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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Dealers, Are You Ready for Cyber Monday? Is your website?

Hey dealers, is your website equipped to out-perform competition this holiday season?  Your 2011 holiday planning should already be well underway but there a few last-minute tips to get you in the spirit of closing sales from web leads.

Cyber Monday is a marketing term created by companies to persuade people to shop online on the Monday immediately following Black Friday.   Between now and December 31, a record number of consumers researching their next vehicle purchase will be visiting your dealership website.

Forrester Research predicted in its U.S. Online Retail Forecast, 2009 to 2014 report that the web would influence 48% of 2011 in-store sales, predictions which are set to come true.  The average holiday shopper plans to do 36% of their shopping online – whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or making a purchase (or an appointment to make a purchase). Data from Experian Hitwise indicates that website traffic increases in a troubled economy because buyers research purchases more carefully online to stretch shopping budgets.

Is your digital showroom (dealership website) ready for this spike in traffic?

To capture these leads, streamline your sales process and put your holiday marketing into high gear, try these tips:

1)  Review online sales and customer-support options for better, more personalized service.

Integrating a live-chat option into your online sales strategy will help both you and prospective customers.  Live-chat allows consumers to receive the full automotive shopping experience without having to leave the comforts of home.  With the majority of consumers doing extensive research online prior to visiting a dealership, live-chat gives dealers the opportunity to engage website visitors in a personal sales process, answering questions, providing information and obtaining contact information.  Live chat will save you time and money by transforming your already present website visitors into ready-to-buy leads and appointments.

2)  Review last year’s SEO strategy

Which keywords sent the most and highest converting traffic to your website?  This holiday season, create content and paid search campaigns with a high density of these best performing keywords.  Drop the season’s worst performing keywords and determine which holiday-relevant keywords should be added.  Doing so will maximize the findability of your dealership and inventory online.

3)  Create a Mobile Site

Many holiday shoppers will be researching online and on their smartphones both before and during their trips to your dealership.  Dealers would be wise to integrate the showroom experience with relevant, timely and personalized website and mobile app info.  This can be done using QR codes that link to relevant videos, vehicle specs and inventory comparisons.  Google is forecasting that 15 percent of total online search this holiday season will come from mobile.  Dealers interested in quickly and cost-effectively building a mobile site should try out Google’s new GoMo initiative.

4)  Ask for an email address wherever you can, both online and in-store.

Design an email strategy that includes holiday purchasing incentives and promotions.  ”Email is still the king of Web marketing,” says Allison Howen, Associate Editor of Website Magazine.  ”There are about three times as many email accounts as there are Facebook and Twitters users combined, according to a recent study from Smarter Tools.

5)  Act fast to plug your leaky conversion funnel with split testing.

Use your web analytics to determine the pages on your website critical to conversion that have the poorest engagement.  Use Google’s simple A/B Split testing solution to see how subtle changes to buttons and forms can make a big impact on your conversion rate.  There’s no better time to start testing than now and there’s no more critical time to achieve your highest conversion than the holiday season.

6) Add social sharing to product pages to turn customers into sales channels.

Ask showroom visitors and customers alike to rate your dealership on your Facebook page (as well as other rating sites).  Encourage consumers on the lot to check-in via Social and incentivize the sharing of photos and testimonials of their in-store experience.  Keep your social profiles updated with holiday specials along with pictures and videos of inventory.  Also, resolve customer service issues on Facebook or Twitter to publicly display your customer service chops.

Remember dealers, these strategies are not just for the holidays.  Don’t stop just because it’s December 25.  Take advantage of the last six days of the year by ramping up the promotion of year-end sales on your website and social media.  Don’t forget to record your holiday season metrics too.  They will come in handy next year.

When did you start your holiday season digital marketing strategy?  Do you plan on implementing any of the mentioned strategies?  What can you share with the online community that will help dealers be better prepared for next year?

Chris Costner
Justin, great recap on what to keep as most important for the holidays to ensure maximum cyber potential. My favorite is #6: "6) Add social sharing to product pages to turn customers into sales channels. Ask showroom visitors and customers alike to rate your dealership on your Facebook page (as well as other rating sites). Encourage consumers on the lot to check-in via Social and incentivize the sharing of photos and testimonials of their in-store experience. Keep your social profiles updated with holiday specials along with pictures and videos of inventory. Also, resolve customer service issues on Facebook or Twitter to publicly display your customer service chops." Resolving customer service issues in a public manner is key. I really don't care for the comments like "someone will be contacting your shorty" or "can we have a better contact method so we can address this issue." What are your thoughts?
Meghan Ingram
Great tips! I especially like your end note: these ideas do not expire after December 25th. Year-end sales are another great opportunity for dealerships, and by implementing these strategies, dealers can look forward to a profitable 2012, as well.
Justin Braun
The social customer expects, appreciates and advocates brand transparency, especially with regard to customer service. If you WOW the customer with above and beyond service in the public social space, it will generate positive and far-reaching word of mouth. However, issues that involve personal information or are controversial in nature are best resolved through private communication channels. Remember not to delete negative comments on any of your social profiles unless that are truly unfounded or spam. Addressing complaints and going the extra mile to show the unhappy customer (and your social audience) that you care about their experience with your dealership or business is a win no matter how bad the complaint is.
Justin Braun
Thanks Meghan. I owe a lot of gratitude to Allison Howen of Website Magazine for the inspiration. The holiday spirit runs strong all the way through New Years. Dealerships would be wise to try to squeeze every last dollar out of year-end sales.
Jim Bell
Great tips Justin. It seems that you have hit on all of the themes that have been needed to be focused on this year. It just blows me away how many dealers are still behind the 8-ball and in the dinosaur era.

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