Your equipment dealership has lots of moving parts. In an average week, you and your team must manage stock levels, generate spec sheets, track invoices, schedule maintenance, and much more. The long list of tasks to complete can quickly become overwhelming. At least, it can if you don’t have Karmak Fusion.

What Is Karmak Fusion?

Karmak Fusion is an end-to-end Microsoft Windows dealer management system (or DMS). It offers all the data, alerts, and tools you need to run your business efficiently and profitably. Here are just a few of the modules and integrations included in the Karmak DMS:

Fusion Parts

Fusion Parts provides equipment dealerships like yours with all the tools needed to maximize profits, control stock, and make real-time, data-driven inventory decisions. Once you load your inventory into its backend (Unity API), it allows you to:

  • Accurately identify fast- and slow-moving parts
  • Substitute parts to prevent lost sales
  • Increase traffic and move stock with promotional pricing
  • Transfer units between warehouses without errors
  • Speed up customer service for backordered inventory, and
  • Expedite the stock receiving process with barcode receiving

Fusion Parts even comes with Karmak’s Deliver-It application. This tool can help you monitor the efficiency of your delivery team. It also gives you the ability to capture delivery signatures and pictures.

Fusion Sales

Karmak Fusion doesn’t just let you manage your dealership’s inventory in a smooth and efficient way, it can also help you make more deals and increase your revenue.  Karmak’s Fusion Sales program gives you the ability to:

  • Send quotes to clients on OEM forms
  • Deliver and invoice units in installments
  • Analyze the profit on each line item in a deal
  • Easily manage the client’s after sales service
  • View real-time inventory costs, and
  • Review snapshots of unit ownership changes

The Fusion Sales system even allows you to view detailed salesperson commission records for each line item in a deal. With the Karmak software, there’s no need for any manual calculations.

Fusion Service

Your commitment to your clients doesn’t end when the deal closes. You also need to help them maintain and repair their equipment. This Karmak Fusion module helps you do just that.  With Fusion Service, you can:

  • Track the proficiency and productivity of your technicians
  • Monitor your service team’s calendar
  • Notify customers about necessary preventative maintenance
  • Manage deferred unit repairs, and
  • Check client credit before opening a repair order

The capabilities offered by this module of the Karmak DMS can help you keep your customers happy and generate additional revenue for your dealership.

Fusion Accounting

The Fusion Accounting module makes keeping track of your equipment dealership’s finances a breeze by giving you the ability to:

  • Track your organization’s fixed assets and post depreciation
  • Monitor purchase orders and automatically pay vendors
  • Outsource collections to a third-party company
  • Manage multi-location clients from a single parent account, and
  • Reconcile your inventory with your accounts

With Fusion Accounting, all transactions are carried out in real-time, meaning you always have access to the most up-to-date information about your dealership’s finances. No need to wait for a quarterly report from your CPA.

fusionZONE + Karmak

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Karmak Fusion is its ability to integrate with fusionZONE.  When you load your data into the Unity API backend, the skilled developers at fusionZONE can build a high-converting website with a real-time connection to your inventory in as little as a few weeks.

Once your new website is complete, your customers will have the ability to search for and purchase equipment online, without needing to call your office to check inventory levels. That is a surefire way to boost sales!  The seamless integration makes the process simple. It involves no time-consuming data entry. All you need to do is contact the fusionZONE team and let them work their magic!

While talking to a representative, don’t forget to ask about other fusionZONE digital marketing services, like:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Google Ads management
  • Reputation management
  • Video advertising, and
  • Social media marketing

With Karmak and fusionZONE behind you, there’s no limit to what your dealership can achieve!  Once you have the Karmak DMS up and running, get in touch with the fusionZONE team by calling (424) 232-0728 or filling in this contact form. Before long, you’ll have a new website your customers are sure to love!

What is Karmak?

If you work in the automotive or commercial transportation industries, you have likely heard of Karmak. However, you might not know what the company does or how it can help take your automotive/equipment dealership to the next level. We’re here to provide you with all the information you need to know.

Karmak: An Overview

Karmak is a business management solutions provider for the commercial transportation and automotive equipment industries. It helps businesses manage inventory, boost sales, and improve their accounting practices.

