With the end of this year – and the beginning of the next – just around the corner, offering specials during this holiday season may make your sales, well, special. Whether you’re trying to thin out your aging inventory on the new or used side of the house, or both, specials draw car buyers’ attention to your listings. And once you have them shopping, they’re more likely to start buying.

Incorporating specials into your online program typically requires minimal effort. Automotive shopping sites such as Cars.com offer display advertising products that can automate or simplify the process of selecting and merchandising the vehicles you want to promote. An added bonus: You can then link to these ads from your store’s website for increased exposure that can yield a year-round lift to your dealership.

At Cadillac Hummer Village of Norwood, Mass., internet sales manager Chris Fousek agrees, noting his specials campaign both spawns interest in his 120-car used-car inventory and supports other areas of the business. “Not only do we get extra attention and visibility for those cars, we also generate more traffic for our site,” he said.

How It Works

Highlighting your new- and used-car specials increases your likelihood of making a sale in several ways.

  1. Stand out from your competitors. As car buyers scan their search results for the dealer who has the car they want, they’re more likely to click on listings that include a specials link. Cars.com dealers report a click-through rate of nearly 40 percent and more than 50 percent, respectively, for their used- and new-car offers.
  2. Reach the right people at the right time. Consumers on the lookout for specials likely are lower in the sales funnel and closer to making a purchase. Among Cars.com shoppers, we’ve found that the people who visit these ads are three times more likely to submit an email request for additional information.
  3. Market more metal. A single display ad allows you to merchandise multiple vehicles, depending on how you configure it. With Cars.com’s UsedCarSpecials, for example, you can feature as many as nine used cars automatically selected from your inventory based on the shopper’s search criteria or what you specify (e.g., the vehicles with the lowest price or the longest time on your lot). NewCarSpecials similarly allows you to highlight as many as 30 cars with current pricing and incentives (e.g., cash back or low interest rates/lease payments). And with 38 percent of Cars.com shoppers who visit the site intending to buy used but instead purchasing new, this approach helps you reach a customer you may have otherwise missed.
  4. Keep the prospect in your virtual showroom. When customers decide the specific listing they’re reviewing isn’t a good fit, don’t let them leave without considering what else you have to offer. Including new- and used-car specials with your internet campaign allows you to promote your full inventory and increase your chance of winning a sale instead of your competitors.

Mind the Merchandising

Display advertising products such as UsedCarSpecials and NewCarSpecials utilize easy-to-customize templates and rich-media technology to give your ads an attractive, engaging presence. They also include clear calls to action (e.g., “Search our inventory” and “Come to us for courteous service”) and prominently display your store’s logo, address and contact information. With just a few mouse clicks, car shoppers can get the information they need on the vehicle and reach out to you to schedule an appointment.

Display ads utilize the vehicle pictures and descriptions included with your online listings, so you’ll want to standardize how you merchandise your cars. Photos, for example, should be well-lit and taken from the same angle so that your specials pages have a clean, uniform appearance.

Measure the Impact

How do you know if this approach is working? Similar to your individual listings, specials drive traffic to your store in four ways: phone calls, email inquiries, walk-in visits and clicks to your store’s website. In addition to tracking actual performance, though, remember that display advertising often benefits your store in less tangible ways: branding. As car buyers sort through search results pages for the vehicle they’re considering, you’re more likely to stand out from your competitors if your listing includes a “Click for Specials” logo.

Additional Resources

Cars.com training manager Don Schmidt discussed how you can utilize display advertising to drive more traffic and close more sales in this free DealerADvantage webinar. If you have questions about online specials – and how you can use them at your store – contact your Cars.com