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Off the Hook

Dealer clients of HookLogic are seeing an incredible 60-percent show-to-close ratio. BY CAROL WHITE

If you want to sell more cars, you have to get shoppers into your showroom, according to Captain Obvious. That, of course, is easier said than done. With 95 percent of online shoppers opting to pass on the dreaded lead form, how can your salespeople reach those stealthy in-market consumers?

HookLogic has the answer, according to David Metter, president of the company’s automotive division. Give them what they want. A friendly, knowledgeable sales associate? The lowest price? A huge selection in inventory? Great customer service? OK, yeah, they want that. But your competitors are using the same playbook. What you need is a “hook,” something that will make it worth their while to take one of your vehicles for a spin, thus driving more showroom traffic for your salespeople. Like maybe a $25, $50 or even a $75 incentive. It sounds too simple, but it works.

Dealers using the company’s AutoHook suite of marketing solutions see almost double (about 32 percent) the amount of Internet showroom traffic. “And the show-to-close of those customers is over 60 percent. It’s crazy,” said Metter. A recent report showed that Ford dealers using AutoHook’s Web2Show website solution generated 32,155 leads with 9,838 walk-ins for a 31 percent show rate. Of those, nearly seven in 10 bought a car for a 68-percent show-to-close rate. Getting the consumer to the showroom and emotionally connected to the car that they are interested in is what it’s all about.

HookLogic offers its dealer clients three solutions – Web2Show, Lead2Show and its newest offering, Mobile2Show. With all three products, AutoHook drives the highest-intent buyer into the dealership, tracking their path the entire way. They show up at your dealership, go for a test drive, and with an 8-digit code specific to that shopper (and marketing path) HookLogic handles the gift-card redemption in less than 30 seconds. The customer immediately receivesan e-code on their mobile device so that the dealership can move on to what is really important – selling the car.

“We get a 99.2 percent accuracy rate on that data we collect because we give the customer something in exchange for their information. There has to be something in it for them,” said Metter. HookLogic partners with big data companies including IHS/Polk, Shift Digital, and Urban Science in order to match registration data.

If, for whatever reason, the shopper cannot visit your dealership immediately, they are given the option to save their offer in Apple’s Passbook or Google Wallet – which are notification- and location-based apps – to redeem later. So when that shopper is in the area of your dealership, they’ll get a notification reminding them they have an offer from you. And by using latitude/longitude geo-fencing, notifications can even be sent to shoppers if they’re in or near one of your competitors.

Conquesting the elusive mobile shopper who doesn’t visit your website has been an impossible task in the past. But HookLogic has a secret weapon. Through its partnership with Verve Mobile, anytime a shopper is on one of the hundreds of in-network mobile sites and apps, such as music (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) or mobile news sites (TV, radio), they’ll receive a dynamic offer from your dealership, specific to their geo-fenced location.

The company’s platform is not a “spray and pray” proposition. Potential customers can be targeted depending on where they are in the funnel, the make and model they’re considering, from where they are shopping, their market area and aged inventory, for example. The offers themselves can be modified also based on a number of criteria – a $50 incentive might be offered to a customer traveling farther to get to your store, while someone around the corner might receive a $25 gift card or nothing at all. “AutoHook was offering dynamic content on dealer websites years before others thought about it. We go down deep and watch a consumer’s behavior to make sure they’re really intenders. As a former car salesman, I don’t want to waste salespeople’s time. My goal is to make sure that we drive the best opportunity with the highest propensity to buy into the showroom so the salespeople can do what they do best. And that is sell a car,” said Metter.

But don’t dismiss HookLogic as simply being a gift-card company. “We do use gift cards to incentivize the consumer, but we do that as a means to an end.” Aside from the increased floor traffic and, ultimately, higher close rates, the real benefit for dealers and OEMs is the invaluable information they receive in monthly registration data and attribution reports, according to Metter.

