ADM serves Car Dealers, Automotive Marketing Pros and Internet Sales Managers
Website conversion is the key to all advertising, even that which doesn't take place online. Currently, retailers who previously focused their advertising efforts on TV, radio, print, and direct mail, must now also focus on driving leads to their website via tools like social media, and pay per click advertising. However, when it comes to sales, even top-notch internet marketing efforts cannot guarantee results.
Google has been exploring the topic of customer behavior and how people shop online. They recently released a study on the ZMOT or "Zero Moment of Truth" based on customer behavior. The idea is that the customer will engage all forms of digital media to research and select what and where to buy. Increasingly, more and more consumers are conducting this type of online research before they reach a decision. Therefore, it is essential for all businesses to understand the ZMOT and how it impacts their bottom line.
The Importance of the ZMOT
The ZMOT concept was originated by Jan Carlzon, who managed the Scandinavian SAS airline. He wrote a book called “Moments of Truth: New Strategies for Today's Customer-Driven Economy,” which had a large impact on the business world.
Carlzon's concept was that every encounter a company has with a consumer is a vitally important "moment of truth." Each consumer will form his or her impression of a brand in just seconds. Of course, back in the 1980's when Carlzon wrote his book, the internet was not part of the picture for sales professionals.
Google, together with Shopper Insights, adapted Carlzon's model to the Zero Moment of Truth. The ZMOT deals with the education that consumers now routinely give themselves before making a purchase. This paradigm has completely transformed the way that shopping takes place. Jim Lecinski's book Winning the Zero Moment of Truth is available for free download at www.zeromomentoftruth.com.
Today, most consumers research what they plan to buy on their computer, smartphones or tablets. They take time to not only visit company websites, but also to read reviews and information on blogs. They may visit sites like Yelp to read reviews from other consumers. All of these moments significantly alter their buying decisions.
According to Google's statistics, 70% of Americans currently read online product reviews before they make their purchase.1 Previously, the purchasing process took place with three psychological steps. These included the stimulus, which was typically an advertisement. The stimulus is considered the "first moment of truth." Next the "second moment of truth" occurred. This was usually the user experience.
As Google, explains the ZMOT or "zero moment of truth" now occurs between the stimulus and first moment of truth. When it comes to buying an automobile, during the ZMOT, consumers will spend time on a dealership's site as well as informational websites like Edmunds.com and Cars.com.
As a retailer, it is essential to shape the points of contact that a business has with your brand. This means that you need to give significant thought and effort to everything from your social media presence and online reviews to your website itself. Through this means, you can significantly shape and alter a lead's impression of your brand.
Ever since Google released their influential Zero Moment of Truth study, companies have been rushing to address and improve their online presence. The fact of the matter is that currently companies are spending a great deal of money on advertising to drive customers to their website. However, while website traffic is desirable, it doesn't necessary convert visitors to shoppers.
Quite frequently, companies don't have an effective way to convert their website visitors to actual buyers. Depending on the type of website, the rate of conversions will differ quite dramatically. Even ecommerce sites often fail to convert. According to experts, ecommerce sites that convert at 6%-9% are highly successful.2
Automotive is the perfect example of an industry where web conversions can be very low. In fact, according to statistics, 98% of visitors do not convert. This problem occurs with everything from the manufacturer at the national and regional levels to dealers, dealer groups and dealer advertising marketing associations at the city and metro levels. While these groups may diligently spend a lot of money advertising in both traditional and digital media to drive customers to their websites, conversions are not always made.
One of the issues impacting automotive dealerships is that their products are so similar from one company to another. This is largely a byproduct of the distribution chain. The product mix will be very similar from one retailer to another.
It is interesting to note the purchase funnel of an automotive buyer and how it has dramatically changed due to the internet. Back in 2007, Google released a statement that the car buying process takes place in about one month or less. In fact, Google's research showed that 30% of buyers search less than a week before making an actual purchase.3 And that number is increasing. Google released an Automotive Shopping Behavior Study in 2011, pointing out that the shopping window has "compressed." While in 2009, 34% of shoppers made their decision in less than one month, by 2010, that number had increased to 58%.4
Under the previous model, dealerships assumed the entire cycle took about six months, and they had traditionally based their advertising around that factor.
A customer begins his or her process trying to become aware of the various options. Then the next stages including a consideration period, followed by a decision. Of course, the purchase is the final step.
When a customer is deciding where to buy an automobile, he or she will routinely visit many websites to decide on the best fit. According to Google for Automotive, a customer will visit 18.2 websites during his research, or Zero Moment of Truth, period.
In this competitive marketplace, dealers must consider the question: What would make a customer decide to convert? This question is extremely relevant given that automotive dealership websites seem to have so much in common. What can make one website stand out from another? The truth is that without an effective conversion tool, dealerships are unlikely to convert website visitors.
In Google's Automotive Shopping Behavior Study, they point out that, “(dealers) follow shoppers through an increasingly complex path to purchase versus relying on traditional online destinations alone.”5
Yet, even through automobile dealership tools like live chat services, consumers still remain anonymous. Even though dealers extend the invitation to reach out with questions, many web visitors just ignore this stimulus. Further, when they do make contact, it is not directly with the dealer and typically through a third party.
As a result, the background sales knowledge is available to truly understand a consumer's need and build a relationship. Therefore, it takes a uniquely powerful system to drive website visitors out of anonymity and into the point where a dealership can communicate with them directly.
The first step that dealerships can take to embrace the Zero Moment of Truth and turn it to their advantage is to connect with shoppers during the time they research online. For example, they should be sure to post reviews from past satisfied customers on sites like Google Places, Facebook and Yelp. Publishing customer testimonial videos on sites like YouTube can also be beneficial.
Another effective strategy comes in the form of a retargeting campaign. This system will follow customers who just visited your website. They will receive various ads that reinforce your site's message. This strategy can be very influential in keeping the attention of your leads even after they have left your website.
As Google mentions in their Zero Moment of Truth study, there are at least 18 influence points that consumers will find online. 6 Brian Pasch the CEO of PCG Digital Marketing wrote an article "Mastering the Automotive Zero Moment of Truth" which states, "With increasing competition and lowered margins, dealers have to be the strongest and most attractive place to purchase a car during the Zero Moment of Truth. If dealers do not contribute to the 18+ influences that intersect car shoppers before they contact a dealer, they will lose market share and relevance."
Converting an anonymous website visitor to an identified prospective customer is key. Once the conversion takes place, the dealership can engage in the buying process. The lead is identified and no longer anonymous.
Intice focuses on maximizing the impact of the Zero Moment of Truth. When a web visitor arrives at a car dealership's website, he or she is presented with a unique opportunity in the form of an incentivized gift card. Web visitors are informed that they can receive a Visa gift card in a designated sum, typically $25, that they can redeem after visiting the dealership.
When web surfers are in the process of researching a car to buy, receiving the intice offer can factor into their ZMOT in a powerful way. Shoppers are moved from simply being anonymous website visitors into showrooms. Through this system, new web leads are quickly converted into sales.
It is imperative for car dealerships to understand that the way that sales are made has shifted tremendously in just the past 5 or 10 years. Spending money on web advertising is not enough. Dealerships must figure out how to actually convert the web visitors they receive, before the shopper's ZMOT period has ended and they have made a purchasing decision.
Among the various products and services that are available to dealerships, intice has the highest conversion rates. Through offering an intice incentivized gift card, establishments have successfully seen a dramatic increase in showroom visits. Across the board, online lead conversions rates have increased by approximately 200%.