Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Cheap, or best? | Local Marketing Insider #002

When your customers search, they often use modifiers.

They aren’t just looking for a couch, they’re looking for the right couch.

People use modifiers to add specificity to their search, helping them get closer to finding the specific product or service that best fits their needs.

In this article, I’ll show you how the use of search modifiers has evolved in the last 15 years, and some new trends to keep your eye on today. Understanding the trends and the intent behind how consumers use search to solve problems can put your local business in a unique position to succeed.

Run it back

In 2004, the year Michael Phelps won his first 6 gold medals , “cheap” and “best” were almost interchangeable. Over time, searches for the “best car” or the “best hotel” have produced more desirable outcomes. “Cheap” has faded.


“Looking more closely at “cheap” and “best”, it quickly becomes apparent that these two modifiers are very different in scope and application. “Cheap” is quantifiable and rational, “best” is more subjective and emotional. The precise value of “cheap” may vary between individuals, but it still carries a singular meaning. “Best”, on the other hand, can have a wide range of meanings, being applicable to value, quality, performance, popularity, and more.”

Source: Google, Decoding Decisions

’Free’ is so 2004

Introducing “free”, we can see consumer preferences evolve.



This is especially clear in the entertainment industry. In the early 2000s, there was a large appetite for free access to entertainment, but as streaming services were introduced to the market, providing significant value at a low cost, customer preferences shifted.


When putting together this article these two searches really stood out to me as actionable for the local business. As “best” has grown significantly, “best affordable” and “best under” searches have also become equally attractive to shoppers.

Think about what you would expect to find if you searched “cheap refrigerator” vs. “best affordable refrigerator”. Both approaches will surface inexpensive options, but the latter is more likely to identify good value.

Where in your product or marketing could you utilize these modifiers today?


Complexities of 2020

The demands of the pandemic have resulted in new and changed business operations. The rise in popularity of “at-home test drive” or “contactless delivery” is clearly understood by looking at search patterns.



Shakeup in Auto​

Using auto as an example, this year only 24% of shoppers were offered an at-home test drive, yet 98% of those who were found it helpful in the decision-making process.

We can see from the search trends that the “at-home test drive” feature is gaining significant popularity, and will likely be a cornerstone of the growing online car shopping trend thrust into reality this year.

In 2018, 1-in-100 cars were sold online.

In the first half of 2020, 1-in-10.

That’s a 10x increase in 2 years.

If you offer any of these unique services, make sure to use those keywords in your review responses.

The realities of the pandemic have put a premium on personal space. At this point, we already know auto has seen a surge in interest in 2020 as urban shoppers move away from public transportation. The secondary storyline is a flood of first-time car buyers entering the market.

They’re more open-minded, considering 3+ brands on average before making a decision. At the same time, the dealership has a responsibility to make a positive first impression, leading to a higher probability of repeat business and longer-term loyalty.

To help prove this point I asked the Widewail review response team to send me any reviews they came across that mentioned a first-time car buyer.

8:07 am


10:07 am




Within 2 hours they sent me three 5-star examples.

Tangent on wait times

As e-commerce continues to take hold into the future, the online experience will need to match up to, if not improve upon, the in-store experience. There is a lot of potential here.

According to a 2019 study published by Cox Automotive, when conducting an automotive transaction, as time at the dealership passes satisfaction decreases.


Compare that to Tesla’s 60-second checkout process (as analyzed by a marketer):

Of course, there is some market voodoo going on here, but it’s undeniable that Tesla’s business is booming.


Regionally staggered reopening​

This is especially relevant if you operate a multi-regional chain of businesses.

This search is from the past 30 days.


The full list extends beyond the image, but you can see pretty clearly that customers in Michigan are much more intent on learning about reopening compared to Maine, driven by case prevalence and local ordinance.

With this information, targeted messaging through organic and paid channels based on current events will be much more effective in specific geographic areas.

Other searches with notable growth in 2020

+50% YoY “wealth management” – finance

+600% YoY “car cleaning kit” – automotive/retail

+1000% YoY “restaurants open for” – restaurants

+60% YoY “car sales” – auto

+100% YoY “bank account online” – finance

+100% YoY “slippers for” – retail

+200% YoY “glamping near me” – travel

Sum it up

“Trying to predict what people will do tomorrow is not a winning strategy, but listening to what matters to them today is. By paying attention to online signals, brands can stay on top of disruptive trends and respond in real-time at scale.”

– Google

To put a Widewail spin on it, consider adding trending keywords to your review responses when meaningful for your business. Ride the trends that others may miss.

Thanks for reading.

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I’m Marketing Manager here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. In Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus ...