the customer can take a no-obligation, stress-free test drive.

In addition to test driving in their own neighborhood, customers can see how essentials like strollers or bikes fit in the car, or even how the vehicle fits in their garage. If the vehicle is “the one,” the customer can complete the purchase on the spot.

CarMax added that the company will utilize this test in Charlotte to gather valuable customer insights and learn the best ways to further operationalize this offering for potential future markets.

CarMax also recently piloted online financing on carmax.com, which allows customers to get prequalified for financing from the comfort and privacy of their home, and then finish their shopping experience more quickly in store. This new offering rolls out nationwide this fall.

5 ways dealers can use Gubagoo’s Facebook Messenger Integration

BOCA RATON, Fla. - 

Gubagoo, a provider of behavioral engagement and scoring technologies for automotive websites, recently rolled out what the company thinks is an enhancement that can offer complete and seamless integration with Facebook Messenger.

Gubagoo’s Facebook Messenger Integration is available immediately to dealerships using Gubagoo solutions.

“Today, consumers spend an average of 50 minutes a day using Facebook platforms, including Facebook messenger — that is 1/16th of their waking time,” Gubagoo chief executive officer Brad Title said.

“At Gubagoo, we are relentlessly focused on helping auto dealers connect and engage more effectively, in real-time, with their customers — and Facebook Messenger is, increasingly, where consumers are making their connections,” Title continued.

“With this new integration, customers can chat with dealerships like they chat with their friends: better engagement equals better customer service equals increased sales conversion,” he went on to say.

The new integration with Facebook Messenger can give customers another channel through which they can directly communicate with dealerships using Gubagoo’s 24/7 fully-managed, messaging capabilities.

Gubagoo’s customers can push inventory and offers directly though Facebook Messenger and, because it integrates with Gubagoo’s mobile app, dealerships will have real-time access to conversations taking place between customers and Gubagoo chat operators.

Dealerships using Gubagoo can now do the following through Facebook Messenger:

• Send Inventory

• Push video

• Publish offers

• Book service appointments

• Take calls

Gubagoo is one of the fastest growing and most effective chat and website engagement providers for automotive dealerships.

Gubagoo can track and score more than 22 million vehicle buyers every month through its B.E.A.S.T. scoring technology that generates more than 125,000 leads to dealerships every month. The company’s online selling tools — which can increase efficiency, control and conversion as well as improve the consumer experience at the dealership — include ChatSmart, TalkSmart and the recently launched and integrated RESQ platform for web and phone.

RESQ also can enable dealerships to monitor chat conversations in real time. Gubagoo highlighted some RESQ Beta site customers have experienced up to a 300-percent increase in lead-to-sales conversions in their dealership.

BW Dealership Advisors adds consultant to boost digital offering

COLUMBUS, Ohio - 

BW Dealership Advisors — a Brady Ware-affiliated retail automotive consulting firm dedicated to offering consulting, fraud mitigation, accounting and tax services — announced this week that it has expanded its services to help dealers attract and engage clients online. The new digital capabilities will be led by Nick Brunotte, who joined the firm as senior operations consultant.

With Brunotte's added expertise, BW Dealership Advisors highlighted that it can help retail automotive clients with the online customer engagement aspect of their business, including web presence management strategies, business development centers, customer relationship management software processes, website effectiveness and other digital efficiencies.

“Dealerships are increasingly seeking ways to help them stand out from their competitors and build stronger relationships with customers,” Brunotte said. “I look forward to putting my dealership operations expertise and digital experience to work for the retail automotive clients we serve at BW Dealership Advisors.”

The firm highlighted Brunotte brings hands-on experience in dealership general management and operations to BW Dealership Advisors.

The firm went on to stress that clients will benefit from Brunotte’s ability to identify and solve the specialized challenges faced by retail automotive dealers, as well as his expertise in strategies for improving the profitability of service and finance and insurance (F&I) departments.

Brunotte studied finance at the University of Cincinnati and has more than a decade of management experience. He is actively involved in the National Automobile Dealers Association and has F&I certification from United Development Systems (UDS).

