Where Is Car Shopper Attention During Coronavirus?

Where Is Car Shopper Attention During Coronavirus?

Where Is Car Shopper Attention During Coronavirus?

Let’s face it: With all the uncertainty around Coronavirus, we’re all too well aware that most consumers aren’t actively looking for cars right now.

In a weekly survey of shoppers looking to buy within the next 6 months, Cox Automotive found that the amount of auto intenders who were delaying an automobile purchase had increased from 7% to 35% in just 3 weeks.

What about traffic? Are shoppers still browsing dealership sites and 3rd party listings?

We aggregated research from industry experts to help find out where auto shopper attention is going, and where it’s dragging behind…

Endemic and 3rd party listing sites experiencing a flux

In an article released on April 3, 2020, Dealer Inspire reported downward trends in unique active shoppers across CARS® audiences, including Cars.com and DealerRater. 

Meanwhile, Cox Automotive reported a similar decline in traffic for other key endemic sites such as AutoTrader, KBB.com and Dealer.com in the first few weeks of March.

Thankfully, Cox also reported that traffic seems to be slowly increasing again as of March 31st.

“Online shopping started to improve in the middle of last week and continues to improve in the latest data that we see,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke.

“AutoTrader saw a 7% gain in VDP views over the past weekend over the prior weekend; KBB saw an 11% gain this past weekend; Dealer.com…saw a deceleration over the weekend in traffic declines that were much worse 2 weeks ago.”

Dealership traffic and Google search volume trending down

Dealer Inspire also reported downward trends in dealer website traffic and leads based on tracking unique daily visitors across over 3,500 dealer websites nationwide.

Source: Dealer Inspire – “New Data: Opportunity For Dealers As COVID-19 Shakes Up Traffic Across Industries

They noted similar Google search trends across their customers and partners as well.

Using Google Trends reports over the last 30 days, we also found that search volume on Google is down from shoppers actively searching for terms like, “dealer near me” and “used car.”

So if auto intenders aren’t actively searching for a car right now and are delaying purchases, where should dealerships be investing their ad dollars to reach them?

Facebook usage on the rise

Unsurprisingly, social media sites are garnering more attention as more and more users are social distancing and staying at home.

According to a blog post on Facebook.com, Facebook is seeing an extreme spike in usage across the globe due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The article states, “The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day. Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends.”

Compared to some of the 3rd party sites, Facebook is clearly experiencing more search volume and activity right now.

And while classified listing auto traffic is somewhat declining, Facebook Marketplace continues to have an upward trajectory as well.

Source: Google Trends – This chart shows Facebook Marketplace search popularity over the past 12 months compared to the top 3 leading 3rd party listing providers.

One thing we love about Facebook is that it serves as a proactive channel for advertisers to use to reach their audience.

Dealerships don’t have to wait for shoppers to search for “car dealer near me,” but can instead send their latest messaging out to any shopper in a 15 mile radius from their store.

If you ask us (or Steven Stauning), Facebook is one channel you don’t want to be without in today’s quickly-changing market.

Maximizing attention with the right messaging

People are using Facebook and Instagram now, more than ever, to seek the latest news updates, stay in touch with family and friends, and simply kill time.

Shoppers will recognize which companies in their local communities are there to support them, and keep them safe, versus the ones that are pushing “buy, buy, buy.”

Therefore, you may need to shift your strategy away from asking shoppers to submit leads or come to your lot and test drive a car.

Instead, show them that you’re there as a resource for them: if their car breaks down, or they need an oil change, or yes — if they do want to buy a new car — you’ll be there.

“Previously I know we all focus on the bottom of the funnel, how many leads can we get in, how many leads can we close,” said Brent Parres, Partner Manager at Facebook Automotive during the State of Automotive webinar last week.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to refocus and think of ‘How can I push my brand, my dealership as a brand in this local community that I’m in? How can I stand out from the competition and show that I care about my community?’ While you can do both, I think the messaging for anything on the bottom of the funnel needs to take that branding approach.”

Use Facebook to inexpensively saturate your local community with messaging around:

  • If and when your dealership is open
  • What safe services you’re offering
  • What precautions you’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (sanitization, at-home services, etc.)

