Avoid the common pitfall of a stop-and-go digital marketing strategy

OPE Business has turned to Shawn Puckett, director of Product Management at ARI, to provide insight on how to avoid the common pitfall of a stop-and-go digital marketing strategy for your dealership.

By Shawn Puckett
Contributing writer

In today’s e-commerce-centric consumer landscape, most OPE dealerships recognize the value of using digital marketing to connect with online shoppers. However, during the slow seasons when inventory levels are low or depleted, many dealers also pull their online advertising in order to conserve funds for the heavy sales seasons.

Digital marketing, website, strategy, ARI, Shawn Puckett
Shawn Puckett, Director of Product Management, ARI Network Services, Inc.

While this may seem budget-savvy, it can reduce the overall number of sales leads that interact with your dealership throughout the year. The nature of digital marketing requires constant investment in order to maintain optimal results, and a stop-and-go approach will prevent your marketing campaigns from achieving their full potential. Dealers who run digital marketing campaigns year-round, even when inventory is low, pull in more sales leads in the long run.

A common misconception about advertising during periods of low inventory is this: “Isn’t it unethical to advertise inventory that I don’t currently have at my dealership? I don’t want to mislead my customers.”

We understand your worry that online shoppers will see your digital ads and expect that they can drive to your dealership immediately to inspect the advertised unit. However, we no longer live in a time when the majority of dealership customers start their buying journey with a visit to your lot. About 88% of dealership customers spend a significant length of time browsing and researching online before they ever look at a unit in person.

In fact, ARI found that 40% of the participants in a recent OPE survey spent as much as a month or two researching online before they were ready to make a purchase.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has influenced a major shift to online shopping that will forever alter the way that OPE customers shop for units and parts. Increasingly, customers are completing the full buying cycle online, without ever seeing the unit in person until they pick it up from the dealership or the dealer delivers to their home.

Even when customers visit the dealership to inspect the unit, they often have already completed the crucial decision-making portion of the process and have made up their mind to buy. Dealers who can get in front of online shoppers during the early stages of the research cycle can make a strong impression before shoppers visit competing websites, and those dealers have a much better chance of fostering the relationship into a sale. To reach customers where they are browsing, it’s important to maintain a strong digital marketing campaign that boosts your dealership’s presence in search results and on social media platforms.

If you pull back your online advertising and SEO efforts, your units and services are no longer being found by potential leads who plan to make a purchase in a month or two.

When ad spend and digital marketing efforts drop, your campaign loses traction, decreasing the performance of your website, digital ads and audience following. SEO efforts especially, which are fundamental to helping your website rank organically in search results, require time and consistency to build.

The seasons when inventory is low are the perfect times to optimize your digital marketing campaign so that when your new inventory arrives and is ready to sell, your digital ads and website are already receiving the top slots on search engines.

Remember that digital marketing is about more than just advertising individual pieces of inventory — your overall goal is to build a loyal following among online shoppers. With an active year-round digital marketing strategy, you are helping more OPE shoppers find and interact with your website, paid ads and social media, and you’re building a positive reputation for your brand, which will lead to a higher ROI over time.

Shawn Puckett is director of Product Management at ARI Network Services, Inc.

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