"Car dealerships need social media marketing"Last updated on June 10, 2021 at 07:05 AM.
The automotive industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The garages are full, the showrooms are closed, and customer traffic has come to a standstill. In a detailed interview with “Kfz-Betrieb,” a magazine for the car dealership industry in Germany, Gerrit gives tips on how car dealerships and service centers can use the current crisis as an opportunity to digitalize marketing, sales, and customer support.
“Social media marketing reaches every potential customer in Germany and beyond”
kfz-betrieb.de: Which target groups can generally be engaged with via social media? Why is social media marketing important for car dealerships?
Gerrit: Statistics from the industry website allfacebook.de from March 2019 show that 32 million users in Germany, 3,9 million users in Austria and 3,8 million users in Switzerland are active on Facebook - and most of them on a daily basis. That is a total of almost 40 million users, for only those few countries.
During the coronavirus crisis, the number of active users has exploded.
What this reveals is that we can reach just about every potential customer that is capable of making purchases through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
We also can't forget Youtube, either. Brands can use video content and other moving images that engage particular target groups and ensure user loyalty. Generally speaking, longer videos tend to create better user loyalty than short videos.
There are other also other social media platforms such as Xing or LinkedIn that tend to appeal more to business customers and are useful for selling larger fleets, but the reach doesn't extend nearly as far as Facebook.
“Local targeting is the key to success”
Gerrit: What makes social media marketing on these three platforms so attractive for car dealerships is the possibility of placing local content. In other words, this means that we place advertising that is only seen by users from a particular location. We then convert the customers once they have become interested, even in location-based after sales.
The possibilities for online marketing and social media marketing are endless and now is absolutely the appropriate time to test them.
“The customer experience needs to become virtual”
kfz-betrieb.de: Why is social media marketing relevant even in times when car dealerships are legally required to be closed?
Gerrit: In times of corona and social distancing, it is necessary to shift the relationship with potential, new, and existing customers into the virtual world. There is simply no alternative. We do not want to lose existing customers, nor do we want to let our customers end up at our competitors. Communication is the key, and at present all this has to happen digitally. Anyone who remains silent there loses.
Through communication on social media, we can position ourselves in a way that engages our target group so they see us as a trustworthy partner, build up that crucial trust, and appear as experts. This is how trust is developed.
“Everything has become measurable... but that's a good thing”
Technically speaking, all marketing and sales processes can be done digitally. Even finalizing a contract no longer has to take place directly in the dealership. There are fully legal, digital solutions for this. This means we can already begin the sales process on social media. Then, through consistent monitoring, we can measure and track user behavior until a contract is signed. That's the best way to do it anyways.
“Not everything can go digital”
kfz-betrieb.de: People are currently spending more time at home and heavily using social media due to social distancing and curfews. How can brands use this fact wisely for social media marketing now and also prepare for the time after the coronavirus pandemic is over?
Gerrit: At this point in time, unfortunately we have to forego all traditional sales methods. Social media marketing can by no means replace the experience of smelling or feeling a new car in a car dealership. But aside from that, everything else can be replaced.
Considering that users spend many hours a day on social media, they are available for us to communicate with. If we react to visual and communication needs now during the coronavirus, we are also investing in our future.
“Those who act now, invest in the future”
Now is the right time to establish initial contact with potential new customers. Why? The time between the first contact with the car brand and the actual purchase transaction at the dealership takes longer for the car industry than we'll even be in lockdown.
With special offers such as time-limited discounts or reduced down payments, we can lower the barriers for beginning the buying process, create liabilities, and contribute to the cash flow of the car dealership.
“Car dealerships can also tell stories”
kfz-betrieb.de: What does a suitable social media strategy look like in such times of a crisis? How can you manage to keep potential customers and target groups happy, even if they can't or aren't allowed to buy cars at the moment? What messages should brands try to communicate to their target groups?
Gerrit: We can already begin to engage with the needs that we will provide solutions for after the coronavirus is over.
For German target groups in particular, cars symbolize much more than just a car: it stands for freedom, for individuality, for craftsmanship, and much more. These values, as well as our products and services, can be perfectly staged, contextualized and digitally distributed through virtual showroom tours, product presentations, and testimonials. Foot traffic may be limited at present, but the work of the social media marketer is not.
Advertising placements do not only mean expensive TV spots in ProSieben's early evening program, they can also be inexpensive videos on your own YouTube channel. If every user can already do this with user-generated content, why shouldn't car dealerships be able to do it too? A glance at the DMAX program (a live streaming platform) should provide sufficient inspiration.
And last but not least: in such hopeless times, people need a light at the end of the tunnel - and this can also materialize in a new car.
“With giveaways, influencer marketing and chatbots, the possibilities are endless”
kfz-betrieb.de: Which tools are available to social media managers that are worthwhile to use in the current situation? For example, would an Instagram giveaway make sense or would starting influencer marketing be better? Or should brands save such methods for the time after the crisis?
Gerrit: The coronavirus crisis is too new to have valid data on user behavior in relation to giveaways or influencers. This can only be assessed by gut feeling.
Giveaways work at any time if the prize offered is attractive enough. This is especially true in times of crisis, because we can use this to collect user data and break new ground.
Let's take influencers for example. Influencers with a wide reach have a large audience that they can engage with immediately. So, we can use this to become more visible among a particular target group.
And there is another interesting situation at the moment: due to marketing budgets cuts at big consumer goods companies, some influencers are open to working with companies with lower budgets. So, advertisers that struggled to match larger budgets in the past now have a better opportunity to try out influencer marketing.
In any case, influencer marketing should be integrated into the overall marketing mix and not be an isolated rush job.
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