Want more ideas on how dealerships are effectively messaging during COVID-19? Click here to check out our article, “State of Automotive Dealer-Panel: 5 Key Takeaways and 19 Tips To Come Out Ahead”!

Show your community that your dealership is there for them and you care about their well-being, so that when the dust from this pandemic finally settles, you’re positioned well in your PMA.

Looking for more COVID-19 Resources to help your dealership?

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Blog Author - Drew Detweiler

Written By Drew Detweiler
Drew manages inbound and outbound marketing for Dealers United. When he’s not at work, he’s probably enjoying the outdoors, fishing, or eating.

State of Automotive Dealer-Panel: 5 Key Takeaways + 19 Tips To Come Out Ahead

State of Automotive Dealer-Panel: 5 Key Takeaways + 19 Tips To Come Out Ahead

State of Automotive Dealer-Panel: 5 Key Takeaways + 19 Tips To Come Out Ahead

Last week, 5 auto dealerships and 3 industry experts served as panelists on our State of Automotive March 2020 webinar, co-hosted by Facebook Automotive, IHS Markit, and Dealers United.

The event was geared around how dealerships are tackling the effects of Coronavirus on their business processes, consumer messaging, and plans for Q2.

The 8 panelists were:

  • Matt Sneed, Director of Marketing – Power Ford in Albuquerque, NM
  • Michael Renaud, VP – Leader In Cars Auto Group in the greater NY area
  • Bobby Sight, Director of Operations – Rob Sight Ford in Kansas City, MO
  • Stu Berkley, General Manager – Middletown Honda in Scotchtown, NY
  • Chris Beaton, General Manager – Steele Valley Chevrolet, New Minas, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Brent Parres, Partner Manager – Facebook Automotive
  • Drew Cameron, Tier III Automotive Marketing – IHS Markit
  • Pete Petersen, CEO – Dealers United

Miss the webinar? Catch the replay at www.stateofautomotive.com.

While each dealer-panelist has been impacted differently based on their own local ordinances, they all share one thing in common: sales are declining, if not shut down altogether.

A poll during the webinar found that 81% of attendees have had their sales department impacted in some way.

Here are 5 key topics that the panelists discussed, and 19 tips for how dealers can maintain business and branding, and can come out ahead:

Key Takeaway: Truly support the customer during this time.

    • Tip #1: Make the Customer Feel Safe. Share pictures and videos of your safety and sanitization practices to make the customer aware that “these are the steps that we are taking because we care and we are aware of what is going on.” Show your team putting plastic on the steering wheel, wearing gloves, etc.
    • Tip #2: Play the “Supporting Role.” Try calling your consumers proactively to check on them. Take the stance of “We’re checking on you, we’re here to help” and “How can we accommodate you” instead of “Buy, Buy, Buy.” 

“We’ve taken the time to scrub all of our advertising, asking ourselves, ‘What’s the perception on this?’ We’ve even removed all hard offers on our website and are really trying to communicate the stance ‘We’re here; we’re here to help you’ and ‘What can we do to accommodate you in this time?’ I think playing the supporting role is the role to play right now. By playing that role, people will find you and will come to you either way.”

—Chris Beaton, Steele Valley Chevrolet

  • Tip #3: Put Real People Behind Your Messaging Platforms. Many shoppers will have specific questions that your chatbot or typical FAQ may not be able to answer in these times. Establish real live communication between members of your team and the consumer.
  • Tip #4: Make a Short-Term Shift from Performance to Branding. Now is the time to build value and earn a customer’s future business. Shift away from driving leads and focus on brand awareness, video views, and engagement. Don’t just run a single ad about your latest incentives. Create an entire library of ads that stack value every time they log in, and then hit a sales conversation once in a while when the time is right.

Key Takeaway: Overcommunicate with your team.

