4 Automotive Marketing Essentials Car Dealers Should Prioritize in 2021

Building a retail empire has a lot to do with the current environment in regard to commerce, consumer behaviors, advertising, and more. Understanding how to reach your target audience, as well as knowing what they’re shopping for, can go a long way when it comes to building your ideal consumer base. In the automotive industry, this is proving to be more important than ever in the advertising sphere.

No matter how you look at the state of the market, there are six main automotive marketing essentials car dealers should prioritize this year. Cost per unit sales, ad revenue, data science, and omnichannel media have the potential to Revolutionize the way buyers and sellers interact in the automotive commercial market through 2021 and beyond. 

In this article, you will learn more about the ways automotive retailers and brands are using these marketing essentials to drive business, brand recognition, and consumer loyalty in the current marketplace. Read on for 6 automotive marketing essentials car dealers should prioritize this year.

Interest in Online Auto Sales Grows

In 2020, we saw an unprecedented spike in online shopping and sales across a wide variety of spheres and markets. Since many businesses were forced to close their doors amid ongoing (and ever-changing) pandemic regulations, brands have been focusing on ecommerce to keep sales going. 

As a result, the automotive sector has changed to better serve online customers from start to finish. From getting approved for financing to scheduling the car’s delivery, it’s faster and easier than ever to purchase a car from home. Additionally, a growing dependency on mobile apps and smartphone programs has driven the auto industry to focus on building out this part of their business plan with the relevant technology. 

Adhering to digital trends and online best practices, mainstream and luxury car brands have all but changed the dealership industry as we’ve always known it. Now, consumers are getting increasingly used to the idea of buying a car completely online instead of simply conducting research before heading to the lot. 

This peak in consumer online activity could move many onsite dealerships to the digital world – permanently. Not only is this beneficial for smaller dealerships that don’t have a wide selection onsite, but it has drastically lowered operational costs for auto retailers across every size and scale of organization. 

As the world opens up, we will likely see the world of online automotive sales to continue to grow over the years. Experts expect online auto sales to increase steadily over the next decade, with a striking 11.9% rate of growth from 2019 through 2020. 

When it comes to securing affordable and easy-to-obtain financing, online calculators and pre-approval forms make it simple to find out what you qualify for without ever leaving the couch. Instead of bouncing from dealership to dealership to get the best quote, consumers can use these online tools to compare rates simultaneously across multiple sites and platforms. 

Ultimately, the growth of online shopping in the automotive market is helping shoppers to save money, time, and stress during their transaction.

Car Shoppers Want Discounted Rates

As a financial crisis spread across the world, people were faced with some difficult decisions regarding saving for the future and making expensive purchases. This has driven more prospective buyers to consider financing as one of the most important aspects of the entire transaction.

Nearly half of auto consumers use multiple devices to research and purchase their next vehicles. 

Using online rate calculators and proprietary pre-approval criteria is one reason why some consumers are preferring to purchase their new vehicles online. Also, in response to the stress of the pandemic, many lenders are offering more favorable terms including:

  • Lower rates
  • Longer grace periods
  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Online discounts

Almost half of all auto shoppers want to negotiate the price of their new vehicles online, rather than working face-to-face with an onsite sales person. This metric doesn’t come as much of a shock, seeing as the same amount of people also cited that they preferred to secure financing completely online. 

Opening up this function to the cybersphere has the potential to reduce much of the anxiety buyers experience when being sold to on the spot, and can help consumers secure better rates and prices with adequate preparation and research

Additionally, removing the need to respond to a human being in person eliminates a lot of the impulse decisions and sales-driven features that lead to buyer’s remorse and returns across the consumer base.

To take advantage of these savings, many consumers are conducting their purchases online rather than heading to their nearest brick-and-mortar dealership. 

Even for dealers that have remained open during the rolling lockdowns and social distancing measures, there is an undeniable demand for some level of online service across virtually every market and demographic.

Consumers Want the Service of a Dealership from Home

What used to be a luxury is now the standard for commercial activity, from homegoods to food to – you guessed it – buying a new car. Why would you drag yourself through multiple dealerships and conversations with various salespeople when you could handle the process at home in mere minutes?

Consumer opinions surrounding car dealerships are helping potential customers make the switch to online-only retailers. This is partially due to stress and anxiety surrounding the in-person negotiation process, as well as an overwhelming distrust of the industry as a whole. 

Shopping online can save buyers thousands over the lifetime of their purchase, and this is mainly due to an increase in customer agency and independence over their choices. From the loan they sign with to the model they select, handling the process from the comfort of home prevents buyer’s remorse and unintentional upgrades caused by pushy salesstaff.

