[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1527784456678{margin-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Customers are changing how they shop for cars, and that means dealerships need to rethink their automotive digital marketing strategy to fit new audience behaviors. As shoppers effortlessly juggle channels and devices to help improve their buying process, many dealerships (in fact, many businesses in general) are struggling to keep track. Here’s the breakdown on changing audience behaviors, and what your dealership can do about it.


1. Be Everywhere Your Shoppers Are

The core of your marketing strategy for reaching automotive customers is to follow their lead, and the first part of that is to be where they are. Your digital marketing success is entirely dependent on being seen. If you aren’t consistently presenting your dealership as a solution in the moments — and at the locations, where people are looking for that solution — you’re almost certainly losing out on sales.

By now, you’re not likely to be shocked by the fact that 86% of car shoppers conduct online research before deciding to visit a local dealership. Car shoppers in general are spending a full 60% of their car-buying journey entirely online.

Let’s explore these car-buying behaviors.  

First up: Where do shoppers turn to first during the shopping process? Car shoppers begin their journey with a problem, seeking a solution — and they are dependent on their research to deliver the right decision.

While car shoppers have a clear preference for where to begin their journey, there’s enough variation to prove that a shopper can come across your website at any time — and it has to meet their expectations.

Wherever automotive shoppers start their online car buying journey, they spread out to gather the information most important to them. Here’s where they go:

The first point of contact may be very likely be a third party site, but the last website visited as part of the car shopping journey is frequently your dealership website. While this might not be the most surprising information, it does shine the spotlight an important fact: the dealers who impress shoppers online during their research process are the ones who benefit the most from this shifting behavior pattern.


2. Get Truly Multi-Device

Shoppers are clearly multi-channel. They’re also multi-device.

In the age of convenience, we have multiple devices to choose from at any given moment to help us best perform our intended goal. That might make shoppers harder to pin down and market to, but it also creates more opportunities.

For automotive digital marketing, it is key to remember that car shopping experiences take place across multiple devices. Here’s the multi-device situation broken down:

  1. People love having multiple devices. In the US, 213 million adults are accessing the internet with four different devices.
  2. People switch between devices regularly. In the Research from Google reveals that 90% of people who own multiple devices switch between them an average of three times per day in the course of completing a single task.
  3. When researching online, 46% of car shoppers use multiple devices — with an average of 1.7 devices per shopper.

In the course of gathering the information they need, car shoppers switch back and forth from their smartphone to a desktop, laptop, or tablet. It comes down to convenience — they can’t browse cars on their desktop in line at the grocery store.

Dealerships that recognize the fluidity of the car shopping process are poised to make better use of their automotive digital marketing. As shoppers shift between goals and tasked based on decisions and whims, effective dealership marketing isn’t just following, but being there to meet the shopper.

To that end…


3. Deliver the Right Content for the Right Channel

Understanding the goals of shoppers on each channel and device is integral to a successful automotive digital marketing. The wrong message can turn off a prospect not just to that piece of marketing, but potentially to your whole dealership (i.e. all subsequent marketing attempts).

In general, the best guideline for multi-device, multi-channel marketing: Your content should mirror your shopper’s goals, particularly when they are channel or device-specific.

On desktop for instance, mobile-first users found it easier to:

The takeaway: Desktop is still better for tasks involving visualization (makes sense — you have a bigger screen) or delving into details.

On the other hand, with mobile, users found it easier to:

The takeaway: Mobile is excellent for quick browsing and super-easy contact.

Remember, when shoppers reach the end of their research phase and are finally ready to talk to a dealer, they’re still most likely to not even bother with preliminary contact. However, if they do decide to take action, it’s more likely to happen from mobile — 14% will submit a lead on a mobile phone and 22% will call the dealership — likely from their smartphone after looking up your number.

If your dealership is noticing this type of behavior, you could consider changing your ads (on a variety of channels) between mobile and desktop to reflect these different device-specific shopping goals. Look for opportunities where there may be device and channel differences where you can deliver more relevant marketing.


4. Have a Website That Can Keep Up

As much as the rejection of the traditional sales process might feel personal — it isn’t. Car buyers are shifting more of their buying process online for good reasons. The top three are:

  1. Convenience
    • Shoppers can find all the information they need (from relatively unbiased sources) with extreme ease. Even if getting that quality and quantity of information from a dealership was the norm, it wouldn’t be nearly so fast or easy.
  2. Avoiding Salespeople
    • Ouch. But it makes sense. Car buying decisions are a long and thoughtful process — and most people would like to complete that process independently and at their own pace. Online browsing and finance calculation lets them do that.
  3. Shop Based On Price
    • Price doesn’t just always mean the lowest price, often, what shoppers are actually looking for is the best price — including the best vehicle, features, experience, and convenience.  

First and foremost, your dealership website and automotive digital marketing, in general, should offer tools and experiences that fit those reasons. All around excellent user experience and fast load speeds are great for basic convenience, but that should be the standard. Your shoppers are also looking to avoid salespeople and get a good deal. Your website should offer pricing tools and financing calculators and tools to help shoppers figure out their buying decision details in a no-pressure environment.

On top of this, focus in on what shoppers find helpful about your site and center your automotive digital marketing around these pages and the related goals. To shoppers, the top three most helpful parts of a dealership’s website, on average, are:

  1. Vehicle Detail Pages — 42% of shoppers agree VDPs are the most helpful.
    • Corresponding Best Practices: These are the most important page on your site to shoppers and should be treated accordingly. Excellent design, featured photos, vehicle highlights, and incredibly thoroughly detailed vehicles specifics should all be included here.
  2. Specials Page — 20% of shoppers found Specials pages the most helpful.
    • Corresponding Best Practices: Specials can offer excellent buying incentives, but they can be hard to puzzle out sometimes. Your specials page should help shoppers quickly and easily find the best deals, lay out the details, and clearly establish rules or expiration dates.
  3. Hours and Directions Page — 19% found this to be the most helpful page.
    • Corresponding Best Practices: Sometimes when shoppers search the internet for a dealership, this info is all they are trying to find. Your hours and directions page should deliver exactly that, in the most easily consumed format possible.

A website that is properly equipped for your changing automotive digital marketing should be able to:

  1. Handle traffic from all devices with perfect ease — meaning fast load times on all devices
  2. Feel like a single, cohesive experience — regardless of screen size
  3. Support the shoppers goals and provide the features they want
  4. Live up to shopper expectations of experience from that channel and on that device

If your website is checking all the boxes, you are set. Take these statistics and insights and triumph in your territory. If not, we happen to make the most progressive websites in the automotive industry. Check us out.



Digital marketing for car dealerships isn’t simple, and likely never will be. As times change and behaviors shift, it can be hard to stay ahead of the competition. Car shoppers are increasingly hard to pinpoint during their curious and chaotic multi-device and multi-channel buying journeys. These insights should help you refocus your automotive digital marketing and deliver better experiences across the board.


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