    • Tip #5: Follow CDC and Local Guidelines. From making sure employees stay home when they are sick, to ensuring technicians work every other service bay, be sure you’re following your OSHA guidelines and CDC guidelines to a T. Make sure that the entire team is aware of changes and business process changes you’ve made to help keep both them and your customers safe.
    • Tip #6: Distribute Resources. Check with your Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Centers often for grant and loan information, not only for your dealership but also to send to your employees to help them. If you have unfortunately had to furlough or reduce staff, give them a checklist and a list of resources to help guide their next steps. 
    • Tip #7: Discover and Share Dealership Strategies. In addition to keeping up with latest updates from NADA as well as your own local Auto Dealer Associations, be sure you’re talking to other dealers! Join a Facebook Group, or simply pick up the phone and call to other dealers in your area to share strategies. We are all in this together. 
    • Tip #8: Send Internal Videos for Leadership Updates Often. Have your GM or other members of your Leadership Team send video updates to your team whenever there’s a new development, or at least 2x a week for internal communication.
    • Tip #9: Make it Easy for Your Team to Stay in Touch. With many employees working remote or less hours, help them coordinate and stay connected through chat sites like Group Me, Facebook Groups and Messenger, WhatsApp, InteractiveTel, or Zoom Meetings.

“We’ve got to use care and compassion with our teams. I just encourage you: stay proactive. The more you stay positive, the more you help them with resources, with information, it calms anxiety. Try not to promise and over-deliver. You want to be truthful, and honest, and keep people in the loop. Tough decisions may be needed throughout this time but the things you do now to build your team are going to make you come out of this stronger. How do we want to be perceived as a dealership, of us as leaders, when this is over?”

—Pete Petersen, CEO of Dealers United

Key Takeaway: Quickly and proactively adapt to changing consumer needs.

    • Tip #10: Listen to the Customer. Ensure the customer feels that their safety is your top priority. Listen and be empathetic to which way the customer wants to shop and service; make it as painless and easy as possible for them to be able to get the job done.
    • Tip #11: Digital retailing is HERE. Offer “Touch-less” Valet and At-Home Services to make your customer experience more convenient during this time. Whether you’re focused more on Service or on Sales, it’s important to remove all friction points in your online and offline buying processes. Be willing to let go of more information and provide more convenience.
    • Tip #12: Set Realistic Expectations and Communicate Proactively. Be transparent and forthcoming with new processes. Set realistic expectations for what customers can expect both online and offline. If a service is going to take 2-3 days to deliver, let them know that!
    • Tip #13: Over-Communicate and Post Daily. You may have to pivot your communication style to be more proactive and touch your customers more often to keep them more informed. This is a time when more people are on Facebook and Instagram than ever. Post Instagram and Facebook Stories daily that you’re open and practicing safe sanitization procedures and update your Page cover photo, showing that you’re open.

“We’ve been showing pictures of mechanics putting plastic over the steering wheel; making the consumer feel safe and still come in. We’re trying to give them offers that are service related. Most of my budget is going to service right now. Sales is closed. I haven’t abandoned [sales], but most of our budget, especially on Facebook and Instagram, is all directed right now in service and the customer, how we’re going to take care of them.”

—Stu Berkley, Middletown Honda

“This is becoming like a freight train to change the way we do business. There’s been a reluctance to change to the pace that our clients and consumers want. This is what they’ve been asking for for years. I think once this is all over that this is going to make us all better. Once we have ‘valet at home test drives’ and easier flow of information from a digital retailing point of view, why would we go back? Consumers are not going to want to. People find there to be too much friction. Internally we’ve let off the reins as far as trying to hold onto information; we’re giving it up more easily; we’re letting the consumer be more behind the steering wheel.”

—Chris Beaton, Steele Valley Chevrolet

Key Takeaway: Stretch your advertising dollars.

  • Tip #14: Target Smarter. As you cut down on our ad spend, invest into platforms where you can target specific audiences or use 3rd party data to reach Owners, Brand Loyalists, Recalls, Expiring Leases, and Service Buyers in your area. Deliver them value and your brand’s message.
  • Tip #15: Focus on Your Lowest Hanging Fruit. While search volume and website traffic is down, it’s more important than ever to focus on your lowest hanging fruit by retargeting existing traffic. These are the audiences where you can be a little more sales-driven in your conversations.
  • Tip #16: Maximize OEM Incentives and Show You Can Help With Payments. Communicating incentives and payment deferments from your OEM will help you control the conversation with your customer and help positively position your brand.

