Every sales person claims that they have the greatest opportunity that you can’t live without. A key is testing and validating opportunities that make logical sense. Are these concepts producing measurable results (gross dollars and/or car sales)?
I attended the 2010 Fall Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas. Each conference is a great way to gauge where the market is going, both with the vendor presentations and the dialog that takes place with the dealership attendees. So what are some of the hot focuses for 2011?
Mobile enabled web sites with mobile enabled video
One large dealer group is reporting that 25% of the traffic hitting their websites is coming from smartphones. Within three years, this number could be 60%. Keep in mind that 40% of people between the ages of 30 and 49 access the web from their smartphones according to Business Week, “Use on the Web Goes Mainstream,” July 7, 2011.
According to Wikipedia, a smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality. Examples include iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys. You may ask: why can’t I get a good experience with a smartphone when I’m looking at my website unless it is enabled for mobile devices?
Apple and Adobe are fighting over this issue. Steve Jobs simply will not allow Adobe Flash multimedia on any of the Apple products (this includes the iPad). If you need more of an explanation, read a letter Steve Jobs wrote to his customers entitled: “Thoughts on Flash.”
The majority of video content is also displayed in a Flash format so this creates a problem. Just because you have a mobile enabled web site doesn’t mean that you will be able to view the video content. You need to work with a video company that can provide mobile enabled video on your mobile enabled web site.
Here are some things to consider:
- Confirm that your web site is mobile enabled. This enhancement should be provided by your web provider. Simply view the dealership web site with a Smartphone to confirm that the web site is viewable. If the site looks distorted, your market share will be affected.
- Confirm with your video provider that your video content is mobile enabled. Video companies have two options to work through this issue: they can link the video content displayed to a YouTube site or simply send a different file format (MP4) rather than Flash. The web company is in control of the decision to accept the MP4 file, but the heavy lifting is on the part of the video company to send the appropriate feed. Dealers can influence their web companies to accept the feed by simply talking to them.
Organic reach with Google
The fight today is for a more dominate reach on Google. In 1998, a customer would drive from dealership to dealership to review the options. The dealers understood that if they made a great impression and focused on the dealership, the product and the price, they could expect a 15%-20% closing ratio. The key was driving people to the dealership. Today, the Internet has changed this model.
The customer still visits five to seven dealership but they do online from their office or their home. We also know that 90% of the people searching for a late model car or a new car will use Google during the car buying process. If a dealership has the ability to get their inventory and dealership name listed on page one of the Google search results, they have a tremendous advantage over other dealerships.
A term that every general manager should be aware of is SERP (search engine results page). The better your SERP results, the better off you are. An example would be searching for your most popular model in your local market. For example if you are a Ford dealer in Phoenix, open a Google page and conduct a search for a 2011 F150 Phoenix. Count the number of times that your dealership is listed on page one compared to other dealerships. I would also suggest that you conduct a search for 2009 F150 Phoenix to see how well you are doing with the late model pre-owned units. The more times you are listed, the better your chances are of driving prospects down the sales funnel to your dealership.
How can a dealer influence organic search results?
Each dealer should have a written strategy to drive search results by focusing on SEO, Google Places, website visits, and VSEO (video search engine optimization).
1. Your web company is responsible for driving website visits. Conduct a simple test to see how they are doing. Use the following site to compare the number of unique visits to other dealers in your market: http://www.compete.com/. If you are getting 3,000 unique visitors while your neighbor is tracking at 9,000, you have a problem.
2. Think of Google Places as the new Yellow Pages. Conduct a Google search with the brand that you represent and your city (search: Ford Phoenix). The Google Places are highlighted with a red balloon in front of the name of the dealership. Don’t confuse the website listing with Google Places. If you are listed last or you don’t appear, this should become a focus.
With Google Places, you have the option of adding photos, video and reviews. If you get involved with reviews, make certain that the sales people are requesting reviews from every customer. I would suggest that you have a written process that you can give your customer to encourage positive reviews. If you don’t encourage customers to send responses, you will only get the negative comments.
Here are some reviews appearing on the Google Places for two dealers in the mid-west:
-“This place is horrible!!!” —citysearch.com.
-“Be very careful if you are planning on buying a car from this dealership” – citysearch.com.
– “This dealership has all liars and thief” —dealerrater.com
This dealer is a very solid operator and very concerned about the customer. The problem is that these negative comments will potentially influence a large number of potential clients. The only way to work around this is to encourage the happy customers to submit a review.
- Create a video search engine strategy (VSEO). Google owns YouTube and they are allowing VIN specific walk arounds to appear in the Google search results. No one outside of Google fully understands the algorithms set up by Google, but if the videos are tagged with the year, make, model and city, you have the opportunity to influencing the SERP results. You can then potentially display the video walk around of the unit being searched in your community. One director told me that the people who conduct a search for a specific type of unit and then click and watch the video displayed through a YouTube channel are 14 times more likely to buy that specific type of unit (rather than a customer who appears at a dealership requesting a good used car for under $10,000). This opportunity is tremendous.
- Another option to drive SEO results is to hire an outside company with this type of expertise.
I have had a number of friends tell me that there are so many vendor options in the automotive industry that it is hard to know what to focus on. Every sales person claims that they have the greatest opportunity that you can’t live without. A key is testing and validating opportunities that make logical sense. Are these concepts producing measurable results (gross dollars and/or car sales)? If the answer is no, fire the company. Another suggestion is to watch the most successful dealerships mentioned in the sales presentation. Are these dealers still using the product after eight months?
The projections are that 2011 will be a tremendous year for automotive dealers. Are you ready? Are you keeping up with the changes that are influencing how people find you and your inventory? Be bold in exploring new ways to influence your market with on-line initiatives. I look forward to seeing you at the spring Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition in Orlando.