The automotive industry is constantly evolving, and dealers must quickly adapt to the changes in order to remain competitive. Over the last several years, the industry has gone through somewhat of a digital transformation. Nearly every aspect of the automotive industry has been impacted by this ongoing transformation, including automotive dealers’ marketing efforts.

In 2021, automotive dealers will need to focus heavily on digital marketing to attract new customers and move inventory. Here are the top digital marketing trends that automotive dealers should embrace in the year ahead:

Virtual Showrooms

In the past, customers had no other choice but to visit dealerships in person to take test drives and learn more about specific vehicles.

A decade ago, the average car consumer visited between five to seven dealerships in person before making a purchase decision. But now, the average buyer does not even make it to two different dealerships before deciding on a vehicle. This is partly due to the fact that a growing number of car dealerships are giving customers the opportunity to visit a virtual showroom online without ever leaving the comfort of their homes.

Inside a virtual showroom, customers can take a closer look at a dealership’s inventory just as they would during an in-person visit. They can explore the interior and exterior of the vehicle and even rotate it around to see it from different angles.

Visiting a virtual showroom allows customers to explore all of their options from the comfort of their home. Using this tool, customers can narrow down their options and decide which vehicle they are most interested in before they step foot inside a dealership. Dealers that fail to utilize this digital marketing trend may struggle to drive foot traffic to their dealership.

Dealer Digital Marketing Trends in 2021

Virtual Test Drives

Another digital marketing trend that will continue to grow in 2021 is the virtual test drive. This digital marketing strategy, which is supported by virtual reality technology, gives customers the chance to take a test drive of a vehicle without getting off of their couch.

A virtual test drive will take customers behind the wheel so they can get a feel for what it’s like to own that specific vehicle. Just like virtual showrooms, virtual test drives help customers start the process of purchasing a new vehicle online from their homes. This is another marketing tactic that is aimed at helping customers gather the information they need to narrow down their options and make a purchase decision.

Mobile Optimization

According to Google, 60% of all automotive-related searches are performed on a mobile device. Furthermore, the majority of these top mobile searches are related to dealerships. Examples of these searches may include:

  • Car dealership near me
  • Honda dealership near me
  • Closest Toyota dealership

The mobile users who perform these searches are clearly interested in finding a local dealership, which is why it’s so important for dealers to appear in the search results. In fact, Google reports that search is the most commonly used source in the car-buying process. This means it is a more valuable source of customers than word-of-mouth, television advertisements, and in-person dealership visits.

This data makes it clear that dealers must make an effort to optimize their websites for mobile devices in 2021. Failing to do so could cost dealerships the chance to attract these mobile users and increase their sales.

Dealers can optimize their websites for mobile by focusing on these three key areas:

  • Load speed: More than 50% of all mobile users will leave a website if it does not fully load within 3 seconds. Make sure you don’t lose these users by speeding up your website’s load time.
  • Easy navigation: Don’t force users to hunt for the information they are looking for on your website. Simplify your website’s menu and reduce the content on each page so mobile users don’t need to zoom out to read it.
  • Easy to take action: It should also be easy for mobile users to perform certain tasks, such as submitting an online form, calling you, or searching your inventory.

Improving these areas can drastically improve your site’s mobile optimization and help you attract more mobile users in 2021.

Voice Search Optimization

Last year, a survey found that nearly half of all consumers used voice search to perform “general web searches.” Another survey found that 58% of U.S. consumers had conducted at least one voice search for a local business.

The percentage of consumers that use this feature is expected to grow even more over the next several years, which is why automotive dealers need to act now so they don’t fall behind.

Dealers can optimize their websites for users who conduct voice searches by focusing on these key areas:

  • Conversational keywords: Focus on long-tail, conversational keywords rather than short-tail keywords to appear in the results for users who conduct voice searches.
  • Answer common questions: Many voice search queries are questions, which is why it’s wise to create a frequently asked questions page on your website. On this page, address every question that a user might search for when looking for automotive information in your community. Answer these questions clearly and concisely.
  • Local optimization: Make sure directions to your dealership and XML sitemaps are available and accessible to both online users and search engines.
  • Google My Business: Create a Google My Business page for your dealership if you have not done so already. If you don’t have a Google My Business page, you won’t be able to rank in the majority of voice searches for local businesses. Be sure to fill out as much of your Google My Business profile as possible and upload photos of your business to make it stand out.

Shifting your focus to these four areas can help you successfully optimize your website for voice searches.

Video Marketing

Google reports that 40% of online shoppers who watched a video about a car or truck ended up visiting a local dealership as a result. This data suggests that video marketing is an effective digital marketing strategy for automotive dealerships.

For example, dealers can focus on creating unique videos that showcase each make and model on their lots. The videos should highlight each vehicle’s interior and exterior features that sets it apart from others. Customers can use these videos to conduct research on vehicles, compare and contrast different models, and inch closer toward a purchase decision.

Each video should be quickly uploaded on YouTube and promoted on social media channels to maximize its reach.

Dealer Digital Marketing Trends in 2021

Outstanding Customer Service 

Many dealers focus solely on improving the customer service experience for customers who visit the dealership in person. But in 2021, automotive dealerships need to also focus on improving the digital customer service experience to remain competitive.

This may mean improving the user-friendliness of your website, responding promptly to online queries, providing a live chat feature on your website, and creating a personalized browsing experience for each online user.

Dealers should empower their teams to implement new ideas that will improve the digital customer service experience. If an idea isn’t successful, simply move onto the next one. The more strategies you implement, the more you can learn about your customers.

There’s no doubt that the automotive industry is becoming increasingly competitive. To remain on top, automotive dealers of all sizes must be prepared to embrace these digital marketing trends.