Having your dealership’s web presence online appeals to tech-savvy consumers and is critical to keeping them engaged and eager to visit your dealership.
BY ZACH KLEMPF
Dealerships without any meaningful online presence are the equivalent of restaurants without a featured cuisine and menu – there’s nothing to whet your appetite and make you want to walk through the door to sample the goods! All dealerships need an integrated digital presence that leverages SEO, Mobile Platforms and Social Media to be relevant for today’s connected consumer.
Tech-savvy consumers showed their preference to shop online with Deloitte reporting that the average consumer spent 10 hours comparison-shopping online before even visiting a dealership. They hit the showroom floor super informed and sometimes more knowledgeable than your sales team about competitive brands and innovative features on the latest models. Competition is fierce to get and to keep their attention to buy from your dealership, and adopting an engaging online sales and marketing strategy is a critical component of any dealership’s strategy for success. In order to have an effective online presence for your dealership in 2015, consider these three tips:
Avoid the TBT Website for Desktops
Does your website look like it’s a Throw Back Thursday (TBT) web design? Retro is a great look if it’s a conscious choice and actively managed, but a real turnoff when it’s obvious that your site has not been touched in months. Unbelievably many dealership sites haven’t been changed in years and leave consumers totally unimpressed after a site visit.
Does your website offer an eye pleasing design that works seamlessly across multiple platforms like smartphones, tablets and desktops? Many dealerships are under the mistaken impression that their website performs equally well on mobile as well as on any browser. Nothing could be further from the truth because many dealership websites are not truly responsive to mobile devices or equally strong across all desktop browsers and screen sizes.
The best way to check this is to visit your dealer website in stealth mode yourself from your mobile phone and go through the same process any customer would. Have friends, family and recent customers do the same and ask for their honest feedback. What works on the site for them in looking for a car and what doesn’t? Is the design visually appealing and simple to navigate? Would they answer this question differently for a desktop visit versus a mobile one? Can they easily view your available inventory and answer basic feature and options questions without having a degree in website navigation or constantly dodging annoying pop up ads and windows? What type of content and site “look and feel” will keep them coming back to your site over your competitors? And don’t forget to make sure they can quickly reach out to a salesperson for a follow up conversation directly from your website to make that crucial one-on-one connection in real time via media of their choice – phone, IM, text, email, social media messaging, etc. – whenever possible.
Make sure your dealership stands out from the rest of the cookie-cutter dealership websites. Whether this means high-quality videos or having an interesting blog that your dealership runs or even creating a lifestyle community page around the car brands you sell, you need to stand out online. Consumers can tell if you have a dated agency style website. Ditch the static old site and make your dealership site memorable. Updating does not have to mean a complete scrap and fork lift rebuilding of your website from the ground up. It can be as simple as making customizations to your current template that go above and beyond the standard in the industry and revamping the content to be more interesting and catchy. The key here is constantly managing and changing the look and feel of your site to keep it fresh, attractive and relevant.
Search Engine Rankings are King
Where does your dealership rank when online customers search for a vehicle with their city and/or zip code for one of the brands you carry? (i.e. 2015 Ford Mustang 30342) Do you show up in the first couple of results on the first page or in “no-man’s land” three pages down? If a dinky little dealership down the street consistently outranks you, you may need to rethink your SEO strategy. Car dealerships specifically need to plan a strong local SEO strategy. I recommend Google as the best search engine to start with to improve your search rankings.
Google has a different ranking for local search results and below are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you rank high:
- Create a Google My Business account and fill out all the fields. Be sure to keep this updated and current every quarter.
- Have high-quality links building to your site and use a mix of both local links and links with domain authority.
- Ask your customers for Google Reviews, Yelp Reviews, as well as other rating sites. Make sure these reviews are associated with your dealership address and website URL address and posted on your social media sites.
- Determine what your dealership’s Alexa rank is compared to your competition. This will give you a good idea of what kind of traffic your site is getting relative to your geographical customers and similar franchises.
If these simple steps seem like Greek to you, consider hiring a digital marketing resource with SEO expertise and SMM experience to help you get started.
Would a Millennial ‘LOL’ at your social media handles?
Dealerships are notorious for being dated with social media and often have a lack of understanding on how to effectively target customers besides the basics of just creating a Facebook and Twitter account. Two of the biggest faux pas I see is to offer little or no original content on their profiles, and to update too infrequently. Consumers can tell if you don’t put effort into your social media and they will move on to a dealership site that offers them more online. A best practice is to share engaging multimedia content daily. If daily content updates seem daunting, try starting with at least monthly content updates and move toward bi-weekly updates as soon as you can comfortably manage it.
Here are some basics for several top social media networks:
Twitter – Retweet interesting consumer focused articles on Twitter, as well as local news. Be sure to use trending hashtags (“#s) and follow people who are influencers in your city. Post pics of new inventory when it hits the lot and reward followers with service discounts and brand giveaways to keep them engaged online.
Facebook – Have a personality on your Facebook page that defines your dealership’s mission and atmosphere. This could include uploading videos of your salespeople showing off new inventory, having contests for customers, demonstrating new features from your showroom floor and customer purchasing and service testimonials.
Instagram and Pinterest – For the more adventurous dealers, consider how to take advantage of these two image-based social networks. Instagram and Pinterest can be especially effective for luxury dealers who shoot very high-resolution images of their inventory and have a strong “lifestyle” image associated with their brands. Tap into that brand energy by building a community of interest for your dealership on these two visual platforms.
Is your GM an SMM dinosaur?
If your GM is scared of Social Media Marketing (SMM) and refuses to take a step forward to a digital-first connected dealership, then “Houston, we have a problem.” Neglecting the impact that your dealership’s online presence has on your overall business is a serious mistake in an “always on” automotive consumer marketplace. Not all of these three steps will apply to every dealership. Focusing on any one of them – boosting your SEO, embracing SMM or updating your website more frequently – will definitely position you for more digital success in 2015 whether you adopt a do-it-yourself or outsource it approach.
If your dealership hires an agency to handle these aspects of a digital sales and marketing plan, you still need to make sure they are delivering on your digital objectives. Stay engaged and informed on how your money is being spent and what your online signal strength measures. Constantly compare your website to competitors and keep a close eye out. Create original content for your social media groups to bring back the personal element to your showroom. Lastly, remember that it takes time to build your dealership’s online presence and don’t expect instant results overnight.