A wave of new digital privacy rules for tracking personal data have been making headlines as privacy concerns reach an all-time high. Google and Apple both recently announced key changes regarding the use of consumer information on their platforms — impacting both how data is collected and how it can be used in targeting digital ads.
Advertisers everywhere are wondering “How will the changes impact my campaigns?”, and “Will I be able to reach in-market shoppers effectively?”
We’ve been carefully watching and preparing for these policy changes, and we’ve got a game plan to help you navigate the new rules of engagement. We did a whole webinar about it! You can stream it for free to get the strategies, tips, and even a few tools to help you stay on target and make the most of every digital shopper.
With the proper optimizations to your campaign targeting and website, we can make sure you are prepared to face the new era in ad targeting. We have 5 simple strategies to see you through.
1. ADJUST YOUR GOOGLE AIM
When Google rolled out its new Personal Ad Policy in October, the auto industry was naturally concerned. Under the new guidelines developed to improve equal access to housing, employment, and credit opportunities —certain ads could no longer be targeted or excluded based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP Code.
This means any ads that contain finance offers in the ad headline or copy, and any ads with a landing page that references finance/payment options or directly link to a credit application (every page on your website, since it is usually in the menu), can no longer be targeted by ZIP Code. Talk about a curveball for automotive dealers who frequently use zip codes for precision targeting and to meet OEM requirements.
Even if you can’t target by zip code, there are some ways you can continue to target shoppers without over-extending your reach.
Utilize Google’s Locations Report: This report will still allow access to performance metrics based on ZIP Codes, even when not directly targeting them.
Directly Target Cities/Towns: Before switching to radius targeting, try directly targeting the city/town of your dealership, as well as any of the surrounding cities that you would have previously targeted. If you utilize Google’s Locations Report to see which ZIP Codes are performing best, you can use that data on a website like Open Data Soft, which will match ZIP Codes to the city they represent for a quicker transition.
Plot Your Sales Data: If you are a Dealer Inspire client, we can plot your DMS data on a map to visualize which areas around your dealership generate the most sales. This can help you identify the cities, as well as optimize your target radius size, allowing you to dial in your targeting where you’re most likely to make the biggest impact.
Now that we have a few months of data under our belt, we know these alternative targeting strategies WORK. In the 90 days since Google updated their personal advertising policy, our clients on average actually saw increases in their campaign performance. Impressions increased by 7.8%, clicks went up 1.23%, and the conversion rate was up 1.56%.
2. FUEL YOUR ADVERTISING WITH FIRST-PARTY DATA
Without the precision targeting of ZIP Codes, it makes even more sense to leverage a combination of first and third-party audience data to augment your targeting efforts and prioritize your bid strategy.
We have exclusive access to Cars.com’s high-quality audience data, so once those shoppers perform a Google search, we prioritize their bids because we know they are more likely to convert.
We also partner with OEMs who feed us in-market audience data from their Tier 1 websites, which we bid up on, knowing they are likely already decided on brand/model and ready to buy soon. For example, take a look at the incredible results we’ve been able to earn for our Ford clients using FordDirect’s pure audience data.
3. LEVERAGE YOUR OWN DATA
Your dealership’s first-party data is one of the best sources to improve search performance. When layered into campaigns, your own audiences can significantly improve performance and efficiency.
Email Matchback Audiences
While adjusting your targeting for customeracquisition, it’s also super important to remember to place a premium on your current customers by leveraging your CRM/DMS data to stay in front of them when they turn to search, whether for service, a lease renewal, or a trade-in / upgrade campaign. Layering in these matchbacks has a huge impact on results for our clients, with a 16% decrease in cost per click, and a whopping 171% increase in click-through rate.
Website Remarketing Audiences
Using your website audience data, we can implement a smarter targeting strategy and tailor ad copy to unique audiences more effectively. When we segment the audience, we can bid up on your past site visitors and show more aggressive offers as these potential customers are more likely to convert since they are already familiar with your brand.
Dynamic Inventory Advertising
You can also set-up your digital advertising to make smart decisions at scale by leveraging data from your own inventory feed. Using Dealer Inspire’s FUEL: Search & Display™, your ads and bidding strategies can be automatically optimized in milliseconds by matching your exact VINs with the right shoppers looking for them.
Even if your geo-targeting isn’t as tight as before the update, you can increase ROI by serving your audience hyper-relevant, dynamic ads tailored to their search query.
4. PREPARE FOR THE TECH WARS ON SOCIAL
Apple is getting ready to roll out data tracking opt-ins with iOS 14.5, and a war is brewing with Facebook as they are likely to be negatively impacted by the changes.
