“Hey Alexa, order me more shampoo. Also, can you get me a trade number on customer Smith, make sure that our inventory is up to date online, improve my service drive experience, skyrocket our profitability, and find out why John didn’t show up today? Thanks, Alexa!”

 

Anyone else tired of hearing that Amazon, Apple, and Google should be the gold standard measuring stick for any business objective or industry? It’s gotten out of hand. Your dealership, your business model, your corporate culture, the customer experience, your online presence, e-commerce strategy, and just about anything that you can think of. Did you know, the utopia that is the Amazon, Apple, & Google trifecta has the answer to all business problems you could ever imagine? If you can be just like them, you’ll win at everything forever. 

 

Forgive me for the snarky hyperbole, but let’s face some cold hard truths. Buying a car will never be like buying a pair of socks. We’re not in the business of competing to serve up the most relevant search results for “how do I make potato soup?” or get more likes than the Instagram egg. Our products have usage lifecycles that last about the length of 6 iPhone releases (and stay relevant long after your phone is a paperweight).

 

Yet, this myth persists. The idea that because customers can have Alexa buy them shampoo online, have Siri give them directions to a concert, or download the latest single with 1 click, that buying a car should be just like that or at least close. While we can certainly learn about consumer behavior from these interactions, I am here today to say that buying a car should not be more like these interactions. It can be BETTER.

 

Consultants, industry gurus, and keynote speakers are trying to convince dealers to be more like these companies when their business model and products are just not relevant to the purchase journey of an automobile. I am a firm believer that businesses should look at other industries to learn valuable lessons and strategies, and this is undoubtedly the case with elements of what the Silicon Valley giants can apply to the auto industry. However, let’s take a step to evaluate what auto dealers can do to be the best at their own game, before trying to change the rules to be like another. 

 

The sequel to this dialog (Part 2 of a 5-part exploration) will be a look into 3 industries that are NOT solely tech-focused that the auto industry can benchmark and spare you from trying to emulate the tech worlds hype inducing myopic approach to business in the 21st century. So, don’t install those nap pods into your employee lunchroom just yet and put away the customer self-serve Kombucha tap. Here are some highlights on what you have to look forward to:

 

  1. Real Estate – The two most expensive things most people will ever buy: #1 Their house and #2 their car. People shop for a new home or apartment in the same fashion that they shop for a new car. They already have an idea of what they want, they research where to get it, and they study how much it will cost them. In the case of home purchases, the majority also need financing just like a car. The similarities to the auto industry are uncanny. Inventory listings, display pages, search radiuses, quality photography, and how most have an “agent” to purchase something. We’ll explore how what is real estate doing differently than we are that works and what can we learn from companies like Zillow or Realtor.com.
  2. Hospitality – No industry knows how to better deal with the public than the hospitality industry. Indeed, there are highs and lows in terms of customer service examples. However, companies like Disney, Montage Resorts, and Virgin are all pioneers in taking the customer experience to a more positive and fulfilling place that creates zealous brand advocates worldwide. Like it or not, most customers view buying their next car about as positively as getting their next root canal. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I will dive into what we, at the dealership level, can implement from customer service innovators like Richard Branson and Bob Iger, not necessarily the tech disruption stalwarts like Jeff Bezos or the late Steve Jobs.
  3. Grocery Retail – Another industry that is in the thick of disruption from tech, many retail grocery stores are suffering from tightening margins and online competition. The popularity of meal and grocery sites such as Blue Apron and Peapod.com have grown in popularity. However, there is still fight left in the retail sector. Especially for those who can deliver a more involving customer experience, better produce, and a unique approach. Some have not clung to tradition but have embraced the disruption of competition by one-upping them at their own game.