“Because the information is accurate and can be matched against registration data at an industry-best rate, the dealer can tell who showed up and bought, but more importantly, who didn’t,” said Metter. “So if 35 people show up at your dealership, I can give you reporting that says 22 of those shows purchased at your dealership. But I know which 15 of them left the dealership, and more importantly, where they purchased – did they stay in brand or did they go to another brand? And the majority of the time, they stay in brand and just pick another dealership to purchase from.”

This information helps dealers get a handle on which sales processes are working and which ones might need some work. “In the past, dealers have not understood why customers went elsewhere, but this information can help them get a glimpse of where the breakdown is,” explained Metter.

The auto division of HookLogic came about in 2007 after a chance meeting between Metter, who was the CMO of MileOne Automotive headquartered in Maryland, and HookLogic’s founder, Jonathan Opdyke. Originally, the company operated within the travel sector. The two men pondered the idea that if it worked for the travel industry, why wouldn’t it work for the car business? MileOne began fully testing the platform in 2008, right about the time the market tanked. But the auto group not only was able to keep its head above water, but also managed to outperform many of its competitors. “Our total number of sales went down, but our market share went up incredibly and our cost per sale went down dramatically,” said Metter. “A lot of it was attributed to being able to figure out who to go after and when to go after them to win market share in our area. Our competitors had no idea what we were doing”

In 2011, Metter joined the HookLogic team, bringing the AutoHook product to market. Today, HookLogic’s platform is endorsed by several OEMs including Ford, GM, Chrysler, Kia and Subaru, and is used in some way by more than 5,000 dealerships nationwide. “AutoHook is creating the attribution railways, both in showroom visits and sales, that OEMs, agencies, vendors, and dealerships can easily tie into their current marketing programs,” he said. Metter predicts that the auto team at HookLogic will grow about 50 percent by the end of 2015, with the majority of that growth in the mobile sector.

“We’re the first to market with our mobile showrooming solution for auto dealers,” he explained. “Our mobile solution gives dealerships a competitive advantage in the marketplace where consumers are shopping. They’re using their mobile devices in almost every aspect of their car-buying process, especially when they get down to that moment of truth. Their mobile device is essential to that last-minute decision.”

So, in a nutshell, this is how the Mobile2Show solution works: a serious, in-market shopper is visiting your website, possibly showrooming from a competitor’s lot, and a message dynamically shows up from your dealership offering them an incentive to come test drive the vehicle they’re researching on your site. The customer then enters their email or mobile number – no need for their name at this point. Through HookLogic’s partnership with Contact at Once!, the BDC or salesperson can then send a text to that shopper extending the offer to test drive.

A Dynamic Workplace

HookLogic has won three Automotive Website Awards for marketing innovation. Metter credits the development and auto teams for the success his division has enjoyed. HookLogic is headquartered in New York City, but the auto team is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., just a few minutes from the University of Michigan campus. The proximity to the school enables the company to showcase its innovations and talent to prospective employees. And if that doesn’t hook ‘em, perhaps the office environment will. HookLogic’s Ann Arbor offices are housed in an historic 11,000-square-foot building built in 1927 that was home to a popular microbrewery before it moved out of state.

Fifty of the company’s 145 employees work in the legendary building, which features an open-air space, high ceilings and exposed brick walls – the perfect venue for tailgating during the Wolverine’s home football games. It’s a dynamic, dog-friendly workplace with Ping-Pong, foosball, company-issued earphones (for when the employees need to block out distractions in the wide-open bullpen area) and creatively named conference rooms, such as the Motown Funk room and the Classic Rock room.

Employees are free to come and go as they please with no set office hours, and their vacation time is unlimited. Hiring the right people means that management doesn’t have to babysit the employees. “Our employees have bought in to what our mission is,” said Metter, “and so putting a time table on when they have to be in the office and when they have to leave and when they take lunch, I think, restricts some of their creativity. We have an unlimited amount of vacation time, however, there’s not one employee that abuses that. In fact what we see is they take less vacation time because they like being at work, they like their co-workers and they like the environment that we’ve provided for them.”

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