With iOS 14.5, Apple is taking a giant step toward data transparency by introducing their App Tracking Transparency Framework. iOS device users will have to explicitly opt-in to having their online activity tracked for each app they use on their iPhone or iPad before opening the app. Facebook argues this will worsen the user’s advertising experience, and limit the ability for small businesses to reach and generate new customers.
Since 81% of American’s think the risks of sharing their data outweighs the benefits of personalized advertising, we expect an overwhelming majority of consumers to opt-out. Either way, you don’t need to get caught up in the fight. Much like the targeting changes we recommend for Google, a few easy modifications to your social media targeting strategy can keep you right where you want to be: front and center with potential customers.
5. TAP INTO EXCLUSIVE SOCIAL AUDIENCES
All the same audiences and strategies that boost your search performance can be applied to your social targeting: leveraging pure in-market audiences, your own audience data, and dynamic inventory ads is a powerful combination that will position you to reach your targets. In fact, combining those three elements is increasing our dealers’ CTR by 144.6% and decreasing CPC by 50%.
So let’s focus on the unique ways we can take your social advertising to the next level without sacrificing performance from Apple’s new policy.
Oracle In-Market Data
Through a unique partnership with Oracle, our team can target highly custom in-market audiences on Facebook. These are extraordinarily granular audiences we can use to pinpoint highly specific potential customers from various sources. We can do some pretty amazing things to target owners and leasers of particular makes and models, in-market behavior for particular makes and models, and even auto parts and service buyers.
For example, you could target consumers who currently drive a Honda Accord and are coming up on the end of their lease, and show them an exclusive offer to upgrade their ride to the 2021 model. That kind of relevancy and personalization can make a huge difference to your campaign performance.
Quorum Foot Traffic Data
We also partner with Quorum, which tracks mobile IDs to the dealership lot and enables sophisticated store visit reporting as well as high-intent Facebook audiences.
For example, you could target shoppers that have visited the CarMax up the road and conquest them with a social message that says “Don’t Pay the Max”, highlighting all the benefits of shopping local with your team. This kind of precision targeting has already proved to increase conversion rate by 2X.
So, even if an iPhone user opts out of Facebook activity tracking, third-party data relationships provide an avenue to target custom audiences. And while we’ve yet to see the impacts of the Ad Tracking Transparency Framework, we’re confident we can help clients find solutions, just as we did when Google rolled out its changes.
Together, these two exclusive data partnerships can make a big difference vs. the standard Facebook targeting capabilities that come out of the box, especially with the incoming impact of iOS 14.5.
READY TO SHARPEN YOUR AIM?
Just because the landscape has changed doesn’t mean you need to settle for decreased campaign performance, less traffic, and fewer leads. We’ve proven that with the right attention to detail, careful campaign monitoring, and the right strategies to target and convert shoppers, you can continue attracting and engaging car buyers. Let’s discuss how Dealer Inspire can help you target the right shoppers on the right platforms, no matter what gets thrown our way.
For many of us, the last few months have already changed the way we work forever. For dealers, it’s become clear just how essential digital retailing tools are for adapting to this new, digital-first normal. But tools don’t just do the job by themselves — someone needs to hold the nail and swing the hammer.
Adding the right solution to your website is a great first step, but to truly adapt your business to maximize revenue and scale efficiently you have to fully connect the tool with your marketing and sales strategy.
As so many dealers across the country unwrap their first digital retailing tools and give this online car buying thing a shot, we wanted to put together a starter guide to help you check the most important boxes for maximizing the ROI of yours. Let’s break it down.
ABOUT DEALER INSPIRE (THAT’S US!)
While all of the following tips should apply to any digital retailing solution, I can’t not point out that Dealer Inspire is best equipped to execute on these best practices by being the only website, digital retailing, messaging, connected marketing, and reporting provider — partnering with you to create one seamless online to in-store experience.
Step 1: Clear The Path To Purchase
If you don’t clear the way for the customer journey on your website, the new tool you’re paying for can get lost in the weeds of too many other CTAs — wasting countless opportunities on shoppers who give up trying to find the answers and experience they’re looking for.
Not all buttons have the same value for you or the customer, so funnel your traffic to the buttons that drive the best outcomes. An easy way to start this spring cleaning is by identifying the buttons that are redundant or create dead-ends for the user, including links off-site and lead forms that ask for information but give no immediate answers in return.
A lead from a shopper who quickly filled out an [Unlock Extra Savings] form to see how it affected the price (someone will be in touch to tell them later) is not as valuable as the shopper who clicked [Explore Payment Options] and instantly personalized their payment, valued their trade, saved an account on your website, and started to add accessories and insurance products — so send more shoppers that way.
