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Marketing in uncertainty: Best practices for car dealerships

Since 2020, uncertainty has become a running theme for the automotive industry. From material shortages to factory shutdowns, the pandemic became a significant disruption.   

While some issues have begun to stabilize, looming problems like vehicle affordability, inflation, and lingering semiconductor shortages add to the current automotive industry uncertainty.  

How can dealership marketing teams continue to innovate and connect with consumers when these issues remain? Fortunately, there are some steps these teams can take to continue to meet potential car buyers where they are. Here are some marketing best practices that dealership teams can implement in times of uncertainty.   

Determine where the uncertainty lies for your customers 

While many things are happening right now that could impact potential car buyers, specific issues could affect them more than others. For example, is your customer base primarily impacted by disruptive supply chains not delivering new vehicles fast enough?  

On the other hand, affordability could be the most significant problem. If possible, see where the issues are. You could accomplish this by surveying customers or diving into purchasing data and shopping patterns. Knowing the problem areas allows you to create a comprehensive marketing strategy to address customer concerns.  

More: 5 ways to align your auto marketing strategy with customer needs

Decide if you need to alter your target customer

Maybe through your research, you find that the customer who was once your primary target no longer fits your dealership’s business model. Now, you’ll have to determine your new target customer. You might already be serving this new segment and need to shift your messaging or channels to better appeal to them. Alternatively, you might need to seek out this new audience.   

For example, your customer base may have shifted to higher net-worth individuals. If that’s the case, you may want to craft messaging around new cars and luxury models. Regardless of the new segment, you’ll likely need to make creating new customer profiles part of the process.   

Switch up your marketing channels — and refresh existing ones  

It’s no secret that we live in the digital age. In fact, more and more consumers are making online channels part of their car-buying experience.  Because of that, it’s vital to ensure your marketing channels can dive through the noise and reach customers where they are. For example, are most customers getting to your dealership inventory page through mobile devices? 

If that’s the case, you may want to invest in location-based mobile push notifications to draw customers in. On the other hand, maybe your website needs a redesign to better facilitate vehicle delivery if this is a feature your customer base is looking for. Look at your current marketing channels and see if they serve their intended purpose or need to take on a new role in your marketing strategy.  

Make reputation building a priority 

Reviews and recommendations have a significant impact on purchasing decisions for many consumers. Podium, a communications and marketing software company, found that 93% of users have based their buying decisions on an online review.  In times of uncertainty, companies with exceptional reputations will likely beat competitors. So, this is where you want to ensure you’re getting customers to provide their reviews — especially on popular platforms like Yelp and Google. 

Additionally, make sure to reply to negative reviews. A bad review can happen, and consumers pay attention to how companies address them. As much as possible, use reviews and even things like user-generated content to bolster your dealership’s reputation.

Final thoughts   

Uncertainty doesn’t have to derail your dealership. Your marketing strategy can give you the edge to craft messaging that cuts through market tension and paints you as a reliable option for your target audience. 

Meeting customers where they are, re-evaluating your target audience, and focusing on building or reinforcing your dealership reputation can help you weather the storm and outlast looming uncertainty.  


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Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner
Chanell Turner is a contributing writer and investigative journalist for CBT News.

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