The combined effects of the pandemic and global chip shortage have drastically (and maybe even irrevocably) changed the landscape of the automotive retail industry. The resulting inventory shortage that began in early 2021 continues into 2022 with no tangible signs of easing up this year.
As a result, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior amongst car shoppers. After decades of being able to just show up on a dealership’s lot and then drive off a couple hours later with the exact vehicle (or close enough to it) they wanted, car shoppers are discovering that with the lack of inventory, that just isn’t possible today — unless they’re willing to settle.
And when it comes to the second largest purchase most people will ever make, “settling” is not at the top of a lot of people’s list of things they want to do.
Like many other advancements that became popular as the result of the pandemic — such as curbside pickup and at-home delivery — placing a pre-order for your next set of wheels at your local dealership is the newest trend among car shoppers
According to a recent Cars.com survey, 41% of recent shoppers plan to pre-order their next vehicle through a local dealer.
What that means for you is that when it comes to your marketing strategy, you can’t just rely on campaigns targeted to shoppers who are displaying active buying intent based on vehicle year, make, and model, or being classified as “in-market”. You also have to expand your reach to make sure you’re able to make an impression with local shoppers who are exhibiting “pre-order intent” too to ensure you’re reaching those people with a highly relevant message that meets their intention.
We recently dropped a new show on Inspire+ called You’ve Got Pre-Orders that’ll walk you through what it takes to execute a holistic marketing strategy focused on filling your sales pipeline with pre-orders.
But if you’re at work right now and can’t kick back to watch the show, don’t sweat it because I’m going to give you some of the best tips from our expert team right here, so keep on reading!
OPTIMIZE THE USER EXPERIENCE ON YOUR WEBSITE
If a shopper is just coming into the market for the first time in four or five years, there’s a real good chance that they may not be aware how much the car shopping experience has changed in the past two years. That’s why it’s important to update your website with pre-order messaging so it’s front and center on all of the most visited shopping pages on your website.
From your homepage and main menu, to your VRPs and even your chat tool, it’s critical you show your visitors that they can order exactly what they want from you, regardless of where they may be on your website.
But the real question you need to answer is this: What is the user experience going to be like when a shopper on your website engages with your pre-order messaging? Are you going to take them to a landing page that explains the process, along with a CTA to contact you? Or can you provide an even better experience that’ll deepen the connection between the shopper and your dealership?
While a landing page + CTA is a classic marketing combo, that’s not necessarily going to fulfill the need for instant gratification that we’re all accustomed to in our shopping experiences these days.
The preferred solution is to let that customer actually build the exact vehicle in your lineup that they want — right on your website — using the Build & Price tool that’s available to install on your Dealer Inspire website.
If you’ve ever configured anything online, like a new computer, the latest iPhone, or an Ikea kitchen, then you know that feeling you get as you dial in all of the specifications to meet your specific needs. It’s a non-stop dopamine rush as you tick off your options and upgrades. That’s exactly what’s in play when shoppers use our Build & Price tool. With each selection they make, starting from model and working their way down to trim, options, and colors – shoppers are not just getting excited about their next vehicle, they’re mentally committing themselves to seeing the order through to completion.
Once their vehicle is built, a shopper will be able to see the price as configured, and then you’ll be able to reach out to them to confirm their vehicle preferences, and work through the rest of the details for completing the pre-order.
CAPTURE ORDER INTENT IN THE SERP
Once you’ve prepared your website to convert visitors into sales opportunities, then you can begin marketing that experience. Like most questions that need to be answered, a majority of people will turn to search engines to get the information they need to make an informed decision. We can see the increasing trend in searches related to ordering a vehicle steadily increasing year over year, so it only makes sense to make sure that between your SEO and SEM efforts, you’re able to capture the attention of searchers exhibiting both Research and Ready to Act search intent.
ATTRACT THE RIGHT BUYER WITH SEO
Today, car dealers who focus on optimizing their website and related content around pre-orders have a chance to get out to an early lead over their competitors. When it comes to SEO, it’s best to make sure you’re covering both types of intent through your content, on page optimizations, and your off site signals as well.
The SEO team at Dealer Inspire discovered that Google will return top local results for Ready to Act search queries (i.e. Order a new Make) tailored to the specific location of the searcher if there’s relevant content available from a local source (hint: like your dealership’s website).