They were founded on December 31, 1981. Since then, the company has grown tremendously. Here are a few of the highlights of its 40 years in business:

  • 1982: Karmak signs an OEM agreement with Digital Equipment Corporation.
  • 1987: Inc names Karmak one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the United States.
  • 1997: Karmak acquires Rinfo, Inc. and its INFO5 dealer management system.
  • 2001: Karmak introduces Director Series, its first Windows-based parts and service management system.
  • 2003: Karmak launches ProfitMaster Sales.
  • 2007: Karmak introduces ProfitMaster Service.
  • 2011: Karmak launches Fusion, its flagship Windows-based solution for the heavy-duty industry.
  • 2012: Karmak introduces Deliver-It, a mobile app that provides a real-time view of the delivery process.
  • 2016: Karmak acquires ADAM Systems, a DMS for the automotive and powersports industries.
  • 2019: Karmak launches Unity, an API framework that helps clients leverage third-party programs.

Karmak now has over 250 employees. It provides first-in-class business management solutions and DMS services to more than 600 commercial transportation companies and equipment dealers across North America.

Karmak holds a wide range of strategic partnerships with companies like Mack, Daimler, Wabash National, Thermo King, Peterbilt, and fusionZONE.

How to Use Karmak to Take Your Company to the Next Level

Karmak can help to optimize and grow equipment dealerships like yours in a variety of different ways. For example, its Fusion Parts solution provides you with the tools you need to maintain tighter control over your inventory and make data-driven purchasing decisions.

Fusion Parts also comes with the Deliver-It application. This feature gives you the ability to monitor the efficiency of your company’s delivery drivers and their routes. It can even help you to reduce your liability by capturing delivery signatures and images.

The Fusion Sales solution helps to close more deals and increase revenue. It allows you to easily generate spec sheets with unlimited characteristics and track sales rates that are tied to individual units.

A Fusion Accounting suite gives you the ability to track vendors, compile invoice summaries, and reconcile your inventory with your books. All transactions are done in real-time, so your accounting team will always have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information.

The programs are easy to use and you should have little trouble fitting them into your existing workflow. Take advantage of their  knowledge center, support team, and e-learning hub to provide you with advice and guidance. It can even provide an on-site trainer to assist you with the onboarding process.

How fusionZONE Can Help Karmak Customers Drive More Sales

what is karmak

As a Karmak customer, you won’t just have access to its extensive suite of business management solutions. You will also be able to team up with the experienced developers at fusionZONE to build a high-converting website for your dealership.  Your Karmak DMS integrates seamlessly into fusionZONE’s websites. Your dealership will have a custom-built website with a real-time connection to your inventory!

This integration will give your dealership’s customers the ability to look for parts directly on your website, without needing to call to check inventory.

fusionZONE’s list of services doesn’t stop at web development. Our digital marketing team can also help you drive sales and generate leads for your equipment dealership by assisting you with:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media marketing
  • Google Ads management
  • Video advertising, and
  • Reputation management

In short, we can help your equipment dealership thrive online.  Please do not hesitate to give us a call at (424) 232-0728 or complete the contact form. Our friendly team will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

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Coversion Rate Optimization

A 15-Minute Check Can Create More Opportunities and Sales!

Feeling like your web presence just isn’t clicking the way it used to? Not getting enough business? Worried about the competition?

Many of our customers come to us with the same questions. If you’re searching for answers, a fresh website is a great place to start.

Often, the solution is usually much simpler and is a better use of your time than a massive overhaul: your SRP and VDP probably just need to be revisited. With some minor changes, you could see a massive boost to your lead generation!

In this article, we’re going to share our secret sauce for generating high-quality leads. These are easy to do yourself without bringing in support teams.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a way of increasing the number of users who perform an intended action on a website, which can be buying a product, signing up for a service, or clicking ‘add to cart’.

Why Should You Care About CRO?

Because that’s how you sell more cars! Your operational management team’s goal is crafting your floor team into a conveyor belt that turns customers into sales. Why wouldn’t you want your website to operate on the same principle?

There is a ton that goes into a successful website and CRO is among the most important items. CRO is about the long game. You’ll find it well worth your effort.

How Do You Calculate Conversion Rates?

