Over the past few years, live chat availability on retail websites has become a consumer expectation, and for many shoppers chat is now the preferred communication channel. Instant gratification online is a modern business requirement. Consumers abandon sites that do not offer the information and features they seek because there are just so many choices online. If chat is not available on your dealership website, shoppers who prefer chat will simply find a competitor’s site that does offer chat assistance. Chat today offers the progressive dealer a true competitive advantage. It’s also important to note that consumers use chat for more than vehicle sales queries. In addition, 23% of people who chat schedule service appointments, get F&I information, purchase parts and more. In general, chat lets you provide the same sales and customer service online that you offer at your physical dealership, and shoppers increasingly respond favorably to the service. And the bottom line is that website chat leads consistently have the highest close rate of all lead sources. Some dealers close up to 20% of chats.
ActivEngage co-founder, Todd Smith, learned first-hand the power of chat in 2006 when he began using it on his own dealership site while he was general manager of a Chevrolet store. He literally made his first vehicle sale from live chat within less than 24 hours of deploying it. Throughout the next year, he continued to experiment and perfect his skills in the medium, and became increasingly certain that properly managed chat is a sure fire way to increase website lead generation.
Armed with this knowledge, Smith partnered with automotive retail and technology authority, Ted Rubin, in 2007 to form ActivEngage. The goal was to help dealers around the nation increase lead generation and sales via dealership website live chat. Although other chat services existed at that time, none were designed specifically for the needs of automotive retail. Smith and Rubin knew from experience that their clients would be more successful with a service that was created for the unique needs of dealers. After over a year of research and development with dealerships, the company launched in early 2008.
ActivEngage now manages an average of 10,000 dealership chats per day and has managed millions of chats since the company began. Dealer clients include every major vehicle brand and type of dealership, from single rooftops to large dealer groups. This makes ActivEngage uniquely qualified to help dealerships increase website leads and sales.
ActivEngage offers three levels of live chat service to meet every dealership need.
ActivConcierge is the industry’s premier proactive, fully managed live chat service. Within the first day of deploying ActivConcierge on the dealership website, additional leads are generated by turning website browsers into active sales leads. ActivEngage’s highly trained virtual sales team proactively engages all website visitors. Proprietary business intelligence also guides the conversations for optimum results. Further, ActivConcierge includes seamless integration of important shopper information, including the complete conversation transcript, with all CRMs and ILMs. ActivConcierge impacts the dealership immediately by multiplying the amount of leads the site generates, with no additional work required from the dealership.
ActivGuardian offers dealerships that choose to manage chat in-house additional support to ensure that all chats receive fast, professional responses. Since chat abandonment triples if it takes longer than 15 seconds to start a chat, it is crucial to greet site visitors quickly. If a dealership staff member can’t reach a customer, an ActivEngage representative will pick up the conversation and deliver the results to the dealership. ActivGuardian is the solution for dealerships that already have well-developed chat teams, but still want a back-up support system. The service ensures that no ups are missed on the website by always monitoring site visitors’ activity.
ActivSite helps dealerships begin online chat conversations with a software solution built specifically for auto dealers. The easy to use chat console lets the dealership begin engaging automotive website shoppers in the first day of use. ActivSite pushes the website to the next level by using the dealership’s best salespeople on the website to greet every visitor. The combination of ActivSite technology and the dealership sales team gives dealers control of meeting and greeting online shoppers. Taking virtual ups at the website drives more traffic to the showroom.
While chat is the foundation of ActivEngage’s services, the company also offers numerous tools and features to complement chat and increase its effectiveness.
ActivDashboard is the industry’s first comprehensive marketing dashboard. The proprietary dashboard allows auto dealerships, dealer groups and manufacturers to track all marketing metrics including website analytics, conversion points, ROI and more, from a single screen. Historically, monitoring dealerships’ online marketing from multiple campaigns, vendors and sources was time-consuming, complicated and sometimes impossible. ActivDashboard consolidates dealers’ most important metrics, to quickly and easily display all marketing campaign performance.
ActivDashboard incorporates all marketing data from live chat, phone, email, third party lead sources and website analytics. The data is then integrated and analyzed to provide advanced business intelligence to create the most effective marketing mix. ActivDashboard benefits all dealership types, and is especially valuable for dealer groups who need to aggregate individual dealership marketing metrics in one location. This ends the inefficiency of creating and monitoring multiple Excel reports because ActivDashboard puts the most important information into a single visual display.
