One Billion Dollars Per Year ($1-Billion!). That's how much America's auto dealers will bump their digital ad spend for the next five years. A billion dollars per year. The same researchers who reported this projection say the money will come from legacy media like newspapers and radio. Only television and direct mail will escape the worst of this massive paradigm shift.
The change is already underway. Auto dealers who 10 years ago wouldn't even consider digital advertising are already embracing it with significant, ongoing advertising budgets. And, they're becoming more conversant with what digital really is, and what it's becoming. While only a few years ago, you might have thought that online meant staring at a website on your desktop computer, the ground has shifted again, this time to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Today's consumers open fully 60 percent of their emails on a mobile device. Today's consumers rely on the internet and digital communication for just about everything today -- from keeping track of the kids, to shopping online, all the way to researching a new home or apartment -- or a new car.
Ninety percent of car buyers today start their search on the Internet. It's no wonder that smart, progressive, successful dealerships are investing in this medium (actually, media; there are countless communication streams online) that is taking over the advertising world.
Digital gives dealerships an incredible opportunity to manage and promote their brand and to reach consumers while they're engaged in "upper channel" activities. Dealers can follow their market -- their potential customers -- through precise, data-driven tactics and retargeting campaigns that repeat and reinforce the dealership's brand and merchandising. You can adjust your efforts from a slow-drip to a deluge at the drop of a hat. Such precision tactics, strategically employed, can reach consumers with better effectiveness and higher response rates than legacy media ever could. Think about it: television is targeted by the thousands and tens of thousands. But you can target your online campaign down to the individual, and stay comfortably with that shopper until he or she says yes (or no) to your offer. And, it costs a lot less than television, which is why digital's ROI is so impressive.
Digital campaigns can involve one or a slew of online channels to reach your buyers. Most smart marketers test, measure constantly to find the most effective channel mix beginning with your dealership's website, or banner ads, social media, email campaigns, blogs, keywords, ad words, pay-per-click, SEO, SEM, even YouTube, and more. Decide how you will capitalize on your manufacturer's digital efforts, then your regional campaigns, down to your local efforts. Branding and merchandising are smart, precise and focused with digital advertising.
This digital structure gives auto dealers a tremendous advantage at every stage of the consumer cycle. Digital advertising is no longer restricted to search engines. Your dealership's size doesn't matter in the digital world. Regardless of budget, today's dealerships can (and must) market effectively, and realize significant sales gains through digital marketing.
Research shows that just last summer, searches for used cars, oil changes and tires were among the major categories searched online. Moreover, BMW, Honda and Jeep were among the top three brand searches. Beyond showing the power of search engines (and the need to optimize your website), the major take-away is that today's buyers are using the web to educate themselves and kick off their car-buying decision process.
Consumers are increasingly making their way to the digital realm to find and make buying decisions about just about everything -- and cars are at the top of the list. Remember: $1-Billion a year for the next five years. It's not a blip; it's today, and the future.