The marketplace of the Internet has grown exponentially more sophisticated in recent years. 96% of Americans now regularly shop online, and customers have come to expect everything that digital experience can offer, like transparent and low prices, easy interfaces and personalized experiences. Any business looking to sell online — including auto dealerships — must learn how to give those online visitors the personalized experience they demand in order to stand out from the competition.
As a BDC manager, if you’ve been struggling to generate more leads (or more qualified leads), here are a few tactics to give online car buyers a more personal connection to your dealership.
1. Embrace Third-Party Websites
According to a study recently published by Google, there’s evidence to suggest that most people conducting Internet research leading to a car purchase take a long and winding approach. Their research example, Stacy, conducted 139 Google searches, watched 14 YouTube videos, and had dozens of interactions with dealership sites, manufacturer sites and review sites. That means that BDC managers have to extend their online presence past their own website, actively promoting inventory on third-party review and shopping platforms.
Another key element of a multi-channel digital approach to lead generation is social media marketing. Alexander Davis, BDC Manager at Hudson Honda, says that Facebook plays a big role in his efforts, adding that “Facebook retargeting ads are an effective way of keeping our brand in front of shoppers once they leave our site to continue their research.” This becomes even more important in the light of Google’s research, which says that 71% of their test case’s research was conducted on a mobile device.
2. Implement Smart Software to Personalize Web Experiences
Today’s online shopper expects a website that is transparent, easy to use and personalized to their needs to capture their attention. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, “nearly 40% will not patronize a dealer whose website doesn’t list vehicle prices.”
Today’s BDC managers use smart software to help them capture information about their leads slowly by giving visitors a customized experience depending on how they interact with their websites.
For example, if a visitor clicks on a call-to-action for an interactive questionnaire designed to help them figure out what kind of car is right for them, the information captured can help inform offers that are emailed to that visitor, or future calls-to-action designed to move them closer to scheduling a test drive.
Website visitors who prefer to do their own research will also appreciate dealership websites that do not require them to submit the same information more than once. Intelligent database management, or smart pathing, can help BDC managers focus on what is known about online visitors by learning more about a potential customer’s budget, whether he plans to lease or buy, if he has a trade-in vehicle, model preferences, how soon he plans to buy, along with regular contact information.
According to Davis, this kind of information can make all the difference in closing a deal. “55% of the leads coming to us from our site come from trade-in value. We’re willing to give top dollar and tax credits for trades, so when we can share that information, it really helps get their attention.”
3. Let Your Leads Determine Your Approach to Conversation
Website visitors become leads once they provide their contact information and other details online. The next step is for a BDC manager to contact them. By asking the visitor upfront how they prefer to be contacted, dealerships are one step ahead of the game. Knowing how soon a shopper is ready to buy, will also inform your team who they should reach out to first.
Traditional sales tactics can be off-putting to many shoppers, so this is a critical step in the lead-generation process. That said, many successful BDCs see direct contact with leads as just one more opportunity to personalize their experience. Listen to how the visitor prefers to be contacted. If they prefer email, don’t send them a text. If they prefer calls, don’t start off by sending them emails. And if they do text, pay attention to how they do it and capitalize on that information.
“We use iPhones to contact customers,” says Davis. “When we enter a number and see that it’s a blue bubble, we know they’re using iMessage on an iPhone. In our experience, iMessage users really prefer texting, so we know that if we message them directly there, they will tend to answer.”
If your online visitors tells you they prefer to be contacted by email, make sure those emails are relevant based on their online activity. Offering financing applications via email or links to special offers likely to be of interest is one way to get a response.
Because interactive smart software captures a lot of lead data about your visitor in your CRM, you can use those details to customize emails specifically for buyers depending on where they are in the buying process.
A smart approach to continued attempts to reach unresponsive leads could also result in a visit to the showroom. Third-party websites and vendors, like TrueCar and Edmunds, have made it easier than ever before for shoppers to compare prices online and search for their own best deal, so many website visitors may fill out a form to get an asking price and then avoid speaking to anyone in the BDC. Try capturing their attention by sending an email with the lowest price you can give on a few of the vehicles they viewed online.
Visitors who’ve mentioned they’re interested in a test drive, should be able to schedule the day and time on your website. With that information, your dealership can send them an email to confirm the appointment time. BDC managers report that this can be an effective tactic to get an Internet lead to show up in person without ever picking up the phone.
All of these tactics come back to one key concept: personalization. Today’s web is a social place, and modern technology can afford BDC managers plenty of opportunities to learn about their online visitors and cut through the noise by offering them a customized and engaging experience.