By Colleen Malloy
The year is winding down, and it’s time to start thinking about your digital marketing strategies for 2017! With mobile device use continuing to skyrocket and more shoppers than ever turning to digital to make purchasing decisions, there are a few key trends that we can expect to see take precedence in the coming year. I’ve pulled my top five digital marketing trends for 2017 to help you stay ahead of the curve.
#1 Local search
I expect that local search is going to be huge in 2017, so I’m going to spend the most time here. The search engine landscape is undergoing a massive shift. Google can detect searchers’ locations and is putting more and more stock in providing the best answers for searchers looking for local businesses. With 66 percent of Americans using local search to find local businesses,1 if your dealership doesn’t show up in their search results, you likely won’t get their business. To stay ahead of your competition, it’s critical for you to update your digital marketing strategy to ensure that you’re placing at the top of local search results.
To ensure that you’re giving Google the information it needs to confidently serve your website to local searchers, there are a few things you need to do.
First, keep your business information up-to-date. Your dealership’s contact information is probably on a number of third-party directory listings outside of your website. If you haven’t already, set up a Google My Business page and round up any other listings your dealership has on third-party sites. Then, check monthly to make sure that your name, address, phone number and hours are still correct. One wrong digit in your phone number or address could cost you a sale!
Next, build your business as a local resource with strong links. Google looks for certain signals from your business to determine where to rank your website in search results. One of these signals is your prominence, or how well known you are in your community. Building yourself as a resource in your community is an easy way to prove your prominence to Google. On your website, include links to local organizations that you’re a part of, programs that you sponsor or other businesses that you partner with. (Your “About Us” page is a perfect spot for this.) Then, ask those organizations to return the favor with a link to your site. These links send strong signals to Google and will help ensure that you show up when someone searches for a dealership in your community.
Finally, foster customer reviews. When Google ranks your website in local search, having a high number of positive reviews can demonstrate that you’re a prominent and well-thought-of business in your community. Post signage around your dealership to remind customers that they can leave feedback about their experience on your review platform of choice. (Google My Business is a great one.) Don’t forget to link to your review platform on your website! Then, respond to your reviews to show shoppers that you truly care about your customers.
#2 Native advertising
When it comes to online advertising, shoppers’ opinions run the gamut. When it comes to pop-ups, auto-play video ads and other formats, many shoppers aren’t fans. However, the majority of respondents in a HubSpot research study – 68 percent – said they don’t mind online ads as long as they “aren’t annoying.”2
This is where native advertising comes into play. Native ads blend into the content on a page. Google pay-per-click (PPC) ads that look like regular search listings or Facebook ads that appear in users’ newsfeeds and look like normal posts are great examples. They’re unobtrusive and blend into their surroundings while still delivering the advertisers’ message, making them a great option that won’t annoy your shoppers.
#3 Omni-channel marketing
Another trend that you can expect to see is the continued rise of omni-channel marketing. Omni-channel doesn’t just mean marketing across a bunch of different channels – it’s more than that. An omni-channel experience creates a seamless, universal experience for your shoppers across all of the channels that you use to reach them.
With shoppers bouncing between devices, it’s important to have a strong omni-channel shopping experience for your dealership’s prospects and customers. Your desktop website, mobile website, PPC ads, email campaigns, social campaigns, billboards, brick-and-mortar signage and any other customer touches should work together to create one fluid, integrated experience for your customers.
In 2016, we saw the rise of micro-moments – Google’s term for all of the in-the-moment actions taken by shoppers using the nearest device as they journey down the path to purchase – and we can expect to see the importance of micro-moments grow in 2017 as more and more shoppers turn to their devices for help making purchasing decisions.
Just about anything can trigger a micro-moment. A shopper might hit a tree root while mowing their lawn and reach for their smartphone to look for lawnmower repair, pick up their laptop to search for a new snow blower after watching the latest weather report, or grab their tablet to compare chainsaw models after seeing their neighbor taking limbs off a tree.
To make sure that you’re not missing out on micro-moment-inspired shoppers, be sure that your website offers a mobile-friendly experience; ensure that you have a presence anywhere your shoppers might begin their search online (search engines, social media, third-party sales channels and local directory sites to name a few examples); and make shopping decisions as easy as possible by providing detailed information and easy calls-to-action (like a service request form or a request a quote form on your website).
According to Syndacast, 74 percent of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video-related.3 Video content is enormously engaging, and with social media platforms like Facebook giving video priority, we can expect to see its importance continue to grow.
There are some simple ways that you can leverage video for your own dealership. First, you can share content that’s already created by the manufacturers you carry. All you have to do is hit “Share” when you see their videos on YouTube or Facebook. You can also produce your own videos. Things like product demos, service tutorials and product recommendations make great content for your website and social media platforms, and all that they require is a few minutes of your time and a smartphone or digital camera.
Facebook Live is another tool that I think we’ll see more and more dealerships taking advantage of in the coming year. It allows you to livestream video on your dealership’s Facebook Page for all of your followers to see. You can also take advantage of Facebook Live video by broadcasting live from dealership events to get potential shoppers excited about stopping by to see for themselves or by hosting weekly live maintenance tips or product demonstrations. According to Facebook, to be successful with Facebook Live, let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be going live so they can be prepared to join in when you do.4 Make sure that you have a strong WiFi or cellular connection to avoid cutting out due to signal loss mid-broadcast. They also suggest that you plan on broadcasting for 10 minutes or more – the longer you broadcast, the more likely people are to share your video with friends and help you get discovered.
In 2017, you can expect to see the digital marketing landscape make some shifts as shoppers continue to look to the Internet as they begin their path to purchase. Stay ahead of the curve by adjusting your digital marketing strategy to account for the latest trends in digital marketing.
Colleen 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!”