Dealers are adopting new strategies and tactics to meet changing customer preferences

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Q: How and why have dealer marketing strategies changed as a result of the pandemic?

Rosie O’Meara: As most consumers return to normal shopping activities and habits, automotive marketers face ongoing challenges as the consumer market continues to reset. After nearly two years of car buying hibernation, marketing is starting to understand current purchase intent. Like many other industries, auto marketers are experiencing a shift in the way consumers research and buy cars. Specifically, post-pandemic auto buyers expect options for how and when they buy a car.

For automotive marketers, that means adjusting marketing strategies to reach buyers with the right message at every stage of the search and purchase process. How marketers reach each of these audiences continues to evolve in the wake of the pandemic. But with contextual data like foot traffic, marketers can reach audiences who have recently visited a dealership, then align their audience targeting with their customers’ preferences, like car brands, places they visit and demographic information.

Tara Rego: As market conditions changed almost daily, we saw our auto dealership clients become more nimble with their messaging and targeting strategies. This required them to have stronger, iterative relationships with their creative agencies and media providers. Among our customers, the most successful dealerships have maintained a consistent presence with their customers and showcased their strengths. It was an opportunity for them to develop their market share by highlighting their differentiators. They leveraged data to better understand who their priority customers were and how, when and where best to reach them. Effective messaging strategies we saw included an increased focus on customer experience (e.g., positioning the dealership as a friendly and convenient place to do business), increased focus on service, and car buying from ‘opportunity. More recently, we’ve seen campaigns focus on recruitment, as well as build-to-order capabilities.

John DeMarco: Due to the pandemic, digital retail is now an industry staple and marketing strategies reflect this shift. Whether it’s pre-qualifying customers for a loan or buying an end-to-end vehicle or buying online, dealerships have adapted quickly to ensure they digitally provide consumers with what they research while communicating effectively throughout their journey. As digital retailing has grown, dealerships have become more nimble in their marketing, adapting it to varying levels of consumer digital preferences. For example, some consumers want to start the buying process online and complete it in-store. Others, on the other hand, want to complete the entire process online, right through to delivery right to their driveway. Understanding consumer preferences is paramount to effective marketing, especially in today’s environment.

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