Optimising Digital Spend for the Holidays

Serve the right content to the right customer at the right time
The busiest time of year for retailers is also the most challenging time for car dealers. Web and foot traffic trend downward as consumers shift their focus to smaller ticket items, and Canadian dealers start feeling the unmistakable pinch of the holiday season.

Online search is down as well — in fact, November and December are two of the lowest months of the year for automotive-related search queries. For this reason alone, dealers are looking for ways to reduce spending, and that almost always includes pulling back on marketing budgets.

But does it make sense?

No, because serious car buyers are out there. A massive jump in search traffic occurs during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as model year-end deal-seekers and early adopters enter the fray, ready to buy. And yet many dealerships across Canada (and the United States) make the decision to reduce digital spend during the holidays, effectively missing out on opportunities to boost conversion rates and generate leads.

So how do you optimize digital spend at this challenging time of year? While your competitors are tightening their belts, leave your marketing budget right where it is. The net effect will be nearly the same as increasing spend, because with less online competition comes reduced costs of online ads and paid searches. Moreover, your dealership will rank higher in search results.

If you choose to cut back, focus efforts on a strategic campaign that targets customers who have already indicated serious interest. Don’t drain resources that are guaranteed to produce leads by going after intenders — there will be plenty of time for new customer relationship-building in January and February.

Optimizing digital spend during the holidays is simply a matter of cutting through all the retail noise that’s out there and serving the right content to the right customer at the right time. It helps to know which strategies will help you best accomplish this and achieve the greatest ROI.

Think video AND mobile — at the same time. Year over year, mobile usage is increasing faster than all other devices combined. Consumers have demonstrated they are increasingly accepting of video in advertising, with more than half of YouTube views and 65% of Facebook video views occurring on mobile devices. More often than not, car shoppers begin their research on a mobile device, and almost 50% of consumers say that if a website doesn’t load properly on mobile, they won’t be back. So give them what they want: relevant and engaging content that’s consistently accessible, no matter where they are. Now is the time to roll out new content that’s wrapped in holiday packaging so that your customers know they’re seeing the most current, up-to-date offers when they visit your website.

Beef up display advertising. Push festive, holiday-themed display advertising out to your target audience to remind them that now is a great time to buy or lease — and that a new car would make a fantastic holiday surprise for that special someone. Video, images, and audio are the most effective ways to get your message seen and clicked on. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, behavioural targeting of potential customers collects information on searches they’ve conducted, sites they’ve visited, how much time they spend viewing a page, and which links they ultimately clicked on. Existing display ads can be repackaged to serve the exact content your target audience is telling you that they’re looking for.

Get social. Social media is filled with conversations about great deals and customer service reviews — good and bad. Smart use of Facebook and Twitter during the holidays will get your audience talking about, liking, tweeting, and sharing tips about your dealership’s holiday sales and special offers. Furthermore, social media sites are a customer data goldmine when integrated with your CRM system, allowing you not only to target and retarget customers who have already visited your website or dealership, but also to deliver highly personalized content and customer service. Use CRM to identify customers who are coming off of a lease, ready to buy, or in need of service — and then package content for the holidays. It’s worth noting that service offers are often overlooked during this time of year, but these smaller-ticket items represent a valuable opportunity to convert. While it can be difficult to quantify the direct impact of social media advertising on your business, these sites represent an engaged community and an active conversation in which your dealership can — and should — participate. Especially during the holidays.

Be aggressive with year-end deals and incentives. Make sure you’re aligned with national and regional messaging — clarity and consistency of offers is more critical than ever during the holidays. For the early adopter, push ads that put the new models front-and-center. Messaging around these new cars should look new too. Early adopters are enthusiastic customers who are willing to travel long distances to get what they’re after, so if you have early inventory, expand your geographical reach and advertise availability beyond your local market.

Offer something unique. Customers will go the distance and pass up a lot of other dealers when they see the value in doing so. Invest the time in developing your dealership’s value proposition — something you do that your competition doesn’t — and then include that value proposition in all of your holiday messages. Offer fast and free brake inspections, tire pressure checks, or oil changes, and package them for the holidays. Your customers may be busy shopping for others, but they’ll always make time to score a great deal for themselves.

Keep your site updated. There’s no excuse for an outdated website. With showroom foot traffic slowing down in the weeks leading up to the holidays, it’s the perfect time to spruce up your website. It should be easy to navigate and pleasing to look at, with fresh content and up-to-date contact info. More important, stay on top of your inventory. If your website says you’ve got it, make sure you’ve got it.


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