by Derek Andersen, DialogTech

As the digital advertising landscape gets more competitive and automotive industry growth slows, marketers must do more with less budget. The majority of vehicle shoppers start their journey by finding and comparing dealerships online, usually through searches. When they’ve completed their research, they often convert by calling. To acquire more customers in 2020, automotive marketers must focus on SEO and a revitalized digital ad strategy to drive more high-quality calls and personalize the caller experience to increase call conversions.

Growth Is Slowing in the Automotive Industry

1. The growth rate of vehicle sales and auto parts sales will decline by 0.3% in 2020. This decline will likely trigger a decline in marketing budgets for auto marketers, who will have to do more with less (Source: eMarketer).

Automotive Marketers Invest More in Digital Ads to Acquire Customers

2. The US reached $15.91 billion in automotive digital ad spend in 2019. This was a 15.8% increase in US automotive digital ad spend from 2018 (source: eMarketer).

3. The US will reach $18.15 billion in automotive digital ad spend in 2020. This will represent a 14.1% increase in spend from 2019 (source: eMarketer).

4. Auto marketers spent $6 billion on search ads in the US in 2018. This made up 44% of total 2018 auto digital ad spend (source: eMarketer).

5. Only 1 in 3 potential car buyers know the exact vehicle they want to purchase. Marketers can influence these undecided buyers by targeting them with the right digital ads at the right time (Source: Cox).

6. The average cost for an automotive lead is $205. This figure is on an upward trend, as auto industry ad spend continues to rise (source: Lion Tree Group).

The Automotive Consumer Journey Often Begins Online

7. 95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information. Since auto purchases are highly considered, the vast majority of vehicle shoppers use online resources to find answers to their questions (source: Google).

8. 2x as many automotive consumers start their research online versus at a dealer. Today’s automotive consumers are informed and knowledgeable since they self-educate online before they ever make contact with a dealer (source: Google).

9. 76% of new and used vehicle shoppers run a search before buying. Automotive consumers overwhelmingly turn to search engines to find dealerships and get answers to their questions (source: LSA).

10. Automotive consumers visit an average of 4.2 websites in their purchasing process. Oftentimes, they will use multiple devices throughout this process (Source: Cox).

11. The average automotive shopper spends 33% of their research time on a mobile device. This uptick in mobile usage during the research process drives millions of calls to US dealerships through digital ads and click-to-call buttons (Source: J.D. Power). 

12. Watch time of “test drive” videos on YouTube has grown by more than 65% in the past 2 years. Car buyers are moving deeper into the purchasing process before they contact a dealership (Source: Google).

13. Car buyers spend an average of nearly 14 hours online during their search. To appeal to the “always connected” shopper, you must optimize the car-shopping experience across all devices (Source: Cox).

Many Vehicle Shoppers Researching Online Make First Contact by Calling

14. 61% of new and used vehicle shoppers contact the dealership by calling after a search. Due to the complex nature of automotive purchases, consumers typically prefer to speak to a live agent to get their questions answered once they’ve completed their online research (source: LSA).

15. 66% of the automotive calls generated by search engines come from paid search. The other 34% are driven by organic search (source: DialogTech).

16. 60% of consumers searching for vehicles on mobile would call the dealership from a call extension. Call extensions offer a frictionless link from the online to the call channel, and they’re proven to increase both ad performance and click-through rate (source: Google).

17. 57% of consumers call about vehicles from a search ad call extension to schedule an appointment. Similar percentages of consumers call about inventory, pricing, and/or business hours (source: Google).

Why consumers call about vehicles from a search ad call extension

18. 31.6% of total calls to dealerships resulted in an appointment. Consumers who call from paid search call extensions have a higher intent to set up an appointment than general callers who didn’t use an extension (source: DialogTech).

There Is Huge Revenue Potential in Optimizing Your Marketing to Drive More Calls

19. Calls will influence $1 trillion in US consumer spending this year. In our mobile-first world, calls are often the most convenient way for customers to convert (source: BIA/Kelsey).

20. Phone calls convert to revenue 10-15x more than web leads. Calls are the most valuable conversions automotive marketers can drive. By tracking the calls driven by your automotive ads, you can measure your full ROI and optimize accordingly (Source: BIA/Kelsey).

21. Callers convert 30% faster than web leads. Calls provide a more immediate return on your automotive marketing investment (source: Forrester).

22. Caller retention rate is 28% higher than web lead retention rate. Driving calls from automotive marketing campaigns is also more profitable in the long-term — callers are more loyal than web leads (source: Forrester).

Automotive Marketers Are Personalizing the Caller Experience to Boost Conversions

23. 54% of car buyers would pay more for a better buying experience. Auto shoppers are dissatisfied with the buying experience. You can gain a competitive advantage by providing a frictionless end-to-end experience — online, over the phone, and at the dealership (Source: Limelight).

24. Up to 72% of dealership agents don’t ask the caller for an appointment. By leveraging call analytics, sales managers can detect issues like these and provide coaching — in this case, pushing agents to ask for appointments (source: Dealix).

25. 35% did not suggest an alternative if the caller’s vehicle of choice was already sold.  This is another systematic issue that call analytics can identify (source: Dealer Marketing Magazine).

26. Up to 25% of mishandled calls can be converted to sales by calling the lead back. With call analytics, sales managers can set up email alerts for mishandled calls so they can quickly call back to correct the issue (source: Dealer Marketing Magazine).

So What Can Automotive Marketers Do to Drive More Call Conversions?

  • Make it easy for consumers to call you. This includes using call extensions on Google ads and making “call now” an action on web pages.
  • Track callers from marketing source to appointment or sale. This will help you understand how your digital marketing is generating calls.
  • Use call analytics to personalize the caller experience. To convert callers, it’s important to provide a frictionless, personalized experience that makes them feel valued and known.
  • Capture the common questions callers are asking on calls and address them in your online content to improve SEO and boost conversions.
  • Analyze conversations to measure what percentage of calls aren’t being answered at each location, if long on-hold times result in high call abandon rates, if the caller was a good lead, if they converted, and which agents or dealerships are best (and worst) at converting callers to consumers. You can then make the appropriate adjustments to your marketing and coach your agents if necessary.
  • Integrate call data with your CRM and advertising tools. In turn, you’ll gain a holistic view of the consumer journey and allocate your budget more effectively.
  • Target past callers and lookalikes with the right ads. Your callers provide a wealth of targeting data you can use to more effectively acquire new customers and retarget qualified callers based on whether or not they booked an appointment or converted.
  • Optimize, analyze, repeat. Once you start generating more calls, it’s important to continually test and scale your processes, while correcting issues that hurt your ROI.

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