New Year’s Resolutions for the Digital Car Dealer
Updated: May 1, 2020
The beginning of a new year can be an opportunity to make resolutions for improvements, to set goals for surpassing last year’s performance, and to challenge the status quo. As I work with dealerships every day to improve their digital marketing efforts, I want to outline some simple and basic resolutions that every dealer should commit to for 2019. Whether you believe in New Year’s resolutions or not, I think we all would agree that dealers spend enormous amounts each month on digital marketing. Any time is a great time to better measure success and eliminate waste. Here we go:
Embrace Analytics – 2019 should be the year for dealers to stop relying on vendor reporting and instead, determine for themselves which digital advertising investments are working and which are a waste, through using Google Analytics. Do you remember NADA 1998? Well, I sure do. Dealers had scores of 20-somethings telling them that the beauty of the internet was that, unlike newspapers and billboards, everything was measurable. Fast-forward to January 2019, and still, very few agencies and dealers are actually putting this into practice. Digital marketing is definitely measurable, but you need a strong framework along with the right success metrics, as well as drilling into the details to truly get a clear picture. That means inspecting digital marketing investments at a campaign and keyword level rather than simply looking at top line summary results. So where do you start? First, dealers need to make sure Google Analytics is installed for their website(s), and then immerse themselves into the tool to begin measuring campaign success on a more detailed level.
UTM tagging, Goal establishment– UTM tagging may sound complicated, but the process is simple. UTM tags are a tool to help make sure every digital campaign can be identified in Google Analytics. If your agency is running campaigns that are not UTM tagged, then they cannot be held 100% accountable. Dealers need to make sure that all of their Facebook, email, display and other paid campaigns are UTM tagged. Once this has been accomplished, the dealership can use Google Analytics to inspect campaign and traffic quality. But there is one more step: the dealer needs to create meaningful Goals in Google Analytics. They should set up Goals for lead form conversions, chats, texts, click to calls, phone calls, and even Store Visits. This includes reaching out to vendors like CarNow and Contact at Once to get Google Tag Manager Events firing, and setting up Goals around these Events. Once the dealership has both UTM-tagged campaigns, and Goals for hard conversions, they will be better positioned to effectively measure their monthly digital marketing success.
Hold 3rdParty Classifieds vendors accountable- One of the largest digital marketing spending categories for a dealership is 3rdparty classifieds (TPCs), companies like Autotrader, Cars.com, CarGurus and others. I find that many dealers rarely visit the back-end reporting for TPCs, and even if they do, they may not bother to log the data into a dashboard to compare the various providers against each other on common success metrics. It is only by looking at TPC success metrics over time and comparing them to known benchmarks that a dealership can effectively measure what a job well-done looks like. What are those success metrics? My favorites are overall VDPs, cost per VDP, cost per email lead form/chat/text/phone call, website referral traffic (and quality), as well as cars sold from each source. When a dealer begins to log these key metrics monthly, the will begin to get better clarity on what the true ROI from each provider is. It can also open their eyes to the benefits of some of the up-and-coming TPCs, such as Carfax and Edmunds.
So, let’s ring in the new year with expectations of making improvements in 2019 compared to 2018, specifically by dialing in your digital marketing investments! If you are an automotive retailer or B2C business, I would love to help you better allocate your advertising funds, including analyzing your paid search and social media spending. I can help you greatly improve your return on ad spend and gain more transparency with your digital marketing investments.
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