Why Local Auto Dealers Are Steering Marketing Budgets To Digital

LotLinxMorgan Auto Group spends 60% of its budget on digital advertising to support its 11 north Florida car dealerships.

That percentage has steadily increased over the past five years, according to Tom Moore, SVP of Morgan Auto Group. It tracks with changing consumer behavior as shoppers first research online or contact dealers via phone or email, rather than simply showing up at the lot.

“We try to be in all the areas where the customer would be shopping, especially when they are in a consideration stage,” Moore said.

In the early days of digital, most car dealerships bought paid search listings. Morgan Auto Group still devotes much of its online budget to search and SEO, but it wants alternatives to Google search. It is finding them in social, video pre-roll and online classified sites, such as Autotrader or Cars.com.

With classified sites, Moore focuses on driving people to cars at the vehicle level, allowing it to direct budget to cars that need the turnover the most.

“Our philosophy is the more times we can get people to our listings, the more cars we can sell,” he said.

For the past two years, Morgan Auto Group has used LotLinx to drive sales. The marketing platform focuses on car dealers, allowing them to buy display advertising on a cost-per-vehicle-view basis to link spend to individual cars. It finds potential car buyers through its owned network of car shopping sites like lemonfree.com, which creates an intent pool.

Many dealers’ digital marketing is “undeveloped and highly wasteful,” said LotLinx CEO Len Short, one reason why the company has focused on making it easier for dealers to promote the vehicles currently in stock.

Moore likes the efficiency of allocating budgets on a car-by-car level.

“We let our budget be driven by how many cars we have in stock,” he said.

Morgan Auto Group wants its digital sophistication to drive down the cost per sale. That metric decreased recently, which Moore attributes to the dealership being slightly ahead of the curve in adopting new platforms.

Morgan Auto Group also hired consultants recently to improve its team’s digital knowledge and help it defend itself against fraud, Moore said. It now monitors its site to determine when it’s being attacked by bots.

Figuring out which part of its marketing drives the most sales remains a challenge.

When asked what brought them into dealerships, customers usually recall the last ad they viewed, not all the branding and awareness advertising that was done earlier, Moore said.

“It’s so difficult in the car business to find out what brought them to the dealership.”


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