Specifically designed for the needs of auto dealers, ActivEngage’s mobile application was in strategic development for close to a year. The native application gives automotive retailers full live chat capability, no matter where they are. The app’s interface is intuitive and extremely fast on both Wi-Fi and 3G networks, so the speed of service does not have to rely on the dealership’s internal network. Further, the ActivEngage live chat mobile app is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
Visitor tracking data includes geographic location, keywords used to access the website, pages viewed and more, all visible within the mobile device, just as it is on the ActivEngage live chat computer console. Chat transcripts, contact information and vehicle details can then be generated to the dealership’s ILM or CRM, with no manual data re-entry.
One of the app’s most powerful features is the pre-read, which lets dealers see what site visitors are typing in the chat window, as they type it, in real-time. This allows chat reps to respond quickly and intelligently, because they can begin to formulate replies before consumers submit their questions. A menu of predetermined responses is also available, enabling fast communication with phrases and answers that are frequently used.
ActivConnect is the dealership website tool bar that lets consumers interact with the dealership via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, DealerRater and other social media sites, without leaving the dealership website. The tool bar creates an increased level of connectivity between auto dealers and consumers by solving the challenge of leveraging social media, without pushing shoppers away from the dealership website.
In the past, consumers had to leave the dealership website to connect with dealers on major social media sites. With ActivConnect, dealers can use social media and other interactive communication channels, while keeping consumers on the dealership website. The tool bar sits at the bottom of the dealership’s website and contains links for chat and all major social media sites. When consumers click on the links, the information appears directly on the dealership website, rather than taking shoppers away from the dealer’s site.
ActivConnect also includes business intelligence that allows dealers to create behavioral offers and incentives based on whether shoppers are new or repeat site visitors, whether shoppers have previously chatted, geographic location and more. In addition, ActivConnect tracks clicks on social media icons to measure dealers’ social media connectivity and reach with shoppers.
ActivProspect is another proprietary technology that targets website visitors who are most likely to respond to chat invitations and ultimately end in sales. Based on click paths and behavioral targeting, ActivProspect pre-qualifies site visitors as prospective chats. This allows busy dealerships to more effectively manage their resources, and to spend the most time with site visitors who are most likely to chat, schedule appointments and make purchases.
ActivProspect was developed by analyzing automotive website shopper outcomes over three years on dealership sites across the nation. ActivEngage created the feature to assess all website visitors and identify the dealership’s hottest prospects, based on time on site, click paths and other website behavior patterns. Dealers can then maximize efficiency by spending more time with consumers who are most likely to make a purchase.
ActivTestDrive integrates dynamic virtual test drives with live chat. When combined, chat and video create an interactive, real-time experience for website visitors. ActivTestDrive’s enhanced level of service and engagement lets dealerships create an exceptional first impression and helps turn more passive website browsers into active buyers. The short, engaging virtual vehicle test drives with live chat offer shoppers a dynamic, thorough experience of vehicles.
The use of video and live chat also allows a more controlled sales process at the website that can be integrated into the overall dealership sales process. Chat agents can move customers from videos on to rebates and incentive for vehicles viewed, and then move to current available inventory at the dealership. ActivTestDrive lets the dealership experience the virtual test drive with the shopper, co-browse pages together and move site visitors further along the sales process, all without picking up the phone or sending e-mail.
Todd Smith is co-founder and chief executive officer of ActivEngage, Inc. He has over 20 years of successful industry experience and has worked in every facet of dealership operations, including spending 2007 as the general manager of a Chevrolet dealership. Todd has developed some of the most cutting edge eBusiness, BDC and showroom sales strategies and solutions for a variety of clients including Ford, Ford of Canada, AutoNation, Budget Car Sales, Maritz Inc, Mazda North America, Toyota Motors Sales, ADP, AutoTrader.com and over 1,500 dealerships across the U.S.
Ted Rubin is the co-founder and president of ActivEngage, Inc. He is a leading expert on operations management, Internet process deployment, and technology development and utilization in the automotive industry. Ted has more than 20 years in the automotive industry, and has held virtually every position available in both dealership sales and service departments. Ted has worked with many recognized manufacturers and automotive companies to develop sales strategies, business development processes and effective training. These include: Toyota Motor Sales, Volkswagen, Renault, Southeast Toyota and Reynolds & Reynolds, as well as hundreds of individual dealerships.