In this time of unprecedented industry change, auto dealers are faced with many questions around how to approach the months ahead. Many are trying to keep their businesses thriving amid the new reality of nervous consumers, closed showrooms, and uncertain financial impacts.
To determine the best next steps when it comes to advertising, we can look to the past: we’ve seen the auto industry weather storms before and come back strong. We can also look to the future: we’re beginning to understand how the COVID-19 story will play out by considering other countries’ economies who are several months ahead of the U.S. Considering all of this, even in the current market conditions, my advice to auto advertisers would be this: keep driving forward.
If you have the financial means to do it, keep advertising, and focus on smart strategies that use data and targeting to reach your audience in the most efficient ways possible. If you do not have financial ability to advertise right now, then prepare your strategies today, so that you are ready for the rebound. At some point soon, the buyers will be back. Take the time to solidify your strategy now so you can execute promptly and be first to market when the buyers are ready.
In the meantime, I’d like to share four key tips that may help auto dealers as they consider their advertising plans:
Tip 1: Think Outside the Showroom
The end goal of any advertiser is to drive sales, but how can this happen if consumers are too nervous to visit a dealership? Fortunately, today’s auto dealers have many resources available to them to help sell outside of the showroom.
You may find that consumers are more than ready for an online car buying experience now, and with the power of video you can give your customers the ability to experience the design and features of new models. For example, at Effectv, we are building complimentary virtual showrooms for our Tier 1 auto manufacturers on Xfinity X1. You can also consider offering virtual test drives or VIN-specific videos of used models and more.
Whatever tools you decide to adopt, be sure they can deliver on the brand experience you want your customers to have – and keep in mind you may uncover tools and processes that are so efficient, they can live long past the days of social distancing.
Tip 2: Communication is Key
In today’s new world, your customers’ relationship with you and perception of your brand have changed. They undoubtedly have new expectations of what they want their experience to be when buying a new vehicle; your job is to communicate with them so they can understand how you are addressing their changing needs. Spend some time thinking about what should change in your creative messaging to reflect that. Have your hours changed? What precautions are you taking to ensure their new vehicle is safe? Do you have any special offers to support them in uncertain financial times?
According to a survey from FreeWheel, a provider of comprehensive ad technology platforms for publishers, advertisers, and media buyers (and also a Comcast company), nearly 60% of consumers think brands should be incorporating messaging about COVID-19 into their TV/Video creative (1). Use video to tell your story and ensure that messaging is consistent in your social channels and your email campaigns. Finally, don’t forget to leverage your CRM tools for more personalized connections with your customers. The feedback you receive will be valuable in understanding what messages resonate best with your customers so you can continue to evolve your creative.
Tip 3: Explore New Media Opportunities
Just as consumers’ purchasing behavior may have changed due to COVID-19, so have their viewing habits. An analysis of Comcast aggregated viewing data suggests that more time is spent watching TV compared to a year ago; this includes an approximately 50% increase in Video on Demand, and a 48% increase in Connected TV viewing (2). Now is the time to get creative with your media strategies, reaching your audience on whatever screen they’re using. By using some of these newer media channels, you can capture your audience wherever they are in the purchase cycle, including those most ready to buy, coupled within an environment that showcases the critical sights and sounds of your brand.
Once you’ve made your media buying decisions, you can continue to measure and optimize. What works one month from now may not work three months from now, so measure your efforts continually and tweak your campaigns as you go. Work with a partner who can prove they are delivering the audience you need most and highlight the impact your campaigns are making on your defined metrics. With ad budgets in many cases tighter than ever, efficiency is paramount.
Tip 4: Don’t Forget to Feed the Funnel
In auto advertising, it is critical to constantly keep your message in market by reaching a broad audience with awareness messaging on TV or digital video channels. Advertisers are often tempted to solely use bottom-of-the funnel tactics, but it’s critical to keep feeding the marketing funnel with new prospective customers, so that you have likely buyers in the months to come.
Today this is more important than ever. In the months ahead there will be pent up demand for cars, both new and used as well as leases that are expiring. While some buyers are waiting for a safer purchasing situation, others are holding off until they are more financially secure before starting their search in earnest. In both instances there is an opportunity to capture the attention of the buyers at the top and bottom of the funnel to influence them for when they are ready to make a purchase. Set yourself up for success, so you can maintain or increase your share of voice and communicate to each kind of buyer’s need.
There is no crystal ball to determine what will happen in the months – or even the weeks – ahead. But by following some of these approaches, auto advertisers can better set themselves up for the future. Consumers will always need cars and there is more opportunity than ever to reach them; I expect the auto industry will be quickly returning to good health and when it does – you will be ready.
Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, helps local, regional and national advertisers use the best of digital with the power of TV to grow their business.
(1) FreeWheel Real-Time Insights: TV Advertising: The Right Moves, Right Now, April 2020
(2) Comcast Aggregated De-Identified Viewership Data – National Footprint, 4/6/20 through 4/12/20 and 4/13/20 through 4/19/20 vs. same period one year ago
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