One of the most exciting things I did at my car dealerships was to try to get into our customers’ heads. No, I wasn’t trying to use mind control or subliminal messaging to help increase sales. I wanted to understand the ever-changing mentality of the car shopper and what compelled them to come see us instead of competitors.There are certain things that have never and will never change in the automotive industry. Selling a car today is no different than selling a car in the past. People still buy cars from people and dealerships that they like and trust, so despite the flood of information they’ve been given since the dawn of the internet, they still buy based upon emotion. How we work with customers when they get to the dealership has only slightly changed. How we get them to come to the dealership is the part that has changed dramatically, and that’s why it was so exciting to get into their heads any way possible.

2015 is likely going to be a continuation of an awesome 2014 during which sales were up and excitement was high. There are challenges, though, as the number of ways of getting in front of customers before they leave for the dealership is growing. People are turning to new ways to research vehicles. Believe it or not, they’re even looking to some of the old ways as well. It’s not nostalgia. For whatever reason, everything from newspaper classifieds to Craigslist are seeing more buyers perusing their pages in search for vehicles than in recent times past.

Dealers are finding it harder to know where to place their ad dollars. There are several components to understanding how to maximize their return on investment that has to do with targeting:

  • Where customers for individual makes and models reside
  • What advertising venues are working within each segment and each individual demographic
  • Which messaging will work best to compel them to visit the dealership
  • How to combine all of this data to generate full-blown campaigns rather than singular marketing initiatives

The reason that it’s harder is that there is such a wide variety when it comes to all of these components that piecing it all together is a full-time job. I loved it when I was doing it, but now we’re faced with an industry that is spread too thin at the dealership level. Who at your dealership has the time and knowledge to put all of this together?

The reason that it’s easier is that the tools and data available to dealers is better than ever. With PolkGoogleExperianDataium, and dozens of other sources giving dealers the data they need to gain this understanding, dealers can make the right decisions. With companies like String Automotive helping dealers compile the data and make it actionable, dealers have access to the “what” and the “how” in car buying data.

Many dealers will find success in 2015, but only a few will achieve the highest echelon. We believe that those who are focused on the data to drive their actions are the ones that will reach the greatest heights.