“Disruption” is one of those Silicon Valley buzzwords that I’ve begun to grow tired of. It’s a catch-all word that is used anytime an industry or product is experiencing changes or pop up competition. Perhaps more accurately, we should see terms such as “evolving,” or “maturing.” More simply stated, what many industries or products are experiencing is just new competition.

In automotive, there is a history of disruptors that fundamentally change or alter a maturing market. Remember the minivan craze of the 90s? It was followed by the crossover phase and disrupted the wagon segment to such a degree they almost went extinct, at least in North America. 

Now going into 2020, we are seeing the disruption in both segments and distribution. Companies like Tesla are disrupting with fully electric cars that are distributed through a direct sales model. Companies like Vroom and Carvana are offering full digital retailing online, from start to finish with a delivery of the car to your driveway. Yet, these companies have not experienced an “amazon-like” transformation and are still very niche players. Why is that?

Another industry that is experiencing this same kind of disruption is the grocery industry. While stores changed continuously and evolved to keep up with customer trends and tastes over the years, one principal of the business transaction remained constant for decades: People had to come to them to get fresh food and produce. 

With companies like Peapod and Amazon Fresh, combined with more meal prep-orientated services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, that is all changing. Direct to consumers, some with discounted or even free shipping, these services are endangering the rock-solid model of people going to their favorite supermarket for food staples. Is the traditional industry doomed? No, at least not for the ones embracing the competition. Let me explain.

When faced with the prospect of consumers able to shop online for their most common groceries, the incumbent stalwarts of the grocery world (Think Kroger, Safeway, Publix, etc.) have a choice to make when fighting to keep their market share against the online disruptors. My local grocer of choice, Meijer, decided to partner with Shipt to make home delivery from online shopping available.

App-based shopping, with nearly all of the same products and staples you’re familiar with at the physical location available for same-day shipping. And for some, within the hour. Instead of fighting against the new model, grocery stores decided to participate. Meijer is certainly not alone, many major chain grocers are now adopting a “we shop for you, and ship for you” model. They also have a great hybrid solution where you purchase your items online, and a store shopper selects all your products for you. Then all you need to do is visit a curbside pickup at the physical store and collect your items, saving you from even having to enter the store. They took the opportunity of the new online model not just as a threat alone, but as a challenge to innovate their business model for evolving consumer shopping behavior.

This got me thinking. Why is it that when I talk to dealers and salespeople in the industry, they deride the online digital retailers like Carvana and Vroom? Why do they insist it’s a passing fad or dismiss their importance altogether? For years, I have heard dealers tell me, “Oh sure, salesperson Johnny could do an at-home test drive, we’ll gladly go to a customer’s house to have them look at a car.”  

However, the reality is that it never happens. Or, if it does, it is supremely rare. Taking any piece of the consumer transaction away from the dealership is frowned upon, no matter what. This usually comes at the direction of management.

Perhaps it’s the power dynamic that makes dealers uncomfortable. When a customer is in your dealership, they are on your turf, your zone. That can be intimidating for some customers, no matter how comfortable or relaxed going your sales staff is. Perhaps dealers like dictating the way the sales process will go on their home court. Now it’s just salesperson Johnny and me in my driveway, there is no more of the walled office of intimidation. There is no more, “ok, let me run that by the manager while I hide from you, and we talk about you behind your back.” Also, there has to be a ton of accountability on Johnny that he won’t just give the car away for a song, and his sales manager is not there to hover over his shoulder to approve every pencil and sales move that he makes. 

Its accountability that many dealers don’t have with their staff or actively don’t want. There is no finance office pressure. The upselling of finance products has to be pre-selected or presented, it’s no longer in the boiler room of F&I pros, it’s a driveway chat with checkboxes that need to be presented. The motivation to sell is in a different environment. I’ve bought several cars over the past four years from established franchised dealers and independent used car lots, luxury cars and economy cars. The experience was the same. Not once was it ever presented as a possibility that they would or could come to me.

Why does the automotive world insist that customers who desire to complete their purchase online, or from the comfort and familiarity of their home, must be forced to visit the dealership? 

Perhaps this is why the majority of people still hold the opinion that buying a car is high on their list of stress-inducing and disliked activities. There will always be those who remain traditional, both those who prefer buying products in-store and those who like buying automobiles direct from a dealer. 

