Three Case Studies in Automotive Digital Marketing

car dealership

Auto dealerships have a unique challenge in digital marketing. Customers tend to engage in over 900 digital interactions with a dealership before they make a purchase, and dealers can expect to pay anywhere from $350 to $500 in advertising and lead-acquisition per car sold — a significantly higher up-front cost than most other industries. The auto dealership’s customer journey is long and complex, which makes investing in the right tools absolutely essential to digital marketing in the auto dealership world.

Digital marketing strategy and attribution is the strongest way to connect with your customers. These days, 92% of car buyers are researching online before they buy, and mobile watch time of test drive videos on YouTube has grown by over 70% in the past two years. Digital marketing strategy has become the primary way to connect with potential customers and build brand awareness.

Here are three leading marketers in the automotive industry, and how they’ve used digital tools to their advantage:

Call tracking can improve inbound leads in the automotive industry

The Humberview Group represents 20 automotive dealerships across Ontario. Despite their industry-leading status, Humberview just wasn’t satisfied with the accepted wisdom about how they should market their dealerships. Many in automotive marketing favor bringing in leads through website form submissions, since they’re cheap and simple to implement, but Humberview found this just wasn’t enough.

Like other industries where customers make big-ticket purchases, the path to conversion for auto dealerships can stretch across weeks or months and involve plenty of research and deliberation on the buyer’s part. “In the auto business, there’s a lot of research that suggests that two-thirds of website visitors do not contact a dealer on digital channels right after visiting the page,” says Maxim Poliakov, digital marketing manager at the Humberview Group.

“So now, when we think about one-third of visitors who do contact a dealer, an even smaller percentage of those are the ones who prefer form submissions,” Poliakov explains. “If you’re focusing your analytics only on form submissions, you’re missing a lot of conversion data, you’re missing out on many many leads, and it’s much harder to make effective decisions about your automotive marketing campaigns.”

Inbound service and sales calls are a big part of Humberview’s day-to-day operations, so they recognized that advanced call tracking and analytics could bring considerable benefits to their business. They had previously been using a barebones call tracking service that came bundled with their website provider, but they recently redesigned their website and switched to a new platform that didn’t include call tracking features.

With the website redesign presenting them with an opportunity for a fresh start, Poliakov and the rest of his team decided to make the switch to CallRail. Right away, they discovered there were real and tangible benefits to unifying the analytics and reporting for their different advertising channels — this approach helps them glean valuable high-level insights about how their automotive marketing initiatives are performing.

“The main feature that got us interested in CallRail was definitely Dynamic Number Insertion, and how that really improved how we could track leads in Google Analytics,” Poliakov says. “Also, our last provider didn’t have a proper API, and their reporting system was very clumsy. With CallRail’s open API and more advanced reporting, we’ve been able to integrate with many different platforms, like Google Analytics and Google Ads, and also with our internal analytics platform.” Now that everything is unified under a single dashboard, Humberview can achieve a full-spectrum view of their marketing efforts, Poliakov says: “It’s awesome, and not only has this saved a lot of time, it has made our marketing so much more effective and more efficient.”

By fully documenting and analyzing the various touchpoints that leads interact with during their purchase journey, Poliakov and his team could suss out which of their channels were the best at driving conversions and sales. Humberview tripled inbound leads after adding call tracking to their toolbox.

How the automotive industry can integrate AI into marketing

Harley-Davidson may not be selling automobiles, but their motorcycle dealerships across the world are still in the business of selling vehicles. As this Harvard Business Review article highlights, the company has integrated AI into their marketing approach to increase New York Sales leads by 2,930 percent.

The auto industry is increasingly spending on SEO, meaning it’s more important than ever to optimize your budget. Harley-Davidson optimizes by personalizing their efforts to the customer.

New York Harley-Davidson dealership owner Asaf Jacobi, utilized Albert, an AI-driven marketing platform to measure and autonomously improve the outcomes of marketing campaigns, as well as analyze existing customer data from a CRM. This allowed Jacobi to isolate specific buying characteristics, such as those who completed a purchase, viewed website content, or added an item to an online cart.

These were leads who were in the ‘decision’ and ‘action’ stages of their customer journey. From there, Albert examined the characteristics of customers who engaged in these micro-moments and touchpoints, and created segments of look-alike audiences. The program then could make strategic marketing recommendations based on their behavior and increase conversion rates.

Knowing your customers is vital to creating programs which target specific segments of car shoppers. After you have customer information, use it. Email marketing can help boost a business and build a customer community - when it’s done right. There are lots of opportunities in email marketing, like letting customers know about your holiday sales, personalized emails, follow-ups, and thank you emails that will keep customers coming back.

Make sure to know where your customers come from and what your sales funnel looks like. This will require a strong grasp of attribution. ‘First-Touch’ and ‘Last-Touch’ are two of the most well-known attribution models, but be sure to take a look at alternative models and figure out what will be the best fit for your dealerships. After you’ve figured that out, it’s time to optimize your budget and explore PPC further.

Seamless integrations to improve your dealership’s ROI

Paxton Automotive Marketing is the country’s leader in direct mail and digital advertising for the automotive industry. They create customized advertising solutions for more than 125 clients across the nation to drive traffic to their websites, generate leads, and increase direct sales. They’ve been using call tracking since they first opened 14 years ago and have always understood how call attribution was essential for both their internal use and proving ROI for clients.

Paxton Automotive ran into issues when trying to set up integrations with many of the call tracking providers they used and found that although they could track attribution, the call tracking solutions were not user or client-friendly.

“Every other provider fell short in one way or another, either it wasn’t client user-friendly, they weren’t flexible enough to meet our client’s requests, or they would go bankrupt in a year. The automotive industry is fast paced and always evolving. Paxton is dedicated to staying at the forefront and exceeding industry standards,” said Brittany Ford, Sales Account Executive for Paxton Automotive.

The agency not only wanted a client and user-friendly offering but a call tracking provider that would offer them solutions that stayed up to date with digital marketing trends like mobile marketing and SMS – two features widely used in the rapidly growing auto industry.

“Call tracking allows us to see the real-time, direct response from our campaigns. The data collected from call tracking allows us to stay on top of industry trends so we can provide our clients with cutting-edge campaigns,” said Ford. Being able to quickly prove ROI has been crucial for Paxton Automotive, especially in an industry that runs on calls.

“Our clients want results. They want to see the ROI of their ad spend and CallRail helps us to do that. Internally, we use the analytics of CallRail to determine which campaigns are hot and which aren’t.” Because they can see which channels are driving calls in real-time, they can quickly make adjustments to ensure they have successful client campaigns. That quick turnaround between the start of campaigns and proving ROI has led to a 20% increase in client retention.

Implementing CallRail call tracking has enabled Paxton Automotive to fill gaps in call attribution, listen to call recordings for lead qualification, and send sales ready leads directly via SMS and Text, allowing them to increase client sales by 15%.