Advertising Tips for Dealers with low vehicle inventory

By Renold Liu

Well, there’s no real way to talk around it. This year has been tough on dealers. 

COVID. Shut down, Political unrest. WOW. So many things have happened that I’ve forgotten that Kobe Bryant died in 2020 as well!

Looking at this chart from DesRosier Automotive Consultants, dealers are finally nearing normal sales volumes and now are having to deal with inventory issues.

I mean, COME ON 2020! Give us a breather!

All of this is fairly discouraging but when some dealers see problems, we need to remember the famous John Adams quote: “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise”

This is especially true with Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Dealers will sometimes equate a lack of inventory with a lack of need to advertise. However, the only thing that removing advertising does is create a vacuum where another dealer is able to (easily) take click share.

So, if you don’t have vehicles to advertise, then what should you advertise? Let’s go over some alternatives to make sure you keep top-of-mind within your local market.

Future Vehicles

Not having inventory isn’t a problem if you don’t NEED inventory to sell something in the first place. 

Ford and GM have recently launched the Ford Bronco, Mustang Mach E, 2021 F-150, and the new EV Hummer – all of which can be pre-ordered. This can be a great opportunity to collect more pre-orders for upcoming in-demand vehicles.

This can even apply to OEMs that do not have their own online pre-ordering services as this may be a good time to start with your own digital retailing and taking online deposits of high demand vehicles.

Your other vehicles

At the risk of calling out dealers, it’s not that dealers have low inventory on all your vehicles, it’s that you have low inventory on your high demand vehicles. I think we all have to admit that dealer lots aren’t barren wastelands – they’re just not full of vehicles that are in high demand.

In this case, focus on your vehicles that are just not as popular. 

For example, many of our Ford stores are nearly empty when it comes to the popular F-150 but many still have a decent supply of SUVs. In this scenario, dealers may want to shift advertising focus to this or other secondary categories. 

Additionally, people’s demand for public transportation/ride share/ride hailing has shifted significantly to that of the personal vehicle during the pandemic. This has made many people re-consider lower-cost vehicles like compact vehicles or used vehicles at a good price point.

Service and Parts 

All vehicles need maintenance. Generally speaking, promoting more service and parts allows your store to be top-of-mind while offering a service that is always available. 

With winter coming, many stores have restarted their advertising to drive winter service or winter tires. 

Additionally, some dealers have seen a spike in their parts sales as people are staying at home and tuning and upgrading their own cars as a hobby during the pandemic’s lockdown times.

Your Unique Sales Proposition

What makes your store distinctive? Do you offer online sales tools/solutions like Autofi, VINN or Motoinsights? Are you meticulous in your Covid mitigation methods? Do you offer pick up and drop off test drives or service? 

According to Google, the car shopper’s journey is now roughly 60-90 days, so keeping top of mind of car shoppers with your unique sales propositions during low inventory times can be treated as an investment for when your inventory can recover.

The world keeps on turning and the sun will shine again

No matter how strange it seems at this time, people will still need to use, buy, and service vehicles. Additionally, we can take solace that this low-inventory scenario and pandemic will eventually come to an end and we’ll regain some semblance of normalcy.

And, when that happens, we can all sit back and remember the time where we turn a problem into an opportunity.