The 4 Ps of Marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) have been around forever, but in today’s digital-first landscape, traditional marketing principles fall short of the experience consumers expect — especially in automotive. Car shoppers are empowered, and they have high expectations for the same convenience and transparency they enjoy from every business now at their fingertips. Simple promotion of your product and price through traditional advertising fails to connect with today’s shoppers.
2020 only accelerated these trends, making now the time to rethink how you reach and engage consumers. We have a game plan to beat their expectations and earn their business, and we redefined the 4 Ps of Automotive Marketing to replace “promotion” with the most important P in the car business: person.
Today’s shoppers view countless vehicles across OEM websites, 3rd party marketplaces, and dealer websites on their quest to find the right vehicle. Properly merchandising your inventory is a must to make the most of every opportunity. Listings with quality photos, complete feature details, and unique seller’s notes will generate the most engagement and rank highest on Cars.com.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and on Cars.com it’s worth even more impressions. Used car listings on Cars.com with photos receive 7x the VDP views1. Include multiple shots and video to give shoppers the complete picture and build trust that your vehicle is as-described. Adding a custom walk-around video is also a huge bonus to give shoppers an immersive product experience that makes them feel more confident to take next steps.
1. Cars.com Internal Data, July 2020
Seller’s notes give you an opportunity to provide a unique story for a specific car and pitch its features and attributes. Shoppers are searching for unique details, so avoid using generic copy across all VDPs. Set your inventory apart by answering the questions shoppers are likely to ask:
Most shoppers have no idea what features come with which trim level — they just want “the one with Apple CarPlay” — so it’s critical that you clearly list the features they’re looking for. In 2019, we did an audit of 22 million vehicles on Cars.com, and 9 million of those had incorrect or missing features3. Those missing features undercut the value of your product and even affect whether or not it shows up in feature-based search results. Complete listings have also been shown to turn inventory 14.3 days faster and net $250 more gross on average4, so you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not merchandising all your features, options, and packages.
To help solve this issue for our partners we developed AutoCorrected™, which scans your listings every day and automatically fixes errors or adds features that may be missing on your Cars.com inventory — for free.
2. Cars.com Internal Data, July 2020
3. CarStory Case Study (142 Dealerships, 17,845 vehicles), January 2019
4. CarStory Case Study (142 dealerships, 17,845 vehicles), January 2019
Today’s shoppers are more empowered with information, and have grown accustomed to price transparency across every purchase they make. Playing games with pricing only creates distrust that will leave buyers searching for another dealership. And while price may be the most researched aspect of buying a car, consumers don’t necessarily want the lowest price. Instead, they want to know they are getting a fair deal, and they are willing to pay more for a great experience, additional vehicle features, and value added services. By offering clear pricing information with additional details that help shoppers understand the cost, you can build trust and confidence in your dealership to win over shoppers.
Cars.com helps to put your price in context with deal badges that show shoppers how the price compares to similar vehicles on the market. Our “Hot Car” badge signals vehicles that are likely to sell quickly. Rest assured that unlike some other marketplaces, Cars.com does not label vehicles as “overpriced.”
It’s also critical to help shoppers determine what their monthly payment is. Very few shoppers make buying decisions based on the selling price — they decide based on whether they can afford the payment within their monthly budget. In fact, 75% of consumers want to know their personalized monthly payment before they consider walking into the dealership5. Make sure your listings and website give shoppers the tools they need to make those instant and personalized calculations.
Place is no longer limited to your physical store. 70% of consumers now expect retailers to offer them the same level of personal service whether they are shopping in a physical store or online, making it essential to provide a consistent omni-channel experience6.
It’s time to re-examine the retail experience you provide shoppers across all channels. Instead of viewing your website as just a lead generation machine, use it to match the experience and level of service you provide in your physical showroom. Train all employees to become customer experience representatives, and treat phone and email leads as opportunities to engage, inform, and set your store apart.
Watch how the team at Toyota of Cedar Park seamlessly connects the online to in-store buying experience with our Dealer Inspire solutions and their fantastic customer service.
5. Cars.com “Drivers Seat” Consumer Survey, October 2018.
6. PSFK, Future of Retail 2020
Shoppers have new expectations for transacting online that have only been accelerated by the events of 2020. More than ever, shoppers are opting to skip the showroom in favor of convenient digital-first options and home delivery. 61% of recent buyers state they would use home delivery if it was offered from their local dealership7. Cars.com helps you highlight these services with complimentary Virtual Appointment and Home Delivery badges.
7. DealerRater consumer survey Sept. 14-19, 2020; 12,104 responses
While the other 3 Ps were simply updated for the digital age, we’re going to replace the 4th “P” altogether. Instead of promotion, we think it is time to focus efforts on your greatest asset of all: your people. Promoting your people sets your store apart, builds trust with shoppers, and drives higher quality leads.
Reviews provide a great opportunity to showcase your team and give shoppers a window into the experience they can expect at your dealership, and 98% of customers actually want to choose their salesperson prior to visiting the dealership8.
Using DealerRater’s Salesperson Connect™, dealerships can easily create individual profiles for each employee. Every salesperson can provide a short bio that gives shoppers a chance to get to know them before meeting them in person. Your top-rated employee profiles and ratings can be added to your inventory on DealerRater®, Cars.com, and your Dealer Inspire website, giving your shoppers the ability to select the person they’d like to work with — making them more likely to show-up and purchase.
8. Survey of 17,981 car buyers on DealerRater.com, October 2018
*Survey of 17,981 car buyers on DealerRater.com, October 2018
**Based on Cars.com VDP lead submissions between January 2019 – February 2020
Consumers want to know what your current shopping experience is like, so the recency of your reviews really matters. In fact, 86% of shoppers say that reviews older than 3 months aren’t helpful, and 48% even say that reviews need to be less than two weeks to have an impact. To keep your reviews fresh, make it a regular part of your sales process to ask customers to share their experience with a review.
That’s easier said than done, so we created a solution to make it automatic for your team. DealerRater’s ReviewBuilder™ syncs with your DMS to solicit each day’s sold customers to share their story, and then distributes those reviews across Google, Facebook, DealerRater, and Cars.com to build your reputation on all the key platforms.
9. BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey Dec. 2019
10. Based on ReviewBuilder™ metrics of 736 DealerRater Connections Plus customers between January 1 2018 – July 31 2018
Now that you’re generating all those fresh reviews, it’s important to respond to them as well. Responding to reviews gives shoppers insight into your team and how they can expect to be treated. Some 97% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, and 71% say they are more likely to visit a business that responds to their reviews, so it’s a huge opportunity to show your community that your engaged with happy (and unhappy) customers on these platforms.
Again, that’s much easier said than done considering how time consuming it can be to write personalized responses to every customer, so we have a solution for that too. Our AutoResponse™ team has you covered with handcrafted responses that represent your business across platforms, and any responses to negative reviews are drafted for your approval.
We’ve updated The 4 Ps, now let’s get to work and update your digital strategy to make the most of each of yours. There’s no going back to “the old ways” before the pandemic, so we need to make sure you’re set-up to meet and beat consumer expectations in this new landscape.