Automotive Dealerships…It’s not all about your best offers. It’s not all about clean design. Its about selling customer experience and your offers together.
Oh Dealers. I get it.
Your customer has a non-existent attention span (less than a gold fish I hear) and your competition is no longer the guy in your backyard or down the street – but the dealer three towns over. Blame the Internet…everyone else does. And many buyers – myself included – can find out every possible offer on that partly used ’09 in a matter of minutes, learn every feature and walk in your door saying “I want that one for this much or I’ll go next door.”
Convincing me to even visit your dealership is a balancing act of information and relevance. As a shopper I WANT to know the lease price, the finance price, any incentives that will up sell me, the starting price – even the all in cash price simply so I can see how much it is and tell myself as I sit in my tattered robe in front of the computer at 3am “If I was rich I could just buy it.” I do want it all. The trick you need to find out to making me happy is how can I see it all and not get lost on the journey from potential buyer to real lead to closed sale.
Too many times I read broad articles on branding and its importance or design relevance and how smart people should be – with no real actionable tips or guidance. So lets take an actual offer in a dealership and walk through what you should and shouldn’t do in the battle of brand versus deal.
How about a typical fall promotion; new winter tires with a new SUV purchased on a 1.9% Lease, and place it into some common locations within your marketing ecosystem along the customer cookie crumb trail…
So the big offer has come in and your GM is expecting metal to move…
1. The Mobile Digital Banner
As soon as I start to search for the model on my phone (possibly while sitting in your competitions lobby if you’re dabbling in some geo-fencing media buys) it should be your ads I start to see. What do you put on this tiny, itty-bitty banner? Too many times dealers wills end a paragraph and some legal and not think through the actual ask. I encourage you to take that offer and grab a sheet of printer labels, then try to write it out. You’ll quickly start to see what a designer is up against with small ad unit.
Of that deal you need 3 major components: the shiny metal, the model name and the most distilled, best value offer you can afford.
What you don’t need:
• Your dealership name or logo (because they want the offer not you)
• Your OEM logo (*unless your OEM enforces usage)
• A massive legal line (Just use the bare minimum *See offer legal for full details in the smallest readable type size.)
• A button. Your mobile user is very capable of recognizing the difference between an ad and content. We all know how they work. They know to tap it.
2. The Standard Banner
Ah yes. Nature’s oldest media spend online and it’s least likely to be clicked. However the reality is if you don’t buy a handful locally – the competition will. Here is a place where many will think: “Double the size? That’s double the content!” It’s not.
What you should do with this banner:
• Take the same elements your mobile banners use and add a secondary point to drive clicks. Think features – what is the big seller for this model? Think immediacy with the offer expiration date. Will the price go up in a week – then I want to know!
• Consistency in look to your other ads is important – it is very likely the same person will see it on multiple devices.
• Add that button, national event logo (if there is one) and dealer logo. But don’t overdo it. Don’t add every logo possible. Keep your messaging to 1-2 lines. The shopper doesn’t care or need more. The entire point of this medium is to interest me with just enough information for me to want to click to find out more. Like the cover of a book.
3. The home page of your website.
If you are like many dealers out there your home page is filled with offers, car shots and messages. It’s a mess. Sure you can blame the half assed CMS you overpay for, or the OEM guides if they are forced on you, but really no matter who has the final say, your homepage is your problem in a customers eyes. If its a mess many will simply leave out of frustration and longer load times – we’ll talk about that some other day.
You also likely have a hero space for promotions. Raise your hand if it’s a carousel that started clean and has since turned into a cluttered catchall space. This is one of the biggest lost battles between offer messaging and a consumer appreciation brand story. It is not the place to put it all in.
Your home page promo panel should be a haven of clarity and security:
• Use this space to focus me when I visit.
• Make this space simplified and singular.
• You don’t need logos – they are already all over your site. All you may need is the promotion logo if it’s a national campaign.
• You only need the vehicles, the best offer and ONE button. A button that can take me to your real catchall.
4. The Catch All Page
If you have one (and you should) it is your place to go into detail about the offer and the benefits. You may try to put everything here – it’s called a catchall after all. Don’t.
Catchall pages should be contextual to what I need when I decide to click through to it. I’ve done my research and I’m in the market. As a safety for those who haven’t learned all the details they need – add a secondary button to the vehicle description page (VDP).
Think of that customer who comes in your showroom and says “I saw an ad for an SUV with free tires…” What do you say to them in the first 2 minutes? What are the top features about the offer and the vehicle I need to know? Think about it as a virtual conversation for a potential sale. The purpose of this page is to drive them to become a real sales lead. To make them fill out a form and talk to a real person. If people could buy a car online without talking to you – many of them would. But for the current era that is not possible…yet.
Your largest call out on this page should be an action to drive leads – a form to schedule a test drive or for contacting the dealership.
An Offer Catchall Page only really needs:
• Vehicle image
• Top line vehicle details (name, year, related offer trim, etc.)
• Hero Offer (your best bet)
• Offer deadline
• Legal link to the fine print
• Secondary pricing (clean and organized)
• Key vehicle features (keep it to a few)
• A primary action: to contact you or request a test-drive
• Smaller secondary actions:
o Vehicle detail page link
o Other vehicles in the offer period that may be of interest
o Print page or send it to my phone so I can have it in hand
Can’t I just do more community posts to sell cars?
Sure. But more and more it is quality not quantity that gains traction on social networks. You are wasting your time if you treat it like a banner space. It’s a conversation there more than ever. Post one promo designed graphic sure. Then tomorrow when that post is long forgotten find alternate ways to use the medium: keep your top line offer details, deadline and a direct link in the text and use the visual to show vehicle features. Share some candid photos of the interior. Share some photos of you or your team in it. Create video of you walk around and a video of a test drive. Video – even shot on your smart phone – is a big lead driver in social.
But on every step of the way when updating your creative platforms with the latest offers always remind yourself of the goal for your online customer. See an offer…learn about that offer…fill out a form or contact the dealer to come in and test drive that vehicle. The best sell is a gentle push not a screaming blow horn. So keep your messaging razor sharp.
Sorry designers – it’s not about limiting. Sorry dealers – it’s not about putting it all in. It’s about the two of you working together and discussing what your shopper needs and when they need it. Hierarchy. Context.