Automotive Digital Marketing

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The Continued Erosion of your Showroom Traffic

Measuring our showroom traffic has always been one of the key indicators into the health of our dealership and our marketing efforts. Everyday countless dealership managers still walk down to the desk and look at the log wondering how many ups they had for the day and the status of each of them. The only problem is that over the last 10 years that number continues to erode at an ever more rapid rate.
This is obviously due to the Internet and the shift of information that has become available online, allowing consumers to shop for their next vehicle from the comfort of their own home without having to step foot inside your dealership. This massive shift has forced us to change our selling strategies and tactics. Some dealerships have carved out complete businesses that cater to the customers’ wishes and will even deliver the vehicle to the customers’ home while other still refuse to even quote a customer a price besides MSRP online.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, yet, we continue to try to put up more and more roadblocks in an attempt to slow down or limit the information that we share with our online customers. This is a big mistake, and goes against what successful dealership are doing to secure more Internet sales. So the first step is to somehow make your website more than informational. You need a way to reach out and “Meet and Greet” your online shopper to move them faster down the qualifying funnel. No matter how great your website is it is still just information. The future is creating a conversational website showroom. Turning your website into a tool that will help facilitate more conversations with your shoppers and address their needs or concerns they may have about doing business with your dealership without forcing the customer to call you or even send an email can be quite a challenge.

Just having an 800 number isn’t good enough because it forces a customer to stop the online shopping process and experience, pick up the phone, dial your dealership and hopefully connect with someone who can assist them. Your website could have the best forms in the world complete with voice instructions yet that information will never reach you as one of the greatest barriers and fears for customers is sending personal information over the web. If, in fact, the forms are completed, that information will be delivered to you via email and you will then need to respond—taking minutes, hours or in some dealerships days to complete and answer the question or questions that the customer wanted an answer to right then and there. I never thought I would say that email alone is too slow but with ever increasing customer demands as they shop retail websites you need to have an edge.

If you are looking to connect instantly with your website shoppers and give them access to your staff, Chat is your answer. Chat software has been around for years but is hard for most dealerships to administer effectively because they do not have the unlimited resources necessary to hire staff to monitor the site and attempt to interact with each website visitor. Managed chat is a powerful way to give your customers a connection point between your website and your showroom while allowing your sales staff to focus on what is most important—selling cars. Imagine not only having the ability to chat with your anonymous shoppers but also lead them around your website, explaining vehicles and sharing information about your dealership in the process. Imagine you are able to push an interactive video of a vehicle when a customer wants to know more about that certain vehicle, all while continuing a real time dialogue with them, allowing you to point out the advantages of that particular vehicle.

Streamlining and connecting with your website visitors isn’t a luxury—it is a necessity as more and more of your old showroom customers enter your online dealership. A “Meet and Greet” system will help you give customers what they need when they need it, putting you at the top of their shopping list. You need to extend your hand through the computer and say “Hello” and to do this you will need an interactive chat tool.

As dealerships continue to spend more money on their online marketing, isn’t it wise to ensure you are converting as many of your website visitors into leads as possible? Your online dealership is the showroom of today while your brick and mortar showroom is transactional hub where the deal and the paperwork get finalized. Investing in more online marketing will drive the traffic but what will you do to convert more of that traffic into opportunities? As the months go forward we will explore chat and other interactive tools that you can use to create customer loyalty and more interaction on your website turning your anonymous visitors into leads and sales for your dealership.

Todd Smith is the President & CEO of ActivEngage, Inc. Todd has over 18 years of retail automotive experience coupled with a passion for technology, which has helped him to create real world processes and solutions for their dealership clients.

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Tags: Activengage, automotive, chat, control, dealer, dealership, internet, live, marketing, showroom, More…software

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Comment by Todd Vowell on September 2, 2009 at 9:34pm
Hey Todd (great name, wise name, inspiring name),

I don’t want to get kicked out of this fine club that I have come to really enjoy but I just want to take issue with some of your statements here. I want you to “put me in my place” and tell me where my “old school thinking” is wrong. It’s the only way I will learn!

I agree that traffic is off but I don’t believe it is because of the internet. It may play a slight roll. Traffic is off because people are not buying cars (I will save C4C for a later date…) Earlier this year; my dealers had plenty of traffic but couldn’t get anyone bought because the banks were messed up big time.

Also, I don’t know where you live but markets play a roll. Some markets like “SoCal” are internet savvy and maybe consumers do shop 20 Toyota stores in a 10 mile radius to save that $9 bucks a month. But in between L.A and New York City is a lot of land! I’m just suggesting there are other reasons other than the internet that cause slow traffic.

Also, price. I struggle with giving someone we don’t know a final price. Is it really a customer? Is it a competitor? Is it a drunk at home in her boxers (it could happen) just messing around? I just think if a customer is going to purchase a car, they need to give a little information to the dealer. A car is the second biggest ticket item most people will ever buy. I believe people don’t just buy on price either. They buy on reputation, convenience, how they are treated. I believe the internet is an extension of how one will be treated at the dealership. If they are greeted quickly, professionally on line, they will most likely be treated the same way in person. I think you touched on that one very well.

The internet is vital to a dealers survival don’t get me wrong. I worry the internet is bubbling again and will pop for a second time. I remember everyone said Dealerships will be a thing of the past with the Internet. People still need to be served by their local dealership. They need to take a test drive, get their car fixed, and nothing can replace getting in a new car and just taking a big DEEP BREATH! Ahh, that new car smell!

The one thing you said that I think is by far the most important item and it’s simply CONVERTING visitors from visitors to buyers. That is where dealers are struggling. Not only are “lost opportunities” high but brand defection has also increased, meaning consumers are buying a different brand than the one they initially submitted the lead for.

I hope you cover more about how dealers can convert opportunities from the internet in the future. That’s if you take special request. Thanks for the info, enjoyed it very much.

Todd

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Comment by Clarence U Romero on July 1, 2009 at 10:58am
Todd, great stuff. I remember when dealers did not want Autotrader when it was free, because they didn't want to give out prices. Now look at how much they are paying. I have seen many websites that say call dealer for price. I have actually called some dealers, and asked for a salesperson, and after waiting for about 10 minutes, they transfer me to a salesperson that says, they are not allowed to give prices on the phone? Dealers do give out prices, but they choose to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to put them in the newspaper?

I have even mystery shopped some dealers get a quote, and haven't heard from most of them yet, and the ones that I did hear from sent me a slew of auto responders telling me someone will get in touch with me, and the quickest response was within two hours.

Our product RedNumbat believes in giving the customer what they want, a price, now, not within a couple of hours, or 10 auto responders later. We take the worst part of the buying process out of the equation by getting the customer a price in less than six seconds and getting the dealer connected to this customer, before your competition does.

Again, great article Todd

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