Automobile buyers have a lot of changes coming at them in the current environment. Should they wait for the next generation of electric vehicles? Should they opt for a vehicle with some self-driving capabilities? What is the effect of their purchasing choice on climate change? There is a lot to take into account for the car buyer, and even more to consider for auto dealer marketing.

Most dealerships put most of their focus on increasing lead volume, and those that do not utilize the latest digital marketing are quickly left behind. One big tool dealerships now use is social media marketing to drive potential customers to their websites. Once there, an automotive marketing specialist can reach out to the customer based upon what they want. Nearly all car buyers now search for their next vehicle online, and automated response systems need to be in place to capture and respond to these leads in real-time.

A huge part of responding to these customer expectations is dealership branded apps. Having an app available for purchase and continuing customer service in One study on automotive marketing showed that buyers using a dealership branded app were nearly 75% more likely to make a purchase from that dealership.

Video marketing is also huge for building relationships with potential customers. Auto buyers want to be able to do 360-degree vehicle walkthroughs, to learn from vehicle reviews, go on virtual test drives and see unbiased comparisons between their top choices.

The majority of auto buyers now use their smartphones and tablets while making their purchasing decision. The logic of this is clear. Even while in one dealership, the customer can comparison shop with nearby dealerships and plan their next move. This gives more power to the consumer and puts more pressure on dealerships to deliver the best buying experience possible.

Automotive marketing is not purely online, however. An AutoHook study showed that the average customer visits at least two dealerships, while 46% of buyers visit three or more auto dealers. More than a quarter went to four or more dealers before making their final decision. It’s clear that the purchase experience needs to integrate the best of digital marketing with the classic showroom floor experience.

In fact, customers who have a good experience are very likely to return to the same auto dealer time and again. Customers still expect auto buying to be an unenjoyable experience. This represents a big opportunity for auto dealers. Customers do not generally have the highest expectations of the purchase experience. Thus, dealers that exceed customer expectations and satisfy their clients can expect loyalty and positive reviews.

The need for a personalized and real experience even holds true for the crucial younger Millenial buying crowd. According to The 16th Annual Cars Online Report, these clients want an integrated experience both in person and in the digital realm. These clients expect greater updates on the purchase, and the flexibility to make changes even after committing to a sale.

These trends represent a challenge for auto dealership marketing, but as always challenges also mean opportunities. Marketing tools for auto dealers continue to evolve, giving dealers unique opportunities to target prime customers, track the most likely leads and anticipate their needs. Some tools even allow dealerships to track leads and know when they visit competitors. Of course, there are a plethora of online marketplaces where dealerships can compete virtually for the click-through of potential clients.

The automotive shopping and buying experience represents a significant commitment of time and resources for the auto buyer. One summary of the car-buying experience places the average time period between initial interest to final purchase at five to twelve weeks.

Automotive technology has been turned upside down with the advent of alternative drivetrains, vehicle to vehicle connectivity, and the future potential of semi or fully autonomous vehicles. Auto buyers expect their dealers to have access to the latest in technology, not only inside of the vehicle. In addition to offering the best possible range of entertainment and navigation systems at their fingertips, vehicle buyers expect an integrated digital and real-world buying experience. Those that get this prove to be loyal and dependable customers. It falls to the auto dealer marketing experts to be sure that these expectations are met and that clients leave the showroom happy.