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As we get ready to close the book on 2021 and gear up for another year—which is already filled with uncertainty in the auto industry due to inventory challenges, labor shortages and an ongoing pandemic—you may be asking yourself where to focus your marketing and advertising dollars. As there are fewer cars to sell and less money to spend, every dollar matters.
As you know, digital marketing allows you to meet customers where they are (which is online, of course!), track every dollar spent and really understand your return on investment—ultimately helping you sell more cars.
But not all digital marketing is created equal and just like everything else, there are trends and opportunities to optimize how to reach your customers. As we look to 2022, here are the digital marketing trends on which to focus:
- Content. Content is still king—but it’s all about quality in both the audience and what you’re creating. Anyone can slap up a blog post to their site, but if the right people aren’t reading it, it might as well not exist. Search engines like Google continue to prioritize quality content, so focus on providing content that is valuable, clear and informative to help boost conversions or purchase.
- Video. If content is king, video and interactive content are queen. Video and interactive content can be very effective in driving consideration and affinity for a product or brand, allowing customers to educate themselves about a product and feel more connected. You’ve heard us talk before about the impacts of 360-degree spins on vehicles and video walkarounds—87% of customers find 360-degree spins important when shopping for vehicles online. 1
Plus, the next generation of car buyers is here and they’re much more visual than generations before; they appreciate images and videos over written content, so shift your 2022 focus into thinking about how you can take your content strategy and level-up by making it video.
Consider video walkarounds, demonstrations, reviews and behind-the-scenes videos.
- Personalization. The demand for a personalized experience is not going anywhere. Whether buying a house, a car, a vacation or your favorite pens on Amazon, people want a personalized experience. Consumer expectations for a personalized shopping experience are at an all-time high (thanks, COVID), and the digitization of everything isn’t so much a trend as it is the new reality of retail—so dealership marketing needs to follow suit. Digital marketing allows us to get personal, without getting creepy. Contextual targeting and retargeting coupled with advanced reporting gives us more insight into consumers than ever before; if you aren’t leveraging behavioral data to reach car shoppers, 2022 is your year.
- Chat bots and artificial intelligence. The automotive industry has actually embraced chat bots in a really big way already, and I’d consider us a leader in that space. Visiting a dealership website and connecting with a chat bot can be a positive experience and help answer car shoppers’ questions outside of business hours or send customers to the right person for an answer.
But I expect to see expanded capabilities and AI-powered features across more business touchpoints, including digital marketing strategies. We’ve only scratched the surface with AI features; consider exploring AI-powered email marketing tools, digital advertising and SEO automation opportunities. We’ll start to see more industries and companies pushing the capabilities of AI-powered features; the opportunity for efficiency and machine learning could be a big one.
- Third-party cookie alternatives. The panic (slightly) subsided earlier this year when Google announced it was delaying its dissolution of third-party cookies until 2023, but 2023 isn’t that far off. This is the year that businesses and advertising agencies will need to make a solid strategy for how to acquire, use and leverage data to reach their audiences. Businesses will lean into their first-party data this year and will need to partner with the right high-quality data partners to be successful.
Kevin LeSage, director of digital marketing at Autotrader, penned a great blog post earlier this year about how car dealerships can come out ahead after third-party cookies fall behind.
- Micro-moments. According to Google, micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something or buy something. Consumers are bombarded with more information and content than ever, and they make buying decisions in a split second. Brands have only a few seconds to give them what they want when they want it, or they could lose the sale. Brands need to consider how they can seize on those moments and give customers the content, product, experience or message they want in the moment they decide they want it.
So as you’re planning your strategies for 2022, consider these automotive digital marketing trends to help you reach your goals and achieve success in the new year and beyond.
1HomeNet 360 Spin Consumer Research May 2021