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3 mistakes to avoid making with your digital marketing during the pandemic

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on August 19, 2020

The current pandemic has had an economic impact on nearly every sector and the auto industry is no exception. It’s left many car dealers feeling the need to tighten their belts in terms of marketing spend. But whether you just had your strongest month yet or sales are a slow trickle at your dealership, your digital marketing investment should remain a priority.

Here are three mistakes you should avoid making with your marketing during today’s pandemic.

1. Assuming you can cut your spend because business is booming

Lately, your dealership is reaping the benefits of months of pent-up demand from consumers who were delaying their purchase. Time to put your marketing on the back burner, right? Wrong. It’s all the marketing that you did these past weeks, months, and even years that helped get your buyers to your lot today. If you slashed your marketing budget now, you’d stop reaching your future buyers.

Another way to look at it: 69% of car shoppers reported delaying their purchase in a recent CarGurus study, but only 2% said they’re planning to delay their purchase indefinitely. By using digital marketing to stay in front of prospective shoppers, you’ll ensure that you continue to have a strong pipeline beyond this initial wave of consumers. This is especially important in case COVID-19 cases spike again and businesses are shut down for a second time.

2. Turning off your marketing because your dealership’s operations are limited

You might feel like you’re better off saving money on your marketing as long as COVID-19 lingers. But, for the majority of current car shoppers (68%), a vehicle purchase is essential. Though they might not be headed into your dealership today, it’s more important than ever that you continue to market your dealership and build up your brand. It may be out of your control when exactly a consumer returns to the market, but you can control how you stay top of mind among those just waiting for the right time to make their purchase.

There’s plenty you can include in your marketing campaigns too. Some ideas include:

  • If your showroom is open, make it known. Maybe your hours have changed, or you have a new process for dealership visits. Use your marketing efforts to communicate this information to consumers.
  • Let shoppers know what you’re doing to keep them (and your employees) safe. That might be all it takes to get shoppers in the door—61% of 2020 current prospective buyers would prefer to use contactless services like virtual appointments, at-home test drives, or home delivery.
  • Share how you’re helping out in your community. Nearly half (45%) of CarGurus shoppers are somewhat or very likely to switch to a brand that gives back, meaning you could gain some new business just by driving difference in your community.
  • Address one of your biggest current pain points: inventory acquisition. Build up your used car inventory by marketing offers to buy back vehicles to previous customers. This can be an effective way to source inventory and encourage consumers to come in to the dealership sooner than they might have planned.

3. Not taking this time to re-evaluate and maximize your investment

Now’s the time to focus on optimizing how you allocate your spend to maximize your investment. That could mean moving some of your budget to other channels or it could be a matter of maximizing how you use existing channels.

And if you did turn off your marketing channels for a period, now’s your chance to reactivate them one at a time. This will give you a good sense as to which channels are really driving your bottom line via leads, website visits, and other metrics important to your business. You might find that some channels aren’t as effective as you thought. For example, according to third-party research, adding a second listings site like or Autotrader has a negligible impact, only reducing the average days on market by about 6%. That’s a lot of extra spend without a huge return. But it’s not just third-party marketplaces. Make sure you’re not wasting incremental amounts of money on other channels that aren’t worth the investment.

By using marketing to keep your brand at the forefront—even when consumers might be a bit slower to purchase—you’ll give your dealership a long-term advantage.

Topics: covid-19, digital marketing, inventory