LAS VEGAS — Changes in the way consumers shop and how Google now serves up search information may have dealers wasting their marketing dollars and focusing their social-media activity in the wrong direction.

Brian Pasch, CEO of PCG Digital Marketing, says too many ad dollars are being wasted before buyers actually make their purchase decisions — a phrase that has been dubbed the “zero moment of truth.”

Pasch says most dealers spend 75% of their marketing budget on traditional media and about 15% on the more-critical ZMOT stage. The rest is doled out once customers already are in the showroom and after the time of sale to make sure buyers remain loyal.

“Most dealers haven't allocated their marketing budgets to how people actually shop,” he says, pointing to data that suggest most consumers make their purchase decision after sifting through third-party vehicle-review and price-comparison websites and researching feedback from friends and others on social-media sites.

“If 95% say the ZMOT stage is the real influencer, why not spend more at the ZMOT stage?” Pasch says here at the DrivingSales Executive Summit Presented with WardsAuto.

Dealers need to pay more attention to how Google's new algorithms and its +1 function change the way search returns are served, the executive says.

With +1, users with Google accounts can “Like” a website, which automatically makes it rise to the top in any searches by others they are connected with through Facebook, Twitter or other social-media tools.

That's a powerful lead generator that few dealers are taking advantage of, Pasch notes.

He recommends encouraging employees to fill out profiles on Google +1 and recommend the dealership to their friends, as well as asking buyers who are Google members to “like” the website while still in the dealership at the time of sale.

“If you get all your employees to sign up (with Google) and connect it to all their social-media activity, (you're) probably connecting to 10,000 people in your community,” he tells conference attendees.

“This is the tsunami of influencers,” he adds. In the future, dealerships that pop up in search without recommendations by friends have “no chance.”

Pasch cites data on one search return that had only a 4% click-through rate in a standard Google search but 40% using Google +1.

He recommends dealers add buttons to their websites that allow consumers to easily share information via Twitter, +1, Facebook and other social media.

A video presence also is something Google gives preference to in serving search returns, Pasch says, something few dealers do well.

“If you want to establish yourself as a market expert, start doing video,” he says.