20 years ago, buyers would visit several dealerships and go on dozens of test drives to find the right car. A prime location and a big sign with decent inventory frontage was all a dealership needed to guarantee a lot of foot traffic.
While this was the norm 20 years ago, times have changed. A lot. With the advancement of technology, connectivity, and online shopping habits, buyers now tend to do most of the decision making online. Faster decisions can also be made on the fly with the aid of connected mobile devices.
According to Google, car shoppers make only two stops at dealerships before finding their perfect vehicle. That means your opportunities for high foot traffic have decreased dramatically. Conversely, it also means that the buyers who do walk in your door should be better qualified than ever before.
So, how does a dealership better position itself to be one of these two stops for buyers?
Local Business Listings
If the majority of vehicle searches now start online, it is important to understand what buyers are finding in relation to your dealership. In the past, your storefront meant the front of your store, the signage and frontage. This physical presence was likely the first impression most buyers would have of a dealership.
Nowadays, storefront more commonly refers to a website storefront, or in a broader sense, online presence. When was the last time you went to Google and typed your dealership name in the search bar, or typed in a search request related to buying a car? How is your dealership represented in that search?
Google (and Bing) sees to it that almost every business now has a local listing page. If the business has not taken the time to populate the page themselves, then Google will do it for them. The profile also features contributions from visitors to the business in the form of pictures and reviews.
A page that is not actively managed and curated can be surprising and often disappointing to unsuspecting businesses. The good news is that you can claim your existing business page, even if you are late to discover its existence. This will allow you to take control of what visitors see, and join in the conversation about your business in the process.
Traditionally when we think of social media, we think of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.… However, almost everything online today can be considered some form of social media. Even Google local listings, mentioned above, could be considered social.
Any website that requires a profile and allows reviews, has opened its doors to a social conversation. Because of how easy it is for car shoppers to share opinions online, it is extremely important for dealerships to monitor these conversations and add positive contributions.
Equally important is taking a proactive approach on social media. Your dealership needs to have a presence on all of the platforms where buyers congregate. Dealerships can take control of the conversation by proactively sharing stories and creating the narrative it wants to create.
This type of content will start a conversation about your business. Be actively involved in that conversation. Share your side of every story, good or bad. Show off all of the good things you do for customers and for the community and ask your audience to engage with you online, in the community and in your store.
Finally, get involved in the community around you. The world we live in is more connected than ever before. We all seem to live in a virtual world, but in reality, we live in an augmented world. Online interactions are merely a supplement to real life, not a replacement for it.
All of your efforts to perfect your online presence and social media sharing will carry a lot more weight if you are also involved in the community (and talking about it online).
This also means supporting local businesses, including local TV and radio.