It’s safe to say that Mike Salicco has witnessed the automotive industry undergo a rapid – and extreme – transformation. He got his start back in 1992, working in automotive finance while he finished his university degree. Since then, he has worn many hats and climbed from position to position – but one thing has always remained: he’s an automotive guy, inside and out. Mike has been with LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE for just under two years, starting out as Gannett’s Head of Automotive. Today, he oversees the strategy for the automotive marketing solutions business unit and has a team of 170 (!) and counting.
With this wealth of experience under his belt – we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get his insights on the state of automotive marketing, the evolution of the auto buyer journey, and the data that actually matters.
You’ve been in the automotive industry for over 20 years now. What has been the most significant “disruption” your clients have overcome when it comes to automotive marketing?
It’s tough to pick out just one. But, specifically, I would say how digital has impacted the way a consumer purchases a
car has completely altered the way auto dealers run their operations. Auto has been one of the slowest industries to adopt technological change in marketing– but we’re starting to catch up, thanks to realizing what data matters and how. I’ve also found that the digital path to purchase has even changed what consumers want once they get to your shop. They already know what they want to buy, so how can you make your dealership stand out from your competitors with excellent service and a top-notch experience? That’s something dealers need to think about and keep as a central focus in their automotive marketing.
It’s interesting that you mention how the new auto buyer journey has altered in-dealership experiences. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Today’s auto buyer is extremely educated! They know about rebates and offers, and they tell you outright what your competitors are offering them, without even stopping by their showroom. As a result, dealers have had to try and understand what their shoppers know – they need to look at their data and derive great insights — before they visit, to drive really meaningful sales conversations.
There’s no shortage of data for automotive marketers to sift through right now so they can better understand how and why buyers decide to visit their showroom. What data points should dealers pay attention to and why?
There are four data pillars that are truly essential: the first is inventory turn – which is essentially knowing how quickly you’re getting cars off the lot. Then, there’s scarcity, which identifies how many in-demand vehicles you have in-stock. Market share will help auto dealers see if they’re trumping the competition from a broad lens. For digital, Google Analytics is the baseline essential: it’s vital to know how long people are staying on your site, what they’re looking at, and how they’re converting. That digital behavior analysis will help you connect the dots to see how or why cars aren’t turning, and what you should stock up on stat. All of this helps inform smarter automotive marketing campaigns.
We know that consumers typically visit as few as two dealerships on their path to purchase. How has this reality impacted the automotive marketing strategies for the dealers you work with?
Dealers invest so much money trying to get clients to visit their dealership. Right now, there is a slight disconnect between how much is spent trying to grab attention, and what dealers are doing during and after a visit. Smart automotive marketing isn’t just about that first touchpoint, it’s also about identifying and investing in the clients you have today. Following up with in-market buyers who have shown interest in you is key, and too often it’s a missed opportunity!
Auto is a very seasonal market – and peak car shopping season is upon us. For automotive dealers and groups looking to drive a lot of showroom traffic this year – what “pro tip” do you have for them to drive meaningful digital interactions with customers?
Start way earlier than you think you need to! At the end of the year, automotive marketers tend to pull-back on expenses and invest less in advertising. But we know that consumers start shopping 90 days before they make a purchase. So just because sales are down in December, that doesn’t mean we should slow down advertising. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to capture attention before your competitors, while those potential buyers are thinking about the car they want and where they want to buy it.￼
LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE has developed a unique tool to drive insights for dealers on a local level, all across the United States. Can you tell us what makes our tool unique?
Right now, everybody has access to a plethora of data. When we developed our Dealer Scorecard, we did it with one goal in mind: to interpret the data in a meaningful way and tell an honest, complete view of the information. This complete view allows us to make smart decisions once our client’s goals are identified. We can deploy tactics that are based on the whole picture – not just bits and pieces.