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Greg Gifford

Greg Gifford Director of Search and Social

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Dealer Group Websites… Play Fair!

We work with multiple dealer groups, and they all have their own preferences on how inventory and leads are routed.  Some have 2 OEM flags under 1 roof and share a DMS, others have multiple rooftops and 1 pre-owned lot with each running their own DMS, and some even have multiple pre-owned lots with one OEM rooftop.  The point is that the multiple rooftop configurations of dealer groups have no end.

Just recently, we brought on a new franchise OEM dealer group that had 2 OEM rooftops and 1 pre-owned rooftop.  Simple enough, right?  Here was the rub:  The pre-owned lot was 40 miles away from the OEM rooftops, they had 1 dealer group website that only displayed phone number and contacts for the new car stores, and all new car and pre-owned car leads went to the new car sales reps!  You see where this is going…

New car sales reps were selling the pre-owned vehicles on a lot 40 miles away to leads that came through the dealership’s website.  Consequently, the pre-owned sales reps only handled walk-ins and phone ups (that didn’t call the phone number on the website).  The Pre-Owned Manager had talked with the General Manager on several occasions about this issue, but the answer was always “I don’t care who sells the car, as long as the car is sold.” When we brought them on board, the 4 pre-owned sales reps were ready to bolt…

Not only is this a morale killer for the pre-owned sales reps to have their inventory sold out from under them to their own leads, but it was extremely inefficient for customers as well.  When a customer would call in asking about a pre-owned vehicle, the new car sales rep hasn’t even seen the vehicle, so he has to look it up.   The rep then informs the customer that he can show the vehicle but it is 40 miles away (or that he can show the vehicle at a later time, when someone’s had enough time to drive over and bring the vehicle back to the new car lot).  Really?  What if a customer just walks on the lot looking for the pre-owned vehicle they saw on the website?  I couldn’t imagine running a dealership group in this way.

To make a long story short, we had conversations with the GM of the new dealership and convinced him that new car leads should be routed to new car sales reps and pre-owned leads should be routed to pre-owned sales reps, no matter what channel the customer came in through.

There is definitely power in a dealer group’s online presence, but our clients need to understand the fundamental foundation of the online display of their group brand online.

So, I wanted to list 5 fundamentals of a dealer group website:

  1. Home page – Home pages are intended to cast a broad digital marketing net.  You do not know what the consumer is coming to your homepage to find, so you should have every department represented. We believe the pre-owned inventory on a dealer group’s home page should get top left screen real estate.  Top left is the hottest visual section of an online display.  Consumers are drawn to your dealer group pre-owned inventory because of the large selection.  Let them search all pre-owned inventory regardless of location.  Don’t make them go to each location’s website to find their desired vehicle.On the new car side, consumers are coming to your website to look at a specific brand, so having new inventory separated by brand makes a lot of sense.
  2. Inventory list - Enabling the search of all pre-owned inventory from one list is key.  You can either separate the inventory list by location, or once the customer is on the vehicle details page, the location can be displayed.
  3. Search, Filter, and Sort – Does your dealer website have the “old school” search? Usability of this old school search functionality is poor at best.  Words that come to mind are clunky, frustrating, and unintuitive; especially if your customers are searching large sets of inventory.  Dealer groups should be using the modern user-friendly search filters that are available from the advanced website providers.  Google-style search boxes are key as well.  Many customers, especially ones who are later in the buying cycle, will prefer to just type in what they’re looking for.
  4. Vehicle Details Page - Once a consumer lands on a vehicle, the contact phone number (and in some cases, the actual sales rep’s name) must be displayed.  The provider’s system must be able to display phone numbers by location and by vehicle.
  5. Lead routing by location -When a lead is submitted through your dealer website, is it routed to the correct location or does it go to the Internet ringmaster who “passes out the leads”?  Please – stop the one-person-passing-out-leads business.  It doesn’t scale, it’s a single point of failure, and it causes constant conflict among teams.  Route the lead directly to the location and representative that is vested in responding to that lead.

Does your dealer website have these 5 fundamentals in place?

Skip the internal conflict over who can steal cars out from under another group location.  If a sister store has an existing client interested in inventory on another location’s lot, that’s different than routing pre-owned leads to the new car location.  Dealer group websites are a vital piece of the marketing puzzle, but nothing is going to fit together correctly unless the vehicles are clearly assigned to the correct physical location.

Marc McGurren
Great word sir! Our website provider ecarlist has even taken this a step further for us. On our "portal" site with all of our inventory - the phone number changes depending on where the car is located at. The lead then goes to the appropriate CRM located at the appropriate store - which then gets to the correct sales people. This goes right in line with what Keith Shetterly just wrote about regarding a Good Ol' Boy Network. We must do what's best for the customer, not what's best for our favorite employees.

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