The “Consumer-First” Digital Marketing Key to Winning Buyers

LAS VEGAS — Digital marketers who focus solely on shoppers close to car-buying decisions are missing important opportunities to reach new customers, says Lindsay Eckert, vice president of marketing and strategy at Cars.com .

The key to getting more buyers to choose your brand and dealership is “consumer-centric marketing,” Eckert told attendees at the recent Digital Dealer conference. This means crafting digital marketing messages to resonate with buyers at their specific stage of the decision-making process. She says most marketers believe they are doing it, but lose sight of the needs, mindsets and desires of buyers.

“We need to give buyers the right information to help them make decisions. And when buyers are at the end of the buying funnel, ready to take action, their decision is usually made,” she says. “And if your (brand and your dealership) aren’t on their minds, it’s too late.”

Cars.com data shows that 50% of buyers are ready to buy within 30 days. Only 27% of these buyers chose their favorite brands and models. This leaves 73% undecided on the make or model. The data highlights the different mindsets of the two groups of buyers.

Eckert says those closer to buying have focused on the specific features and equipment they want, and they’re comparing offerings within a small set of models. Successful marketing messages to these buyers feature sales and offers, key competitive features of models, warranties and service benefits.

This contrasts with those in the early stages of buying a car – those planning to buy within the next three months – who are undecided on everything from brand to body style and features. These shoppers respond positively to posts that detail how a brand suits their lifestyle. Frequent video messaging and social feeds are among the best ways to ensure a post resonates with this group.

Eckert notes that brand loyalty is at its lowest level in six years. Market conditions, including stock-outs, led 42% of shoppers surveyed to consider brands and models they wouldn’t usually consider.

As marketers craft their digital plans, Eckert suggests it’s wise to remember which factors resonate most with buyers. Survey respondents listed them as follows:

  • 64%, price.
  • 58%, security.
  • 57%, comfort.
  • 55%, size.
  • 55%, energy/fuel efficiency.

But it’s also wise to use marketing to broaden buyer appeal. This can include showing how one dealership or inventory differs from others. A California dealership saw a huge influx of buyers when its marketing touted top-notch service. Other dealerships align their stores with community themes and causes, point out competitor downsides, and use various media to relay their messages.

“As the buyer gathers more information, they slowly narrow their consideration set,” Eckert explains. “And you want to make sure your message shows buyers why you should be considered.”

Cathy W. Howerton