Conversion rate can be calculated by using this formula:

(leads generated ÷ website traffic) * 100 = Your conversion rate %!

So if your website gets an average of 200 leads and 5000 sessions (using Google Analytics as a tracker) per month, your conversion rate would be:

(200 ÷ 5000) * 100 = 4% Conversion Rate

 

What Counts as a Conversion?

This is the part that we believe some people overlook. In our humble opinion, you should only be reviewing anything that can be converted into a sale.

This means calls, website chats, and lead generation forms (inventory, finance, trade-ins, service requests, etc.) that lead to sales.

This does not mean form starts (but not finished!) or landing page views.

Landing page views and form engagement are incredibly important to building an audience profile, but they do not count as conversions.

How Do You Track Your Conversions?

There are several tools available to you that you can use to track your conversion, such as

  • Google Analytics
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Your website CMS

Ask your website provider how they track conversions and if you need assistance setting them up. They might already be tracking them as far as you know!

If you are using a 3rd-party provider for your financing applications, get in touch with your support representative and they will most likely know how to connect all of your conversion tracking tools to your analytics platform of choice.

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

Now that you understand what CRO is and how to track it, what do you do if you find out your results are poor? Do you need to change everything up or make minor adjustments?

The answer is the most important response in all of web design. Ready?

It depends.

That’s not very helpful, we know! Let’s dive in and get to a more actionable solution.

The commonly accepted average conversion rate for web leads in the automotive vertical is around 1.5%.

This number will fluctuate. Don’t panic if you’re at 1.51% and a new study comes out that says the floor is 1.75%.

Why? Ultimately, this number is useless for you. This may be surprising due to all the sales pitches from digital marketing companies. But it’s the truth.

The reason why it’s not very useful is because your conversion rate depends on several factors completely out of your control. These can be:

  • Location: Rural vs. Urban
  • Region of the Country: (the southeast of the U.S. is far more hospitable to a Get Best Price button than the northeast)
  • OEM: A Honda dealer will receive more leads than most Acura dealers. If you can afford an NSX, you probably aren’t likely to put in a lead online.

If you’re a Chevrolet dealer near Atlanta, GA, you would not be as shocked to learn that your website operates on a 10% conversion rate on web leads. If you said that you’re an Acura dealer in the northeast and you are pulling a 6%, we’d be more impressed.

Keep this in mind!

 

Your Website is Your Digital Showroom

Here are some tricks and strategies to help you improve your website conversions.

SRPs and VDPs: Keep It Simple!

First things first, a clean, simple website will usually outperform one that is a visual nightmare. If things start to look busy to you, the website owner, they are likely twice as confusing for a customer. Good UI/UX (user interface/user experience) is crucial!

In short: simplicity wins.

 

Call to Action

Automotive Dealer Inventory Calls to Actions

 

Your call-to-action (or CTA) should be readable and clickable on both mobile and desktop. These are the most important items on your site besides your inventory!

On your SRPs, keep your calls to action minimal. Remember, this is the first time a customer is viewing this inventory. Reduce your CTAs to the absolute minimum.

Customers can become paralyzed by choice and will ultimately decide to move on. If you keep your CTAs simple, it’s easier for a customer to focus on finding a vehicle with the right price and less on all myriad of options and considerations they could be making.

CTAs should also create a sense of urgency.  “Check Availability” is one of the least performing CTAs you could possibly use. Most customers know that if they see the vehicle on the site, you most likely have one in stock. And if you don’t, they definitely know you can get them one.

If you’re adding a third or more CTAs, ask yourself: “Is this absolutely necessary to have right here on this page?” If it’s not, dump it. Your customers will appreciate it.

Price is a larger determining factor for a customer’s inclination to submit a lead. “Get Our Best Price” is still one of the best lead-submission generating lines around.

If you have digital retailing tools, focus more on utility. “Get Financed” or “Start Checkout” do not really cut it in our experience. You’re more likely to pique someone’s interest with “Build Your Deal” (as they aren’t feeling the pressure to finish right here, right now).

Images

Another important piece is ensuring your vehicles have images of the vehicle. The vehicle could do well to swap out the stock photo for an actual image. Seeing the vehicle is one of the largest deciding factors to whether or not someone submits a lead!

