It's Where the Consumers Are

The war between the "old school" of marketing and the "new school" of marketing continues to rage, regardless of the gains the new school has made and the losses the old school continues to suffer in the marketplace. The Internet has the attention of the vast majority of consumers. It follows that automotive businesses that are plugged into Web marketing best practices are able to capitalize on that attention. Everyone knows you need a Web site, but what you and the other people involved in decision-making do with that Web site can make or break your business today.

The shift that we've seen over the last decade or so has been a shift from the physical to the virtual. All marketing dollars were once spent on traditional media because there wasn't anything else. We needed traditional media to kick off the sales funnel, but now this process can take place almost entirely online. Our old marketing pushed consumers to visit the dealership. New marketing needs to push consumers to visit the Web site. The reality is, automotive Web sites are now the hub of the industry's sales operations as far as consumers are concerned. And if your organizational structure isn't aligned with this, then you can bet you're losing business every day.  
From an analytics perspective, there is no end to the specialization and fine-tuning that can be done when marketing digitally. Since the Web is so measurable, every dollar allocated can go miles beyond the traditional advertising budget. You can make sure you're only paying to market to consumers who are interested; you show up only where you're wanted. I don't have to tell you what that means from a cost-cutting perspective; however, you have to take some of that money and invest in the right people to lead your online marketing, at all levels of the organization, including upper management and executive. Putting a mid-level manager at the helm of Internet operations is a recipe for mediocrity at best, disaster at worst.

Marketing analytics expert Brandt Dainow stated, "Web analytics is a new science … Because a Web site covers the complete range of activities an organization can engage in, multiple departments have (or should have) an interest in what Web analytics can tell them." More than just an "interest," analytics should be the marketing bedrock for the automotive industry. Analytics for your sites, coupled with statistics provided by J.D. Power, MarketingSherpa and the like, should determine how your campaigns run and what you do with your Web sites.

You need to allow analytics to decide your budget for you. Sound easy? Not as easy as you may think. Analytics systems vary enormously from one to the next. You need to invest in the kinds of people who are able to interpret Web data; then, empower them to make recommendations and decisions. Web trends are constantly refreshing, changing and maturing. You need experienced professionals, at all levels, to stay ahead of that curve.

Another one of the keys that Dainow discusses is "multiple departments." The Internet department or e-commerce group should not be compartmentalized. In many ways, your Web presence is your automotive business at this point. Everyone should be plugged in because most customers visit your dealership online. They now spend a lot more time on the Web site and less time at the showroom.

The Internet was, and unfortunately still can be, viewed as a risk by the "old school." In reality, what the "new school" knows is that it’s impossible to find any other media so measurable, editable. Consumers are online and you can practically read their minds with the statistics and analytics at your fingertips (if you have the right people in place to take advantage of these opportunities). The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the Internet is now the door to the pocketbook. From a business perspective, the latter is preferable.

Vol. 6, Issue 12