There are three forces set to alter the course for the future of auto shopping, according to Facebook: Potential customers are diversifying, digital shopping is accelerating, and social commerce, the process of selling products directly on social media, is transforming e-commerce.
In 2020, Millennials became the largest group of new-vehicle buyers with 32% of new car purchases last year made by this demographic, said Bob Lanham, head of automotive retail at Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
“It’s the first time Millennials exceeded the vehicle-buying share from Baby Boomers,” said Lanham, who joined Digital Air Strike recently for a webinar. “Millennials grew up with their phones and are used to doing everything on those phones. Dealers have to think mobile-first with any advertising.”
The way people prefer to shop has changed. The demand for digital experiences has grown exponentially, and the expectation for frictionless shopping is higher than ever, he said.
“These experiences shape purchase decisions, and that expectation is expected in every industry,” Lanham said. “Consumers want the Amazon experience on everything they buy. They want it fast. They want transparency.”
Digital plays a substantial role for auto shoppers across all stages of the path to purchase. Because of this, consumers are willing to pay a premium for a great experience. Just as people pay more for their Amazon Prime service, most are willing to pay more for services such as at-home delivery pickup for oil changes, car sanitizing, and even the price of the car if they like the customer service enough.
Fifty-two percent of people surveyed by Facebook ranked a positive car-buying experience as more important to them than the price.
Digital marketing also plays a significant role for auto shoppers when selecting a dealer, from discovery to evaluation. That’s why it’s essential to maintain an active, up-to-date social media presence and positive online reputation management. For example, Digital Air Strike helps dealers get nine times more positive reviews through customer surveys and review generation, including sending text message review requests to happy customers.
Social commerce has grown due to the pandemic. Seventy-four percent of people surveyed by Facebook found themselves more influenced to shop via social media now than pre-pandemic. Lanham said that Facebook and Instagram now have more than 300 million Shops visitors since their introduction just one year ago.
Another cool feature for dealers is the ability to highlight inventory to potential customers on their Google Business Profile. Active car shoppers searching for your dealership name will be able to see availability, pricing, and critical information about your cars for sale on Google.
The expansion of the digital commerce experience for today’s consumers is continuing at a rapid pace. Dealers need to make sure they’re sparking moments of inspiration and discovery by posting personalized and curated connections to their brand and message, he said.
The goal of social media is to deepen the owner and customer relationships, Lanham said.
“Social media feels like a natural part of the shopping process, particularly for younger audiences,” he said. “Forty percent of Millennials say you should be able to buy a car online.”
Seventy-eight percent of potential customers who plan to purchase a vehicle within three months don’t know where they’re going to buy it, according to Facebook. Lanham said that’s an ample opportunity for dealers to make sure they can lock in those car buyers.
When dealers are strategizing on their digital marketing and advertising tips game plan, here are the three understandings and adaptions that are a must know, according to Lanham:
- Signal loss is a reality as the ability to track people across the internet for retargeting and ad personalization is changing.
Apple changed how it allows its software to track people, and every iOS app must ask phone owners if they want to be tracked. Twenty-seven percent of American internet users block ads. Safari and Firefox block cookies today. “This disrupts the ability to track and retarget and disrupts measurement,” Lanham said. “Consumers want privacy, and we must adhere to that. It’s impossible to think we’re going to have this vast group to retarget.” Dealers need a first-party data strategy using their CRM to deliver relevant advertising. Your measurement tool should not solely rely on cookies. Dealers should be analyzing their marketing mix model by looking at all their digital marketing expenses and mapping out their actual cost per car sold price or per vehicle retail. Because of the new challenges, dealers must come up with a new measurement model, he said.
- Brand and reputation drive increased conversions.
Lanham equates this to the meet and greet. Brand advertising is the first introduction potential customers have to your dealership. Your advertising needs to convey why the consumer should buy from your dealership and why they should sell their car to your store. Bringing that meet and greet online and showing potential customers what they’re going to see will increase conversions. The customer experience has surpassed price when it comes to deciding factors for choosing a dealership. Build trust, and your potential customers are more willing to engage.
“There’s no better time than now to get back to basics and focus on creating awareness for your brand,” Lanham said. “Smart marketers don’t passively wait for purchase intent. They proactively create purchase intent to drive the discovery of their products. Put reviews and testimonials in your ads. Run delivery photos. It’s not about the price. It’s about the great service and experience.”
- Conversational commerce is behavior that continues to grow and become more essential. Messenger is a powerful tool for your dealership. Sixty-two percent of people say messaging is the easiest, most convenient way to contact a business. You need to respond in a timely and relevant fashion to these messages. AI chat messaging is the best way to react fast to potential customers 24/7. Sixty-five percent would instead message than fill out a form. “Messaging is now common human behavior,” Lanham said. “You need to adapt, or you’re going to lose. The pandemic grew chat by 70%. Messaging is here, and you’ve got to treat it seriously.”
To ensure your dealership is getting the best ROI and has a 5-star online presence, request a free Intel Report, including a custom analysis of your online presence.