Digital Marketing interview

Rebecca Tow, Group Marketing Manager at Auto West Group

How has the current health situation impacted automotive marketing?

Traditionally the automotive business has been done mostly in person, but the shift towards online buying for the Canadian automotive industry was imminent, and anticipated. Most if not all automotive dealerships and OEM brands were already advertising online for the past few years. And when it comes to virtual shopping tools, the public health restrictions last year pushed for a quick integration and in a way encouraged the growth that the industry needed.

What opportunities has the current health condition created for digital marketing for automotive dealerships or small businesses?

By far, the accelerated adoption of digital tools to enhance the buying or service journey and experience (booking, ordering, researching online). In some industries this would have taken much longer. On the other hand, it brought us back to the basics of creating clear communications to clients, which essentially is a must since day one. Whether an automotive dealership, small business or larger organization, we had to jump online, audit our online touchpoints, and ensure information regarding the business (i.e. product and contact information, health & safety protocols) was easily accessible to consumers.

We live in a fast paced world, and it certainly got even more challenging with the pandemic. I think one of the biggest takeaways was the opportunity for businesses to reflect on how they can improve their operations (online and/or in-store) to ultimately provide the best customer experience. And to me, the heart of any business is the consumer.

What are the top three social media marketing challenges you foresee automotive groups encountering in the near future?

  1. Content saturation. I think we’re seeing and experiencing it already. The social media atmosphere is becoming increasingly crowded and noisy. You’re essentially competing against organic and sponsored content. This will become more challenging as the business model of social media platforms shifts to paid content. As a result, we’re getting less and less organic reach.

  2. Social media influencers. As organic content becomes less effective we may need to rely on other avenues such as social media influencers to market our products. Though there are advantages to working with influencers, they can be quite costly depending on how strong their following is.

  3. Content differentiation. With the mass amounts of content out there, it’s challenging to stand out from the crowd. Plus, you also want to keep your own content fresh. Which may mean allocating more time and resources to producing creative content that sticks.

What are the top three social media marketing platforms every small business must use and why?

  1. Instagram: Aside from a company’s website and Google My Business listing, I’d say Instagram is the next up when users want to learn more about a business. It’s a versatile and visually engaging platform. You can keep your content simple and sleek, or you can take some risks with more creative formats like video and designed layouts in Stories.

  2. Facebook: Find a way to make your business relevant on Facebook that works for your audience. This may mean being on Marketplace, utilizing Messenger to field support questions, serving ads or engaging in Groups within your industry. You can also create your own community Group to start a two-way dialogue with clients and prospects.

    Before you venture off too far, I’d recommend being really good with your top social media platform(s) first. Then if you have the capacity and resources, I would say…

  3. YouTube: This is certainly a more labour intensive platform and it’s going to take commitment, but it can be a powerful tool if you can create relevant videos for your audience. It’s a great way to show off your expertise and build trust with longer format content.

What are the top three digital marketing tips you would give to small businesses?

Even in our current digital world, I honestly believe it still comes down to the fundamentals of marketing. Know your audience: who are they, where are they, and how do they consume content.

Because we are digitally forward, the chances are consumers will check out your business online before stepping foot into the store. Ensure your brand is well represented on Google My Business with at least: current store hours, address, photos, and authentic 5-star reviews.

Make your products shine and easy to buy. Invest in proper photography that will showcase your product or service authentically in the best light (and angle!). These photos will go a long way on social media and the website. Complete the merchandising with all the product/service details readily available. If you’re an online store, ensure checkout is easy and seamless. If you’re a storefront, directions should be readily available in just a couple of clicks.

What are some metrics you’d recommend small businesses use to measure their digital marketing performance?

Social media. Aside from watching your Followers grow, keep tabs on whether they’re local to your business and in line with your target audience. You certainly want more Likes but are people engaging with Comments too? What’s the quality and sentiment of the comments? You want to curate a following who truly care for your brand.

Online advertising. Try different tactics and compare. Are the ads driving more users to your website, are they engaged (bounce rate, pages/session, avg session duration), and are they converting to a potential customer (depends on your product and call to action). Once you have more data, you can look out for seasonal trends and set benchmarks.

rebecca tow

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Hong Kong, Australia and Vancouver, BC. Rebecca worked for several years on the marketing team at the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon. Thereafter, she took a leap of faith and entered the automotive industry in 2017 at the Auto West Group. Having grown up with a passion for cars, the shift to this industry only made sense. When she’s not working, you can find her eating a delicious bowl of ramen or jamming at the dance studio.