Does Your Dealership Have an Agile Strategy? 

Throughout this series we have covered digital marketing strategy tips and how to create a digital marketing strategy for your dealership. Now it’s time to talk about a big-picture way of approaching digital strategy called agile strategy. 

First we’ll flesh out what an agile digital strategy is and why it is useful for dealerships. From there, we’ll talk about ways to hone in on a vision and make the right improvisations, two core steps that agile strategy requires. 


What do we mean by agile? How about agile digital strategy? 

The Oxford definition of agile is – “able to move quickly and easily.” It’s a familiar word but it may be helpful to have the definition clearly in mind as we move forward. 

An agile digital strategy is therefore a digital strategy that can move quickly and easily from one opportunity to another. In addition to this broad definition, the term “agile” describes a specific set of methods that the software development world uses to improve its products or bring new products to the market. Several businesses have translated agile software methodology to the strategic process.   

The Harvard Business Review has a piece on agile strategy here. Below is a brief summary: 

  • Traditional strategy is a slow process where you make careful decisions based on the maximum amount of information. This process becomes less practical when you’re doing business in a fast-paced, competitive world with a lot of new technologies. 

  • As the need for more fluid strategizing comes to the forefront, two ways of approaching strategy become more important: vision and improvisation. 

  • Vision is the long-term purpose and principles of the business, and vision guides the smaller steps that a business might take. For instance, a car dealership might decide that its vision is to be the dealer of choice for the large Hispanic and Latinx population in its local market. This dealership might invest in Spanish-language search ads, run a YouTube campaign around video content that appeals to this audience, and so on. These specific steps are informed by the larger goal. 

  • Improvisation is a willingness to improvise, experiment, modify, and otherwise change up the strategic approach based on changing conditions.  To stick with the example above, maybe a World Cup matchup resonates with a large number of Hispanic consumers in the local market. Our dealership could set up an on-the-fly social media and targeted ad campaign around the game to improve brand recognition. 

In short, businesses use agile strategies to strategize in an uncertain, quickly changing environment. An agile digital strategy is no different, but it focuses on digital marketing technologies like SEO, social media, and targeted advertising.  


What makes an agile digital strategy useful for dealerships? 

Digital technology has transformed the ways countless industries do business. Some, like travel agencies and photo printing companies, have been painfully disrupted. Others, like ride share companies and social media sites, wouldn’t be possible without the internet, mobile devices, digital photos, and other recent advancements. 

Car dealerships occupy an interesting place. The majority of consumers aren’t ready to buy their next car on the internet; yet they seem to be becoming more and more open to doing just that. Similarly, consumers are using digital technology to manage the car-buying process. They peruse Facebook Marketplace, read reviews of their neighborhood dealership on Yelp, and make last-minute price comparisons on their mobile devices.  

This gives local dealerships less control over the consumer’s car-buying process than they had when one of the only ways to learn about, much less experience, cars was to visit a dealership. 

At the same time, digital technology has created opportunities that didn’t exist in the pre-internet era. In the past, dealerships had to target their entire market with tools like well-placed billboards and TV ads; now they can use search advertising to connect with people who are actively looking for their next car. Data analytics have given dealerships the means to zero in on consumers like never before; and email (which is pretty old-fashioned as far as a digital technology goes) is a marketing channel that is also an essential part of daily life.  

An agile digital strategy gives dealerships a way to keep up with a rapidly changing landscape, and it gives dealerships a way to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a rapidly changing landscape.


Establishing an agile vision. 

The ways you establish a vision can vary dramatically by industry. For instance, a software start-up fielding a totally new product (that may not have a clear commercial application yet) will usually need to formulate a different kind of vision than a software company with a preexisting market. 

With car dealerships, we’re talking about a very established product with a clear application. Every dealership competes in a geographic sales area of some sort, rather than trying to sell to a coast-to-coast market. Rarely does a dealership have the luxury to control the local market (although some in quieter markets may have a situation that resembles this), and many face stiff competition. This differs significantly from, say, an AI-solutions company or a regional hospital network. The AI-company can come up with a broad “conquer the world” vision that wouldn’t make sense for a car dealership in Santa Fe; and the hospital network may face a smaller number of competitors than a dealership would. 

One of the best things a dealership can do to establish a vision is delve into local market insights. There are multiple factors that differentiate a dealership in metropolitan New York from a dealership in rural Wyoming, and market insights are a way to sort that out. Key questions a dealership should ask itself include “who are my customers,” “how do my customers make car purchases,” and “what makes my customers similar to, or different from, car buyers elsewhere.” There is a range of consumer research tools a dealership can use to figure this out, and a strong digital marketing partner like LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE should have rich consumer insights to draw ideas from. 

Beyond this, industry-specific tools like LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE’s Dealer Scorecard can be very helpful. This tool gives you comparative insights on how the car game works in your sales area. As we mentioned, a dealership in a city in the Northeast might be competing with thirty other dealerships that sell the same brand of cars; whereas a dealership in the Mountain West may be the only brand option for miles and miles. Similarly, being a market that heavily favors American-made cars will have important ramifications for, say, a Toyota dealership. Here the vision might be to shift consumer perceptions; whereas a local Ford dealership may be more focused on simply getting to the head of the pack. Or, in short, the Dealer Scorecard helps identify opportunities where you should be winning but aren’t, so you can pivot your marketing and advertising to win more business. 

Another important factor to consider is the car buyer’s journey. Digital marketing has changed how cars are bought and sold a lot, and it makes tremendous sense to keep up here. Your dealership digital marketing strategy should reflect that.


Making agile improvisations. 

Car dealerships will rarely have to be as agile as, say, a software company that is trying to carve out a whole new niche for itself. Dealerships can, however, benefit greatly from the kind of improvisation we talked about earlier. 

Sometimes improvisation can involve hitting on a specific opportunity. Here’ a sample digital strategy, complements of Think with Google, that fits the agile criteria. There was a dealership in North Texas who had studied the modern car buyer’s journey and, based on what it found, moved eighty-percent of the purchase process online. This can be thought of agile improvisation because it takes a flexible approach to an old way of doing things, is something that sets the dealership apart from other car sellers in a packed market and is grounded in the way modern consumers shop for cars. 

In this case we could say that the vision was to “create an online experience that would appeal to car buyers who use digital technology,” and the improvisation was “moving eighty-percent of the buying process online.” 

In other cases, improvisation requires looking at familiar things in a different way. One of the things that LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE’s Dealer Scorecard offers is a backyard comparison, which breaks down sales by dealership in your assigned service area. Let’s say that you have a rival dealership, Dealership A. Dealership A has been around for years, is owned by a hometown celebrity, and spends a fortune on marketing. You’ve always assumed that Dealership A was your main competition. But when you look at the Dealer Scorecard you see that Dealership B, a different rival with a lower profile, sells way more cars in your sales area than Dealership A does. In this case, you improvise away from Dealership A and take more measures to compete with Dealership B. 

It might go without saying, but the vision in this case was to “sell more vehicles in my sales area” and the improvisation would be to “focus on reducing Dealership B’s presence in my sales area.” This would lead to additional improvisations like changing up your marketing, figuring out how Dealership B is siphoning off business, and so on.  

Regardless of the kind of improvisations you make, a data-driven approach will be most helpful.


Feeling more agile yet? 

Sometimes phrases like “agile” give us the impression that we’re hearing trendy terms and corporate buzzwords. If this article did the trick it should demonstrate that agile strategy can be a smart way to adapt to, and thrive in, a changing marketplace.  


Contact us to request a free Dealer Scorecard analysis for your dealership or Auto Group. 


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