CarStory secures 2nd patent in 2 years

AUSTIN, Texas - 

CarStory, a provider of search and inventory data and analytics on used vehicles, announced on Monday that a technology powering its Market Reports has been awarded a U.S. Patent No. 9,465,873. The company highlighted this is the second patent awarded in two years for a technology utilized by CarStory Market Reports.

To date, the tool has been adopted by more than 6,000 dealers nationwide to help consumers understand a vehicle’s whole “story” through comprehensive, real-time, hyper-local data. CarStory can deliver 15 million Market Reports each month to consumers around the country.

The patent, which is titled “Systems, Methods and Devices for Identifying and Presenting Identifications of Significant Attributes of Unique Items,” was awarded to Vast.com, which uses the technology to power its CarStory Market Reports. The technology automatically can determine which aspects of a used-vehicle search are most significant to consumers and then identify the top three or four features that are the unique price drivers for that vehicle, presenting them in an easily digestible format to enable consumers to make more confident purchasing decisions.

Vast.com’s most recent previous patent was issued in December of last year for its “similarities engine,” which automatically can generate relevant and “like” vehicle recommendations through the CarStory Market Reports to buyers, helping facilitate a better, more informed vehicle selling/buying experience.

“Vast’s newest patent validates the power of the technology behind CarStory Market Reports. Because used vehicle price drivers differ dramatically from those that influence pricing when a vehicle is brand new, unique technology is required to help illuminate and quantify nuances for both dealers and consumers alike,” said David Franke, chief data scientist at Vast.com and co-inventor of the patent.

For example, a trim line that adds value to a vehicle when it is new may not play the same, positive role in the model’s price after a few years of wear and tear — leather seats may age poorly or GPS technology may be outdated.

“It is this real time, preference-based, nuanced vehicle intelligence that has been awarded in the patent and is the reason CarStory Market Reports have been so widely adopted,” Franke said.

“Our ‘demand/price driver engine’ improves the used car buying process by highlighting the handful of vehicle attributes that consumers are most interested in — even down to regional and local levels,” he continued.

By embedding important vehicle research directly in the vehicle detail page (VDP), CarStory Market Reports can encourage consumers to stay and engage on dealership websites, rather than clicking off to find information on third-party research sites. The Reports’ robust and unique information is based on insights generated from a combination of real-time used vehicle listings and data from over eight million used car searches each week.

The patented technology can highlight the unique attributes and features that drive price, whether it’s Bluetooth, roof rack or heated seats.

“CarStory Market Reports really help educate our sales team about which features are most important to our used car shoppers, and, because they are so engaging and informative, the reports have increased our online lead conversion,” said Tom White Jr., general manager of Subaru of Wichita.

Digital Air Strike welcomes 2 new executives

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - 

Social media and digital engagement company Digital Air Strike announced the addition of two technology veterans with extensive media, data and entrepreneurial experience to their senior leadership team.

This week, Anthony Argenziano joined Digital Air Strike as chief technology officer where he will manage and drive the company’s innovation and product development. David Corchado now is with the company as chief digital officer where he will guide the company’s expansion into key strategic markets.

“We are excited that Anthony and David have joined our team,” Digital Air Strike co-founder and chief executive officer Alexi Venneri said. “Their experience in digital marketing technology paired with their track records of driving growth will be invaluable as we continue to build innovative solutions in many vertical markets. 

“Anthony and David bring a wealth of enterprise retail technology experience to our company,” Venneri continued. “It is exciting to already see how their vision and passion for innovation will benefit our clients and partners.”

Argenziano has more than two decades of experience as a technology and product executive and entrepreneur with expertise in product development, professional services, business development, and operations. He specializes in creating and implementing high-performance strategies that directly impact innovation, growth, and profitability.

Prior to joining Digital Air Strike, Argenziano was the head of risk platform at Amazon and the chief technology officer at eBay Enterprises Display where he was responsible for setting the company’s product vision and strategy as well as developing software, technical operations and support.

Anthony did most of his undergraduate work at the University of Arizona before completing his B.A. in Management at Ottawa University and receiving his M.B.A. from Arizona State University.

Corchado has almost 20 years of experience in data driven consumer marketing roles. Prior to joining Digital Air Strike, he was the chief data officer at iCrossing, a division of the Hearst Corp. and also served as chief technology officer. 

