The Virtual Car Show Take Over

Many auto shows have been cancelled due to COVID19 measures, here’s how automakers are filling the void.


Toronto, Detroit, LA and the UK are usually abuzz this time of year with concept and vintage car showcases, new model highlights and dealer tradeshows. The automotive industry is packed with new products, innovation and collaboration, now more than ever! Certainly, the event industry has taken a hit, it’s understandable to question if the auto show industry will return, in the interim brands and auto publications are working diligently to capture the attention of consumers in wait.


Kia Canada has had a successful first quarter showcasing their 2021 and 2022 lineup via their month-long Virtual Auto Show Experience. Using a 3D lobby space with a variety of Kia presentations, demonstrations and even live chats and people are eating it up! We’ve mentioned it time and time again, most consumers are more comfortable learning about new vehicles on their own time. Virtual auto shows allow customers to get deeper and deeper into the engagement funnel. According to Kia Canada, actual human Kia representatives are also online to answer questions and set up dealership appointments for potential shoppers. “What began as a solution to not having in-person auto shows evolved into a contemporary, category-leading consumer experience,” said Elias El-Achhab, Kia Canada’s chief operating officer. “Our team has created a truly immersive virtual space.” The Canadian Kia Virtual Auto Show Experience will be wrapping up at the end of this month.


BMW took an interesting approach attracting their Canadian consumers back in February. They offered previews of the upcoming BMW iX and i4, Bowers & Wilkins headphone giveaways, and a free movie code from the Cineplex Store and it worked! They were able to draw in large virtual crowds, larger than they even anticipated.  Andrew Scott, director, BMW Brand Management in a press release. “Auto shows give us the opportunity to share our passion for BMW with the people who love our cars as much as we do. We couldn’t let a year go by without getting together with them or telling them how much we appreciate their support, so we brought our products directly into their living rooms. Digital formats are a great way for us to remain connected with our community. Our customers are our priority, and a key step in supporting that is being where they need us to be.”

Even publications like are getting in on the action. They couldn’t leave their loyal attendees hanging this year and it seems like the virtual format is here to stay. Their 2021 Virtual auto show was sponsored by Toyota and hosted by award-winning automotive writer Lorraine Sommerfeld.

Brands like Acura and Nissan have followed suit by creating specialized virtual experiences for their target audience. Experience Acura and Nissan Studio are great examples of how your dealership can incorporate virtual experiences on a smaller scale. These microsites have a number of pre-recorded videos exploring new vehicles, Q&A as well as the shop from the home process.

The future is digital, and the future is now. Consider incorporating virtual experiences in your marketing strategy and level up your engagement. It can be as simple as adding 360° views of your top inventory or booking personalized walkarounds via Zoom. Open your mind to involving local enthusiasts and influencers in your virtual experiences. Collaboration is exciting because there are more opportunities to engage with consumers with different and overlapping interests. In this case, more is more! Talk to your consumers about concept cars, model updates, staff highlights and EV lineups.

Get creative!


The “must-haves” for your dealership’s brand success!

Dealerships are an extension of the manufacturer and the overarching branding is best complemented by the personal branding messages that take place at your dealership among staff, customers and the community. This involves all touchpoints across the consumer experience including:

  • Website design 
  • Social media presence and responsiveness
  • Relationships with suppliers
  • E-commerce experience
  • Staff phone etiquette

There is an opportunity to relay your brand message to the consumer at any given moment. Both back and front-end dealership operations create a chain reaction of experiences that establishes the brand voice.

There are some must-haves when it comes to developing your own unique brand voice:

High-Quality Web Experience – Whether connecting via mobile, desktop or tablet, customers should have a smooth and streamlined digital experience. Having a well-designed custom website that is easy to navigate is of the utmost importance when it comes to your brand voice. Your website’s performance in organic search results is centric to everything we do. Ensure a positive customer experience regardless of the device your website is being viewed on.

Track Lead Generating Communication – Track what forms of communication are working for your clientele and determine which ones aren’t performing as well. Most dealers in 2021 are running ads and have websites, so you need to set your dealership apart with new and fresh strategies based on consistent KPI tracking. If Facebook Lead Ads are working really well for your sales team, experiment with Messenger or Call ads and see how your clientele transitions from fillable forms to instant communication. After some time you’ll see if you can communicate with customers in a new way, otherwise, it will confirm that your current strategy is best for your dealership.

Direct Communication Capability – Messenger ads aren’t the only way to quickly communicate with your customers. In today’s tech-obsessed world, your customers want and need a means of instantly contacting a knowledgeable and welcoming salesperson. There should be some instant messaging access to your dealership and this can be done through website chats, text messages, or phone calls. Most consumers do not want to spend time looking for specific information to answer general questions in the beginning stages of the buying process. Each person on your sales team should be able to quickly respond to incoming inquiries to improve sales performance. Create a positive and memorable first impression that will last, customers will likely return to your dealership when they are ready to buy if their first experience went well.

Content Strategy for Social Media – Just like your SEO strategy, your social media strategy must be well thought out with dedicated time and attention. The importance of a social media strategy in the current market is undeniable. Selling through education is a great way to keep consumers engaged and establish trust. This knowledge helps build a more personal relationship with customers and prospects. 

Encourage regular team-based brainstorming sessions.

We urge your sales team to put their personality into your content strategy to show prospective customers who they may be dealing with, bridging the gap between traditional selling and the current shop online era. In order for your brand voice to appear cohesive, your content strategy must be aligned with your SEO and advertising strategy, echoing the overarching manufacturer message. This includes writing custom blogs, consistent video posts, and presence on all popular social media platforms.

Testimonials – Customer experience testimonials are non-negotiable in the success of your dealership’s brand voice. Potential customers are always looking for ways to measure the credibility of products, services, and salespeople. Reviews and testimonials go a long way in producing proof of trust and satisfaction from people who have already bought from your sales team. A social media strategy that showcases reviews and recommendations is the most effective way to build-up your car dealership’s sales reputation. Testimonials where specific sales members are named or other detailed information about the experience is offered are always better than generic, non-descript reviews.

Ask customers if they are comfortable on camera, video testimonials are social media gold!

Video Communication with Customers – If you haven’t already started video chatting with existing and potential clients, you should certainly consider it. This could be done through pre-recorded informational videos covering FAQs, or personal Zoom sessions. 

A lot has changed over the last year, but video communication is here to stay. People simply love to watch videos and they perform way better than text and still images alone. You should have an available inventory of videos including walkarounds, finance options, service tips, incentive updates, staff shout outs and more. Know your target audience and deliver your brand’s message through all available channels to capture their attention and close sales.

Know your Competitors — Marketing and online platforms are constantly evolving. You won’t get lost in the shuffle if you stay ahead of the curve by consistently monitoring updates and peer strategy in the industry. Multiple dealers in one region may share target audiences with vehicles that are quite similar in regards to price and functionality. The key to separating yourself from the competition lies in the customer’s perception of your dealership and you cannot differentiate yourself if you are only aware of your own brand voice. It is also a great opportunity to benchmark your performance in a wider market.

There are many ways to develop and enhance your dealership’s brand voice, but there are a few key takeaways we want you to remember. Put technology to use whenever you can, ensure the customer experience is smooth and visually appealing, personalize your content, and stay closely involved with your marketing process. The power of brand recall and loyalty can make or break your business, and they all rely on the foundation that is your brand voice. It represents your team values, the principles of your dealership, and your dedication to enhancing the customer experience.