Why Auto Dealers Must Embrace Digital Marketing

If you aren’t using digital in your marketing plans, you are losing out! Simply put, traditional marketing no longer has the horsepower it once did.

In 2023, digital marketing for auto dealers is still a focus. Automotive digital ad spend increased by 13.7% in 2022 and is expected to increase by 11.7% in 2023 – eMarketer. Digital marketing for auto dealers continues to be one of the top automotive marketing trends for 2023.

Study Shows Digital Marketing for Automotive Creates More Profit than Traditional Marketing Channels

Digital marketing for auto dealers includes channels such as websites, email, social media, digital, mobile, and CTV. Not only does digital marketing bring in more revenue per car sold, but it also costs much less. A recent study found that it costs $150 for digital marketing to sell one car compared to $1,581 in traditional media spending – DealerSocket. This translates to spending 10 times more for traditional strategies vs. digital.

This is not to say that traditional media should be left behind—it certainly has its place—but dealerships must move away from solely using traditional advertising channels and begin to implement more digital targeting options. As consumers become more digitally savvy, they expect to be catered to through digital channels. By not targeting these consumers in the ways they expect to be reached, dealerships are losing out on an entire target audience of online car consumers.

According to a study by Google, Consumers research and shop across digital channels and 95% of car shoppers use digital for information gathering. Consumers use digital channels to research and decide which dealership to visit. During this important phase of research, you need to ensure that your dealership is one of the options being considered.

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Top 8 Digital Marketing Strategies for Auto Dealers in 2023

Here are 8 digital strategies we recommend using to effectively reach consumers throughout the car-buying journey:

1. Prioritize SEO

Research by G/O Digital revealed that 30% of consumers immediately go to search engines when starting the car-buying process. A dealership’s online presence is a huge factor in determining success at this initial point in the purchase journey.

Strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategies will ensure that car buyers can find your dealership in search results. A comprehensive SEO strategy should include your website, keyword optimization, pay-per-click campaigns, link building, online reputation management, and quality content.

2. Manage Your Online Reviews

According to a study by Digital Air Strike, a huge percentage of car buyers turn to online review sites before making a purchase. In fact, 70% of car buyers say that online dealership reviews influence where they choose to go.

Additionally, 24% consider review sites to be the “most helpful” factor when it comes to making purchase decisions. Be sure to monitor your online reviews, quickly and constructively respond to negative reviews, and continuously encourage your customers to leave reviews about their purchase experience.

3. Optimize the Mobile Experience

It’s the age of “Mobilegeddon” and your website, content, and marketing messages must all be optimized for mobile. When a consumer visits a page that is not mobile-friendly, they will quickly leave in search of a competitor who can deliver an optimized mobile experience.

A recent study showed that 48% of people research a car online and 38% browse car inventory. These numbers indicate that large numbers of customers are relying on mobile not just for preliminary research, but also as they make final decisions about what to purchase and where.”

Based on the increasing use of mobile throughout the purchase journey, from initial research to final purchase, providing a seamless mobile experience has never been more important for car dealerships.

4. Deploy Targeted Email Marketing Programs

When executed correctly, email marketing is a highly effective channel for dealerships. The average expected ROI is $40 for every $1 you spend on email marketing – Oberlo. Personalization is key to creating emails that convert. Research by Campaign Monitor shows that 74% of marketers say personalization increases customer engagement and that sales increase because of using personalized experiences.

With the sophistication of today’s data sets, emails can be targeted by a huge range of selects, such as the exact make and model of the current vehicle being driven, the Black Book value of the car they currently drive, people most likely “in the market” for a new car, and other demographic selections such as income, hobbies, presence of children in the household, and more.

5. Leverage Social Media Advertising

Social media is the most important source of information for car buyers, and 61% use social media to research vehicles. Facebook is hugely popular with automotive consumers – 84% of automotive shoppers are on Facebook, and 24% of them have used Facebook as a resource for driving vehicle purchase decisions.

As a result, social media is a critically important way for the automotive industry to connect with new car buyers. Not only is social media full of real-time purchase indicators, but dealers can use social media to build customer relationships, improve the customer experience, and influence purchase decisions. In addition to having a strong social presence, consumers can be targeted with precision through social media advertising. Are you just starting with paid advertising on social media? If so, Facebook is a great place to start.

Consumers can be targeted by a range of demographics such as age, income, geographic location, gender, and more. Specialty auto data can also be used for targeting consumers on Facebook, such as information on Vehicle Type (car, SUV, truck, van), Make, Model, Year, Financial (i.e., median home value and modeled credit score range), and other segments including vehicle history data and garage data.

6. Harness The Power of Video Marketing

Online video marketing is becoming a huge trend this year. Posting videos can boost engagement and interest in dealerships by displaying inventory and information that most consumers research first, making your dealership the go-to place for interested car shoppers.

According to a study by Google, over 75% of auto shoppers say that online video has influenced their shopping habits or purchases.

40% of auto shoppers who used online video for research claim that it helped them discover a vehicle they weren’t previously aware of or considering.

When creating videos, keep them short. Videos between 30 seconds and 1 minute are shared 18% more often than videos longer than 1 minute. The top 3 types of content that shoppers are interested in are test drives, features and options, and walk-throughs.

Overall, digital and traditional marketing should complement each other. A good marketing strategy should blend different channels and elements based on each dealership’s unique audience.

7. Invest in Mover Marketing

New research confirms that there may be a connection between recent life events and moving. In fact last year, more than 1 in 4 new movers purchased a car/vehicle.

Additionally, according to Hedges & Company, 93% of new car buyers are homeowners. So, how do you reach this valuable audience segment? Porch Group Media has insights into over 90+% of U.S. homebuyers annually in addition to pre-mover audiences that are unique to the industry. Auto dealers can also build a targeted automotive audience of new movers who are also in-market to purchase a vehicle.

8. Reach Cord Cutters with CTV Advertising

An increasing number of consumers are ditching cable for streaming services. As a result, CTV is an important part of your automotive omnichannel marketing strategy. Unlike linear TV, CTV offers more precise targeting, measurement, and attribution.

CTV’s advanced targeting options allow advertisers to deliver ads based on specific demographics, interests, in-market shopping indicators, and behaviors. This helps ensure that your ad is seen by the right people at the right time.

Automotive Audience & Marketing Solutions

Porch Group Media is a leader in automotive audiences and marketing solutions. Let us help you create a solution to rev up your digital marketing programs and drive sales.


Download our Automotive Marketing Success Kit to learn more about how to reach today’s omnichannel car shoppers.

Automotive Marketing Success Kit

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