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. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Conversion rate (internet marketing) concept. Businessman (marketer) draw growing graph of rise conversion rate.

It’s a well-known fact the best leads aren’t the ones that are bought, but those that convert on your website. These leads close faster, close at a higher rate, and close for higher gross than any other online lead. The problem is that websites are consistently converting less than 1% of their traffic into leads. Some are higher, some lower, but rarely does anyone convert at higher than 2%. Below are a few design tips that I have seen drive website conversion rates as high as 10%.

These guide consumers to where you want them to go and pique their curiosity. By eliminating choice, they drive consumers to do what you want them to do on your site, submit a lead; giving your sales team one more chance at bat with an in-market car shopper! 

 

1. Where Do We Go from Here?– Imagine driving towards a destination, in the dark with no road signs, and your GPS stops working. Sadly, that’s very similar to the experience many dealers currently offer their online customers on their homepages. 

 

90% of visitors to your site are looking for one of three things: new inventory, used inventory or service. Doesn’t it make simple logical sense to have these 

areas clearly marked at the top of your homepage? I always recommend 3 large CTA’s on your homepage, one for each of these options. If you have additional profit drivers you can add simple CTA’s for those as well (no more than 6), but again, 90% of clicks are going to new, used, and service. These should be the first 3 CTA’s on your homepage. They should be above the fold, and they should clearly indicate where they will take a consumer.  

 

Your homepage, above the fold, is the map you are providing to consumers. “Here’s how you get to the destination you came here to find.” Somewhat counterintuitively, you want to eliminate choice for the consumer. You want to direct the consumer where you (the dealer) want them to go, to your product.  

 

Another point to keep in mind for your homepage is that few consumers will scroll down on your page at all and less than 5% will ever make it to the bottom of your homepage. This means that the content found below the fold (anything you must scroll down the page to see), isn’t really for consumers. Sure, you should put some specials on sliders, and a small fraction of consumers will interact with those. Truthfully though, almost all the below the fold content is strictly for SEO purposes. You should ensure that your website provider provides quality SEO content on your homepage, but that is a topic for another article.

 

Think of the lowest common denominator and structure your website so that the dumbest person in the world can easily find their way. If you make it simple for customers, more of them will find their way to where you want them to go AND have a better customer experience along the way.

 

2. Don’t Create Friction in the Search Process– The key to continuing consumer engagement once they do click on a CTA is to deliver relevant results. Just as Google focuses on relevance, the same concept applies to your site.

 

Once a shopper clicks on a CTA, many dealer sites take them to an irrelevant page. Most are set to deliver SRPs in a specific order. In most cases, all new or used vehicles and price, high to low. The problem is that this page is often irrelevant to the consumer. 

 

Let’s say I’m shopping at a Toyota store because I am interested in a base model new Camry. I come to your site, click new inventory, and am given an SRP with all your new vehicles priced high to low. This result is irrelevant for me, requiring me to either scroll through hundreds of other vehicles to arrive at the ones I am interested in or take additional steps to filter through inventory.

 

What if you delivered relevant results instead? This really isn’t that difficult. After a consumer clicks new inventory, rather than delivering them an SRP with every vehicle you have, first take them to a page where they can filter their results. This can be done by price, body style, model, etc. This simple change will result in a lowering of your bounce rate on SRP’s (sometimes by as much as 30-40%), which means that a higher percentage of consumers interact with your inventory. This will also lead to an increase in lead volume. 

 

One more thing on this point, when it comes to your SRP and VDP pages the same principal about limiting your CTAs applies. Don’t overwhelm your potential car buyers with 30 options. Keep it simple, limit to 3 CTAs with a focus on results that you want. Generally speaking, these are a lead form, click to call, and either digital retailing or a credit application.

 

3. What’s the Ultimate Goal? – The ultimate goal of any dealer’s website is to interact with the customer. The only way to convert a customer into a sale is to gain interaction. If you structure your site correctly, more customers will engage with you, leading to more sales.

 

It’s ironic that many of the things that we did in the 90s still work today. The bottom line is that – especially today – consumers need to be incentivized into giving up their information. The number one reason that consumers do not submit a lead is that they believe it will provide no benefit to them. Consumers don’t see the need to “check availability,” feeling that if the vehicle is on your site, it should be on your lot. Dealers must provide the “why” behind lead conversion. The most compelling “why” I have seen is offering a pricing concession in return for lead submission. This can be achieved by clearly indicating to a consumer that a lower price is available if they simply submit a lead. 

