My Name is URL

ie-google
Do you know the difference between a good URL and a bad URL for your dealership? Let’s do a little rundown of best practices and not so best practices.

Best Practices:

  1. Make your best effort to get YourDealershipName.com
  2. If .com is not available, then .net will work.
  3. If .com and .net are taken, find a new dealership name…seriously!
  4. Capitalize TheFirstLetterOfEachWord.
  5. UseDifferentColorsOrBoldToHelpEachWordStandOut
  6. Use subdomains when directing consumers directly to a landing page (LandHere.YourDealership.com)
  7. Put your URL on everything: letter head, business cards, print ads, radio spots, online ads, on the front of your dealership, shirts, hats, coffee cups (did I say everything?).

Not So Best Practices:

  1. Don’t use www.  I think we’ve reached the state where you don’t need www in order to communicate that it is a URL.
  2. DON’TUSEALLCAPSMUSHEDTOGETHER.COM
  3. Just because it’s the best URL your team could come up with or just because you and your team can ‘get it’ doesn’t mean it will work.
  4. Don’t use http://
  5. avoidalllowercase
  6. No-hyphens/ or slashes
  7. Avoid acronyms or numbers unless your brand is widely known as such
  8. Do not bury your URL at the bottom of a billboard, print ad, or online ad
  9. Don’t do another advertisement without your URL

I guess I’ll just have to do it myself…

diyThere is not a week that goes by that our organization does not hear about a dealership wanting to dump their lot services company and take it in house. Like anything else, if it becomes a core part of your business then it needs to be staffed with company resources and not vendors. Internet sales is a core part of every dealership and if it isn’t a core part of your dealership most definitely CALL US!

I hear dealerships all the time beating up lot service companies over the price per car, but in reality you are paying a huge premium for someone else to inventory your cars.  The premium comes in the way of quality and opportunity costs.

  • Quality = staging cars for photos with a great backdrop, accurate options, telling a story about the car (writing descriptions), lots of photos to describe the car (20+)
  • Opportunity = inventory the cars as soon as they are available, increase exposure with complete pictures/options/descriptions as soon as possible, reduce interest by flipping iron faster (bankers like that), update window stickers at any time.

Look, internet sales has grown leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and shows no sign of slowing.  We have franchise car dealerships that attribute 30% or more of their sales to the internet and independents at 90%.

Ten years ago there was no such thing at an “Internet Department” and today most dealerships have one (or at least a guy or gal).  So why not a lot services guy, gal, or department.  The day has come!

If you keep up with the industry news you will have noticed that major lot service companies have either acquired, partnered, or built a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) product recently.  The writing is on the wall.  Lot services are decreasing and DIY is increasing!

Here is the skinny…
Weather Problem: If the weather is bad and the service vendor can’t come out to inventory and photograph your cars then they are not online to sell.  Further more, once they try to catch up, the vendor is not behind at just your store but ALL stores.  That can be 10+ stores.  How many days out does that put your inventory getting online?
Weather Solution: The moment that the weather clears you have IN-HOUSE staff get the photos complete.  Alternatively, most dealerships have a delivery room or area – get some photos done in there.

More Photos Problem: Lot service business is a low margin/high volume business, so to find a way to make another buck they charge for additional photos.  Why?  They are already standing at the car.  On the Internet photos sell cars.  You need 20+ photos of every car which is cost prohibitive from a vendor standpoint.
More Photos Answer: When you become a DIY store, the photo count is immaterial.  Take as many as you want.  How are you going to sell to that consumer 500 miles away with 6 photos?  You aren’t, but 20+ photos sure will get them to pick up the phone to call.

Photo Quality Problem: First, when you sign up with a lot service vendor they tell you they take great photos and in fact some may tell you they have a “photo quality analyst” on staff to review all photos.  What a bunch of bunk!  Remember this is a low margin/high volume business.  Speed is important to them and speed never equals quality.  Secondly, do they stage your car in front of the dealership or with an appealing backdrop?  Probably not and here is why: takes too much time and insurance premiums are high for vendors to drive cars around the lot.
Photo Quality Answer: DIY stores stage every car they photograph, make sure there is no glare, ensure interior photos are not dark, and your staff is already insured to drive cars around the lot so no increase in insurance premiums.

Couple Days a Week Problem: Most lost service vendors can’t come to your dealership more than a couple days a week.  That is a problem in today’s Internet age.  You see, every day that your car is not online is another day with less exposure.  You are paying thousands of dollars a month on automotive shopping sites (AutoTrader, Cars.com, etc), but the cars sit for days before going online.  Are you really getting the value for those advertising dollars spent?  Not to mention the cars were not online for the weekend (cardinal sin in the business)!
Couple Days a Week Answer: The car comes out of service and is immediately photographed and described.  And in a system like AutoRevo, you click “SAVE” and instantly it is on your website.

