The spring sales season has sprung! Digital marketing strategy for stimulus, tax season and Q2

Kevin LeSage headshot, Director of Digital Marketing at Autotrader
Mar 19, 2021
Kevin LeSage, Director of Digital Marketing

Optimism is rising in the auto industry, and the spring car sales season has begun! The March 8 edition of the Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index shows an 11-point jump in the 90-day outlook index,1 which means that dealers believe the market will be strong in the coming three months. And this week’s Cox Automotive market analysis shows positive indicators, as well, with traffic and lead activity up on Autotrader and KBB.com signficantly year-over-year on Autotrader and KBB.com Dealertrack credit applications and Xtime service numbers also increasing.2 But what does all of this mean for your dealership and for your marketing strategy?

The government just issued more stimulus, it’s tax season, and people are excited for summer, arguably like never before. This is a unique moment in time, so let’s talk about the top three focus areas for a successful digital marketing strategy in the current circumstances.

$1400 stimulus check

Identifying ready-to-buy car shoppers

Stimulus checks are being mailed, and Americans are filing their taxes. These shoppers are already researching the vehicles they want and what they can afford. They’re reading vehicle reviews, engaging across multiple websites, and getting closer to taking action. The first step to building a successful marketing campaign is of course identifying your audience. In this case, we’re looking for those ready-to-buy shoppers. Which customers are coming off-lease? Which customers in your DMA are showing buying signals? Identifying consumers who are truly in market to buy a vehicle allows you to spend marketing dollars more efficiently.

If you need help identifying in-market shoppers audience or finding new ways to drive them to your inventory and get deals started, please reach out to your Performance Analyst at Autotrader. We can help.

Holding onto gross when inventory is scarce

With used vehicle inventory tightening as the sales pace quickens, holding gross keeps climbing the ladder of importance. The last thing you want to do is discount inventory that is hard to replace. It’s essential to analyze market scarcity and know the value of what you have.

Be careful with your pricing online. Make sure it reflects the discounts you want without racing to the bottom. In the past, I’ve helped dealers set up inventory pricing rules that automatically dropped the price after X number of days. Those rules may have made sense then, but now is a good time to revisit and rethink them. Let’s make sure any pricing rules you have in place are benefitting you in today’s market conditions.

We have tools that help you understand consumer activity on each VIN, understanding the likelihood of selling that car. Not only is that valuable data for you, but it’s also a tool for price negotiations with buyers. If a customer is asking for a deeper discount, this data can demonstrate that other customers are interested in this vehicle, therefore we cannot discount any further.

Building the front of your business through the back

Customers across the U.S. have been putting off service throughout this pandemic, but service numbers are trending in a positive direction, according to Cox Automotive. If you don’t already have one, create a process to attract fixed-operations customers who didn’t buy from you. The real estate market has been hot for many months. People have been moving all across the U.S. They’ll need a new dealership or service location. That should be you. If people are moving to your area, find creative ways to extend a hand, and welcome them to the area.

And when you do win a new service customer, make sure you’ve got a process for organically introducing them to the sales floor, the GSM, etc. Sell yourselves and the dealership. You’re great at that. Even better, have a vehicle acquisition process in place and offer to buy their car. Maybe you can help them get out of some negative equity and take advantage of a new incentive.

Let’s be ready

We need to be ready for the coming surge in sales and service. Let’s make sure we can identify true in-market shoppers to ensure that marketing efforts yield big results. Let’s think gross over volume. And as always, focus on the back end of your business. You can never go wrong with that strategy.

Best of luck wrapping up Q1 and revving up for Q2. Please feel free to reach out directly if I can be of any additional support.


1 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index , First Quarter 2021

2 Cox Automotive COVID-19’s Impact on U.S. Auto Sales, March 16, 2021