 

Today’s consumers are conditioned for instant gratification. Many dealer websites promise a price reduction in return for a lead but don’t deliver; instead, they  return a message, “a salesperson will call you with our price shortly.” All this does is upset consumers. Imagine you are shopping for a TV. You see a button that says, “get the best possible price on this tv instantly!” You click it, you give your name and phone number, and then a page pops up saying, “we will call you soon with your price.” That method isn’t likely to make you a fan of that business. The same principle applies here. Give a CTA that incentivizes consumers to submit a lead, and then deliver on your promise of a lower price, instantly.

 

It really doesn’t matter how much savings you offer; so long as it is provided instantly and fulfills any promise made in your CTA.

 

4. First to Make Contact Wins – In the end, typically the first dealership to contact the customer, to interact, build rapport, and set a sales appointment wins the sale. The faster a dealership can get a customer on the phone; the more likely that customer will still be on the dealership’s website and looking to buy a vehicle. There are a multitude of tools available to achieve fast connections with your consumers. However, you also have to examine your internal dealership policies. Take the time to test your lead process yourself. Go to your site, submit a lead, and see how long it takes for you to receive a response. Five minutes? Ten? Longer? Ask yourself, if I had submitted this lead on my site and my competitors who would have contacted me first? If the answer is your competitor, you have a problem! At that point, you need to identify if the problem is people, process, or product. 

 

When I work with dealers on this issue, the answer is almost always process or product.

 

The highest converting dealer websites are winning by creating a pathway that fulfills the customer’s desire for immediate gratification by delivering relevant results. They provide clear calls-to-action and respond promptly via phone and email to initiate the right kind of engagement to drive a sale.

 

Dealers who encourage customer engagement by providing precisely what they are looking for find they engage via form submissions more often and, ultimately, are more willing to work with the dealership. Customers are more likely to continue engagement either via phone or in person. And that’s how you increase time on site, decrease bounce rates and sell more cars.

Facebook Ads - Fusionzone automotiveOver the years, Google has firmly established itself as the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to search ads. After all, it is, without a doubt, the most used search engine. And, because of that, enjoys the monetary benefits from many ads. 

In the automotive industry, to gain valuable traffic from in-market consumers, dealers compete with manufacturers and third-party lead providers for key search terms. The manufacturers and third-party listing services have a much bigger search engine marketing budget than most dealers, so it can be difficult for dealers to compete. 

Ah, but what about Facebook?

For early adopters, Facebook was the buried treasure that others had yet to find. But has since grown enormously and businesses enjoy the targeted reach, branding opportunities and leads that a correctly configured Facebook ad campaign can bring. 

And now it could be getting even better. 

According to Search Engine Journal, Facebook has quietly begun testing search ads for its advertisers. What does that mean? Instead of being limited to distance, demographics, and interests, you will shortly be able to target Facebook users by their searches a la Google. 

While the data set that Facebook uses for targeting is massive, it can be hit or miss. However, similar to Google search keywords, a Facebook user searching “used cars Dallas, Texas,” or “used Chevrolets Dallas, Texas,” is likely to be much lower funnel, and much more relevant for you to target with ads. And quite possibly not even part of the targeting your dealership uses. Not every buyer is the same, and their interests vary. BUT that doesn’t mean qualified buyers don’t exist outside of your dealership’s usual targeting demographics. 

The benefit to you is that not many dealerships are yet using this feature. It could translate into an advantage over the competition. Also, you may be able to pick the low-hanging fruit, which falls outside the demographics you were previously targeting. There is nothing more powerful than targeting users by search intent. 

Unlike, Google, Facebook search results are primarily powered by the information on a dealership’s Facebook page. This information is NOT as complicated as most websites. Dealerships who properly optimize the information on their Facebook page; and who run targeted search ads on Facebook (when it is widely available); could easily enjoy a good return on investment

I’m not at all advocating that dealerships abandon Google AdWords. Instead, that dealerships utilize this new Facebook targeting method in conjunction with their existing Facebook and Google Ad campaigns. They may be able to quickly ramp up the results of search ad budgets.