It’s (understandably) tempting to want to add more paths to generate more leads, and removing buttons can feel like you’re removing opportunities — but the opposite is true. Our dealers who see the most dramatic increases in the volume and quality of their leads are the ones that commit to providing the best shopping experience and then focus their traffic to it.
Having your website and digital retailing provider be one in the same is key so they can seamlessly sync the experience from one tool to the other, and optimize your UX based on performance without any restrictions of you needing to coordinate between vendors.
Step 2: Treat Every Lead Like A Walk-In
This is the biggest step, because leads don’t keep the lights on. For dealers to grow sales (at lower labor and advertising costs) we need to fundamentally shift our thinking around leads as an industry. Now more than ever, we need to view websites as your digital storefront (even your primary storefront), and take the same level of customer service you expect in-store, online.
So, imagine if a customer walked into your physical store interested to browse your inventory and discuss financing — and you gave them a clipboard with a form, asked them to fill it out, and then told them you’d be in touch sometime soon to answer their questions. Letting that shopper walk out of your physical store without trying to help them in the moment would be crazy, and yet hundreds of shoppers are likely having that same exact experience on your website every single day.
Bob in your digital showroom is just as real as he would be in your physical showroom, so you need to engage him just like you would there. That’s why it’s critical to seamlessly pair your digital retailing tool with an advanced messaging platformlike Conversations™ that can simulate your helpful customer service with instant answers, helpful materials (vehicle details, brochures, videos), and live video chat to talk face-to-face and show the customer around the vehicle. Just like you would in-store, you need to be able to sit down with him and talk through the specific financing options he’s looking at and collaborate to close the deal. Basically, you just need the tools to be available to help customers online, the same way you wouldn’t leave your physical dealership completely unstaffed during business hours.
If you don’t catch the online shopper in the moment, you should still treat them like a walk-in. That means not using the old lead form follow-up process. These shoppers have saved and customized specific vehicles and explored payment options, so your follow-up needs to acknowledge that specific progress they made and seamlessly pick-up where they left off — just like they had an appointment with you yesterday and are now back in your showroom. Automated emails and uninformed phone calls will cause a total disconnect in their customer experience — making them feel like they need to start over — so it’s critical for you to treat them like walk-ins you already know.
While it’s worth a whole other blog to talk about, texting is the best way to follow-up with these customers for a personalized experience that actually starts a conversation, because 76% of follow-up phone calls will go unanswered (likely far more now that iPhones block unknown numbers). Your paired messaging platform can make this follow-up process seamless so your team isn’t texting from their personal numbers.
Step 3: Plug In Your Showroom
Now that you’ve set-up the ideal online car buying experience, you need to make sure it doesn’t break when a customer actually walks into your physical store. Just like follow-ups, you need to make sure your dealership and team are greeting these customers as previous walk-ins who have already worked with you.
Like everything else, there’s a technology and a people aspect to perfecting this — but they can both be powerfully simple.
From the people side: all you should need to do is make sure your sales team is familiar with the tool on your website. If a customer walks in and says they’ve nailed down their perfect deal based on their credit, trade, and preferences — and your team doesn’t know they could do that on your website — then you’re setting up some awkward conversations unlikely to sell cars. As long as they know about the tool and can pull up that customer’s progress with it, your team should be in position to have a good day.
From the technology side: you should set-up devices with welcome screens (or even just print signage) that immediately validates to your walk-ins that the progress they made online allows them to ”skip the line”, like a Disney FastPass+. Instead of feeling like they need to re-introduce themselves and start over, they can instantly jump ahead to buying time. This is the kind of experience that customers will write home about, building your review reputation while increasing your close rate.
With our solution, for example, you can accomplish this by simply pulling up your website on any internet-connected device — customers just need to type in their phone number or email address to instantly pull up their personalized Online Shopper™ “Garage” and seamlessly continue their deal. Check it out.
Step 4: Connect Your Marketing
Ok, now that you’ve created an amazing experience for customers online and offline, you need to make sure they know about it. By incorporating “online car buying” throughout you website and marketing messaging you can expect to increase the high-intent traffic you’re driving to your platform.
Landing Page. Every campaign needs to start with a good destination. Add a landing page to show website visitors that your dealership offers online car buying, how they can get started, and most importantly why it makes their shopping experience better.
Website Creative. From homepage sliders and personalizers to VRP banners, make sure your visitors know from the moment they hit your website that they can go the distance online. It could make all the difference between a bounce and a buyer.