Key Takeaway: Plan to be “standing” when this is over.

  • Tip #17: Help Rebuild. If there’s an opportunity for you to be involved in your community and help rebuild your local market, take that opportunity.
  • Tip #18: Continue Removing Friction. If you haven’t been focusing on digital retailing and online communication, use this time to set yourself up for sustainability and success in the digital world. Facebook Messenger is a great area to invest and train your team for long-term enhancements.
  • Tip #19: Play the Long Game and Rebound. Use this time to focus on customer and consumer communication and to learn how we can do better at the dealership. Plan like this will be happening until May 1st, and that when this is over, you’ll come out on top. Work with your team to prepare marketing plans and operations for a recovery path.

“We need to show the community [we care], but I wouldn’t say totally abandon your inventory ads. Because at the end of the day, we are who we are. We’re auto dealerships: we sell cars! And now some OEM’s are supporting more heavily with incentives…we can still be the guide and supporter and say, ‘If you’re hurting in a financial crisis, you can have a newer vehicle with no payments for 6 months’ and that can bridge the gap. If you do it in a classy way, you don’t come across as sleazy.”

—Matt Sneed, Marketing Director at Power Ford

“My objective, my business plan, and everything since this all started has been under the premise that when this is over, we need to be standing. We can’t be down on our knees, cant have our face in the ground because when this is over, we’re going. It’s going to be gangbusters for the entire industry: Service, Sales, Parts, everything.”

—Michael Renaud, Leader In Cars Auto Group

As the situation continues around Coronavirus, we must continue to work together to propel our industry, our dealerships, and our communities forward during this unprecedented time.

Please help us spearhead more ideas and solutions for our dealership community! Feel free to share your questions, comments, strategies, and ideas below.

Request the State of Automotive Replay here. 

Grab more COVID-19 resources for your dealership here. 

Stay healthy and safe, from our team to yours.

Looking for more COVID-19 Resources to help your dealership?

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Blog Author - Brooke Jensen

Written By Brooke Jensen
Brooke handles all of Dealers United’s digital marketing. In addition to her love for design and copy, Brooke also adores her two dog-like kittens, playing the electric violin, and walking barefoot around the office.

How Dealerships Can Continue Driving Sales During Coronavirus

How Dealerships Can Continue Driving Sales During Coronavirus

How Dealerships Can Continue Driving Sales During Coronavirus

Regardless of what is fact VS. what is fear, there are still A LOT of people who simply aren’t going to public places due to the COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus). 

It’s important for dealerships and local businesses alike to have messaging and plans in place to continue operations, while still staying safe and preventing the impact of this virus.

It’s also important for your dealership to shift to where shoppers are spending their time, if it’s not on your lot. 

Keep reading for tips on how to communicate any changes in your operations, ways to maximize the increase in social media usage from people staying home, and messaging ideas that can help drive sales. 

1. Communicate Changes Around Your Daily Operations.

Be sure to over-communicate that your business is open or closed and let your community know you have a plan.

If you’ve made changes to your daily operations, update your business hours on Google My Business, and update your business description to reflect any changes and updates such as:

  • What are your hours of operation?
  • If you are temporarily closing your store, what services are you still providing, and how can they get those done?
  • How can someone reach you?
  • Should they expect delays in response, service, etc?

Your website should also reflect this messaging. Update your Contact Us page, and create a blog article or website page with all the answers to how your business operations may be adjusting. 

Add an alert at the top of your website that links to this article, or adjust your homepage so that it is front and center.

Lastly, don’t forget to update your phone’s automatic greeting. Let callers know immediately if you are open or closed and how they can do business with you.

2. Be Digitally Visible and Available.

As more consumers turn to the web and social media to pass the time, it’s important to have a strong digital presence.

How can you provide your customers with an amazing car shopping experience, even if they don’t leave the house?

Use live inventory ads or Facebook Marketplace listings to provide local shoppers with up-to-date vehicle information, amazing photos, and the latest pricing, all at the tip of their fingers. 

Next, be sure your Live Chat on your website is being managed around the clock to handle all inbound inquiries.

Facebook Messenger is also a great way to communicate back-and-forth with prospects, perform video/virtual showings, send pictures of vehicles to consider, and set up in-home test drives.