 

I look forward to hearing from those of you interested in this topic and encourage you to comment if you have ideas for industries or examples of business that I can include that are truly outside of the “tech” box. I would have just included them all in one great post. However, I had to follow my own advice. I took a page from another industry that suggests sequels are a guaranteed way to keep people coming back. I wonder what industry that could be…

 

Dealerships spend a lot of money on leads. The bigger the store, the more money spent. And, added to that expense are staffing costs and the time and effort involved in trying to engage with consumers who submit the leads.
In the car shopping process consumers conduct a considerable amount of research and visit many different touch points. A major goal of any dealer’s digital advertising is to engage that consumer, capture their interest in a vehicle and get them onto their website. Typically, at that point, the consumer has narrowed their vehicle choice down to one the dealership has in stock, and the behavior indicates a low-funnel buyer.
Then the magic happens… and that customer converts on your website. But then the process grinds to a sickening halt.
Wait a minute – what the heck happens here — why do so few of these leads turn into actual sales?  Something inevitably motivated that car shopper to fill in that form to get more information and initiate contact. So, where’s the problem?
We studied the process in many dealerships and found the problem lies in the fact that the average time for a lead to get into the CRM is 6-12 minutes. This is for a multitude of reasons including poor email providers, volume of requests being processed, etc. But the point is, it’s pretty inefficient.
The faster you obtain the lead information and contact the inquiring customer, the more likely that customer will still be sitting in front of their computer, perhaps even staring at the VDP they converted on! Each passing minute reduces the chance the customer is still in “car-shopping” mode, available to talk. The general rule of thumb is that the first person to get that customer on the phone gets the sale.
However, at most dealerships what happens is as follows: The Internet Manager or BDC team receives that lead in the CRM. Auto-responders get fired out and dealership employees start calling. But the customer does not answer the phone. The Internet Manager or BDC agent might make that initial outbound call within seconds of receiving the lead, but still fail to connect with the customer. Sadly, that lag of 6-12 minutes getting the lead into the CRM can quite simply destroy the sale.
Have you ever heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? The same applies to the digital world. The mechanics involved once a customer clicks that “submit” button typically go something like this:
Customer hits submit.  Information is sent to website provider.  Website provider sends the information to the dealership’s CRM in ADF/XML format. CRM provides dealer with the lead.
If the Internet Manager or BDC agent quickly connects with that lead, the customer is typically impressed and open to talk. It’s the time lag between a customer requesting information and being contacted that reduces contact percentages. It simply creates inefficient communication chains and a poor customer experience.
How can you tell if this is happening at your store? Test it yourself! Submit a lead and monitor how long it takes – on average – for a lead to go from your website into your CRM. But don’t stop there. In addition, monitor how fast someone on your staff reaches out. Both of these factors are vital to improving the time it takes to actually connect with a customer, and from there your overall closing rate.
Customers like a good experience. If you can quickly connect and provide relevant information, this starts building rapport and trust.
Don’t get caught out by a failure to communicate.

 

The sheer volume of leads many dealerships receive can be overwhelming. And, not only do they have to respond (hopefully quickly) to any new leads, they are also expected to follow up with those leads with a “buy or die” mentality. I can guarantee you that whoever is responsible for following up with leads can quickly be overwhelmed by their to-do list in the CRM.So, what do they do? Quite frankly, they cherry pick leads. They tend to place more focus on new leads, contacting and prioritizing them based on the few tidbits of information the customer enters when filling out the lead form.
To compound the problem, some dealerships fail to teach employees how to interact with these prospective car buyers to take them all the way down the funnel to a sale. This lack of correct training and processes can lead to salespeople pre-qualifying leads, wasting good prospects and leaving money on the table.
For example, let’s say an Internet Manager gets a lead. The customer has a 2017 Ford F-150 with 40,000 miles on it. The Internet Manager immediately believes this lead is a waste of time. Without further investigation they simply think the customer must be upside down on their loan. They may then contact them hesitantly, if at all. If they do reach out they perhaps begin the conversation with a negative attitude and then lose the sale due to lack of interest.
But wait a minute, for all they know the customer doesn’t owe anything on that truck. However, they have already made up their mind and pre-qualified themselves out of a sale. Rather than reaching out and aggressively attempting to contact the customer, they perhaps make one attempt, then move on to the next lead that just came in… and the cycle continues on.
Most salespeople are trained to pre-qualify customers in their normal sales process on the lot, asking exploratory questions to determine whether they should show the customer what they asked to see, or make a beeline into the showroom and have the customer fill out a credit application. But this mindset does not translate well to online leads.
Another part of the problem is that if the person at the dealership lacks sales experience, they quickly learn which leads are “hot” and which are not simply based on whether they are able to contact the customer or have tried a zillion times. Hell, I would probably get frustrated as well.
The point is that every lead is an opportunity and every opportunity should be treated and responded to the same way – quickly.
These days, it is not uncommon for a customer who plans to go car shopping THAT DAY to fill out a lead form on the Internet to see what responses they receive. When they don’t receive anything but auto-responders and templates (yes, they know that they are receiving templated responses), they simply go out and shop.  And if you failed to respond they may very well go shop your competitor who DID respond.
So, firstly don’t pre-qualify your online leads, treat all leads as prospective car sales. And secondly, respond to them quickly and appropriately.
Otherwise you are losing sales and throwing money away on leads that are never followed up. How many times has your dealership sold a car to someone upside down, with challenged credit or who seems like a lost cause when they came onto the lot? I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of those instances. The same applies to online leads.
Treat every Internet lead as an opportunity. Treat them all the same and do so quickly. Establish a process and reward those that follow it.
Sometimes, the runt of the litter turns into the strongest dog in the pack. And those can be the dogs with the most potential, but the easiest to miss.

