Our world is becoming more dynamic, fluid and most certainly mobile. Wi-Fi, cellular 4G LTE, Near Field Communication (NFC), and Bluetooth connectivity have moved many of us into an untethered world. Millions of people are using mobile devices daily to access the Internet, and by extension our online showrooms. In auto retailing we are still going through a learning curve about how to market, manage, and leverage this new mobile world. I’d like to share a few basic items or initiatives to help auto retailers better navigate this new landscape.
- It’s Time to get Ready for Mobile Consumers
Clearly smartphones are part of our everyday lives putting instant info at our fingertips, and rarely do we ever put them down. A study showed Americans used their phones primarily for communications (talk and text), social activities and other uses 69 percent of the time. Only 2 percent of the time was for shopping. Naturally this changes when someone is in the market for a vehicle.
While shoppers want information on product availability, they also want clear photos and videos, as well as pricing information. Click or call for pricing buttons turn off mobile auto shoppers. Some mobile shoppers have apps that scan for QR or Barcodes to obtain more information on products. Dealers using these codes on their window stickers have an opportunity to create more leads if the codes take the shopper to a more robust vehicle detail page. The rule for mobile: Make it simple for shoppers to connect with auto dealership team members, either via an instant call process or text messaging.
- What your Competitors are Doing in the Mobile Space
Dealers who have been operating in the mobile space for a while have focused on text messaging as a primary way to engage mobile shoppers. The response time is quicker, and more users (over 60 percent) use text messaging regularly on their cell phones. Dealers in the digital ad space still purchase keywords and place mobile ads on the many ad networks including Google and Yahoo. Online ads are gaining traction and helping to establish the brand and drive traffic to dealership sites. Content marketing is also gaining traction. However, the dynamics for this vary for mobile devices.
- Mobile Website or App: The Choice is yours
This is not an either/or proposition, as dealers can have both a mobile friendly website and an app. With fast 3G or 4G data networks both sites or apps work fine. Since many mobile users delete “one-time shopping” apps after the task is completed, a dealership app should have other functionality for the customer after a purchase is completed. This could mean offering online service appointment scheduling, coupon updates and offers, etc. Virtually all the major website providers offer mobile solutions that meet the needs of the dealership and online shoppers. Navigation on smartphones should be simple and provide visitors with an easy “click to call” button to contact sales or service teams, view inventory, or get simple directions.
When considering building an “app,” remember developers have to create three separate apps for iPhone, Android and Windows phone users. In addition to the cost of app development consider the changing platforms, required tech upgrades to accommodate changes in the various operating systems, and the cost of a project manager on the team to guide all these initiatives.
- Consider In-App Advertising and Measure ROI
Thousands of apps are used daily by mobile users. Many of these popular apps offer advertising and mobile video opportunities on networks for Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Yahoo’s network for example includes such properties as Flickr, Tumblr, Weather, Search, and Yahoo email. Placing ads in specific apps allow you to target your audience and with geo-location put your ads before the right folks at the right time.
By using specific response phone and text numbers you can track the response and measure the ROI on these spends. Pricing will vary based on the depth of your advertising across the various platforms. But to be consistent, it’s important to allocate a specific mobile marketing budget for at least a six-month term so as to measure results and cost per lead.
Advertising via search engines and other popular mobile sites should also be part of a total mobile marketing budget.
- Social Media Channels Drive Mobile Traffic
More than 72 million Americans a month are using mobile devices to stay connected via blogs and social apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And through these social channels consumers are finding their way to businesses where they buy products and services.
Every social channel offers ad programs and content posting opportunities where dealers can engage channel members. Connect with auto shoppers by posting videos, service advice and tips, updates on parts and accessories. This is a great way to drive more showroom traffic and generate calls to the dealership. One caveat: Make sure the content is not 100 percent advertising. When you provide value, prospects and customers recognize and appreciate those efforts, and very often they will share that content with their online friends. The key on social channels is to be a good and concerned neighbor looking out for members in the community.
- Know the Marketing Automation Landscape
Marketing Automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels — online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. Since most auto dealers do not have an in-house digital advertising agency, this work is usually delegated to an ad agency, website development firm, or specialty shop in the digital marketing space. The goal for marketing automation is lead nurturing and generation to bring buyers and prospects to your showroom.
While smaller digital marketing budgets might not require or utilize Marketing Automation, they can still show effective results. Tracking and developing an analytics strategy will provide ROI reporting which will validate your digital and mobile spending. Don’t be intimidated by buzzwords. I encourage you to ask questions when you are uncertain of what exactly a vendor is pitching. Entering keywords like “digital marketing advertising” in the search engines will bring up great resources to guide marketing managers on the right path to follow.
- Real-Time Location Can help Close the Sale
Virtually all smartphones have geo-location technology which tells the user their physical location and shows it on a map. Technology exists to notify auto dealers when mobile devices are at their location. iBeacon is an indoor positioning system, described by Apple Inc. as “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 or 8 devices of their presence.” The technology enables a smartphone or other device to perform actions when in close proximity to one of these iBeacon.
For example, a dealer using the iBeacon technology could send a customer waiting in the lounge a coupon offering a discount off a pair of wiper blades, or other accessories.
Other solutions work by sending an SMS text message to phones within the range of the geo-fence (the dealership property). When the phone owner opts in; the system can push offers, coupons, daily vehicle specials, or other incentives to the mobile user.
And on an entirely different track, just as GPS devices allow tracking of vehicles, geofencing apps also allow a dealership to keep track of staff members on the property, or to notify managers when someone leaves for a test-drive or lunch. While much of this technology is new, in the near future it will become standard practice at many retail locations.
- Track Mobile Conversion Rates
Tracking conversion rates in auto retail means measuring how many visitors generated a lead, a sale, or further in-depth visits to the site. This can be challenging – much like watching the security video of the dealership to see who visited the lot on a Sunday. You can see people on the lot, but don’t necessarily know who they are, or why they are there. We can surmise that a portion of them found something they like and will call or come back to get more information.
You can track when a mobile visitor uses the click–to-call or text feature from within the mobile site. Once that info is in the CRM system, the prospect can be traced to the end of engagement. It’s also important to have detailed analytics for both the traditional and mobile websites to measure visits, page views and vehicle detail page (VDP) visits. Many companies use Google Analytics. But if you do not want “big brother” watching, you might want to consider Clicky Web Analytics (getclicky.com), Crazy Egg Web Analytics (crazyegg.com) or the free W3Counter Analytics (w3counter.com).
- Google is Changing up Mobile Site Indexing
On April 21, 2015, Google’s mobile ranking factors began labeling your site as mobile-friendly, and uses that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a “significant impact” in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide. Part of what the user sees depends on whether they are signed into Google and using this Google app on their mobile devices. At this point we do not know how many consumers will use this process.
- Mobile Incentives and Coupons Drive More Traffic
No matter how a shopper finds a dealership, consumers still respond to calls to action and incentives when considering or making buying decisions. Be prepared to have some incentive when a prospect is on the fence and deciding to visit your dealership versus dealership B. Coupons can easily be pushed to smartphones, tablets, and PCs offering gift cards, rebates, discounts, or other value added items. Give your sales team an edge to closing the sale with an attractive incentive for your customers.
In summary, a mobile marketing strategy that allows customers and prospects to keep in touch, engages with employees easily for sales or service needs, and leverages the many social and advertising opportunities that the mobile world has to offer, is a solid foundation for moving forward in our connected world.