Search Advertising. Digital Retailing functions as both a strong USP and a fresh CTA, meaning your PPC strategy can get a boost as well. Update your ad copy to highlight your online experience, add “Buy Online” as a sitelink extension, and create campaigns related keywords.
Email Marketing. Being able to shop online is also a great message to re-engage your existing customers nearing their next vehicle. Once you’ve got your platform rocking, set-up a drip email campaign to drive your customers directly into your buying experience.
Display Advertising. The ability to complete the whole process in your pajamas is going to turn heads today, especially for consumers actively in the process of shopping. Using Cars.com Display gets you in front of local car shoppers as they’re shopping, putting your brand in front of the best audience, at the best time, with the most powerful message.
Video Advertising. With people stuck at home streaming twice as much video*, and you set-up to offer the ideal home car buying experience, it’s the perfect time to capitalize on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and OTT advertising to drive more shoppers to your website and digital retailing tool.
By having all of your technology and marketing managed by one provider you can keep your entire digital presence in sync to maximize conversions and ROI. If one piece is updated before the other, or your website doesn’t fulfill your marketing message, you can create disconnects in the customer journey that will cause them to bounce along the way, which would be a bummer.
Step 5: Grow Your Reputation
Updating your marketing messaging for online car buying will make a big difference, but that message is no longer quite as unique as it was even a few months ago. Every competitor can say they offer online car buying — because they have to right now — even if they just have a lead form button that says [Buy Now]. You need to back up your claims with the experience and your most important proof point: your happy customers.
97% of shoppers use reviews to choose the right local dealership*, and now more than ever, reviews that mention online car buying, home delivery, and general convenience and speed are going to make all the difference. Make sure you’re soliciting feedback on your great customer experience across platforms to grow your most powerful differentiator in the market: your reputation.
*BrightLocal 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey, December 2019
#ProTip DealerRater®’s ReviewBuilder™solution can automatically solicit these reviews from your sold customers and post them across all the platforms that matter.
Step 6: Connect Your DMS
If you follow each of these steps so far, should you expect to see significant results that impact your bottom line? Yeah, I definitely think so — but the only way to know is to actually look at your bottom line. Connect your sales data into your reporting platform to see the sales generated specifically from your digital retailing solution. If you’re not driving real sales from it then there’s something wrong with your tool or your process and you need that reporting to make informed decisions for your business.
Recap: Have A Platform Partner
Bottom line, you can’t add a widget to your website and expect your business to adapt. You need your team using a tool to build a seamless end-to-end experience that drives sales, and the only way to do that is to have a partner that can connect every part of it for you. We built our company and our platform to do exactly that, and we’re here to help. Put us to work.
Like so many others, our industry has been upended by the Coronavirus. It happened fast, and now we need to work together just as quickly to adapt and promote how your dealership will serve consumers during this time of isolation and anxiety. We’re here to help.
It’s not business as usual for anyone right now, so it’s critical that your website and marketing channels are telling consumers the status of your operations: including what’s open and when, how they can do business with you from home, and why they should right now.
At Dealer Inspire we’ve pivoted all of our teams towards immediate dealer support and solutions to pull through this time together, including my team: B2B Marketing. We’ve postponed our next Office Space parodies showing how to use our products because our team is 100% focused on providing free creative to promote dealers.
Combining forces with our Connected Marketing team, we are providing the following templated assets at no charge right now to promote your dealership’s message.
Google My Business Updates
To support as many dealers as possible, as fast as possible, we are creating templates for the following common and strategic messages.
To help you decide (as much as you’re able to decide) on your messaging for the coming weeks, I wanted to take you behind the scenes on our team’s thought process for developing our first set of COVID-19 campaigns.
CREATIVE CAN STILL BE FUN RIGHT NOW
While this is a deeply challenging time for all of us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your advertising needs to remind consumers of that. Your brand can be a fun, hopeful distraction from the rest of the posts we have in our newsfeeds while still being perfectly relevant to the times and addressing your audience’s needs.
Watch how this template we made — which we can create for your dealership at no charge — is squarely set in the consumer’s current predicament without directly referencing this virus or its impact on our economy.
A little fun and positivity is being shared a long way on social right now, and it’s important to remember that you offer an uplifting experience — whether it’s the thrill of getting a new car or the satisfaction of completing an essential errand at your service bay.
FOCUS ON YOUR ESSENTIAL SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY
Whether or not your showroom is still open, it’s a good time to focus on promoting your service bay. Over the last 14 days we have actually seen a 21.85% increase in service related search terms nationwide, which has led us to proactively optimize paid search budget and ad copy for our dealer partners.