Online Reviews-Reputation Management - Dealership Digital Marketing
Online reviews, and especially Google reviews, should be a huge priority for any business operating today. It takes some time and constant effort to properly execute a review management strategy, but it’s worth it: reviews provide the very foundation of your online reputation, and how you manage them can mean the difference between life and death for your dealership.
Trust-building and Brand Differentiation.
We live in an age where widespread internet access means that dealers don’t get to make the first impression when a customer walks onto their lot. With a vast majority of consumers conducting a vast majority of their research online before ever setting foot inside a dealership, dealers must be able to establish and build trust at the very outset of a prospective customer’s online journey. To this end, online reviews are critical to the initial establishment of trust for online shoppers. Research has shown that:
Online Reviews-Reputation-Management-Dealership-Digital-Marketing
These numbers speak volumes about the necessity of online reviews for today’s shopper, and why including them in your reputation management strategy is no longer merely an option. Review management, as one component of a greater rep man strategy, will continue to be critical for the foreseeable future.
Reviews are also necessary for brand differentiation. Consider that the automotive industry is an almost perfectly competitive market: a consumer can find the same or essentially the same products and features at any dealership within a given segment. As a result, we must find other ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. One way many dealers are doing this is by creating a unique and pleasant car-shopping experience. But even if you’ve formulated a slam-dunk customer experience, how will online shoppers know about it? You guessed it: by reading reviews on the internet. Given that 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to visit a local business, your reviews are what will make you stand out so that buyers want to visit your store rather than the one down the street.
Making Reviews Work for You.
Like social media, online reviews are not a one-and-done thing; making them work to your advantage requires incorporating them into your larger reputation management strategy, and growing and monitoring them on a regular basis. Three of the most important factors for effectively managing your online reviews are recency, quantity, and quality.
When an internet user enters a search query into Google, Google’s aim is to serve up content or businesses that are most relevant to the search terms. It follows, then, that recency increases relevance, and dealerships with the most recent content and reviews will fare better on search results pages.
Along with being a key search ranking factor, the recency of your online reviews has a direct impact on whether consumers decide to visit your website and, ultimately, your dealership. BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed several key findings that go to the importance of recency:
Online Reviews-Car Dealership-Digital Marketing
To sum this up, you must be constantly seeking new reviews – every day, from every customer. Getting ten great reviews in two days in order to cover up one bad review is not a viable business practice; today’s customers are more savvy than ever, and they will quickly catch on, resulting in a degradation of your dealership’s credibility and perceived trustworthiness.
Constantly seeking new reviews isn’t important only for recency, either; it goes to quantity, too. Consumers look to see how many reviews have contributed to your dealership’s overall star-rating. Think about it from a consumer’s perspective: Are you more likely to trust a business with five stars and only 2 reviews, or one with 4.5 stars and 50 reviews? Common sense points to the latter.
The star-ratings and content of reviews is, as you can imagine, hugely important, both for SEO ranking as well as for building consumer trust. On its support site, Google has said that “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” Rating and content quality are important to prospective customers, too. According to Podium’s State of Online Reviews survey, 3.3 is the minimum star-rating a business must have for consumers to even consider engaging with it. And since 68% of consumers would pay more for the same product or service if assured they would have a better experience, it’s important that the substantive content of the reviews include an evaluation of the various aspects of each customer’s experience that led them to write a review.
There’s an important caveat here, though. Having a few negative reviews isn’t always a bad thing; the key is how you respond to and manage them. In fact, a large number of online car shoppers say that they’d trust a dealership that professionally and caringly responded to a negative review more than they’d trust a dealership that had no negative reviews whatsoever. If you manage them properly, one or two negative reviews can actually enable trust rather than hindering it.
The bottom line is that online reviews have a huge impact on your bottom line. If properly solicited, managed, and monitored, they can propel car shoppers to both your website and your brick-and-mortar dealership, and ultimately result in a significant lift in sales.