And that’s why local signals are really important for these types of queries: the proximity of the searcher to your dealership is going to be a top ranking factor. But at the same time, if you don’t have quality and relevant content that answers the shopper’s question, then you won’t show up at all.
So if you don’t already have a landing page that details all aspects of placing an order for a vehicle with your dealership, that’s the first place you’ll want to start. The page should be a comprehensive piece of content that’s optimized not just for keywords and user intent, but provides relevant and engaging content that’ll drive the visitor down the funnel to conversion.
If you want to create a pre-order landing page that cracks the top of the local search results, then follow these best practices:
- Match your H1, Title, and Meta Description to user intent
- Use visually appealing imagery
- Provide a video that explains the process
- Embed reviews on the page from customers who’ve ordered from you
- Include a comprehensive FAQ that directly answers all related ordering questions
- A CTA to engage with your dealership’s order process
Remember, the goal isn’t just to have relevant content that ranks, you want that content to convert those visitors into real sales opportunities. So whether you’re using our Build & Price tool, or have a different user experience, be sure that you have a prominent CTA in place on your landing page to encourage each visitor to take that critical next step toward placing their order.
MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION WITH YOUR SEARCH ADS
On the flipside of the SEO coin, is your SEM. Here we’re only going to focus on campaigns that cover the Ready to Act intent versus the Research intent. You’ll want to have search campaigns set up in Google Ads specifically to cover these types of searches.
Again, aligning your ad headline, copy, and sitelinks to match exactly what the searcher is looking for is the best way to encourage the searcher to engage with your dealership’s experience.
Also think about how you can provide a more optimized ad experience. While your ad’s main CTA might take the user to your newly-created, information-rich pre-order landing page, you can also remove that step and use a sitelink like “Build Your Honda” to take that shopper directly to the Build & Price tool with just one tap.
Starting with your base search campaigns in, you can also run your pre-order campaigns across social, display, and video platforms. Check out You’ve Got Pre-Orders on Inspire+ to get the comprehensive breakdown on how effectively reach shoppers looking to order their next vehicle across all channels and devices.
PERFECT YOUR PRE-ORDER FOLLOW-UP
As you effectively implement your pre-order strategy, it’s critical that you design a specific follow-up process for these sales opportunities. While your CRM is probably programmed to automatically follow-up with all leads that originate from your website, I’d highly recommend creating a specific drip campaign for pre-order leads — or even shutting it off entirely.
Remember, your customer just spent quality time on your website building the perfect vehicle of their dreams, so if the first outreach they receive from your dealership is an automated email from your CRM that’s providing basic information about the car they’ve already built and asking when they can come in — well, that’s a fail.
The first thing you should do once you receive that pre-order lead, is to follow up immediately with a text confirmation to continue the conversation while it’s still fresh and exciting in your customer’s mind.
The goal is to confirm the details of the vehicle that they just built, and go over next steps to set expectations for timing and delivery.
Once you have that order placed with your OEM, it’s imperative that you maintain regular contact with your customer as they wait for their vehicle to arrive at your dealership. This is where an email drip campaign can be most effective. Send out weekly or bi-weekly emails that include additional information about your dealership and the vehicle they ordered to keep them excited about its arrival. You can also supplement those emails with additional text or email messages that contain information about the progress of the build as you receive them in your system..
Then lastly, once your customer’s vehicle has been delivered, you’ll want to follow up again and ask them to share their story about pre-ordering a vehicle at your dealership with an online review.
Remember, shoppers just coming into the market for the first time in five years may not know that ordering a vehicle is even an option. But what we do know is that they’re going to read the reviews of dealerships that they’re considering doing business with before deciding whom to contact. That’s why it’s important you get those positive reviews that specifically mention how easy it was to order a vehicle from your dealership.
From there, you can then complete the circle by using quotes from those glowing reviews on your website and in your marketing to drive even more engagement with your pre-order process.
LET’S TALK PRE-ORDER STRATEGY
As placing an order for a new vehicle becomes mainstream, it’s critical that your dealership doesn’t miss the opportunity to make connections with these shoppers. The team at Dealer Inspire is here to help you launch a holistic marketing strategy that drives relevant traffic to your website and convert it into more sales opportunities to fill your pre-order pipeline. Drop us a line and let’s talk about how we can work together.