However, it’s the growing segment of the market that prefers a digital experience which the automotive industry can learn from. How about meeting consumer behavior changes the way grocery stores did? By not rejecting the disruptor model but embracing it.

Dealers have the inventory; they CAN do this. The question is, do they want to? Many people I have talked to are still uncomfortable with completing their purchase without first seeing what they are buying in person. Especially something as expensive and vital as their car. I would love to see dealers begin to promote and market home delivery and online shopping. Let’s make that process easier. If we do not, the market will speak and slowly keep chipping away at established dealerships selling in the traditional model, in favor of those who can evolve with the way consumers want to transact business, increasingly online. 

Do you agree with me? How many of you out there have tried one of these online grocery shopping services? Was it a good experience? Has anyone ever had a dealer come to their house to sell them a car? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Google Analytics is a beast. Within it, you can access all the data about your website that you could ever need. Unfortunately, since it is so jam-packed with great data, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I consistently meet with car dealers who aren’t sure what reports they should be looking at and what data they should be gleaned from those reports. Today I will walk you through two reports that everyone should be looking at, from first-time analytics users to the most advanced.

I’ll also give you a few data points to watch on each report, along with some standard goals to aim for! Just these two reports give you an excellent starting point to understanding what is happening on your website. 

These two reports provide valuable information about the behavior of your site visitors and what channels are driving good and bad behavior. When you can identify this, it is easier to fix what is wrong and boost what is right.

 

The two reports are Audience Overview and Channels. 

 

  1. Audience Overview Report

 

When you first log in to Google Analytics, it might seem confusing. My advice for beginners? Ignore the home page (it aggregates data from a variety of reports and isn’t a bad thing to look at, but today we are looking at some specific reports to get specific data). Look at the left-hand side of the menu. One of the options you will see is customers who are currently on your website. This is real-time data on what customers are doing at that moment. However, it is such a small sample set that you should ignore that as well. The larger the data set, the more you can learn from it, and the 10 people that are on your site at this exact moment is a tiny data set. Instead, skip down to “Audience” then to “Overview.”  

This will show your audience (user) activity for the entire site during a given date range. I suggest setting the date range to 1 month (top right). As covered in my last blog (LINK), you want to look at data sets of a minimum of two weeks. Generally speaking, a month of data should be enough for you to make educated decisions. Here are the specific data points I suggest you look at on this report:

 

a) Users

This tells you the number of devices that were on your site during the given date range. This gives you a general idea as to how many people were on your site during the given date range, but keep in mind that a single user could come to your website from multiple devices, and each would be counted as a user. Regardless, this is the most accurate data you have today in analytics as far as the number of users. So, the question is, how many users should you be getting? Roughly 10% of a market is shopping for a car at any given time, but it is entirely unrealistic to think that you will capture that entire market. It is much more reasonable to shoot for somewhere between 1%-3% of your PMA’s population on your site monthly. The goal you set should be realistic. Consider what percentage market share your store owns in your market and set your goal, but 1%-3% of your PMA population is a solid number to set as a goal.

 

b) Sessions & Sessions per User

Next, take a look at sessions. This is how many times your users came to your site during the selected date range. Now look at number of sessions per user. Let’s say your website has 10,000 users, with a combined total of 20,000 sessions. That averages 2 sessions per user. This tells you how many times, on average, your users came to your site during the selected date range. You want sessions per user to be as high as possible because it means people are returning to your site. It’s difficult to set an optimum goal for this metric, but you really want to shoot for anything above 1. Again, the higher, the better, but some of the top sites I see range from 1.5-2.0.  

 

c) Pageviews & Pages/Session

The next metric to look at is pageviews. This tells you how many total pages our users viewed onsite during the selected date range. Now, look at pages/session. This tells you how many pages your users looked at during an average session in the given date range. This is another metric that should to be as high as possible. The more pages your users are looking at, the better. A reasonable goal for this metric is 4 pages/session and above. In general, this means that a user has been to your homepage, SRP, and a couple of VDP’s.

 

d) Average Session Duration

The average session duration shows how long visitors stay on your website. The longer they are on your website, the more engaging it is to them and, most likely, the lower in the buying funnel they are. You should aim for a 4-5-minute time-on-site for average session duration. If this number is too small, visitors are coming to your website and finding irrelevant information or are not able to find what they want.

