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There was a time when dealerships hated the internet.  I know, it’s hard to believe. What is interesting is that while most dealerships have learned to embrace the internet, many still feel it is an obstacle to overcome, a nuisance that interferes with the old adage: “Say anything you need to get them in here!” But here’s the deal- I am hearing that people are only visiting the dealership they are going to buy from. New stats show that consumers visit slightly more than ONE dealership before purchasing.  They aren’t going from dealership to dealership, they are going from dealership website to dealership website.

It’s not your location that matters, it’s THEIRS!

So, if you want to capture market share – improve your online showroom experience. You don’t even have to spend any more money to drive more visitors to your site, just give the visitors you have, MORE. More pertinent information and a smooth passage to purchase.  Turn visitors into consumers.

There are a select few dealerships who treat their online visitors truly as if they were on the showroom floor.  I would assert that you probably talk about these dealerships (because they are huge volume dealerships) and you are flabbergasted by how many cars they sell while never laying eyes on the customer.  “How do they do that?” Well, it’s easy. They remove every dealership created roadblock and give the customer what they want, when they want it and they don’t ever make them leave their living rooms. I bet they aren’t cheap selling their vehicles either.

Some dealers forget what it’s like to be a consumer. Have you ever sat back and thought about your dealership culture and if it has kept up with the times? Would you buy from your own dealership?   Think of your own online buying habits when it comes to any purchase.  A website has seconds to give you what you want and any impediment to completing an online purchase just has you hopping off that site and on to another. But do you leave a website if it continuously delivers what you are looking for?

In fact, statistics show now that online vehicle shoppers usually only visit 1.2% dealership sites. That means in clear text, they are not hopping from dealership site to dealership site anymore. It also means that those very focused and very determined shoppers who ARE hitting your site could quite possibly be converted easier than ever if confronted with the right message/offer.

According to the NADA, dealers are now spending an average of $600/unit sold on advertising with a large portion of that being allocated to internet advertising. But this ad spend is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, dealers are driving traffic to their site with PPC, social media campaigns, etc. which all cost a bundle. But truth be told, most online advertising and social media spending is more than likely non-effective and a waste of valuable marketing dollars.

One of the main reasons it can be a waste… the dealer’s web site is a mess, does not convert, and is, to be blunt, a very, very messy online showroom that no one wants to hang out in!

Here is a challenge that I think every Dealership Principal and GM should perform: Be a consumer on your own website.  Find a car you like and try to buy it.  You’ll have some questions, so ask them.  See how long it takes to get your specific questions answered.  Click on and use every widget you have available. Try clicking on your ‘e-price’ button.  Do you get a price as soon as you give up a bit of info or do you get an auto responder from a very nice salesperson who lets you know how many kids and dogs they have but never mentions the e-price?

Think about yourself as the consumer when you add widgets and gadgets to your website. With today’s awesome technology your tools can be as diverse as the visitors on your website.  You can actually engage in location aware software that allows you to deliver pertinent information to consumers based on where they are when accessing your website. Why deliver the same pop-up to 100% of your visitors when 50% of them aren’t even buying a car, they are servicing a vehicle?  Be smart, be progressive and especially, be engaging. Customer-centric widgets and tools show them that you are thinking of them – putting their needs and wants ahead of sales. The sales will follow.

Your website can be a finely tuned salesperson and it can be synonymous with your showroom.  In addition to awesome location services you can also offer tools that allow consumers to literally complete their purchase from home (or work). It is completely possible, feasible and expected to be able to buy a car online. In fact some of today’s more savvy dealers who have wholeheartedly accepted the online selling business model are proving this day after day.

The internet. Once feared and hated by all dealerships is now a very lucrative and simple sales tool. We are all on the internet all the time, so spruce up your online showroom.  Give the people what they want and become the most agile and efficient you’ve ever been.  Sell more cars and hey, why not better your bottom line while you’re at it?

Kim Orr

Kim Orr, is VP of DealerSuccess. As one of the first Internet Directors in the automotive arena in the US, she has been instrumental in bring Online Reputation, Automotive Digital Retailing and much more to the industry.  You can find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and TheVirtualDealer.

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