Should Retailers Readjust Their Expectations & Approach to Social Marketing?
By Libby Murad-Patel
Social media is no longer a new strategy to help businesses captivate and engage with customers. Many businesses are now fully entrenched in leveraging Facebook for their social marketing strategy, which for a few years now has been a highly effective way to introduce customers to a new brand, grab their attention and excite their interests, and even motive them to purchase and share with friends and family.
There’s no denying that social has been key in helping businesses grow. As an example, auto dealerships place a large priority on using Facebook and its marketing tools to help build their brand and showcase their cars and deals in front of thousands of potential car shoppers. It’s also commonly used as a way for individual dealer sales personnel to build their own personal brand and help to grow loyalty among their customers and with the dealership.
And social platforms, Facebook in particular, have responded by introducing tools to further help these dealers.
Case in point, Facebook first launched dynamic ads for auto dealerships in November 2017, introducing a more unique and dynamic advertising experience for car and truck ads. Facebook’s resources allow auto advertisers to upload vehicle lists, with details such as the make, model, year, price, mileage, trim and vehicle location. This level of customization for the ad enables dealerships to have more control over where they target their listings for the purpose of increasing their lead-gen potential.
Similarly, social business solutions for dealers have been built with the purpose of offering turnkey ways to target an audience, deliver a message in whichever format the dealer chooses, and distribute across multiple social platforms. These technologies have been designed to aid dealers in bringing more customers in the door to buy or lease cars and trucks or return to the dealer for service. Dealers have invested deeply in this approach, but is it working?
The short answer is, sort of.
New research shows that social marketing platforms remain a valuable tool to help dealers build their reputation and keep them top-of-mind for consumers. From an advertising perspective though, results are mixed. Social ads have influenced some in-market consumers, but many feel it’s a more passive platform to gather information and research. This research, driven by Jumpstart Automotive Media, which tracks shopper behavior, and independent market researcher, Ipsos, identified new consumer behavior feedback regarding their use of social media when car shopping.
According to the Jumpstart/Ipsos research, consumers and dealers see social media differently. The research showed that 48% of dealers think social media results in consumers taking a specific shopping-related action (e.g., request a quote, view inventory, etc.), when in fact 23% of auto shoppers said they saw social ads but took no further immediate action and 20% don’t recall seeing social ads.
The point here is not that social media has become ineffective. Just the opposite, in fact. Social media remains a viable and crucial strategy for retailers such as automotive dealerships. To that point, though, retailers such as auto dealers may need to shift their strategies, test different advertising methods, and adjust their expectations accordingly.
Brand awareness and strategies to build loyalty will remain critical and should be part of the dealership’s overall brand strategy. These could include customer offerings, special services, and even showcasing specific vehicles that are popular in the moment – think launch campaigns or a popular Super Bowl ad spot. This is also where the dealer could develop more connections with loyal and satisfied shoppers, so their positive experiences are shared further.
Advertising efforts with the objective of generating leads, converting leads into appointments, and even transactions should be treated differently, and in some cases, may require dealers to work with other partners to better prospect clients. Dealers can rely on data from third-party auto research sites to better understand what the consumer has specifically been shopping for and then design content that caters more to their interests. If a consumer has identified the brand or model that they’re looking to purchase next and a dealership ad on Facebook appears with that specific vehicle, the ad will have a greater chance of driving that consumer into the dealership, or at minimum, engaging with that dealership online.
Social media isn’t dying. In fact, it’s thriving and just as popular as ever. It’s also always evolving in the consumer’s eyes. Businesses and retailers such as automotive dealerships would be wise to recognize how consumer use of social media continues to evolve, and design social strategies that cater to the experiences their visitors currently prefer on social. When dealers accomplish this, they will realize a stronger return on the social investments and deliver content that’s more on point with consumer preferences and expectations. After all, it’s still all about the experience first when it comes to social.
Libby Murad-Patel is Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Insights for Jumpstart Automotive Media, a division of Hearst Autos, which offers high-impact and performance-driven marketing and advertising solutions that achieve optimum results.