Your creative messaging should support that, making sure that your community knows you’re open to help them. Remember, it’s a great time for them to get service since most people have more time and could use a reason to get out of the house and accomplish something.
Make sure anyone actively looking for you can easily figure out if and when you’re open by updating your Google My Business (GMB) profile and adding messaging to your homepage. Our SEO team can help you manage your profile at no charge so you don’t miss a single opportunity right now.
On the sales side, we are currently seeing a ~50% decline in walk-in traffic nationwide as more and more shoppers practice social distancing. Assuring shoppers that you’re tripling your showroom cleaning efforts and sanitizing every sales desk can make a big difference for those itching to buy, but for many others, getting them to come on down is a tough sell right now.
The good news is there are MILLIONS of people still in the market, with steady shopping activity across DI websites and Cars.com nationwide. We just need to show them how they can do business with you outside of showroom floor handshakes. This is where we need to work together to promote a message that connects with the experience you can fulfill.
Virtual appointments, online car buying, and home delivery are ideal messages right now — and we can set you up with the technology to provide those customer experiences — but no matter what tools you have today or what you have the resources to reasonably fulfill with your team, we can help you promote the simple fact that you’re available. Digital retailing is just a conversation, and you can bring the entire buying process to email, chat, text, or the good old-fashioned telephone — you just need to let shoppers know that you’re willing to.
OEMs are already rolling out big offers to help shoppers get into a new car over the coming weeks and months. Most people may assume that it’s not smart to get a new car during a time of such economic uncertainty, but a little promotion and education around these offers can show that this is the best time to get a new payment plan that will alleviate their monthly budget and help them afford their other necessities.
Not everyone is in the market for a new car right now, but everyone could use a lower bill and a break for three months. By just talking through different payment options you and your dealership can be the solution, helping people in your community get to where they need to be to weather this storm.
And that’s the kinda thing people don’t forget. They tell their friends and family that you can help them too.
FUTURE-PROOF YOUR DEALERSHIP.
It was our vision and marketing mantra. Now it’s the immediate mission. We need to work together to adapt and execute every day to serve at-home customers during this time, and the actions we take now will set you up to thrive long-term with consumers online.
Not just because you’ll have the right digital strategy in place, but because your community won’t forget that you were there to help. By offering an experience that helps anxious consumers right now, you can create life-long loyal customers — and you can count on our team to be here to help you make that happen.
You’ve put lots of thought into your post. You’ve edited the content several times. You finally click that button to send it out to your followers. When you check in on the post later in the day, nobody has shared, commented, or even liked it. After checking the Facebook Insights, you see that just a fraction of your followers even saw the post. What went wrong? And more importantly, how do you fix it?
The best way to answer the “what went wrong” question is to understand how to publish content properly. Social networks reward those who offer compelling content, and they measure how compelling your content is by how many people interact with the post. But what makes content compelling, and how can you make sure people see it and engage?
Here are some tried and true tips to get your social media posts in front of more people:
• Use images – Pictures catch people’s eyes, meaning they are more likely to read the text you took time to write. Now they are much more likely to like, comment, or share that post.
• Use videos – Again, people are attracted to images in their Newsfeed or Google+ stream. The more you can get them to click, the more people will see the post.
• Ask questions – This is one of the hardest tips when it comes to crafting content, but it is a very effective technique. It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to ask questions directly related to cars or automotive interests (or whatever industry you represent). You may try to find a topic that is relevant to the community in which you are located. Does the local football team have a big game coming up? Is there a big community event going on this weekend? These are things that you can ask questions about in order to engage followers.
• Keep the conversation going – Respond to the people who do comment. Add your own ideas and opinions to the discussion. This could get even more engagement.
• Research your competitors – You visit their websites already to see what they are doing — make it a point to subscribe to their social media also. See what is creating success for them. They are targeting the same people as you, so if they are succeeding in social, follow their lead. It’s already been proven to work!
• Do what works for you – This is the most important thing. If something works for your brand, continue to do it! The ultimate goal of a social media account is to extend your brand and stay fresh in the minds of consumers.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many people have you in their circles. What matters most is how many of these people are engaging with your content. Social networks rank content on popularity. Just like the old idea that if someone has an opinion they will tell two people, then those two will each tell two people, then all four of those people will tell two more; the social network algorithms operate in the same way.
Social media is a great way to really connect with your customers even when they are not currently in the market. It will help you build trust and lead to a more solid relationship. Next time they are looking for a new vehicle, they will call you first… or maybe they will just post a message on your wall.