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TheStreet Open House

Ford Prepares For Online Rush Led By F-150 Shoppers This Holiday Weekend

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 first-of-its-kind joint venture between Ford Motor Company 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.

Online migration

The process of buying a vehicle today is dramatically different from what it was even 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," said Peterson.

When Rich Savino, principal of All American Ford in Old Bridge, N.J., first opened his dealership, he used digital marketing to establish his local identity and drive customers to his store, which was in a more remote location. Even though his dealership is now located in a higher-traffic area in Hackensack, Savino remains focused on digital marketing.

"Buying a car is largely an in-person transaction by necessity. But I can use digital marketing to reach customers online during major shopping occasions like 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday'," said Savino. "I use a variety of tools including coupons, direct email deals and website coupons. It puts visiting my dealership into consideration for consumers when they're already in a shopping mindset."

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