DEARBORN (WWJ) — Sure, there are lots of car commercials this time of year featuring cars with big red bows on them. But does anybody actually buy a car as a holiday present?
Well, who knows, but Ford Motor Co. says it sees a rush of online shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend that would cheer any retailer.
Last year, Ford said its total online leads jumped 17 percent on Black Friday compared to a typical November Friday. The F-150 pickup truck led the parade, with leads up 22 percent that day.
“Accessing content via mobile screens is key to how Americans buy vehicles now, and the Thanksgiving shopping weekend provides an opportunity for us to engage them while they’re already shopping,” said Ron Merbler, a digital manager at Ford. “You may think of it as gift-shopping season, but it also is the perfect time for all facets of our business to come together for our dealers and the company as a whole.”
Ford pioneered a digital dealer strategy in 2000 and has seen online sales leads increase significantly the past few years. Online sales now make up nearly one quarter of Ford’s total retail sales.
FordDirect — a joint venture between Ford and its dealers — helps dealers digitally connect to consumers, and has grown to offer a variety of digital tools such as website development, traffic generation, social media management and consumer marketing services.
Almost every Ford dealership uses FordDirect services, such as mobile and desktop website solutions, digital advertising, new and pre-owned vehicle marketing services, and social media and reputation management.
The extended Thanksgiving holiday week also is expected to see an increase in dealership service visits nationwide. Last year, “Black Friday” was Ford’s No. 1 day for tire sales — nearly double the next leading day of the year.
The process of buying a vehicle today is dramatically different from what it was 10 years ago, with consumers turning online to research before they buy.
According to Google Trends, Ford F-Series is the most-searched vehicle on Google this November, and has been in the top 10 the last 118 months. Eric Peterson, F-150 marketing manager, said Ford’s targeted truck customers research vehicles about 30 percent more than average shoppers, and are engaged more in discussions on message boards and forums.
“These customers gear more of their digital lives to work — which includes trucks as key tools — as they are twice as likely as others to own two or more smartphones and three times as likely to use them for work,” Peterson said.
FordDirect’s services include identifying customers potentially in the market for a vehicle or service for promotional offers or follow-up calls for service appointments.
Like many retailers, Ford got a jump on holiday advertising this week to promote vehicle and tire sales deals. And the campaign will extend through the first week of December because of the longer-term car-buying process. Ford is significantly increasing its focus on attracting online shoppers as digital holiday advertising has more than doubled to 50 percent of the mix since 2011.