Before iCrossing, Corchado was group vice president at Agency.com-TBWA\Worldwide, and led global site design for major brands including British Airways, Ford, Bank of America and General Electric.  

When kids run the dealership for a day

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - 

 “If I were school principal for a day …”

It’s a popular childhood meme.

But what if kids ran a dealership for a day?

That was the crux of Chrysler’s recent effort to drum up publicity for the 2017 Pacifica.

In essence it was business as usual at Southern California’s Victorville Motors on Sept. 14, except that the 12 families who came in to shop were catered to by Chrysler’s PacifiKids — Izzy (10), Miles (11), and Harper (8), and their young staff of eight.

Hidden cameras recorded the action as part of the digital and social media stunt.

 “Kids today are influencing their parents’ purchasing decisions more than ever, from the clothes they buy, to the music they download, to even the cars they buy,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands — Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. “So we thought, why not let children, the ones who are informing those major family purchases and for whom the Chrysler Pacifica is built, take over a real FCA dealership for one day to show moms and dads why the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is the best vehicle for their family.”

Over the course of two-and-a-half days, the dealership was transformed into a work-meets-play environment, from colorful walls and toys on desks to beanbag chairs and a slide leading into a ball pit.

Each family who visited was given a hands-on tour of the Pacifica, with the PacifiKids highlighting the minivan’s features.

“It will completely park itself,” a young salesgirl tells a family of three — prompting the husband to tell his wife: “You need one of those!”

The hidden-camera stunt, viewable at the top of the page or by clicking here, was the kickoff to a six-week digital and social campaign for Chrysler.

Consumers in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York can fill out a “permission slip” that will make one family from each market eligible for a daylong “field trip” to videotape their experiences with the minivan. Entry ends Oct. 17.

The videos will be posted at www.thePacifiKids.com on Nov. 12, and customers throughout the U.S. cam vote for their favorite video. The family whose video gets the most votes will win a 2017 Pacifica.

And one person who votes for a video will be randomly selected to also receive a 2017 Pacifica.

Additionally, consumers in 10 markets — Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix and San Francisco — can also submit “permission slips” for a weeklong extended test drive in a 2017 Pacifica. Twenty-one families will be chosen. Enter until Oct. 26 at www.thepacifickids.com.

 

Car shoppers feeling web-to-showroom disconnect

NEW YORK - 

More and more people are looking for their next vehicle online. That’s changed the nature of brick-and-mortar shopping, with many buyers starting the process digitally and finishing it at the dealership.

But a recent survey from Accenture revealed that shoppers are feeling a disconnect between their web and showroom experiences.

Consumers in the U.S., China and Germany who recently purchased a vehicle were asked to rate their perception of “seamless integration” on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being “most integrated.” The average rating was 2.32.

“Today’s consumers, influenced by digital technology, are driving the car-buying process. They are visiting showrooms to seek distinct information to supplement the information found on the web, and want counsel from product and customer experts instead of a traditional sales presentation,” said Axel Schmidt, managing director in Accenture’s automotive practice.

“As digitization increases, automakers and dealers can no longer afford to ignore full integration of their operations. They must work together more closely than ever to create a truly seamless, multichannel experience to satisfy customers," Schmidt continued.

Accenture made a distinction between consumers who shop online frequently (“Digital Natives”) and those who are more conservative online users (“Digital Laggards”). The report found that Natives visit the dealer more often than Laggards: 60 percent of them stop at their dealership more than twice before buying a car, while only 47 percent of latter do so.

Natives may need less time at the dealer because they have made their buying decision online. This emphasizes how the showroom’s role is being redefined as the place to finalize the purchase of a car, rather than the traditional starting point. The survey also showed that nearly all car-buying decisions are made online, and many customers do not believe that in-person interaction is necessary at each stage of the transaction.

Survey respondents also indicated there is room for improvement in digital channels as well as showrooms. Nearly half (43 percent) would consider purchasing a new vehicle online if prices were lower than those at the dealership. This is true for half of the Laggards, who said they would buy new vehicles online if prices were cheaper. They are also interested in advanced product configurators, online chat consultation, and enhanced reality-based experiences.

