It’s no secret that I’m heavily involved in automotive marketing (most of which is online marketing). While I don’t strictly do lead generation, that is of course the holy grail of the automotive industry. Car dealerships LOVE leads and they love working leads and turning them into sales. Unfortunateley (but not surprisingly), I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately. Automotive leads are EXTREMELY hard to come by. This doesn’t mean that online marketing for car dealerships isn’t working. It most certainly is. However, quantifying a click to a lead to a sale is becoming harder and harder. Less people are calling and less people are filling out forms when they are interested in buying a car. The public is getting smarter and it’s making marketers lives harder.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Let’s say you’re in the market to buy a BMW. You probably know all of your local BMW dealerships by name and already decided that you want to buy from a close dealership so that if you have any problems, it’s easy to deal with them. Next, you probably go online, check out their websites, see what inventory they have and then come into the dealership. Why do you really need to call? You know what inventory they have, you know what it’s priced like. You don’t really think they are going to give you the best price over the phone and quite frankly you don’t want to be harassed constantly by filling out a form to get a quote on a car that the website is already providing you a price on.
Automotive lead generation has always been difficult and complex. I expect it to get to be even more so in the coming months and years. Let’s face it. Dealerships NEED to advertise and they need to advertise online because that’s where the eyeballs are. Advertising works. Branding is important. The problem is that if you can’t tie the ad spend back to an ROI because they people who were advertised to don’t submit a lead but instead just walk through the door, then you will have an extremely hard time justifying ad spend. The results become less concrete and more anecdotal (just like traditional media).
It’s not all doom and gloom as there are ways forward. Here are some predictions I have as far as how the industry will change
- Attribution Methods will become more advanced and better online to offline attribution models will prevail.
- Dealerships will start communicating more effectively in the ways that millennial like to communicate such as texting, helpful live chat and social media. Millennials don’t like talking so when you’re main method of communication is the phone, that isn’t going to cater much to your audience.
- Completely online transactions where the first time you actually deal with the dealership is when you pick up the car.
The auto industry will be an interesting one to watch when it comes to lead gen and online to offline attribution methods. The industry accounts for a HUGE percent of ad spending every year and if you want their ad dollars, you’ll find a solution to these problems.