In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to simply have a good-looking website, talented sales reps and a competitively priced fleet of inventory. Auto dealerships must incorporate a strategic, comprehensive plan that incorporates a wide range of solutions.
We compiled some of the latest tips commonly recommended by leading automotive consultants throughout the industry to help you gain an edge among your competitors. Whether you decide to hire an automotive consultant to fine-tune your operations or not, it’s important to analyze where you may be facing gaps in your plan.
1. Analyze your Online Performance.
One of the most critical places to start with any strategic plan involves your digital presence. With more than 90% of the American population actively engaged online, it’s essential that you have a high performing plan.
Your website needs to be engaging, and it needs to deliver the information customers want. It also needs to work for you — collecting the most relevant information from online shoppers and driving them down the right path.
If you’ve got lackluster leads, or too few of them, automotive consultants will typically recommend that you invest in advanced automotive software to ramp-up your online engagement.
2. Develop a Strategy that Directs Shoppers to your Site.
Once again, your website is the focus. But it’s unlikely you can get car shoppers to come to your site without a strategy to get them there.
An automotive consultant can help you develop a plan that includes SEO (search engine optimization), pay-per-click, email marketing, social media, and Google Adsense.
3. Upgrade Car Inventory Software.
Hours are spent online researching car options before a buyer will ever step foot on your lot. But you know this. How well is your car inventory software performing?
By scanning a barcode, you should be able to showcase all the inventory — both new and used — on your lot with ease. This ensures that you keep your inventory constantly updated.
Check your options to make sure you’re working with user-friendly automotive software that allows you to seamlessly keep your inventory organized and fresh.
Explore different options, ensuring that you can easily update photos of the vehicle, along with details like year, make, model, mileage, options, cost, and history.
4. Upgrade Contact Forms.
As you can see, upgrades are a consistent theme here. If something isn’t working, it’s time for a change. Many automotive consultants come across clients who are encountering visitors who don’t complete contact forms — or skip them altogether. Not a good situation, no matter how you slice it.
Forms may seem like a small thing, but they’re an incredibly critical component of your marketing solution. In order to deliver a customized, personal experience to prospective buyers, you need a way to maintain ongoing communication with them — meeting them with answers at every step of their buying journey.
Interactive experiences help do that by giving visitors to your website a compelling reason to hand over their personal info to you (i.e. an email address and a phone number).
“Consumers are increasingly wary of handing over their personal contact information. You need to work harder to win their trust.”
Not only are they more engaging and informative, they give you the type of info you need to customize further engagement. Don’t underestimate this seemingly simple goal.
Consumers are increasingly wary of handing over their personal contact information. You need to work harder to win their trust. But once you do, you’re able to nurture that relationship through continued communications.
5. Graduate to Marketing Automation.
It’s not enough to simply get an email or phone number. Knowing how and when to follow up with a potential customer is important – acting too soon could irritate an online shopper.
With the use of marketing automation — which detects activity that reveals shoppers’ interests allows you to understand exactly where they are in the buying journey.
With marketing automation software, you can return results that are specifically related to your customers browsing interests — you wouldn’t try to sell a sports car to a person who is clearly searching for options for a family of five.
You can also send customized emails using the same data — with everything set up to go at the beginning of the campaign.
6. Develop a Plan to Get Website Visitors to your Showroom.
Statistics show that getting to this goal is one of the most important things you can do as part of your marketing efforts. Consider showroom traffic as one of your most significant conversions. According to a recent study by DMEautomotive (DMEa), many vehicle shoppers are just visiting one dealership before purchasing.
The average car shopper in America is visiting 1.4 showrooms before making a decision, according to the 2014 survey. And, of course, getting them into your dealership offers you the opportunity to shine.
According to 62% of prospective vehicle shoppers surveyed by Google, great customer service significantly impacts their next purchase.
So, if you want to secure the first and future purchases of a new prospect, the key is getting the prospect into your showroom and keeping them engaged with great customer service.
An automotive consultant can provide you with strategies that are designed to incentivize car shoppers to visit your dealership. These could range from offers, test drives or contests and prizes.
7. Enhance the Dealership’s Customer Experience.
The need to strategize doesn’t end just because a potential customer walks in the door. You could still lose the sale because of poor customer service or a less than professional atmosphere.
Technology can come into play here as well. Solutions could range from the simple implementation of a mobile app to centralize instant messaging across every employee in the dealership to the use of big-screen kiosks that showcases every vehicle in your inventory.
Many car shoppers are still checking out their options on their smartphones, including comparing prices of vehicles at your dealership and those of your competitors. According to one recent survey, nearly one quarter of shoppers (23%) said they were still using their smartphones to browse other options while at a dealership.
“The need to strategize doesn’t end just because a potential customer walks in the door.”
Don’t fight this habit. Encourage prospective consumers to continue to search options digitally — but those on your lot. Give them the ability to search more options by investing in a car dealership kiosk that highlights all of your inventory from the convenience of a large screen.
Instant messaging is another consideration. A salesperson may want to stay engaged with a shopper after they walk in the door. But unfortunately, there are many reasons for salespeople to leave the buyer’s side: to talk with F&I, to check the inventory, or to get a sales manager’s approval on a request. The trick is to get your answer without having to leave the buyer.
Consider a mobile app with instant messaging ability (like Vertical’s Viewpoint Mobile) that can be customized to easily reach everyone in your dealership.
Something as simple as this can enable your sales rep to get the extra information or approvals needed to keep the negotiation moving along while never leaving the customer’s side. It also can cut down on the need for them to interact with multiple employees — a turnoff for many car shoppers.
An Investment that Pays Off
Automotive consultants can be instrumental in collaborating with you to develop a plan to bring more qualified leads to your sales team. And because they can point to strategies and systems that handle a lot of the “busy work,” your sales team can devote more time to providing the best customer service possible.