YouTube-Dealership-Digital-Marketing-Video
If your dealership doesn’t already have a dedicated YouTube channel, it’s time to get one. You may think that since you post videos on your website, there’s no need to post them on YouTube, but the opposite is true: If you post videos on your dealership’s website, you should absolutely have a corresponding YouTube channel where you post those same videos. Why? Three simple words: reach, visibility, and cost-effectiveness.
Reach
Many of us don’t think of YouTube as a search engine, but that’s exactly what it is. In fact, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world — second only, of course, to Google. Moreover, YouTube is the world’s third-most-visited website after Google and Facebook. It gets more than 30 million visitors per day, adding up to around 1.5 billion visitors each month. That’s a massive potential audience that dealers cannot afford to miss out on. And if you think people aren’t interested in watching car dealership videos, think again. According to David Mogensen, Head of YouTube Ads Products Marketing at Google, “views [on the platform] of test drives, features, options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the last year.” Even more telling is that 70% of people who watched YouTube during their car-buying journey say that it influenced their ultimate purchase decision. These are powerful statistics that illustrate a huge opportunity for dealers to grow their marketing reach and thereby expand their customer base.
Visibility
Not only does having a YouTube channel expand your reach in a huge way, but it can drastically improve your dealership’s online visibility, as well. The three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) have now started blending their search engine results pages (SERPs) to include mixed media like news, images, and video. This, in turn, has created yet another great SEO opportunity: When a user searches for a brand or model that you carry, a properly-optimized channel can create an additional link on SERPs, increasing your potential visibility to that user.
Having a dedicated dealership YouTube channel can also increase your SEO authority. According to Launch Digital Marketing, “Google’s job is to give searchers the best answer to any question, and their algorithm has started to rank YouTube results and web pages with video as the best (most helpful, useful, engaging) answer for many search queries — particularly tutorial-, how-to-, review-, and test drive-related queries.”
Cost Effectiveness
As a marketer, your job is to gain maximum exposure, traffic, and conversions while spending as little of your budget as possible. And let’s face it: this can be a tough feat in today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing world, especially for car dealerships. But not all marketing efforts require a massive chunk of ad spend. Take, for example (you guessed it!), YouTube. Creating a YouTube channel for your dealership is completely free! And considering the reach and visibility it offers, the wildly popular video platform can be one of the most cost-effective ways of advertising and promoting your inventory and dealership.
What to Post
Now that you’ve decided to create a YouTube channel for your store or dealer group, the question remains: Where do you start? What types of videos should you post, and how often? Stay tuned for the answers to these questions later this week.

Local mobile SEO only continues to grow in importance for today’s automotive dealerships. Use our Local Mobile SEO Checklist to improve your online presence for users searching locally on their mobile devices.
Local Mobile SEO - Infographic-fusionZONE-Automotive-Digital-Marketing-Blog

We talk to many dealers who are frustrated by having an OEM-mandated website program. But there IS a way that dealers can deal. Check out the video below to learn more.

Want your website to convert at a (much) higher rate? Click here for a free demo.

When you consider that almost half of mobile search traffic has local intent and over 85% of mobile engagement with brands is local, it becomes clear: local mobile search is here to stay, and it’s only growing in importance. Use this checklist to ensure your dealership’s online presence is properly optimized for local mobile SEO rankings.
Shorter Keywords
This goes against everything you learned in SEO 101. But while long-tail keywords are a well-known best practice for desktop SEO, the same is not true for mobile. Not surprisingly, people do a lot less typing on their mobile devices than they do on their desktop devices. So, it makes sense that they also enter shorter keywords and phrases when conducting searches on mobile.

