I was told a few days ago by a close friend that works at a marketing firm specializing in automotive internet marketing that car dealers are normally 1-2 years behind the internet and technology trends. Most dealerships with the help of the industry are now going from zero to 60 to try and catch up or ramp up to this curve. A couple of years ago when other industries were getting into e-Commerce, dealers were still putting up single page advertisements as their websites with no inventory, just an address, a phone number, and a bunch of promises.
I truly believe in the next few years 100% of all people will search and research online for their vehicle purchases before coming into a dealership. Gone will be the days of people walking in off the streets with your dealerships newspaper ad under their arm...YOU see it already. Our children and their children will be and are internet smart. The older people that do not know or refuse to learn the internet will and have started to die off, leaving only internet experienced people left. Those people GO ONLINE every day...
In the past year, I have come to a few conclusions, and it might hurt us to hear them......
1) Dealers are STILL trying as hard as they can to cling on the remnants of the “automotive glory quarter century” and the days that they could easily make $3000-$7000 on the front end of almost every car deal. This amazes me, as I still hear old veteran salesmen tell me stories of the good old days..... those days are in the past and will never be back, destroyed by the very thing we need to grasp..The Internet. There is no room in your dealership for someone that doesnt grasp the internet, we should all be internet salesmen.
2) The Internet scares the hell out of dealerships. With so much information and car buying tips out on the internet, they want to keep as much of a distance from it as possible as they feel most shoppers are too educated now and the old trade "tricks" don't work. This should be the opposite we need to be taking the bull by the horns and accept, cultivate and develop technology and a new business model.
3) Dealership decision makers are often too busy with today to worry about tomorrow. New technoloy such as, You tube, blogs and other videos have a long-term stand with todays young people and will not usually yield immediate results, mixed with the pressures in an industry that does not remember how good you were last month, you can see why they are reluctant. This is a huge mistake for dealership. Dealerships must now have a long term plan and start implementing technology now.
Lets look at the trends that are here and have been here and those you should be looking at for your dealership:
This optimizes your website for search engines
This can optimize your website for targeted areas (geotargeting)
You can create targeted PPC (pay-per-click) campaign(s) for immediate visibility
You can create custom landing pages that can be used to track visitors and conversions to visits to sales ratios.
2.) BLOGS, You-tube, Video forums such as "My-Space". Let me ask you a question??? What does everyone under the age of 25 understand, participate in and grasp...Forum and social net-works...Who will be your next vehicle buyers? These same people...
Isnt it a logical step to be targeting these areas with dealership information?? The cost is extremely low and if you sold 1 car a year off of it, your return is 2000%
3.)TEXTING- I truly believe this will be one of the next waves in marketing. Think about this as most all people have cell phones. Our youth of today are texting freaks, My daughters can text faster then I can type. Also, customers drive by your dealership every day....so why not have a "Number" on each vehicle that they can text and get information on your car...Somethig this like...Text "12234" for information on this car".
The technology out there sends back information, pricing and contact information...Its another tool to get people 24/7 when your dealership is closed.
4.) E-negotiation- This is a great tool if everyone realizes that HUGE grosses on the front end are few and far between and quantity is whats now. Back-end, after market and fixed operations are where the money can be. So for the front end selling, there is technology now that customers can actually log onto your website, and see your whole inventory and bid on a car and the system software will counter bid and negotiates a floor pricing or "Buy it now price" for the vehicle. The customer after winning the bid, places a small deposit, comes into your dealership, looks at the car you can sell back end products, the front end id already done and the customers leaves happy and you take off 1 hour or more of the sales process. Skoots.com is a great company for this.
5.) Live Chat and real time talk- This has been around for a while...so, why are you not using it?? ZaZa Chat offers a live chat for $24.00 a month that tells you when a customer is on your website, alerts you and you can engage the customer in real time RIGHT NOW on your site. It lets you store templates and type anything you want. I have sold dozens of vehicles over the past 3 years just offering live help or steering the customer around the website...my ROI.....5000% or more..its crazy..USE this simple tool...
6.) The all inclusive hybrid Internet/BDC/fixed operation department- I am a huge advocate of having one big department that handles all of these items together. I am not talking finance or service, or floor sales. I am referring to one department that handles the internet/BDC customer from start to finish, including calls, e-mails, sales, closing and after market. The department handles service appointment set up calls or internet appointments, sales calls and e-mail marketing follow up. I am not saying take the people aways from service and other areas, just have your calls and internet handled by one department, dont have a seperate BDC or internet....Merge and conquer!!