Dealership marketing has changed drastically.

Twenty-five years ago, dealership bought print ads, tv commercials, billboards, and classifieds listings. Kelley Blue Book was still a print-only pricing guide, and customers would visit numerous dealerships to find the best deal.

Fast-forward to today. Customers spend 63% of their car-shopping time on the Internet and visit just two dealerships before making a purchase.

Despite the massive shift in car shopping, many dealerships are still marketing like it’s 1993. They apply old tactics to new channels, treating social media like TV and their websites like billboards.

With all the bad marketing in the world, applying just a few of today’s best practices can separate your dealership from the competition. Dealers who adapt to the new rules of digital marketing will stand out like sore thumbs of shining gold—and win more customers because of it.

If you’re ready to commit to modern digital marketing, here are five trends to take advantage of in 2020:

1. Shrinking Traditional Marketing Budgets

The effectiveness of traditional marketing has been in decline for years, yet many dealers still allocate a large portion of their budget to it. It’s time seriously consider if traditional marketing should be part of the budget at all.

Four Eyes, an intelligent sales platform for dealerships, agrees. In a recent blog post, Four Eyes said: “Spending any money on traditional ads will be questionable at best in 2019.”

Traditional marketing channels like TV, print ads, and billboards aim for broad audiences, which means wasted marketing dollars. Worse yet, it’s nearly impossible to know which traditional marketing campaigns are working and which aren’t. How do you measure the ROI of a billboard?

Digital marketing allows dealers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing with Cost per Click (CPC), Cost per Impression (CPM), and Cost per Lead. This is ideal for car dealerships with limited budgets to spend on marketing.

2. Personalized Marketing

Traditional marketing is generic marketing. Billboards and tv commercials are like gambling– you’re just hoping the right customer sees it.

But some digital marketing is generic as well. Many dealers still have the gambler’s mentality: They post generic ads and sponsored listings and pray the right customer scrolls by.

Instead, dealers should use modern-day marketing tools that create personalized marketing campaigns.

Personalized marketing is when an ad or sponsored listing shows exactly what the customer is looking for. New tools use a customer’s search history to learn what type of car they’re looking for, their price range, and even the color.

Customers have come to expect this level of marketing personalization. Again, Four Eyes agrees: “Marketing and sales communications that don’t speak directly to the consumer’s true wants and needs will fall flat,” they said on their blog.

3. Automated Ad Creation

Personalized digital ads solve many problems with traditional marketing, but there’s still the issue of bandwidth. Dealers don’t have the time to work on marketing all day. If they did, they would be marketers!

Today, we’re seeing the rise of marketing tools that automatically create ads for dealerships. Tools like AdCue use a dealership’s vehicle listings to create personalized ads that target customers in the market for that vehicle.

AdCue ads don’t just run on third party lead sites with a dozen other sponsored listings. They are shown across the Internet on websites and social media, helping your vehicles stand out even more.

Read More: 5 Step Guide to Online Advertising for Small Dealerships

4. Saying ‘Goodbye’ to Third Party Lead Providers

Speaking of third party lead providers: dealerships are finally fed-up with their anti-competitive tactics. Third party sites pit small dealerships against each other to win customer loyalty for themselves, and many dealers are sick of it.

Here’s a comment on the Reddit Forum, Ask Car Sales, about a third party site (the name has been changed to protect the guilty):

“I was getting fed up with LeadPirates’* business practices. They really screw over dealers. I don’t like their follow-up emails to potential customers, who found my vehicle, inquired about my vehicle, then seemingly instantly gets correspondence from LeadPirates* pushing cars from other dealers on them. I also don’t like the featured listings that show on top of my inventory nor the Google Ads. It’s absurd.”

Dealers have reported dwindling returns from these sites, so many are taking digital marketing into their own hands. New marketing tools (like the ones we mentioned above) are helping dealers reach the right customer at the right time, without a third-party gatekeeper standing in the way.

5. Streamlined Dealership Websites

Cox Automotive’s Car Buyer Journey 2019 found that 80% of online car shoppers do research on third-party websites. Why? In part, it’s because these websites are so easy to use. Many dealership websites, on the other hand, look like this:

Dealership website with 13 calls to action on the visible section of the home page.
Too many calls to action.


They are so overwhelming that many customers skip them entirely.

Internet-savvy shoppers have a higher standard these days. Dealer websites should be streamlined and easy to use. Instead of offering 10+ calls to action (like the website above), try having just one or two.

Read More: 3 Tips for Building a Better Dealership Website

In 2019, dealers need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Online shoppers are bombarded by thousands of ads a day. Can you blame them for demanding higher-quality marketing?

Customers expect personalized ads, streamlined websites, and highly-relevant promotions—all delivered at the exact right time. Dealers who can accomplish this are going in today’s market

At the same time, 2020 is the year that dealers take digital marketing into their own hands. Tools like AdCue help dealers make personalized ads automatically, saving them time and money.

Is your dealership still marketing like it’s 1993? Follow these five trends and bring your business up to date.



5 Dealership Marketing Trends for 2020

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