A Year in Review: COVID-19 and Dealership Digital Marketing

It’s been a little over one year since all of us, as an industry, learned to navigate growing uncertainty and adjusting day-to-day operations to meet the demands of our customers. Around the time the world was impacted by COVID-19, we recommended that you adopt the mindset that the impending change was not one-dimensional. And it still isn’t. Outside of prioritizing the safety of your staff and making the best possible shopping experience for your customers, the same key marketing initiatives that helped ensure the health and longevity of your advertising strategy one year ago still apply today.

With varying limitations on travel, regional mandates, and social distancing, the automotive industry was forced to adjust the way we communicate with customers. In hindsight, it may have been the wake-up call we all needed. Among other things, the last year has yielded less time in the car and more time at home. As a result, exposure from some traditional media, like radio ads, continues to diminish. But did you scale back your radio spend one year ago? While radio may exist as a viable media option to get your advertisement across, the current landscape has and will continue to support a more digital- focused approach to avoid spending a significant portion of your budget only to generate a limited return.

Also consider the increase in time spent online. The likelihood of customers visiting your 24/7 showroom and watch auto (or non-auto) related videos continues to make substantial jumps since the onslaught of COVID-19. But what can be done to make sure this shopping experience is meeting the needs of your customers? First and foremost, merchandising. While often left out of the marketing conversation, strong merchandising can engage customers quickly and get them further down the funnel if executed well. Check that your inventory is front line ready with custom photos, comments, price and, descriptions.

Another bi-product of increased time online is the necessary adjustments required to your search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click campaigns. Customer online search habits have changed, and your ads should have too. From shopping for the right vehicle (at times of the day that we have not historically seen) to the content in the ad, the movement to align your content with customer intent is growing stronger all the time. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that dealerships and agencies need to talk about how to evolve and implement their strategy. Ask questions regarding budget and key-word recommendations, implementations, and any additional measures being taken to ensure long-term success.

Finally, remember to keep looking forward. As previously mentioned, people continue to spend more time online and video views have followed suit. Do you have a video pre-roll campaign to accommodate the exposure you may receive from this shift? Exposure to your message is paramount, and video pre-roll is a tremendous way to achieve this. Among the trends that have continued to gain momentum, video pre-roll was and still is an important element in your marketing strategy. But what about the third parties? It is important to know how changes to their business models, dashboards and technology allow you to become better connected to your customers. It’s also important to understand how your package accommodates your changing lot size. Has your mix of New to Used inventory flipped due to supply limitations on New inventory?

Ultimately, the changing times of the past year forced wide-spread adaptation, especially when it comes to your marketing strategy. The last time I wrote this article it was about “times of uncertainty”. We’re no longer uncertain. Simply put, increased time online continues to mean more opportunity for conversion. Adapt with the climate and succeed long-term with a sound, forward-thinking strategy that will continue to deliver the shopping experience your customers deserve.


Tyler Rauch
Senior Manager

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