Video is a great way to reach customers to communicate how they want to receive their vehicles. - IMAGE: ANDREY POPOV via

Video is a great way to reach customers to communicate how they want to receive their vehicles.


Rice Toyota in Greensboro, North Carolina, needed a different, unique way to engage and reach its customers who were sheltering at home because of COVID-19. The dealer had used video before but wanted an easier way to record videos and send them to customers, not only to sell more cars, but also to get more service appointments.    

Dealers are finally listening to something customers have been asking from the auto industry for a long time: Do business my way.

Rice Toyota started using a video platform earlier this year because of its ability to personalize videos and track views. They also liked that customers who receive the videos through the platform can easily respond and contact a sales or service representative directly from the video, said Andy Slaughter, the general sales manager for Rice Toyota. 

“We sold two vehicles from just one video,” Slaughter said in April. 

People really respond to videos, and with a video platform, you can personalize them, track interactions, and allow customers direct contact from the platform.

More dealers like Rice Toyota are using alternative methods to engage and reach their customers. Rice Toyota uses video to show off inventory, promote financing specials, post video walkarounds, and share updates on how the dealership is handling sales and service during COVID-19. 

We know customers are doing more shopping and researching online from home, especially when they’re staying closer to home during the pandemic. Video is a great way to customize and reach those customers. Dealerships are quickly realizing they have never faced such an economic and health crisis like the pandemic and are learning to make adjustments to reach and engage customers like never before.

Mercedes-Benz of Fairfield has seen a 300% growth in finance and insurance sales after sending out bulk text messages, which can include links to videos explaining the benefits of the F&I team and products. The bulk text-messaging platform led to 264 conversations and leads, 29 F&I sales secured, and $56,800 in revenue.  

One of the top places for people to consume video is YouTube. In fact, users consume over 1 billion hours of video a day on YouTube, according to The Wall Street Journal. Placing a video on your dealer’s landing page will increase conversions by more than 80%, according to several published marketing reports. The goal is to make it easy for customers to engage with your business using video. 

Video is also an essential tool to engage consumers on social media. What would we do without those funny animal videos? While videos make a dealer’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages more interesting, they should also make sure to update their free Google My Business page with video as well. 

They can also now have video “updates” in the Google My Business updates section (formerly Google Posts). When customers Google a dealer’s business, this is the first thing that comes up and something every business can control themselves through customization. You can say a lot with video in a short amount of time. It’s a good way to announce specials, show people around the dealership, and explain that the business is open and safe.

Dealers should think of video as a fun, easy way to talk to customers who are not coming into their store as often. We know customers love to watch videos since the popularity of videos on social media has skyrocketed this year.

There has been a 27% year-over-year growth in automotive watch time on YouTube from March to June 2020, according to YouTube internal data. YouTube is the No. 1 destination for auto purchasers to experience vehicles with videos, said Lissette Gole, the head of industry for Google’s Automotive Retail division. People want the dealer experience closer to home. Auto shoppers are using online videos, such as digital test drives, to fill the void of closed or limited dealership lots, she said. 

“Test drives and walkaround videos were the top things shoppers looked for when searching for videos,” Gole said. “In March, we saw 40% more views in these car videos than the previous year. People are still shopping for vehicles. They’re really doing it by experiencing the videos on YouTube.” 

Auto shoppers want alternatives to in-person dealer visits, and video plays a big role in this. Shoppers are welcoming the online research experience, with 45% of consumers shopping for a vehicle in the U.S., choosing at-home test drives as the most popular alternative to dealership visits. These auto shoppers confirm that the wide variety of in-depth videos from OEMs, dealers and influencers resonated with them, Gole said. 

“We know they are very active in video reviews, and they spend a long time looking at these videos,” she added. 

The videos can be as short as 15 seconds or as long as 30 minutes to an hour, as long as the information is informative and delivers the value customers are seeking.

The goal is to bring the showroom to shoppers with video. And keep in mind the video doesn’t have to be the highest quality with professional production. Customers just want to see their desired car, get their questions answered, and receive the information they’re seeking. 

One of the growing areas in video requests for Digital Air Strike’s in-house production teams has been around filming both consumer-facing and dealer-training videos about F&I products. The company has also started to see more and more clients dabbling with these types of videos on their own. 

Video is a great way to highlight what may be thought of as the less “sizzle” part of car ownership – the finance and insurance products. However, a little bit of video and some fun shots, and selling GAP insurance has never been so easy. 

Returning to life pre-COVID isn’t going to happen — it’s learning to live and thrive in this new world of commerce. Dealers are finally listening to something customers have been asking from the auto industry for a long time: Do business my way. Customers want to be communicated with on how they want to receive their vehicles. They will continue to demand an at-home or “less time in the dealership” experience, and video interactions are a great way to fill that need.     

Erica Sietsma is the COO of Digital Air Strike, an award-winning social media, intelligent lead response, and consumer engagement technology company. A pioneer in the automotive industry for digital lead response, social marketing and online reputation management, Digital Air Strike’s software and managed service platform monitor, improve and manage consumer engagement to convert more prospects into customers for over 5,000 dealerships.

Originally posted on P&A Magazine