So Decision Makers listen up.  Effectively marketing your inventory dramatically increases the value of your dollars spent in online advertising.  Do you think online merchants pay outside vendors to photo their inventory and post online?  No!  They have a whole internal process that they own for pushing inventory to online sales channels.  I know a guy who is a full-time photographer with Fossil (watch maker).  His whole job is photographing products for catalogues and their website.

Finally, here is the old equation: we pay about $1,600 per month to have our inventory loaded, photographed, stickered, and sent out.  I couldn’t hire someone for that price.  Here is the real equation:

Services: $1,600
Interest (10 cars, avg 30k each, 45 days on lot):  $2,500
AutoTrader missed sale: $3,000
Cars.com missed sale: $3,000
eBay Motors missed sale: $3,000
Missing sticker(s) for a Sunday shopper: $3,000
Website shopper who didn’t come in because they couldn’t find the car: $3,000
Having your inventory online asap and completely described….Priceless

Online Shopping Out-of-Stock

I spent the better half of my morning yesterday shopping online for Christmas gifts and much to my surprise many of the items I was searching were out of stock.  How is it that major retailers display items that are completely out of stock?  Even worse I only became aware of this once I tried to add it to my shopping cart.  Why even have it on the website?  We are not talking small e-commerce operations, these were major online retailers.

So it got me to thinking about a lot of dealers that switch to AutoRevo for the simple reason that their website always seemed out of sync with current inventory and they needed an up to the minute system for advertising vehicles.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of dealers complaining of systems displaying sold inventory and nothing makes a consumer more angry than to be shopping a sold car.

Now to my ultimate point: more and more dealers are taking the inventory management and vehicle marketing internal for good reason.  When a car hits the lot it is online immediately and on all online automotive shopping sites soon after.  Then as the unit is sold it is taken off the sites.  Dealers can now better manage their websites and content, print their own stickers, import from 3rd parties, export inventory to any auto shopping site, and more right from one system.

Flipping iron online is becoming more of a Do It Yourself operation every day.  Find out how AutoRevo can help your dealership by requesting a demo.  We would love to show you a better way!

Be Where Your Customers Are

I’m an avid reader of the Compete.com blog where they constantly monitor site traffic all over the internet.  How they do it?  I don’t have the slightest idea, but they have some really cool data.

# 1  So where are your customers today?  Let’s start off with the search engines.

web_market_share
Big shocker, Google owns the market at 68%, but is your dealership there?  Let’s state the obvious: everyone is in the market for a car.  If you are not on 2 of these 4 search engines as a paid sponsor then I suggest you march down to the General Managers office and create a campaign to get started.

#2  So where are your customers everyday?  Here are the top 50 domains in the U.S. and I’ll extract some sites to talk about how dealers can have a presence there.

top50domains
  • Yahoo & Google – I’ve worn out this subject, but incase you haven’t heard there are a lot of people on these websites.  Get your PPC campaign started now!
  • eBay – either a small or big presence on eBay is imperative for auto dealerships.  I suggest every dealer post at least 5 on eBay Motors national listing format each month.  There are buyers here.
  • MySpace – creating a MySpace page is simple and free.  Even the Dallas Mavericks have a MySpace page.  Set one up and talk about your dealership, internet department, finance team, and most of all YOU!
  • YouTube – another great spot for dealership presence.  Post video tours of your dealership, your people, you, vehicle walk-around tours, and much more.
  • Blogger.com – if you don’t have a blog, you need one.  There is more than enough topics to post on as an internet car sales person.
  • Craigslist – we have dealers posting cars on craigslist.org with great success.  Best of all it is free and the traffic to your inventory is high (just don’t over post).
  • Flickr & PhotoBucket – post photos of you, the dealership, staff, happy customers, and more.  This is highly indexed and badges can be created to embed in your blog, website, myspace, and anywhere else you wish.

Look at all of the opportunities for auto dealerships to be visible online!  This is the chance we have all been waiting for so get on the stick and take action.  What better way to build a presence for the masses.

Why DIY instead of a lot services company.

There is a new school of dealers taking advertising into their own hands. Dealerships that control their inventory are going to win the internet game. I often get asked “Why would I want to take my own photos?” the answer is simple – control.

frustrated

Why DIY works:

  • As a dealer you can take photos and have online advertising from the moment it comes out of make ready. If you have a lot services company come out on Monday and take photos. Tuesday you get more cars in stock, you will have to wait a full week before getting them online and seen.
  • Complete & thorough descriptions of your vehicles (how many times have you had to explain inaccuracies)
  • Window Stickers / Buyers guides can be printed from just about any printer, so no longer is the dealer not in State / Federal compliance.
  • Every lot has someone that can learn to take photos.
  • Cars.com and Autotrader.com now allow 28 – 32 photos. Take advantage of this and not have to pay extra to a company to come out and do it for you.
  • The cost savings for the average franchise dealer $700 – $1500

Everything that goes up must come down. So here is the down side to doing it yourself.

