In-Market Shoppers are Bullsh*t

by | Jul 25, 2022

Stop falling for the hype of targeting “in-market” shoppers and let me tell you what ACTUALLY works.

Any vendor that tells you they’re putting your ads in front of the shopper right when they’re ready to buy is full of crap.

What’s that? They all tell you that? Then I suggest you reread my opening sentence.

There is one of two truths when it comes to the statement that “we target shoppers right when they are ready to buy.”

  • The first possible truth is that we’re all doing it. We all have access to similar data and can draw the same conclusions. If we CAN target these shoppers, then the simple truth is we’re all doing it, every vendor, for every dealership. Your generic inventory ad that lands a shopper on a VDP is competing with every single dealer in your market simultaneously.
  • The second option is that vendors simply can’t predict the exact moment a shopper will buy, and the concept of “in-market shoppers” is another marketing ploy to get you to spend your money. Even the largest online retailers in the world don’t know precisely when their customers will buy; what makes you think Slick Jones at digital-ads-r-us knows any better?

The concept of targeting in-market shoppers isn’t a new one. Advertisers have been claiming for years that they could do it and, in doing so, would lower your advertising budget by being more efficient with your ad spend. The real question is – how’s that going for you?

With the exception of the past couple of years (pandemic, supply chain, chip shortage, etc.), dealers have been spending more on advertising per vehicle sold every year. What happened to all of those cost efficiencies and savings? I’ll tell you what happened. You were hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Duped!

The automotive industry is the only industry that believes it should be advertising strictly to “ready-to-buy” customers. Most retailers advertise year-round and tailor that advertising to specific events or merchandise.

Most vendors believe your content should be “highly targeted inventory ads” all month, every month, all year long. Sure, they have creative strategy calls with you where they suggest putting “Black Friday sale” in the ad copy, or maybe they get creative and offer to advertise a lease payment instead!

The reality is that you must be advertising to everyone all the time, and that content needs to reflect who the consumer is and where they’re at in the ownership cycle of their vehicle. That’s right, you need to be advertising to the guy or girl that bought from you 90 days ago and the man or woman that purchased a vehicle from your competitor three years ago, and those ads need to be completely different from one another.

One of the most powerful aspects of digital advertising is the ability to create new audiences based on how your ads are being engaged with. For example, shoppers visiting your website and viewing your credit or finance page should reach a different audience than those visiting your site and navigating to your schedule service page. Neither should be in the same audience as a shopper who viewed your inventory. Unfortunately, most automotive advertisers aren’t doing this for their dealers.

Why not?

Well, it takes a lot more work than running the same stale carousel ads everyone runs. It takes labor, creativity, technical understanding and testing. There are some great agencies out there that do excellent work, but there are a ton that wants to automate your ads and not invest in what it takes to do it right.

So what can you do about all of it?

Well, you’ve read this article and are asking what you can do is a step in the right direction. Whether you’re working with your in-house marketing team or with an agency, understanding just how important the consumer is to your advertising strategy will help.

The easiest first step to take is to become curious about the process. If your agency sends you ad samples (and they should be!), do more than just proofread them. Ask questions.

What is the audience for this ad?

What are we doing when they engage with it?

Are we segmenting our audience and building relevant ads based on those segments?

What does all of that look like?

These are critical questions that your agency should be able to answer for you and that you need to understand if you’re going to be more successful in growing your dealership. If they can’t answer them to your satisfaction, find someone that can.

Ready to take it to the next level or just want some free advice on your current marketing? Click here.