Professional Community for Automotive Marketers, Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
For those you that have been in the auto industry for a while, you have seen the shift in marketing strategies. It has gone, in just a few short years, from a sales lot full of streamers, banners and lurking sales people, to making room in the dealership for an IT staff to build a website for your dealership complete with links to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other social media account you desire. My previous experience in the automotive industry was pre-internet, so seeing the change from making charts to make sure you do not have two of the same color cars next to each other, to scheduling Facebook posts and writing vehicle descriptions for inventory featured online is quite a difference. My first and very brief experience with early internet auto sales was for a local Mazda/Saab dealership back in 2003. The “Internet Sales Department” as they so cleverly called it, consisted of an antique laptop on a folding table with a chair in a corner of the sales floor. The dial-up internet was slow, their attempt at a website was far from professional and needless to say, the “Internet Sales Department” lasted about two weeks as my draw and the money they spent for the website far exceeded any sales being made, which were zero. At that point, I might have questioned my sales ability, but there were no leads either. If you do not get your customer’s attention, you cannot sell them a vehicle. Fast forward to 2012 and the game has completely changed.
If you stop and look around, no matter where you are, you see people who are just short of physically attached to their iPhone, smartphone, tablet, iPad, laptop or any other device that the internet can be accessed on at a whim. Searching has become as easy as asking your phone where to find something and in a flash it appears on the screen. Once you locate the site you want, it also gives you the option to touch the screen and call them, get driving directions, email them or any one of a number of other choices. Touch the screen again and you can view their entire website. In the case of searching for an auto dealership, this gives you access to their complete inventory, right there in the palm of your hand. Gone are the days of driving from dealership to dealership looking at vehicles, today you can save gas and time, and relax in your favorite chair to browse instead. Not only does it save consumers time, it alleviates the pressure that they feel walking into an auto dealership with any slight doubt of exactly what they want. While the desire for face to face communication still exists although much less frequent, more people find it easier to email or call about a vehicle than go to the lot and be the next “up” for the sales staff. People have enough pressure in their lives, and if they can alleviate some of it, you know they will.
Now to the point I am trying to make, which is very simple - if you have an automobile dealership, no matter if you have 50 vehicles in inventory or 5000, if you do not have a website, and even better, a mobile-friendly website, expect to be left in the dust. Having a website built and creating a complete internet presence is no longer a luxury for auto dealerships it should be a priority. By providing your potential customers with a one-stop, easy to navigate website, you can potentially sell vehicles before the customer even sets foot on the lot. A good website does not just give your phone number and address and all the vehicles you have, it is much more. The easiest way to determine what your site should have is to imagine the buying experience from the first contact to the first oil change and beyond. Here are some things to consider for a website:
Forget the stock photos and post real ones. The first thing that attracts a customer to a vehicle is how it looks, so make sure that the pictures you plan to put on your site are clear, the vehicle is clean and you show off anything special the vehicle might have. It is no secret that people enjoy looking at pictures, just look at the popularity of Facebook. You need to spend the money on a simple digital camera and make the effort to take good pictures of every vehicle on your lot. While the “out for a bath” graphics are a cute placeholder if you do not have a photo of a vehicle, they are not going to sell that vehicle. While you may not be able to take pictures of every vehicle in one day, once you do have them all photographed, create a system to ensure that any vehicles that come in have a photo taken the minute they are ready for sale car photo.
Tone down the sales pitchy descriptions. The average person has figured out the “only driven by an older lady to church on Sunday” means that the vehicle is quite a few years old, needs maintenance and potentially has a fragrance of mothballs. The more believable the description is, especially when it comes to used cars, the more likely it will be that you will sell the vehicle. Keep it simple, describe the color of the interior and exterior and what type of material the seats are made of and highlight the creature comforts. Highlight the mileage if it is average or particularly low, if it has high mileage do not make a point to broadcast it, it is listed on the vehicle page, just not as obviously. Leave out the minor dents and scratches or any other imperfections, it is a used car, it is common sense that it will not be perfect. For new or used cars, if it is a special model or trim, point it out. If it has decals or badges you are not familiar with, look them up, you might have that one of a kind vehicle someone is looking for. You also want to make sure put a phone number at the end of the vehicle description to again, make fewer steps for your potential customer and make it easy to contact you about that specific vehicle.
Put everything a customer needs at the touch of a finger. Chances are that your potential customer will be financing or leasing a vehicle, so provide them with a secure online credit application. Not only does this expedite the buying process, it also gives your finance department the chance to shop for a few lenders without subjecting a customer with not-so-perfect credit to the embarrassment of being turned down by a lender, or even two. It has also been shown that if people are not under pressure to fill out applications or questionnaires, they are more willing to be honest. Once the application is processed, it also helps you to give your salespeople a price range of vehicles that fit the customer’s needs and financial situation. Not only does this save time for the customer and the dealer, it also helps boost the credibility of both the sales person and the dealership itself by eliminating the issue of customers feeling pressured to buy more of a vehicle than they can afford.sample dealer site
Share your internet presence with your customers. Unlike the old days of car sales when you said goodbye to a customer once the back wheels rolled off the curb, today you want to retain a good relationship with your customers. In their final paperwork, include a “social media” packet with all the links to any of your social media pages. Let them know that when they like you, follow you or add you to their circles, they will be able to take advantage of special offers and contests that are only available to those that are part of your social media network. This creates a more personal relationship with your customer that not only benefits them, it also makes them feel like they are a part of your dealership, which will make them less likely to shop elsewhere when it is time to trade in their vehicle.
Keep everything professional, but do not forget to be fun and informative. Owning and running an auto dealership is a serious endeavor, and to a customer, so is making the second largest investment they will make when they buy new vehicle. While you want to maintain a professional demeanor on your site and social media pages, there is no reason that you cannot be fun and creative as well. You do not always have to use your social media pages for advertising, in fact, that is the easiest way to have people unlike you page, stop following you or delete you from their circles. Have a little fun and ask random car related questions, post facts about the vehicles you sell or the geographical area you are in, ask your visitors for blog topics, anything, just keep your visitors interested. If you take a survey on a blog topic, use the topic and post the blog. By involving your visitors in the social media experience, you provide them with the satisfaction of knowing that their input is really being heard, and you will keep them coming back.
While this is only a short list of things to keep in mind when taking your dealership online, these points are a good start to creating on online presence people will notice. Think about what you would want if you were shopping for an auto dealership while you are relaxing in your lounge chair with your smartphone, iPhone or laptop. Think about what would make you share an auto dealer’s website with a friend or family member who is shopping for a vehicle. Think about what makes you decide to shop on a particular website. Is it the great photos of the products or the clear concise descriptions? Is it because the site is easy to use or because they have special offers? What makes a good website is all of these points, as well as many others.
Whether you already have a site or want to build a site and create an online presence, Interactive 360, Inc. can help. We can provide you with all the tools and create a site that is easy to use no matter if your customer is using a pc, a laptop or a mobile device. We can create a package for you that will provide everything that draws customers to your site and your dealership as well as the tools to retain those customers and keep them coming back. If you want more information on what we offer, please contact us at email@example.com. Our experienced staff will work with you to create an online presence that helps you transition from the banners on your storefront to interactive banners on your new website.
By: Tammy Lettieri