Pricing

It may seem obvious, but you could have a website designed by Amazon themselves and if your truck is $3,000 more expensive on your site than a competitor’s down the road, customer are not likely to give you their information. They’re calling the other listing.

Make sure your pricing is competitive. We recommend tweaking the following:

  1. Showing discounts before or after the Best Price lead is submitted.
  2. Deciding whether to use Best Price at all.
  3. When compliant, using a red strikethrough to indicate a greater price beyond the Best Price.

If you change your pricing, be sure to change your CTA verbiage as well to match. You do not want to claim there is a better price beyond a CTA only to show nothing!

Forms

This one also seems relatively simple, but it’s missed all the time. Make your customers do the least amount of work possible. That means lowering how many forms you require them to submit or filling out the least amount of information on them. This applies to your service forms, credit applications, SRP/VDP Best price forms; all of them. If you don’t like filling them out yourself, your customers won’t like them either.

Requiring a name, address, phone number, and email address is often too much. If you’re struggling to generate incoming leads, only require name, address, and your preference between email or phone number. Another possibility is to let your customers choose which of the two they prefer. Requiring both can be overkill.

Think Outside the SRP

Reviews also play a huge part into a customer’s likelihood that they submit a lead.

There are two factors that goes into this: average rating and number of reviews. If you have a 5.0 rating on Google, that’s great! If there are only two reviews, that’s less great.

Think of everyone’s favorite ecommerce site: Amazon.

Amazon Shopping Review Features

 

Obviously, you shouldn’t copy everything from Amazon. We created a three-part feature on that mindset, after-all.  But there are some features that are worth mentioning.

Amazon lets you sort through their inventory from highest to lowest reviews.

Anecdotally, most people who use Amazon swear by shopping with this filter. It’s human nature to not to be first to take the plunge on a brand-new

Ask yourself: why would a customer take a chance on your dealership if you’re sporting a 3.0 average and only 20 reviews? Quality and quantity count.

Customer service very much translates into the digital world. Keep this in mind and get happy customers to leave you glowing reviews online.

Videos – More Important Than Ever

A massive change from 2020 to 2021 is the necessity to have video content on your website. Due to COVID-19, shoppers became accustomed to shopping online at a rate that has never been seen before.

No longer will your text descriptions and feature lists suffice!

Now, you’ll need to showcase your inventory with video walkarounds and feature overviews so that customers can have the showroom experience right from the comfort of their couch.

Our recommendations for improving your video walkarounds can be found in this article made by fusionZONE Automotive. The key points you should take from it are:

  1.  Schedule your videos in advance
  2. Take your time and be thorough / be detailed
  3. Have a way for your customers to follow-up for more information

Don’t feel pressured to make a video for every vehicle on your lot tomorrow. Do them in chunks, week by week, and make it a habit Before you know it, it’ll be a natural part of your process and you’ll reap the benefits of a higher time on site and more conversions!

Test, Test, and Test Some More

One of the best pieces of advices is to take it slow and change only a few small things at a time. A/B split-testing can help save you a lot of headaches in the future! Believe us, it’s the worst feeling changing a website’s layout only to find it performs worse than before and getting a third of the leads. For example, you could change one vehicle’s layout, then see if it’s working over the course of a month, then apply it to the rest.

We hope you find these tips and tricks useful! For more exclusive strategies on how to boost your online presence, subscribe to our newsletter! We’ll send the latest issues directly to you so you can stay ahead of the curve.

If you’re reading this, you have an email address. And if you have email, you’ve undoubtedly received more messages from every company you have ever purchased an item from about their plans to address COVID-19.

Top automotive manufacturers from around the globe have also announced various offers struggling customers and strategic initiatives give back to the community. We’re going to save you the trouble of digging into each one yourself!

Below is a synopsis of what a few automotive manufacturer responses to the virus have been. Hopefully, the virus is on its way out, but as more information becomes available, we’ll be sure to have future blog posts detailing what you need to know.

 

Toyota

Toyota has suspended operations at all automobile factories in North America until at least May 1st. For service, Toyota has been following state guidelines for essential business and have made no announcements as to shutting their service centers down nationwide.