You can even promote that your Sales reps are available to Facetime, text—whatever it takes! 

3. Offer and Promote Convenient and Frictionless Retail Experiences.

Ask yourself: In the face of Coronavirus, are you making the car buying process easier or harder for your customers?

As our local communities urge us to avoid more and more public places, it’s time to heavily consider offering at-home vehicle deliveries test drives.

EVERYONE is going to be spending more time than ever on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

Take advantage of this extra exposure as your platform to inform local buyers about your new, convenient buying experiences.

As our local communities urge us to stay inside during COVID-19, more people will be spending time online and on social media. Be sure your dealership is there, too. 

One of our dealer-customers called us this week letting us know that they were getting hit with a huge drop in foot traffic due to a nearby quarantine in their market area.

He asked us what strategy he should deploy to help counter the decrease in in-store shoppers. 

The #1 thing we suggested is to remove all sources of friction in their buying process right now, and to over-communicate that shoppers don’t have to come onto the lot to buy a car.


You can also use Facebook Reach campaigns to retarget your current website visitors and leads to let them know you’re open and how they can reach (and buy!) from you today.

Use the “Message Us” call-to-action to direct all inquiries to Facebook Messenger, or send users to a page with all of your convenient buying options.

 Now is the time to show prospects that you are the dealership who is always putting the customer first—no matter what.

Want to learn more about eliminating friction from your dealership’s customer experience in time to tackle COVID-19? Click here to read our latest article, “[Facebook Guide] How To Eliminate 50+ Friction Points In The Car Buyer Journey”. 

During Coronavirus, Dealers United Is Here To Help.

If you would like to get in touch with us regarding Coronavirus, or want ideas to help get your brand message out to your local community, schedule a quick strategy call with our team when it works for you at www.dealersunited.com/schedule/region, or give us a call at 941-366-6760.

We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity!

Looking for more COVID-19 Resources to help your dealership?

Click Here

Blog Author - Brooke Jensen

Written By Brooke Jensen
Brooke handles all of Dealers United’s digital marketing. In addition to her love for design and copy, Brooke also adores her two dog-like kittens, playing the electric violin, and walking barefoot around the office.

[PRESS RELEASE] Dealers United Acquires What’s Next Media

[PRESS RELEASE] Dealers United Acquires What’s Next Media

[PRESS RELEASE] Dealers United Acquires What’s Next Media

Sarasota, Fla., July 25, 2018 (Newswire) – On July 20, 2018, leading digital automotive company Dealers United announced a final agreement to acquire Seattle-based media and video production company What’s Next Media for an undisclosed amount. Continue reading…

Read it!

[PRESS RELEASE] Hub City Ford Marks 3rd Dealers United Customer to Be Featured by Facebook Business

[PRESS RELEASE] Hub City Ford Marks 3rd Dealers United Customer to Be Featured by Facebook Business

[PRESS RELEASE] Hub City Ford Marks 3rd Dealers United Customer to Be Featured by Facebook Business

SARASOTA, Fla., April 18, 2018 (Newswire.com) — Facebook Business just released a new automotive success story featuring Hub City Ford, signifying the 3rd customer of Dealers United, a digital solutions provider for auto dealers, to be published by the site.

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Dealers, We’re Using Facebook’s Brand New Ad Format To Drive VIN Leads Into Your CRM. Here’s How:

Dealers, We’re Using Facebook’s Brand New Ad Format To Drive VIN Leads Into Your CRM. Here’s How:

Dealers, We’re Using Facebook’s Brand New Ad Format To Drive VIN Leads Into Your CRM. Here’s How:

Dealers, are you tired of spending a huge portion of your ad budget on 3rd party leads? Do you find yourself wondering if they’re really working, but you’re suffering from FOMOS, (Fear Of Missing Out On Sales)? You’re not alone. Thankfully, Facebook’s newest ad format is the secret to generating more 1st party leads and sales for your dealership—and it’s so new, your competition doesn’t have their hands on it (yet!).

Read it!

Register for the webinar, “The 3 Biggest Facebook Mistakes Even Advanced Dealer Marketers Are Making”!