Billions of people use the internet. Many of us live there. We use the internet to do our jobs, to stay connected with friends and family, and for entertainment.
In the United States, the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Much of what we do is dependent on it, whether we’re working late, trying to find directions to an event, or looking for a restaurant nearby.
As technology develops, the internet continually grows in importance to our daily lives, and more and more of our interactions occur digitally. We FaceTime our family, email our co-workers, text our friends, scroll Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch with college roommates, and check out LinkedIn to increase business contacts and boost our resumes.
We’re obsessed with our digital world and continually turn to our many devices in order to connect, learn, and develop.
For many dealers, this digital world poses a threat – although I would argue that it shouldn’t.
As more and more people turn to digital sources of information, the opportunities to draw shoppers into the showroom appear to diminish.
Gone are the days when multiple shoppers would visit the lot on a daily basis. Now, shoppers avoid dealerships. They’re visiting fewer and fewer dealerships before purchasing a vehicle. In fact, many only visit one dealership – and, by that point, they’ve already made up their minds about what they will purchase and how much they are willing to pay.
So, what must we do?
How must we develop in order to reach this digital obsessed world and drive real traffic into our not-so-digital showrooms?
The Digital Mandate
We all know what this is. Dealers must be online. It’s not a question or a recommendation. It is 100 percent a necessity for today’s dealers. But, what you do online matters. You can’t simply be present – you must be active.
Dealers want to bring shoppers directly from online to their dealership. They want the magic website, ad, YouTube video, etc., that will make shoppers leap from their couches, throw their devices aside, and rush to the dealership. They want to set it up, forget about it, and watch the shoppers roll in.
But there’s a greater divide between the internet and the physical world than there is between television ads, phone calls, radio spots, and direct mail.
The divide is caused by information. Digital shoppers have a plethora of information at their fingertips and, regardless of how impressive your online presence might be, if you’re not providing the information shoppers are looking for, you simply will not be their first stop – which means you probably won’t see them.
So, you must not just be digitally present, you must be digitally active and informative.
The Information Gap
There’s a very clear information gap between a dealership’s online presence and the dealership itself. This is intentional in many ways. The goal is to drive shoppers to the dealership by utilizing this information gap to create curiosity.
They absolutely must come to the dealership if they want to learn pricing, incentives, trade-in value/equity, financing options, and more. The theory is, if there’s enough information lacking, more shoppers will visit the dealership in order to bridge the gap.
But, this theory is wrong.
Research shows that being there and being useful in consumers’ initial auto searches leads directly to dealership visits.1
The information gap is the opposite of useful. It doesn’t answer car shoppers’ questions – the questions they want answers to before they head to a dealership – it avoids them.
As a dealer, your biggest competition, surprisingly enough, is probably not the dealer across the street from you. Your biggest competition is the third-party site your potential customer is visiting instead of your website. Visiting your dealership hasn’t even crossed their mind at this point, but that doesn’t matter because you’ve probably already lost them.
The truth is, though 90 percent of vehicle shoppers are doing their vehicle shopping online, 78 percent of those shoppers are using third-party sites to find the information they want.2
Bridge the Gap
The thing is, it’s not hard to give shoppers what they want once you know what that is.
The top five activities during a vehicle shopper’s online process are:
- Researching vehicle pricing
- Finding out what their current vehicle is worth
- Comparing different models
- Finding actual vehicles listed for sale
- Locating a dealer or getting dealer information
Simply by providing this information on your website or via another source, you are being useful to the very consumers you want on your lot – which we all know results directly in showroom traffic.
This is what you must remember as you seek to bridge the information gap between online and your showroom.
Website traffic, though not equivalent to actual showroom traffic, leads to dealership visits. The more leads you gain online, the more traffic you’ll see in your showroom.
Author: Paul Ress
Paul Ress is the Marketing Director at J&L Marketing. Paul innovates turnkey, omnichannel campaigns engineered to generate relevant traffic and quality conversions for the automotive industry.