 

e) Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the final statistic you should look at on your Audience Overview Report. Bounce rate is the percentage of your website traffic that visits, then leaves, without engaging with your site in any way. We should be shooting for a goal of 35%-40% in this category. You may say, well, that seems high, and you want it to be lower. Just keep in mind that bounce rate is natural and will always happen. In fact, sometimes, it makes sense. Perhaps someone googled an event you were hosting at your dealership and clicked through to a page specifically about that event. It would make sense for them to then leave the site without engaging in any way. They got the information that they came for, and then they left. You also don’t want this number to be too low. Anything around 10% is too low and could indicate a setup problem in Google Analytics or Tag Manager.   

The Audience Overview Report gives you an excellent basic overview of website performance and goals you should set, as seen in the example below:

When you look at the numbers, you will probably find your dealership is not hitting every one of them. So, in addition to the Audience Overview Report, you need to know what is driving the numbers, both good and bad. For that, you need the Channels Report.

 

 

2) Channels Report

 

Scroll down on the left side menu and click on “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” and then “Channels.” This report is where you will identify which channels (i.e., PPC, social media, organic search) are meeting the goals that you have set, and which are falling short.  Here is an example of the Channel Report:

This report breaks down traffic by referrer, which is just where did my traffic come from? Across the top of the report you will see the metrics that you looked at in the audience overview report. This report is the exact same report that you just looked at, except broken down by channel. The channels are lifted down the left-hand side of the report.

The goals that you set for the audience overview report still apply for the most part. I would advise speaking with your provider if you see any channels where you are not meeting the goals that you have set and discuss why they feel you aren’t at the goal you have set. Remember, certain channels will have very different results than others. For example, PPC tends to have a slightly higher bounce rate than most other channels, and display often has bounce rates as high as 90%. Because of this variation, the goals set above are a great guiding line. Still, you will need to discuss with your provider, or someone very familiar with automotive web traffic behavior to determine if there is a cause for concern in a given channel.

The final thing to note in this report is the goal completion metric. This is a metric that is not on the audience overview report. Ask your website provider to track form fills for this metric. You will then be able to see which specific channels are driving most of your website leads! You can actually track almost anything as a goal, but this is a pretty standard one for automotive websites and is a great way to help see what value your various advertising campaigns are delivering.

In summary, while Google Analytics provides a treasure trove of information that you can use, these two reports and key metrics can help you discover how to quickly and easily improve your website performance without being a digital marketing genius.  If you can isolate what is performing well, you can up your spend in that area and further improve results. And, if you can also identify underperforming channels, you can improve their performance or significantly reduce or eliminate spends on those channels.  I have been using Google Analytics for years, and these are still the first two things I look at on any site I advise on and are great reports for Google Analytics beginners and experts alike.  

 

“Back to the Future” is a fantastic film franchise. I’m just going to put my bias for it right out there from the get-go. I’m not sure about you, but I am particularly fond of 1980s science fiction movies. The 1985 classic was visionary, and the sequel where they go 30 years into the future is shockingly accurate with its technology predictions. It predicted things like wearable tech, delivery drones, video calling, and I would even argue it’s relevant enough in 2019 to have predicted ironically cool 1990s fashions making a comeback! (Bruh, you see Marty’s rad hologram hat, and Nike Mag kicks! Dude’s been on fleek for like, 35 years). I basically used Google to translate Millennial for that sentence.

So ok, we get it, but what does this have to do with automobile retailing and digital marketing in 2019? I use this film as an example to highlight how, in numerous ways, retailing automobiles is stuck in 1985 and not 2015. I’m not here to lecture this unoriginal and tired criticism of the industry that is not even true. Yet, another industry I brought up in my first post (link) has been accused of it as well, Real Estate. However, in my opinion, that industry has seemingly embraced the “future” better than we (auto industry dealers) have. Allow me some contextual examples:

Buying a home and buying a car have so much in common. I’m frankly shocked the big auto groups don’t sell houses, and Century 21 doesn’t sell SUVs. They are both without a doubt, the two most significant purchases that the vast majority of people will ever buy. They both cannot be purchased in 1-click, despite the incessant Silicon Valley prognosticators insisting they “should” be or “could” be in the future. They both involve financing frequently; they both have limited inventory relevant only to geo constraints of the potential buyer. Even shopping for the two is nearly identical. The user experience of Realtor.com is not radically different than that of a major auto dealer’s site, down to the filtering, display pages, photos/videos, etc. However, after you find what you’re looking for, that is where the two differ.