In a recent study conducted last year, nearly all participants wanted some type of automotive buying process to be available online. Today, it’s difficult to find a dealership that doesn’t offer at least a few online-only services.

These features make it easier for rural residents and those who have a hard time leaving the house to achieve their car-buying goals. Following the pandemic, these populations are likely to continue preferring online services for their:

  • Ease of use
  • Low cost
  • Reduced stress
  • Simplified negotiation process
  • Added customization options
  • Easy-to-obtain financing

While more than 72% of consumers would be more likely to visit the dealership in person if the process was significantly improved, experts expect online sales to be the key factor to drive industry growth and customer engagement over the next few years.

Seamless Online Car Sales and Financing Attracts Consumers

If we’ve learned anything from the advent of the world wide web, it’s that convenience is king and consumers want to make their lives easier in any way they can. As a result, online shopping has taken over as the main form of commerce for many people across a wide range of demographics and markets. 

Today, about 60% of auto retailers offer online financing for new and existing customers. Furthermore, 77% of car sales brands offer estimates for trade-ins entirely online. These features are changing the research and quote comparison processes, helping more customers obtain the help they need to handle the transaction with little employee intervention.

Not only is this helping consumers to save money, but this trend is helping auto brands to reduce redundancies and improve efficiency internally as well. Reducing the need for onsite sales people and lending professionals, while also eliminating the need for an onsite office location, is helping car brands to save millions across the sphere as a whole.

Consumer and corporate savings are two sides of the same coin, and this shift is helping leading car brands to focus on product innovation and creative growth – without damaging their existing relationships with current consumers. Also, more buyers are able to make their way to the retailer’s respective sales pages with targeted online tracking and smart marketing.

Improving the experience for online auto shoppers is bringing more and more customers back to their favorite online platforms. Seamless delivery, 24/7 support options, and improved access to information is helping consumers to understand what they’re buying while also putting the keys in their hands in less time. 

Just like most other online markets, customer data and engagement is essential for understanding any brand’s target consumer and what they’re looking for. This means that online sales are helping companies to come up with innovative ways to keep buyers happy and loyal to their respective brands. 

The explosion of augmented and virtual reality solutions is also helping to promote the growth of online auto sales. This technology makes it easier than ever for prospective consumers to test out the features of their ideal vehicle from their couch, desk, or kitchen table. 

AR/VR programs can be accessed via mobile or desktop devices, as well as wearable headsets, to simulate certain features like:

  • Virtual test driving 
  • Instant feature customization
  • Driveway staging
  • Digital terrain testing
  • Delivery updates
  • P2P communication and video chat services

Whether you have a question about financing and loan terms or you want to see how your new  car will look in your parking spot, this type of immersive media is bringing the entire dealership experience to the palm of your hand.

Used Cars Remain in High Demand

Throughout history, used cars have proven to be more resilient when it comes to market changes and the ebbs and flows of the global economy. Everyone needs to get to where they need to go, and the used car market bridges the gap for low and middle-income consumers across virtually all markets and segments. 

Consumers prefer used vehicles for a multitude of reasons, but the most popular are:

  • Favorable rate of depreciation
  • Increased ROI
  • Lower insurance costs
  • Improved research process
  • Longer life expectancy compared to low-cost new vehicles
  • Available vehicle history reports

In fact, used car sales is seen as a fairly stable commercial market that can withstand a major economic upset – even during a global pandemic. Prices remained stable as well, simplifying the financing process for thousands of Americans from 2020-2021. 

As far as explosive Coronavirus-driven markets go, the used car sales sector surpassed expert expectations and will continue to ride this wave into the next year. This is especially true in areas that don’t offer public transportation, or that experienced hindrances as a result of pandemic-incited closures and public uncertainty.

With the growth of online sales platforms and unique delivery options, it’s a clean-cut process to purchase a used car with cash or on credit, no matter the buyer’s economic situation or personal circumstances. 

Many used car dealers also started to offer more flexible payment and application criteria to reach a wider consumer pool in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19, every dollar matters for everyone and small businesses are no different. But, with the slower rate of depreciation and higher lifetime value of used vehicles, this market is far more resilient than the high-end, new vehicle corporate structure.

Buying a car is a major decision, and this market has continued to make major moves during the widespread economic downturn that targeted the country – and the world at large. Although many consumers experienced some form of financial strain in 2020, people are still looking for ways to get from point A to point B. 

To circumvent social distancing measures in order to stay open and thriving, car brands that want to keep up with this booming digital trend need to integrate some form of online sales service to stay afloat.

These are just a few reasons why consumers are preferring to shop for cars online in the current digital landscape. Incorporate online financing, sales platforms, and customization options to reach more consumers than ever before in 2021.