Perhaps more than any other role in the dealership, the new car manager’s responsibilities are evolving rapidly. It used to be that new car managers would merchandise cars on the lot, order new inventory and negotiate dealer-trades. Now they must master multiple data points to ensure inventory is properly merchandised across the internet, know what’s selling in your area, determine appropriate stocking levels and manage the marketing processes to drive peak departmental performance.
That’s a lot of responsibilities, so it’s no wonder the new car manager’s role is growing in importance, and will continue to grow in importance. Today’s new car managers must be knowledgeable about digital marketing and how your website works. They must also be savvy when it comes to analyzing data.
As margins are controlled more by the manufacturers and less by the dealers, dealers are getting less gross profit per vehicle. If you want to increase profit, you have to increase volume. The best way to increase volume is to attract more online visitors and convert more of those visitors into leads.
The more vehicles become commoditized, the more important it is that your dealership’s website and VDP search results are found. Do not rely on your website provider to ensure this happens. It’s not their responsibility. Today that is the responsibility of the new car manager.
Fortunately, these responsibilities are not complicated if you know what to look for. Here is a guide of sorts that can be used by new car managers. First thing every morning, use this checklist to take care of your online merchandising responsibilities.
1) Look at your website’s Vehicle Display Pages (VDPs). How many vehicles on your website have a minimum of seven pictures? Better yet is to have both pictures and a video. Your goal every day is to have 100 percent of your vehicles with at least that many pictures. This task should become as routine as tying your shoes in the morning.
2) Does every car have a price? This is critical. If your OEM doesn’t allow you to post a discounted price, post the MSRP. Do not post a “Call for Price” button. When a shopper sees a “Call for Price” action, they immediately think that if they call you, your salesperson is not going to tell them the price and will try to get them in for an appointment.
Today’s car shoppers want honesty and transparency. If you still use this kind of tactic, your dealership is perceived as untrustworthy. Consumers are savvy enough to know that the MSRP is not set in stone. Post a price for every vehicle. If you don’t, you are essentially saying, “I don’t want to sell you a car.”
3) Click-through rate (CTR). Paid search is a critical part of your ad budget. Are the words you’re using to drive traffic converting at two percent or greater? Often overlooked, knowing what keywords drive traffic can be a competitive advantage. Clear your browser caches and ‘search like a customer’ (use your desktop and your phone) for your dealership ‘Dallas F150 deals’ and see where your dealership lands.
4) Which vehicles are getting activity? Somewhere in your CRM or the back end of your website there’s a tool you can use to see which vehicles are getting activity—clicks and views—and which are not. The best way to determine whether a vehicle’s activity level is good or poor is to use the Search Results Page (SRP) to VDP conversion rate. For every 100 times a VDP page shows up in a search result, at least 2.5 people should click through to the VDP page, for a 2.5 percent conversion rate.
If a vehicle’s SRP to VDP ratio is below this for a few days in a row, it’s time to determine why. Does it need new pictures? Does it need to be discounted? Does it need a better description?
This information is also useful because it tells you what’s selling in your area and what isn’t. This data can be used to help determine future stocking levels.
5) What’s your bounce rate? If your website has a bounce rate higher than 40 percent, it means your landing pages are not thrilling enough to hold car shoppers’ attention. If your bounce rate is below 40 percent, you want to determine what is holding their attention vs. what isn’t. Are people spending more time on your specials pages, inventory pages, home page? This may change from month to month so it’s important to keep abreast of trends on a daily basis. Whichever pages are holding peoples’ attention the longest, direct your marketing efforts to that page.
6) How many new car leads are you receiving and what is the closing ratio? Dig in to your CRM tool to look at inbound leads on new cars. Compare yesterday’s count with last month and last 90 days. Is the volume consistent or beginning to drop off? Where are the leads coming from and which close at the highest ratio? Your website should always be your number one lead source and have the highest closing ratio. If your top lead source is your OEM’s website or another website, it means you’ve got a lot of work to do on your own website.
Once you have completed this online checklist, it’s time to get out of your chair and do the more ‘traditional’ aspects of merchandising.
- Attitude drives altitude, is the team ready for the day?
- No holes in the front lines, are you ‘ready for retail’?
- Ensure there is adequate parking for clients
- Displays are ‘ready for retail’; e.g. clean, lined up, window stickers
- Group similar vehicle classes together; e.g. are all F-150s parked near each other? Can customers easily move towards them?
The goal for both digital and on-the-lot merchandising activities is to present your dealership as clean, professional, organized and easy to do business with. The unspoken question every car shopper has is, “Do I want to do business with this dealership?” First impressions count, so make the decision easy for them.
Author: Josh Blick
Josh Blick has been Dashboard’s CEO since 2007, and has led the successful launch of the Executive Eye product, expanding the company’s client base from under 50 dealerships (in 2010) to nearly 700 dealerships today. Mr. Blick has directed Dashboard’s projects with the largest Automotive companies in North America, including a who’s who of premier Dealership Groups such as Van Tuyl, Hendrick Automotive, Asbury, Group 1, and Sonic Automotive. His primarily skillset resides in integrating the world of Software Development, Automotive Dealers, DMS systems, as well as 3rd party Automotive vendors.