Location, Location, Location

Keep it close to home, literally. To rank for local search, be sure to include your keyword and location in all of the following elements:

  • Title tag
  • Page title (h1 tag)
  • Within the page’s content itself
  • Image alt text

fusionZONE-Dealership-Marketing-Blog-Local Mobile SEOPaid Search & Promoted Pins
I just told you to prioritize shorter keywords when optimizing for local mobile SEO. But it’s harder to rank using shorter keywords and phrases, so boost your SERP rankings by utilizing paid search. You can also take advantage of Promoted Pins. This feature on Google Maps allows your dealership to stand out by displaying your custom logo directly on the map.
Mobile Ad Extensions
Ad extensions expand your ads to include additional information. According to Google, these extensions “typically increase your ad’s click-through rate by several percentage points” by providing greater visibility and conspicuousness on SERPs. Some ad extensions that can be particularly effective in terms of local mobile SEO include:

  • Location extensions
  • Sitelink extensions
  • Click-to-call buttons
  • Call extensions

 
The bottom line is that people doing local searches are looking for local results. Taking the time to optimize for local mobile SEO can put your dealership at the top of the heap and lead to a dramatic increase in both foot traffic and overall conversion rates.
fusionZONE-Dealership-Marketing-Blog-Local Mobile SEO

Website bounce rate directly correlates to site speed; it’s a hand-in-hand combination. Our research and tests have found that when a site takes longer than three seconds to load, bounce rate will increase by up to 150% per second. This fact, combined with the announcement by Google that, starting in July of this year, site speed will be a major ranking factor for mobile searches, means that a fast website will be a significant game-changer to your online storefront.
So, what does this mean for dealerships? In his presentation in April at the Digital Dealer 24 Conference and Expo, fusionZONE CEO Brett Sutherlin addressed exactly that. Click play to watch the presentation and learn how your site speed is affecting your business.

The purpose behind Google’s new Speed Update is to reward business whose websites cater to today’s consumer. Therefore, faster page speed will result in:

  1. Lower bounce rates
  2. Increased consumer engagement
  3. Higher rankings on SERPs

Google encourages you to check your own website speed using its official PageSpeed Insights tool. This will help you find out the average load time of every page on your website.  It provides simple visuals to help in analysis: between green, yellow, and red scores. You want to be in the green. If you’re not, you’ll want to ensure that you are meeting Google’s guidelines to avoid getting penalized in SEO performance when they crack down next month.
It’s just that easy!
Set your target for your site to load in less than 3 seconds. If you can decrease that to 2 seconds, you’ll notice an even greater increase in conversions. Why? Because your customers are finding your website before they are finding your competitors.
Contact fusionZONE Automotive today to double your website leads, guaranteed. Known for building the fastest websites in automotive, we’ll not only help you navigate the playing field – we’ll help you dominate it.

In order to stand out within the automotive website creation space, you must have effective dealership marketing strategies in place from the get-go. And as the needs of clients and the demands of the industry change, so must the company.
In a world that was once focused on getting the client into the storefront itself for face-to-face interaction, dealership marketing has shifted to creating an online presence that enables the customer not only to find your dealership but to actually close the deal. It’s true that maintaining established relationships is vital within the digital marketing realm, but dealers must evolve with the times in order to survive.
Many website providers have become more technology-driven, pushing things like “buy online” tools, attributions, and online retailing — working hard to convince you that a shopper will not take the time to fill out a lead form. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Driving customers to your site. Amidst all the seemingly innovative online tools that are inundating the market, it’s necessary to look at the hard, factual data. The conclusion that can be drawn is what we’ve been telling our dealer peers for years: A focus on speed + conversion will drive customers to your website. It’s important to go back to the basics of dealership marketing, because at the end of the day, a fancy website that is difficult to find, packed with links, and running high-tech programs isn’t going to sell cars.
What sells cars? The answer is quickly being able to connect with a potential buyer and turning that lead intoto a conversion. The more leads a dealership website can deliver, the more cars the dealer can sell, period.
If you’re looking for year-over-year growth (and who isn’t?) with an impressive 5% conversion rate that shows no signs of decreasing, the answer is simple: speed + conversion. A correctly optimized website leads to a thriving, profitable dealership.
While times are changing, with many dealership marketing vendors innovating for themselves rather than for the dealer, the fact remains that if you cannot find a way to connect with your customer quickly and in a way that is easy for them, you won’t close the deal. Conversion and site speed are here to stay.