  • You need to have a good digital camera.
  • You need to train someone on how to take good photos.
  • If you are not dedicated to the process it cannot work.
  • Turnover – and having to retrain someone to do the job.

Companies like Dealer Specialties and CDM Data (the list goes on and on) are in business today because of the down side you see above. Sometimes having a company come out to take the photos is the right answer.

I suggest to all dealers to evaluate your current situation. Look at current staffing levels and make sure you have someone in place to do the job before moving forward. Also be aware that DIY is not plug and play. It will take a little time to get off the ground and to make sure all the needs are being met.

Shopping Cars is like Shopping for Shampoo

shampooSo last night I get the common request of a family with 5 people….honey, can you go to the store and pick up some milk and bread?  Evidently we don’t have waffles or oatmeal for breakfast and further more no bread to make the boys sandwiches for lunch tomorrow…..big shocker!  We get the boys down for bed (and make sure they fell asleep before I leave) and off I go to Super Target for a most important but short grocery list.

Naturally, while at the store I get a call on my cell for additional items, one of which was a new shampoo.  Hmmmmm, I can’t remember the last time I personally bought shampoo.  Our Super Target has a whole aisle dedicated to shampoo (must be a big market for this stuff).

As a man here is what I saw: florescent green bottles with a cute name, clear bottles with the lowest price, fancy packaging at a higher price (the kind that stand on the lid), shampoo only, shampoo with conditioner, promises of fuller hair, promises of revitalizing my hair, color management (I’m out on that), and more more more.  On a grocery trip budgeted at about 20 minutes total, I spend no less than 40 minutes on this one shampoo isle.  By the end of the process I’m beat, on the verge of getting fussy (because it’s late), and paying more than I wanted to for a product I have never used.  Kinda sounds like buying a car doesn’t it?

Driving home I couldn’t help but think what car shoppers feel like when looking for the right car.  Now you and I being in the business usually know exactly what we want, have driven hundreds of cars, and know the process inside and out.  But what about the average customer?  They walk on the car lot, see hundreds of cars, all sorts of colors and styles, prices from top to bottom, keys in their hand of a car they want to trade (whadda ya give me for this?), endless information from the internet research previously done, and the list goes on.

Now you ask, where are you going with this story?  Car shoppers are like shampoo shoppers.  For the most part consumers are uncertian of many aspects of the shopping/buying process, product offerings, and the transaction process.  So I say this to our dealers: assume your customers know nothing about you, your dealership, the car they want, warranty protection, and how to actually complete a purchase.  In the process of visiting with the consumer you will find out where they are at on knowledge of the process.

At the end of the day they just want to be transported from point A to point B efficiently and feel good about their purchase.  Oh yeah, and some want to look cool while driving too.

How do we get them through the buying process successfully?

  • Most people have only driven a handful of cars
  • Engage in open ended questions (refer to this blog post for a suggested list)
  • Gather their requirements early and confirm by repeating the list (often to remind them)
  • Be a verbal glossary of options and terms to the customer
  • Leave them to think
  • Personally give them your contact info (name, phone, and email) up front before asking for theirs
  • Be a glossary of options and terms for the customer
  • Explain in detail the finance process before handing them over to a finance manager
  • Eliminate buyer remorse by meeting their exact requirements and budget
  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up until they buy another car from you!

I know you are dying to know what shampoo product I decided on.  The Dove shampoo.  Here was my thought process: it was at the higher end of the pricing spectrum (must be better then right?), didn’t need the economy size so chose the smaller package (Suburban vs. Tahoe), great packaging that curved with style, and it was only shampoo (what guy needs conditioner anyway).  In retrospect, I regret paying a bit more, but the product works as shampoo should I guess….

eBay Motors Advantages of ID Verify

idverifyWe get this question all the time in supporting eBay Motors dealers.  So first off, what is ID Verify?  It is a way for sellers to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt you are who you say you are.  They request some personal information such as full name, address, date of birth, drivers licenses information, and credit card or bank account verification.  This is not a credit check but simply an identity check.

The ID Verify process cost $5, takes less than 10 minutes (if you have all your information handy), and is done through Equifax.  You are not charged if the process is not completed, but otherwise, it charges to your eBay account.

Ultimately, what are the advantages?

  • You get a nifty icon next to your seller ID on every listing idcheck
  • Give the impression that you are someone to be trusted
  • Demonstrate you are serious about selling on eBay Motors
  • Ability to use the Buy It Now (BIN) feature on listings
  • List using the Fixed Price format
  • You can place bids above $15,000 (important for you buyers to know!)
  • Open an eBay Store
  • List with the eBay Motors Local Market format

Here is a link to help on About ID Verify

Here is a link to the ID Verification Login