For owners of Toyota products, they have created several specials to help those in need. Some examples are the Payment Relief program, 90-day Payment Deferral, and Lease-End support. This directly helps those who have been let go from their position or furloughed.

For new and Certified Used sales, Toyota is offering a 90-day deferment pricing plan.  This plan also includes ToyotaCare, which is the no-cost maintenance plan that lasts for 2 years or 25,000 miles.

They have made a considerable donation to the United Way, a non-profit that provides food, water, and other essential items.

You can read more about Toyota’s official plan here.

 

Honda

Honda has also announced that they will be announcing a deferred payment or payment extension program. For most customers, all you need to do is contact Honda Financial Services to take advantage.

All Honda service stations are still open, but Honda directs its consumer base to check with state and local government’s declarations of essential needs.

While COVID-19 has dominated the news cycles, Honda still has their Honda Dream Garage Spring event, which includes offers for lease, financing, and other special programs. Specifically, to help during COVID-19, Honda is offering a 90-day deferred payment program and $500 new-vehicle credit to first responders and healthcare workers.

Shop Simple is Honda’s online purchasing option that is only available in Portland, OR and Nashville, TN. It currently is not available for the rest of the country, but Honda has made a commitment to an expanded roll-out as soon as possible.

And finally, Honda is also contributing $1 million to food banks and meal programs, donating personal protective equipment and creating protective face shields via 3-D printers.

If you would like to read more about Honda’s Coronavirus efforts, check out this link.

 

Kia 

Kia has suspended all service technician training, expanded their vehicle sanitization process, and are extending sanitation requirements to include any vehicle brought in for service.

For financing, Kia offers a 120-day payment deferment on 0% APR contracts with an under-75-month commitment.

Current customers also have the option of deferment as well. Kia owners can request a 30-day payment extension up to three times.

Customers who were under the Kia Promise warranty coverage program were granted an extension that lasts until June 30th, 2020.

For their workers around the country, Kia has delivered 15,000 face shields to their manufacturing plants. They have used their West Point, GA factory to assemble medical grade masks for healthcare workers in the US. Kia’s contributions also included a $1 million donation to several non-profit partners to combat homelessness, children, and families.

Their press release on the manner can be found here with several other helpful links on the page.

 

Nissan 

For qualified shoppers, Nissan has rolled out their payment plans to combat stagnant wages. They are offering a 3-month deferred payment plan with up to 2 months of payment relief for 11 of their 2020 models.

Current owners can use a similar program for payment extensions for purchases and leases. This program is currently flexible as it is dependent on your current situation.

Nissan is complying with local and state ordinances which includes their operations and corporate teams working remotely since March 16th. This stay-at-home mandate includes a total shutdown of US manufacturing facilities until mid-May.

Just like many of the other brands, Nissan is committed to using their vast manufacturing infrastructure to produce medical protective masks to help those on the front lines.

More information regarding Nissan’s COVID-19 response can be read here.

 

Acura

Acura offers several financial assistance options for those in need. They are offering a 90-day deferment plan on select new vehicles if financed by Acura Financial Services.

First responders and healthcare professionals receive $750 toward Cap Cost Reduction or Down Payment Assistance on any 2020 or newer Acura vehicle.

For customers looking to purchase, $500 bonus cash offers exist toward the lease or purchase of a 2020 Acura. Finally, there are select certified pre-owned specials for the TLX and RDX models, making Acura one of the few OEMs to extend their offers to pre-owned.

Acura is imploring all of their customers to make use of home delivery and pickup options for service.

More information on Acura’s COVID-19 response can be found on this page.

 

Hyundai

Hyundai is one of the few providers who are pushing an online purchasing tool through their Click To Buy program. This allows customers to run through the entire shopping experience online without the need of entering the store. Dealers must opt into this program.

For current customers, Hyundai is offering payment deferment plans for those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Those who need assistance are being directed to use Hyundai Motor Financing instead.

They have also expanded their warranty program. If your current warranty expires between March and June of 2020, it will automatically extend until June 30th, 2020.

Hyundai is one of the few OEMs that have also mentioned what they are doing to help the dealerships themselves. They created assistance programs aimed to keep locally owned stores open without laying off employees. Specialized sanitation equipment is being delivered to stores. Interestingly, Hyundai also has a deferred floorplan interest program to accommodate dealers who finance their inventory with Hyundai Motor Finance.

For Hyundai, the standout example of their commitment to giving back to their community is their $4 million donation to Hope on Wheels. This charity focuses on providing testing coverage for children’s hospitals around the US. To help medical professionals, they have expanded their existing offers for First Responders to include hospital employees and other healthcare workers.

All of this information and more can be found here for Hyundai.

 

We hope that you have found this summary guide useful! Please continue to stay safe and follow CDC and local recommendations for COVID-19. Don’t forget to check back often for more updates for all things digital and automotive.

Don’t Let The Phones Keep Ringing

A strong online presence usually means a higher call volume. This means you need to work the phones better than ever.  Questions you should be asking:

  • When a customer calls the dealership, where does that call go?  Make sure your associates in-store are prepared to respond accordingly.
  • If your BDC is currently working from home, are calls routed to their personal phones?
  • What happens if a customer has service needs? Can you accommodate them at their home, or can a technician offer some tips?
  • Is your team set to text prospects?

The digital workforce depends on phones. Make sure your sales department has one or more active sales routing options to capture people’s interest and turn them into sales.
 
For those customers shopping from home, invite them to speak with a member of the sales team to discuss buying and delivery options on new and pre-owned inventory.
 
Get Some FaceTime

Consider taking to video. Do all you can to help simulate the car-buying experience from a virtual setting. 
Don’t shy away from being creative. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Use your service scheduling tool to make FaceTime appointments to discuss inventory and delivery options.
  • Record more vehicle walk-throughs and feature demos on video. (Video test drives are not recommended.)
  • Consider going live on a social media platform to open a Q&A on financing options, test drive deliveries, at-home vehicle service, or other ways your dealership is adapting to current concerns.

Be aware, the purpose of these calls may vary greatly right now, based on circumstance. These calls could range from the “discovery/information-gathering” phase, where prospects are early in the buying process, to the “buy now” phase, where customers are looking for convenience and immediacy for vehicle purchase and delivery.
 
Buyers still value face-to-face interaction. If you can’t get in front of them all in person, be creative and use technology.

 

Get the Message Out

How is your dealership responding to the COVID-19 outbreak?  The first step is to communication. Consumers want reassurance you’re taking the coronavirus threat seriously and prioritizing their safety.  Let your customers know and start with the basics.  

Ways to Communicate

How do you get the message out? Whether it’s texting, FaceTime, or social media, people are as connected and plugged in with technology as ever before. You should embrace this.

Think website first, with a landing page and/or pop-over informing customers of dealership updates specific to COVID-19. Use email to directly broadcast your message to a wider group.

Customers also frequent social media. Spread the word and exist where your audience is. Consider using a hashtag to index coronavirus updates:

  • #DealershipNameCOVID19Updates
  • #AlertNotAnxious
  • #ShopAtHome
  • #ShopDistancing

Be sure to also update your Google My Business Page and your website’s hours of operation. If they’re different from the usual operating hours, make that known. If there’s no change, acknowledge its business as usual, while also pointing out precautionary measures taken.

If you are changing operations or services, provide clear steps for customers to take so they can remain in contact with you. You may even be surprised to see how customers respond to humanized communication.

Ideally, you should spread the word in as many ways as you can. At a minimum:

  • Confirm if/how operating hours are affected by COVID-19.
  • Share updates with customers via your website, social media, and email.

You don’t have to be a virologist to communicate with your customers about how you are facing challenges head-first. Keep your customers informed with upbeat, clear, and concise updates. 

Safety First

What safety measures are you taking in response to COVID-19? 

  • Is hand sanitizer available where hand-to-hand contact may occur?
  • Has hand-washing become a focal point for employees?
  • How frequently is the dealership deep cleaned everyday?

All additional measures count.

Think Outside the Box

Make your dealership stand out from the rest. How? Here are some ideas on how to accommodate your customers while public transportation is a minimum:

  • Home delivery on vehicle purchases.
  • At-home car detailing and deep cleaning.
  • Complete the F&I process at home or online.

 

Consider the circumstances and try to relieve the burden for your customers, as best as you can.

“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?