The Internet has certainly revolutionized our industry and, for the most part, that revolution has been a positive one. But with so much information available to consumers, who now spend an average of 17 hours online visiting dozens of Websites to research their next vehicle purchase (known as the “Merry-Go-Round” effect), the Information Age has actually become the Indecision Age.
Studies have found that today’s car buyers are influenced by a staggering 24 different touchpoints along their journey to purchase (19 of which are digital). These include Google search results, OEM Websites, third-party sites, brand social media pages, dealer Websites, YouTube videos and more. Dealership visits have declined to an average of one to two visits today, versus five in 2005, and nearly 50 percent of consumers do not purchase the car they originally had in mind.
Today’s technology allows us all to express our individuality, and we expect that in return from the businesses we patronize. Facebook lets us share with our world the things that make us unique — be it the fancy meal we prepared for our friends and family, our children’s successes or the wonderful views we experience on vacation. Twitter provides an instant connection to share what is on our minds at that moment throughout the day. Facebook and Twitter also expose us to this level of content from those we care about all day every day. This is the level of connection U.S. consumers have grown to desire and expect from every relationship, including the one they have with their dealership. Can you imagine a world where everyone’s Facebook and Twitter looked the same, with canned content and pictures? That is what our customers first impression often is when they visit our dealership Websites.
Today, dealerships need a Website that provides a personalized shopping experience and allows the shopper to have a social connection and feel they know the people with whom they are planning to do business. How did we get here and where will we go next? Let’s examine the path we took to where we are today and then peer into the future and what our online shopping experience may look like in years to come.
Dealerships started putting up Websites in the 1990s — some with inventory and pricing and some without. Many did this on their own with help from a smart niece or nephew. Others hired companies — some that specialized in automotive and others that did not — to help them. Some resisted the need for a Website altogether but, with the rise of Website-providing vendors and mass adoption, this resistance was soon proven futile. Dealership Websites moved from an extravagance to a necessity at light speed.
What if I told you that you could generate a 15 percent higher gross profit from the leads being sold from your Website? One of the primary ways to do this is by having a conversation with your consumers — but not in the way you think. I don’t mean having a live conversation with a salesperson (although that’s what you ultimately want). No, I mean letting consumers have an in-depth conversation with your Website. Doing so can drastically reduce negotiations on trade and vehicle of interest.
Automotive marketing and the consumer’s path to purchase are constantly evolving. Using the strategy you started 2016 with is not going to cut it come January. There are four key areas to success that must be at the forefront of your planning for 2017.
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