I have recently gone through the process of buying cars, homes, and financing for those items, and I can tell you the two could not be more different. The following were the three most significant differences I noticed between buying real estate and buying a car.

Less Paperwork
There is much less “paper” in the paperwork. Let me explain. In the past, buying a home involved milling a couple of California redwoods worth of paper to go through the necessary disclosures, agreements, and signature pages. As comedian Jim Gaffigan eloquently put it, why does it take 500 pages of paper to convey to you that I will owe you money for the rest of my life!” Joking aside, the industry picked up on this and began utilizing technology and software like DocuSign to take this process electronic, saving trees, saving time, and the need for me to be physically present at every signing. It makes the process so much faster and easier. The closing of my most recent home took the same amount of time as the last car I bought off a used car lot, for cash! Let that soak in for a second. It was basically signing a check and a title. The excuses for a 3-hour trip to finalize your car purchases run thin considering a real estate transaction can be much more complicated.

Financing
Financing has come a long way, and the experience is changing radically. Innovative products such as Rocket Mortgage from Quicken are taking the process of applying for credit from a tense sit down with a suit in a fancy bank building to something as simple and non-threatening as filling out essential questions from your smartphone. This, too, is coupled with the DocuSign from above even if you go the traditional, non-smartphone route. Decisions are made quickly, and again, the consumer does not have to sit and wait at the realtor’s office while banks compete for your loan, as they do currently in a dealership. They do it on their time, and most likely from home. Starting to see the trend here?

No Video Tour
Speaking only to my personal experience of several homes and dozens of cars I’ve shopped the past few years, I have only ever once received a video tour of a vehicle I was interested in. Once! As a consultant, process specialist, and digital marketer, I have been preaching this for the last decade since smartphones made this process essentially seamless. That same salesperson will check Instagram 20 times and create five snapchats to their friends, but can’t send a 30-second walkaround of a car? Yet, when I was shopping for a home in a different state and was unable to be present for every showing I would have liked, I got several personalized 30 MINUTE plus Facetime walkthroughs, drone video property overviews, personalized high-resolution photos that were not just the inventory photos. And I received customized digital inventory sent directly to me each week that matched my exact search criteria. Welcome to the 21st century, and buying a home is 2015, not 1985 (keeping up with the Back to the Future theme).

So, what’s my point? Auto dealers I have talked to often bemoan the time, costs, effort, and investment they have to deal with in order to incorporate these items, always claiming the ROI is not there. I could not disagree more. Real estate has picked up on the fact that the consumer wants to complete their buying decision before they even step foot in a house or apartment. The final visit should be final, or at least down to 1 or 2. Having quality photos, videos, and information sells homes, ask any good realtor.

Similarly, a dealer investing in a 360-degree turntable studio on their property will sell more cars. A dealer spending time and money doing drone videos of their amazing property and how easy it is to get to will get people to show up. A custom video walkthrough of their clean and professional service departments will put independents to shame. Sending customers customized lists of inventory matching desired attributes will keep them engaged with you and not the next dealer in the aggregator list. This is NOT Rocket Science. Its Real Estate.

We don’t have to look to Amazon, Apple, or Google to think of ways to innovate our technology; we can look to real estate’s transformation. Last I checked, there is no iHouse on iLand you can buy in a click, or a Google apartment ready for rent. It’s true, on Amazon, you can purchase prefabricated modular micro-housing with a couple of clicks, but you still can’t buy the land to put it on or have electrical or plumbing with it, so good luck with that. Buying a house will always be in the realm of people helping people, and so will buying a car.

Can your dealership start implementing things like electronic documentation, quick click financing, personalized video conferencing, and the highest quality inventory imaging? If so, I think we can begin to break the stigma of being stuck in the past and get our industry to the future.

Now, who can get me in touch with a dealer that has a clean, low mileage, DeLorean?

 

“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.