Vehicle sales in the U.S. fell off a cliff during the pandemic, with auto makers approaching – and in some cases exceeding – a 50% decline in sales. This is forcing local dealerships to get creative with ways to reach and convert customers. Here we’ll explore a few trends in the auto path to purchase and how our auto dealership partners can utilize local media to attract customers.

People want to purchase close to home

We’ll read between the lines for you – this really means “in their home”. Searches for “dealerships near me” went down about 20% this year, but people still want to experience the car buying process like they would on a lot. We’re entering the phase of reopening, but most people are still wary about the ways in which they interact with businesses. Dealerships need to embrace the tools available to them to interact with customers online – and they have to let customers know they are able to accommodate those needs. 

Video conferencing, at home test drives and digital showrooms are all ways that dealerships can engage with customers, and the way to do that is through quality lead generation programs. We know that dealerships love TV and Radio (and a healthy media mix is important), but attribution is really achieved through digital channels. All roads of lead gen campaigns lead to data capture so your sales staff can start that nurturing process. 

Want to get started on a lead gen campaign? Reach out to us and let’s talk!

eCommerce: Are you still not doing this?

According to Google, 18% of people say they would buy a car sooner if there were a way to buy it entirely online. And a new survey by Capgemini found that 64% of potential buyers prefer to complete the entire transaction of buying a personal vehicle online rather than in a dealership — up from 39% before the pandemic. The ability to conduct an entire car purchase online, even financing, has been possible for over a decade now (I did it myself 8 years ago), and car dealerships need to embrace this, especially if they want to appeal to a younger audience. But it can’t be ignored that there is a significant set of people that may be uncomfortable with the idea. Those same people are also concerned over the social restrictions that will extend for an unknown length of time. The solution is education. Meet those consumers where they are in the research phase and make sure your brand is a thought leader on online vehicle purchases. Branded content, including helpful video, placed within trusted news environments will embed your brand in their consideration, helping you move them through the funnel.


Offer the best deals or get out!

Ok, that’s harsh. But customers are expecting amazing deals right now. Search volume for “best car deals” has grown 70% since the pandemic hit and it’s not exactly ancient wisdom to say that customers will go where the best deals are.  Dealerships with price transparency can leverage a competitive advantage online. Price, of course, is always an influential factor in car buying, but a deal can come in many forms. Consider the Hyundai assurance program. This program covers payments for people for up to six months if they lose their job. That’s a really good deal for someone that’s suddenly out of work. And the perception that creates for Hyundai, a brand already known for their lifetime value, is that of a brand that is “in this together” (without explicitly saying that). While targeted digital is always an effective way to get attention to low financing and price deals, the more nuanced deals like that from Huyndai need a bigger story to be told. A strong social media strategy is best to communicate those messages, and it’s important that they come across as authentic in that medium. This is not the place to just repost your TV spot.


We know our auto partners are turning to what’s familiar to them when it comes to marketing right now. Like in all businesses, it’s hard to justify trying something new when the stakes are this high. 50% of Vehicle shoppers are in-market from 2 months to a year, so having a marketing partner with long-term vision and the ability to execute full-funnel tactics will strengthen your business. 


Sources: V12 Data, Autonews,com,,