Has anyone ever said they enjoyed the car buying process? A year ago I went and bought my first car (2011 VW Golf TDI…I may be shopping for my second car soon) and, boy, was it a process, not one that I would enter again lightly. I know I am not a normal car buyer, I started researching various cars months in advance of buying, shopping around for the best value for me. But, while I may not be normal, I am also a marketer and throughout this process I got to see the car dealerships that were truly reaching consumers through digital marketing. car dealership online marketing

Another thing that helps me stand out from the crowd is that I am a millennial, therefore the internet is the first (and sometimes only) place I go to find information about my potential car purchase. While millennials may not make up the majority of your customers, they are changing how your customers are buying cars.

We have the car dealership online marketing strategies you need to reach the growing online consumer and build your sales.

Have a customer relationship management system

As a car dealership you have a different relationship with your customers as opposed to a local retail store. You aren’t hoping a customer will buy a couple hundred dollars worth of clothes but a multi-thousand dollar car. You can’t get by with just an email subscriber list like a retail store, you need to be able to keep track of your customers to give them a quality experience, with marketing material specific to them.

Chances are your brand or regional dealer network provides a tool or may subsidize the cost of one, take advantage of it. The simple effect of a customized email or deal can mean the difference between a sale or not.

Below is an example of an email I got from Seacoast Volkswagen when I was looking to buy. I had already filled out a form on their site saying I was interested in one of their TDI’s and asked for more information, a week or two later I received this email about the deals they were currently having on their TDIs. This email, while simple, prompted me to go visit and look into this dealership even more.
auto dealership online marketing strategies

Be prepared for mobile

A Cars.com survey found 43% of car buyers use their mobile devices on the lot to access pricing information, features and look at a dealers website. Another survey of 500 car buyers found 100% of smartphone owners used their mobile device to perform car-shopping research.

Mobile allows you to connect with consumers on the go, when they are in another dealership or in yours, make sure that your emails and website are responsive to the device being used to view them.

A responsive design will ensure that your content will be resized to fit any screen: desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Vivial provides marketing enabled, responsive websites that won’t break the bank and will help you reach consumers on any device.

Connect with online leads

One aspect I really liked when searching for my next car was being able to easily fill out information and have someone get back to me. I am a typical millennial in regards to the fact that I will use a phone for just about anything than make a phone call, I will certainly answer a phone call, but I won’t make it.

Take advantage of the traffic to your website by adding in calls to actions that lead to forms. Including a simple “Find out more about this car” button can not only connect you directly with a lead, but gives you information on what type of car they are interested in, so you can market to them appropriately (like with the email earlier).

Provide useful auto-related content

You don’t have to try to actively pull in new leads, you can let them come to you with content. Consumers like myself know what they want in a car, but they don’t know how to care for it. For example, I have no idea why my car needs synthetic oil and only gets it’s oil changed about once a year. By writing content, in layman’s terms, you can help people not only decide what car they want to buy and how to care for it, but you are becoming a reputable source of information for them.

If you provide car maintenance, then sharing articles about certain aspects of car maintenance, why they are necessary and how frequently to do them you are opening up your shop to consumers. The car mechanics at your dealer are no longer trying to nickel and dime consumers but are there to provide the best maintenance that is necessary.

Respond to online feedback promptly

When consumers are shopping online for cars, they will find your local business listing as one of their top search results. This is fantastic if you have great reviews, a consumer won’t hesitate to look into your dealership further, but if your rating is low, they’ll think twice. 44% of consumers make their decision after reading reviews (and after the working with the dealership I bought my car from, I certainly wished I had looked at online reviews). 44% of consumers make their decision after reading reviews.

Guarantee that you always have good reviews by providing great customer service online and off. Offline is on the phone and in your dealership but online is harder to track and respond to. Use a tool like Vivial Social to keep all of your business reviews in one place, making it easier to see and respond to reviews to turn a negative review into a positive one.

Have special promotions

Engage consumers and get them to move on a purchase by regularly having promotions and providing deals. A difficult factor for auto dealerships is that, most likely, you aren’t the only location with the product a consumer is looking for. A special deal can be just the leverage to get consumers to buy from your location instead of your competitors.
auto dealership online marketing strategies: deals and promotions

Create videos

Videos are increasingly becoming the most engaging thing you can put on your website or social media profiles. They not only share information, but tend to the consumer who doesn’t want to just read about features but see them. Not only can videos advertise your latest vehicles, but they can share your latest promotion or be informative “how-tos.” On top of all of that, videos are easily shared on all social channels and in email, exposing your content to a larger audience.

This Ford dealership in Birmingham, Alabama provides a very informative video on what to look for and how to buy a used car. It’s a long video, so they also have it split into chunks which will open up their content to even more consumers.

Vehicle display

Every major dealership displays their best vehicles right in front for everyone driving by to see, you can achieve that same exposure online.

Dealerships can have a high turnover rate on cars that make search engine optimization (SEO) for certain pages and cars nearly impossible, but you can easily direct traffic to a specific page and car through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Add PPC ads into your auto dealership online marketing strategy for individual cars and they’ll show up in search results immediately.

Go one step further, and use PPC ads on social networks, like Facebook, too. Your vehicles will get guaranteed exposure — for minimal investment — with Facebook ads and boosted posts.

What makes PPC ads stand out even further on search engines and social networks is that you can choose different parameters to target different audiences. For example, if you’re selling a 2015 Subaru Impreza WRX in the Denver area, you can make sure only people interested in that type of vehicle, in the specified area, will receive the message


By implementing these online marketing strategies specific to auto dealerships you can guarantee consumers will become customers, increasing sales and driving even more cars off your lot.

Start managing your digital presence with the help of Vivial, the all in one digital marketing platform that can help you manage your social reputation and profiles to your search engine rankings and directory listings. Find out how you can get started.


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  • Almost half of people looking for cars are going to use their phone to access the pricing information on the cars. I think that is a really good thing and it shows that people are aware of the pricing of the cars. It is very handy to have all your searching on your phone because then you can do all the searching on the go.