Marketing cars online, answers on a postcard

Marketing cars has taken on a whole new impetus in the last few years. The speed of that change has surprised many car dealers to the extent that they are confused about just how far they need to go to make it financially viable.

For example, we are told by all the marketers that a classified car ad with 3 images is almost 10 times more likely to get a click through than a car with just one, but then a car ad with 10 images and interior and exterior shots is 10 times more likely to get clicked on than the ad with 3 images and to take it one step further those ads with film or showreel clips of cars are even more successful and so on.

The point being made by some car dealers is that although a prospective customer may click on to an advert with all these features it doesn’t necessarily follow that the car will eventually be followed up on. Is it just the dazzling technology that attracts them and is the extra investment really worth it?

The only true barometer, of course, is the number of used cars being sold as a result of this extra innovation.

But is it just that car buyers have an unquenchable thirst for more information and more factors taken care of before they have to venture into a car showroom? By investing heavily in internet marketing is the showroom facility as important in terms of investment as it once was?

From the point of view of franchised dealers they are obliged to brand their showrooms to the instruction of the manufacturers. They must ensure that they achieve all the standards set and, with car branding so vital in attracting new customers, they do not really have much choice.

If they see competitors going for the top package when advertising their used stock online then they are, in some ways, forced to keep up with the Jones’ even if they are not totally convinced that this actually achieves more car sales.

If a car is so accurately described and buyers can see the car clearly without physically inspecting it then sales people should have no need to discount the car as heavily, with the assumption being that by the time the customer comes in to actually take the buying process to the next step, they have virtually made up their mind anyway and become fairly captive.

By having all the extra imagery and tools to enhance the description of the car, in the long term it has to give dealers a competitive edge right up until the point where everyone is using it and it becomes the norm, until of course someone raises the bar again.

I personally envisage, in the not too distant future (if it is not already happening somewhere) that a car advert will become completely interactive, where prospective buyers can ask questions directly of the advert around who owned the car, what the servicing history has been, what it is like to drive and all the other features and benefits. In other words each car will literally sell itself. It may sound farfetched but then so did the concept of buying directly online a few years back and that is getting closer to reality every day.

Then there is, of course, the completely counter argument; I was chatting to a used car buyer for one of the massive car supermarkets who stock literally thousands of cars and he remarked that although they believe in the web as a search tool there is no substitute for a huge selection of cars which buyers can go and see and make a choice there and then in the knowledge that there is something for everyone. Due to the emotive nature and expense of car buying he believes there will always be customers who will want to touch and feel and a large choice will always attract those kind of buyers.

I appreciate this article probably raises more questions than answers and, who knows, somewhere, perhaps in a hollowed out mountain, there may be some clever marketing genesis’s who do indeed have all the answers and laugh at the feeble marketing attempts of some car dealers. But if they do have all the answers then, right now they’re not telling.

Credit for “Google Classic” image goes to DullHunk

Subscribe to Motor Trade Insider by Email


, , , , , ,

One Response to Marketing cars online, answers on a postcard

  1. Andrew Howells November 26, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    I took a call the other day from a Vauxhall dealer. During the conversation he commented that he would never have contemplated calling me 6 months ago to discuss live video presentation. He was prompted to make the call as his showroom was empty but his web site was getting plenty of interest.

    This sums up what is typically happening in the market. UK buyers are doing all of their research online and finally call the dealer when they want more information to make their final decision. So the pressure is now on to make sure that the ‘web experience’ is a good one because this is the shop window that is increasingly becoming the important one. How do you differentiate your business and make sure that your Vauxhall Corsa gets sold quickly at the right price?

    The technology is already there for dealers to take a huge leap forward with multiple photos, live chat and live video and there’s plenty of hard sales evidence to support the investment. However, disruptive technology like live video will take time to become widely adopted. You see it’s counter intuitive marketing; “if I show you what’s wrong with this car, will you buy it?” How many dealers feel comfortable with that idea – not many. Yet ask a potential customer who is thinking of buying a used car and they would be delighted with the opportunity to view in advance before making the trek to the dealer. The fact that they now know about the stone chip on the bonnet is actually reassuring, expectations have been managed in a very transparent manner which helps to build immediate trust. So much so, that they actually will go past the other two Vauxhall dealers on their route to buy off the third one.

    Coming from a hollowed out mountain in the UK.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes