Laura Morse of Jim Norton Toyota

This month’s Word on the Street segment features Laura Morse, the eCommerce Manager at Jim Norton Toyota in Tulsa, OK. As Laura will tell you, her multifaceted career prepared her to tackle automotive sales as an industry veteran. State Farm Auto insurance just may have stolen their slogan “we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two” from Laura.

While most dealerships are scratching their head on how to mitigate sales losses in the era of COVID-19, Jim Norton Toyota is meeting and possibly exceeding their sales targets. As it turns out, their processes and commitment to outstanding customer service prepared them for just this sort of event.

Below are some of the key moments of our conversation together on how to equip yourself to make the most out of the situation.

On Creating an Empathetic Message

At Jim Norton Toyota, my General Manager saw very quickly we couldn’t have the same sales message as we were using a few weeks before. We took a look at ourselves from the customer’s point of view to see if we liked our own message under these new and very serious conditions. 

The message we wanted to create was not “Big sale going on today!” but “How can we help you today?” Thankfully we launched our Express purchase program last year as well as Service Concierge. So, for us it was not new to offer and promote safety-conscious home visits for sales test drives or picking up a customer’s vehicle to be serviced and returned.  

It may sound funny, but back when I was on the sales floor, I always treated my customers the way I’d want someone to treat my mom, dad or brother.  To me this feels the same – what can our dealership do to help our loyal customers during this unusual time?

On Social Media and Being Creative

We know people are spending more time on the internet than ever before due to COVID-19.  Our social sites are seeing a lot more engagement.  But if everything we post is a blatant sales message, folks are going to stop reading pretty fast.  So, we enjoy offering a mix of interesting content peppered with sales info. 

We recognize our dealership staff and congratulate high achievers, give fun employee birthday and anniversary shout-outs every day. We worked with our service department to create ‘Tech Tip Tuesdays’, which offers helpful service advice.  Then we do Trade-Talk-Friday, answering common questions people have about trading-in their vehicle.

On Sanitation and Informing Customers

Our company is taking extra precautions to ensure our customers’ safety while visiting the dealership.  Not only has our dealership followed every CDC guideline, but we have added plexiglass dividers throughout our customer-facing departments.  We want customers to feel safe while they’re here.

After someone has been in lock-down for a month, they tend to look for any reason to go out!  Having reliable transportation is so important and why the Oklahoma Governor deemed automotive an essential business.

On Industry Veterans Adapting to New Technology

Everyone on our team has been very resilient and adaptable. Thanks to the guidance and vigilance of our General Manager, we were a process driven dealership beforehand. So a lot of this came second nature.

With a sales team of over 50 sales associates, we quickly started a telecommuter process and changed our team schedules. Tracking everyone’s activity and reporting was essential before but was now is under the microscope. I believe it is a large contributor to why we’re doing well.

 

That wraps up this month’s segment of Word on the Street! If you’d like to be featured as a person of interest, please contact WOTS@fzautomotive.com.

Stay safe!

 

 

 

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 leads?

Our clients often scramble for an answer. Is your competition trying something new? Are your model research pages the issue? Maybe it’s the homepage! Let’s redesign the whole kit and caboodle!

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 with you our secret sauce for generating high-quality leads. These are easily and you can often do without bringing in your support teams.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization (or CRO) is the modification of your website to generate the greatest amount of opportunity possible.

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.).

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

Landing page views and form engagement are incredibly important to build an audience profile! They are also important to modify your existing lead generation tactics.

But if you are reading this guide, you are most likely not there yet! Start with the basics, get primed and ready for testing later.

So, as a rule of thumb, if you can make money off of it, it should be counted as a conversion.

You can create sales of someone’s email or phone number, but not VDP views!

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 for 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 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 than 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 your 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 minimal amount.

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 the 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.

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.

 

Gray Scott Automotive DealerCOVID-19 has certainly shaken up the automotive industry. Many of our dealers are showing solidarity and providing support to those scratching their heads at what to make of the current situation.

One such dealer is Gray Scott, the Marketing Director for a high-volume dealership near Chicago, IL. He recently created an insightful post on LinkedIn that detailed what steps dealers are taking to maintain their web presence. Here is a relevant portion of that post:

 

“What we/you should be doing is maintaining a presence online with digital but making sure your message and creative is more top-funnel and value-oriented. If you have good content, car info, walkarounds, video test drives, this is what you need to be pushing. Over the next 2 weeks, people will be poking around. They will demand advertising inventory from the DSPs, because before the pandemic, they were in-market. People are not buying cars and are not trying to take unnecessary risks. Now is the time to make sure your SEO game is on fire. YouTube and social as well. It’s a time to evaluate your website and its user experience and consider making changes. In 2-3 weeks and when stay-in-place orders are lifted, THIS will be the time to double down.”

 

When Scott references user experience, he is referring to banners, homepage calls-to-actions, and top-level menu items being correctly optimized to reach top-of-funnel customers. If you are offering a new service, such as video walk arounds or home deliver, assess where customers can find this content and ensure it’s visible and above the fold. Don’t forget to check your mobile view, where 40-60% of your customers view your site!

Scott’s emphasis on SEO, YouTube, and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are essential to reaching top-of-funnel customers. They are the best platforms suited to delivering informational content. For paid search, Google has recently announced a relief fund for Google Ads, so be sure to keep an eye on that space as well to take advantage of free advertising credits.

We hope you are staying safe!

Check your inbox regularly for more updates from fusionZONE on how to tackle obstacles created by COVID-19.

 

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.


Customer Experience How you make them feel

Technology companies often focus on their products and leave service levels far behind. They rely on shiny objects and whiz-bang features to sell products. Companies that lead with technology often forget that the result of a customer interaction isn’t the technology – it’s how the customer feels using the technology. At fusionZONE, we strive to be Deliberately Different by asking, “How did this make them feel?”. We ask this question at every client interaction, and it underpins every product we design and release. Our focus is on the client’s experience in everything we do.

 

Perfection is impossible, but caring is not. Did you make your client feel understood? Did you make your client feel appreciated? Did you make your client feel confident? Did you make your client feel empowered? If your client feels cared for, they are likely to be a brand ambassador, help you and your team improve, and be a long-term customer. We will always have room to improve the process, training, and tools. Mistakes are inevitable. Ensuring your client feels heard, understood, and senses urgency when an issue arises is critical for a client-centered organization.

 

One of the legends of the retail automotive industry, Joe Girard, understood this. He made the Guinness Book of World Records for his sales ability. He recognized that how you make the customer feel was the critical piece of the sales process – not just during the sale, but after the sale was made. He stayed in touch with customers and took care of service issues when they arose after the sale. As a result of this focus, he banked repeat business year after year.  Technology companies have a lot to learn from this approach. Customers expect that you will get decent technology. Honestly, most websites and digital marketing technologies are pretty much the same. What is unexpected is the commitment to service after the sale. That is the real product. 

 

Innovation at fusionZONE starts with keeping the client in mind. How can we make their experience and the end-user experience better? How can we help our client’s business be more profitable? We are midway through developing a new platform that will transform the dealer website service experience. With targets of four-hour ticket turn arounds, easy content management, lightning-fast speeds, dedicated support teams, and highly qualified leads, we are not focused on the next shiny object but the top prize. Technology is merely a tool to achieve a client objective, and it certainly helps make their business more successful. But, ultimately, client service – how you made them FEEL using the technology – is the real product.

“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?

Stategies - Fusionzone automotive
In my last blog, I shared a few design tips I have seen drive website conversion rates as high as 10%. In this blog, I would like to move onto the next step and share advice about how to recognize and measure if your website changes are, in fact, effective.

Many dealerships regularly make (or request) changes to their website to increase conversion or optimize website traffic. However, it can be a frustrating process to know what is working or not. Below are four simple tips that can help you establish how to effectively track and measure if changes to your website are making a difference.

1. Set the right KPIs– To effectively track changes, you must know the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure. This will vary by the type of dealership and individual goals, but will often be conversion rate, bounce rate, traffic growth, etc.

Some dealerships use discounted pricing found behind lead forms. In that case, conversion would be an essential thing to measure. One-price and transparent pricing dealers will probably be most interested in traffic growth, bounce rate, SEO results, etc. All of this can be tracked in Google Analytics. Discuss your KPIs with your website provider and ensure they are setting proper goals in your analytics account so that you can easily track these KPIs.

Often, dealerships grasp in the dark at various changes. Setting realistic and correct KPIs will eliminate this. What changes do we want to make? What is the goal of these changes? What are the KPIs that will track the effectiveness of these changes?

Look at the KPI for each specific change. If you are changing the lead process, establish your goal and KPI tracking for this particular change. If you are changing the lead structure, the likely KPI is conversion rate. If you are changing the SEO strategy, you will likely want to look at YOY traffic growth, bounce rate changes, specific keyword rankings, etc.

2. Discuss changes with your Website Provider–Discuss with the performance manager at your website provider what they expect to happen with any changes. Will it increase conversion rate, the amount of traffic to the site, or percentage of market on site? What is it your provider expects to see from that change? Setting and tracking KPIs should be a collaborative effort with your website provider. Keep in mind that vendors have likely seen any specific change hundreds or even thousands of times. They have a pretty good idea of how effective it will be based on your specific geographic area and the results they have seen from other dealers making the same change.

So, discuss what they feel would be the right KPIs for you to track. Often, dealers think that a particular change will have a considerable impact on a KPI, perhaps driving more leads or more traffic to the site. Your provider should know if the goal is realistic or not. Discuss it with them. Again, your website should be a collaborative process. Your provider should know the effects that specific changes will have and what realistic goals look like for each of those changes. If they don’t? Find a new provider. As a dealer, you should be an expert on selling cars. Your website provider should be an expert on how to achieve the realistic goals you want to achieve for your website.

3. Make the Changes – Now that you’ve figured out what your goals are, and have
discussed with your website provider if the proposed changes will help you meet those goals, the next step is to make the changes. But if there is one point I would like you to take away from this blog, it is that you cannot make mass changes and expect to track any KPI. That is probably the most critical point in this entire process. If you change 15 items at a time, it is difficult to know which change affected which KPI in which way. Many dealers will look through their website and say, “We don’t like these following 30 things and want them all changed.” That is fine, just don’t expect to know if any of those changes had any real impact, or which ones had the effect you were shooting for.

Limit changes to a few at a time and then track those changes over a set period. Establish what your goal is and see if those few changes make a difference. Narrow down those changes and revisit with your website provider after 1-2 months and discuss the results. If those changes don’t improve the KPIs that you want, then move on to your next change.

4. Don’t Freak Out! – Many dealers make changes to their websites and are alarmed when they don’t see an immediate impact. Frequently, I see dealers request a change and then become frustrated when nothing changes in a day or two. Give changes time to work so you can see if they are making a difference. You need, at a minimum, a couple of weeks of data to have a large enough data set to determine if you are achieving the goals you have set. The larger the data set, the better. So, if you can look at a data set after a month or two, you will have even better insight into the impacts of your site changes.

Imagine having a salesperson that is consistently your top performer, month in and month out, but they have three consecutive days of not closing anything. Does that mean you should fire them? No, you’re just looking at a tiny data set, when a more extensive data set based on a larger time frame would give you the full story. The same logic applies here.

In summary, set the specific changes you want to make. Set the KPIs you will use to track those changes. Discuss the expectations with your provider. Don’t make mass changes and use a large enough data set (two weeks minimum) to see the results.

Relax, make changes that align with your goals, and wait for the tree to grow. It won’t happen overnight. Make changes strategically and methodically and watch the data over some time. You should then be able to optimize your websites without running around in circles wondering why nothing is working.

Accessibility-is-Good-Business_fusionzoneThat feeling of dread – the letter arrives at the dealership with a return address from an attorney you don’t recognize, addressed to “Owner” or “General Manager.” Inside is a demand letter indicating that your website or mobile application is inaccessible as required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). You need to contact them right away to correct it and pay their fee, or their client will file suit.

Hundreds of businesses experienced this feeling in the last year, and every company with a web presence has exposure to lawsuits for ADA non-compliance. While I could cover the legal issues, defenses, and remedies for these suits (and I have elsewhere), I want to emphasize here that accessibility is just good business.

The threat of a lawsuit is not the only reason to make your digital environment more accessible. Having a site or app that meets most of the accessibility guidelines improves website and app usability, likely enhances conversion rates and opens you up to more customers.

The immediate thought is, “Why would a blind person shop for a car online?” and while that’s a logical thought, accessibility is more than just for blind people. A few examples to think about:

  • Elderly buyers often have hearing or sight challenges where captioning and large print is useful. 
  • Today’s retirees were in their mid-30’s when the internet exploded and are likely proficient users of the web. 
  • Most adults under age 75 used a computer and the internet regularly and are reasonably tech-savvy.
  • Potential buyers with epilepsy may be challenged by flashing buttons and video. 
  • Individuals with colorblindness require higher contrasts and colors to see the information.
  • Accessibility also helps those consumers with temporary disabilities, like injury or surgery. 

 

Digital accessibility can be a complicated process. There are no clear regulations, and accessibility standards can feel overwhelming and confusing. A few basic steps to make your digital environment more inviting include:

  • Keep the site “clean.” Focus on your call to action and critical information. Clutter makes it hard to navigate and hard to access – ADA or no ADA.
  • Make sure your images all have “alt-tags” and that your tagging conveys the meaning. Images, including banners that contain offers and disclosure language, need detailed alt-tags that express the full meaning. Consider simple images and put your offers and disclosure language in plain text
  • Good technical SEO helps with accessibility. Proper heading structures, page layouts, and tagging help organize a site for both a search engine and accessibility tools.
  • Make sure your entire site is keyboard navigable. Some people can’t use a mouse.
  • Make sure your forms can be accessed and read using a screen reader.
  • Have an accessibility statement with valid contact information and someone willing to help on the other end of the email or phone.   

 

A bit of research into the alternatives and a commitment to basic accessibility will go a long way to help make your digital environment more accessible, which will get you better customer engagement and, ultimately, more sales.