2016 Digital Marketing Trend Watch

By Colleen Malloy

Twelve months ago, when I made my predictions for the marketing trends to watch in 2015, I issued you a challenge: Draft a written marketing plan of action for the year ahead. Did you write that plan? More importantly, were you able to execute upon it?

If so, congratulations! I’d love to hear the results you were able to achieve, and I challenge you to pull that plan back out as a starting point for your written action plan for the year ahead.

If you didn’t create an actionable marketing plan for 2015, I encourage you to hit the OPE archives and read my December 2014 article (https://outdoorpowerequipment.com/2014/12/28/online-marketing-trends/6868/). In it, you’ll find a basic outline of what you need to consider to draft a marketing plan.

As you start sketching out your plans for the year ahead, I first want you to consider the following list of trends to watch. While some of the more cutting-edge trends might not have a major impact on your store in the year ahead, if left totally unconsidered over the long term, they have the power to significantly hurt your ability to connect with today’s on-the-go mobile consumer.

Trend #1: Mobile domination

Mobile’s momentum is still picking up speed at a breakneck pace, with smartphone and tablet usage continuing to leave desktop computers in the dust, as more and more searchers opt for the convenience of their mobile devices, both at home and on the go.

The first thing you must do is ensure your website passes Google’s mobile-friendly test: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. Taking the test is as simple as typing your URL. The results will let you know if your site meets not only the search engine’s requirements, which greatly affect your search ranking results, but will also tell you if your site is delivering an experience that is optimized for mobile usage. If you get a negative result, immediately contact your website provider and tell them you absolutely need a mobile-friendly site.

If you only take one piece of advice from this article, this is the action item you MUST follow. Why? You’ll note that each and every trend on this list touches on mobile in at least some fashion. The key takeaway here is that you need to think mobile first, not only for your website but across all of your digital marketing initiatives.

Trend #2: Webroomers continue to buy in-store

The idea of showrooming may cause you to cringe when shoppers pull out their smartphones in your dealership. While showrooming is still a legitimate consideration, webrooming is actually a far more common practice. Also known as ROBO Shopping — Research Online, Buy Offline — webroomers are shoppers who turn to the Internet throughout their shopping journey and ultimately complete their purchase in-store.

These shoppers are hungry for information. From consumer product reviews to spec sheets, they’ve done their homework before deciding to visit you, and they’ll continue to augment their shopping experience in-store with their mobile device.

Make a plan to embrace webroomers by leveraging these three tactics:

1) Ensure each and every product you sell is fully represented on your website — if a shopper can’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they’ll visit a retailer that does showcase it online.

2) Offer free WiFi and promote it via in-store signage. Be sure that your website is the first site that pops up in their browser after users agree to your terms of service.

3) Arm your sales team with tablets pre-loaded with applicable sales materials and encourage your sales team to engage with customers who are glued to their mobile devices.

Trend #3: Dealership-branded apps to deliver personalized experiences

Want to keep your loyal customers coming back for more? You may be ready for a dealership-branded app.

From making it easier for your customers to research your inventory with a personalized experience that lets customers build out inventory watch lists to the ability for you to offer location-based deals and push-notifications, dealer-branded apps offer your dealership’s best customers an opportunity to stay engaged with you even when they aren’t actively shopping for your products and services.

You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t my mobile-optimized website good enough?” That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself, but imagine if you had the ability to send out special deals just to the customers driving by your dealership this Saturday. Intrigued? That takes us to our next trend.

Trend #4: Location-based marketing pulls

Last year, I introduced you to the concept of beacon technology, and at the time, it seemed a lot like a far-fetched future tech trend outside the realm of reality for dealers. This technology has come a long way in the past year, and moving into 2016, beacon technology is within reach for savvy OPE dealers, especially those considering a dealership-branded app (although beacon technology can also piggy-back off of other third-party apps like online review sites and maps).

What are beacons, and how can they help? Beacons use Bluetooth low-energy technology to communicate with nearby mobile devices. You can use beacon technology to:

* Send coupons and other offers to shoppers while they are literally standing in your dealership. Example: If they are browsing for oil filters and spark plugs, connect them with 20-percent-off service.

* Show online ads to people who have visited your store and track in-store visitor information.

* Create an engaging customer experience. Example: Reward shoppers with mystery prizes for shopping in-store.

Trend #5: Text messaging connects

According to research by SinglePoint, 90 percent of all marketing text messages (SMS) are read within three minutes. If that stat doesn’t compel you to consider text marketing, I don’t know what will! Creating a text message marketing plan isn’t as daunting as you think, but I would absolutely recommend working with a third-party provider to help you get your program off the ground. Your customer database may already be full of mobile numbers, and opting people into your mobile club can be an amazing way to connect with your customers via one of their preferred communication methods.

There are a few guidelines to follow if you opt in to SMS marketing.

* Get consent: Just like email marketing, you are legally required to get permission from recipients.

* Keep it quick: Text messages are intended to be short and to the point — include a link to a coupon or deal or even an invite to encourage further interaction.

* Use texts sparingly: Their interruptive nature is what makes text messages so compelling, but interruptions can get annoying. I recommend sending no more than three text marketing messages a month.

Trend #6: Video is no longer optional

Last year, I encouraged you to incorporate video into your strategy. This year, video is a must. Hit the OPE archives for my DIY video jumpstart kit: https://outdoorpowerequipment.com/2015/01/20/video-marketing-jumpstart-guide/7050/.

Even if your staff isn’t producing live-action videos, your online marketing initiatives, including your website product pages, third-party sales channels and social channels, can and should leverage video.

Here are a few easy ways to get started:

* Use manufacturer videos to promote your new inventory.

* Take advantage of online tools like ARI Inventory powered by LotVantage that allow you to create a video from still inventory pictures and a product description.

* Host a video contest on your social media channels, and share the winning videos on your site.

Ready to take the world of mobile OPE shoppers by storm? I wish you the best of luck as you plan your marketing initiatives for the year ahead. Need a little advice or direction? Contact me at colleen.malloy@arinet.com, and we’ll be sure to address your concerns in the pages of OPE in 2016! Happy holidays, and best wishes selling in the New Year.

1504_OPE_FS_Social Strategy2_author-Colleen Malloy-webColleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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