In terms of offline improvements, the survey found that in addition to wanting expert product advice, many respondents would like staff to be available to answer additional questions and provide recommendations regarding their purchase throughout the buying process — not just in person.

“There are clear opportunities for the industry to improve interaction with customers using new technologies like cloud-based customer relationship management, business-insights software and virtual- and augmented-reality technologies. Automakers and dealers have almost everything they need to make the online-offline experience more compelling, but what they need to do is to bring it all together and make it work,” said Schmidt. “That’s likely to be challenging, but it will be rewarding for those who are able to create strong multi-channel integration.”

While Accenture found that many buyers do not believe face-to-face interaction is necessary at every stage of the process, some parts of the process, i.e. clear-cut trade-in value and deal structure, can be difficult without it. Mike Burgiss, vice president of digital retailing at Cox Automotive, addressed the so-called “missing piece” in digital auto retailing in a recent Auto Remarketing story.

Buying preferences vary by country

Accenture found notable differences in where consumers wish to buy their cars. For example, interest in buying from an online store was highest among U.S. buyers at 19 percent, versus 15 percent of Chinese buyers and 10 percent of German buyers. Other findings:

—Chinese consumers showed the strongest preference for flagship stores, with 37 percent saying they would buy their next car at such an outlet, and 28 percent preferred picking up their new car from their dealer.

—Prospective buyers in Germany showed the strongest interest in buying a car at a standard dealership, with nearly half (46 percent) citing such a preference as their vehicle purchase location. Sixty-one percent also preferred picking up their car from the dealer. Twenty percent were open to auto retail outlets featuring advanced technologies, such as virtual reality experiences.

—Only 14 percent of U.S. respondents would prefer to purchase a vehicle from a flagship outlet. Thirty-five percent still prefer buying from a standard dealership.

“Despite these market differences, it is clear that automotive retail business models throughout the global market need to undergo a dramatic transformation to fully benefit from the multi-channel customer and fend off new market entrants, whose platform business models have already disrupted the second-hand car market,” said Schmidt.

Accenture carried out an online survey of approximately 3,000 consumers in China, Germany and the U.S. The survey participants are a representative number of private car buyers in each market who had purchased a new car in the past five years.

 

What Facebook Marketplace can mean for your dealership

TAMPA, Fla. - 

Facebook originally built buy and sell Facebook groups to help people connect and hock what they had to sell. Now, Facebook built a standalone marketplace for those 450 million people who visit those groups every month. Facebook calls it a “convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community."

Facebook Marketplace is in its infancy right now, but it’s going to have huge potential. Here are some ways your dealership can take advantage of this new platform.

Buying in Facebook Marketplace

You can think of Facebook Marketplace like Craigslist’s classified ads for dealerships. Facebook Marketplace lets you search for something you would like to buy, either locally, or in a different city, and you can message the seller directly. Facebook is not currently facilitating payments or delivery, but you can almost guarantee that they will in the future. They’re a publically traded company after all.

Selling in Facebook Marketplace

To sell an item in Facebook Marketplace, you:

1. Take a photo of your item from your cell phone and add it from your camera roll

2. Enter a product name, description and price

3. Confirm your location and select a category

4. Post

How dealerships can benefit from Facebook Marketplace

You already know what is selling well at your dealership, or at least you should. Now your sales team, or internet sales manager, can use Facebook Marketplace to reach out to consumers, offering to buy what they’re selling and get them into something new at your dealership. You can also offer to just buy it from them, which may be better received and less “spammy”

Facebook offers a cars, trucks and motorcycles category and you can filter by price and location. Expect more filters in the future if the marketplace is widely adopted.

As mentioned earlier, Facebook Marketplace is not technically for businesses yet, but you can use your personal Facebook page to start taking advantage it. Get your feet wet now, while it’s still new, and your dealership will surely benefit. 

Adam Goldberg is the marketing manager at LotVantage, a provider of digital marketing solutions for automotive, marine, powersports, RV, trailer and outdoor power equipment dealerships. He can be reached at agoldberg@thatus.com. You can also access more social media tips at motors.lotvantage.com/blog.