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1. Sales wise 2013 seemed like a strong comeback year for the industry. What activities or trends do you think helped dealers this year?
This year has been great and the auto industry will probably finish with an annualized selling rate of close to 16 million vehicles. This strength is due to several reasons; consumers replacing their aging vehicles, a slowly improving economy leading to more consumer confidence, discounts and incentives offered by manufacturers and the increasing availability of credit to customers. The fact that banks have eased lending standards has really helped; to learn more about how dealerships can take advantage of current credit trends, click on Josh Vajda's video as he explains "Three Credit Trends to Help Sell More Cars."
2. We know consumers are engaging with dealers and shopping for cars in new ways. How does AutoUSA see their programs help dealers during these shifts?
Today's consumers can use the Internet to research and buy just about anything online; from music to electronics to researching homes and booking travel. So you can imagine their frustration when it's time to shop for a car and dealerships aren't giving them the information they need to progress further in their shopping process. This is one reason why so many customers still visit independent car-shopping websites like Kelly Blue Book and cars.com. They research various brands and models to decide what they want; and then they look for pricing or payment information so they know what they can afford. Unfortunately this is where so many dealerships fail to capture customers.
Most dealerships' websites are designed to capture leads from visitors with chat windows and pop-up lead forms; and many salespeople still insist on trying to set the appointment without giving the customer anything in return. AutoUSA provides dealerships with tools that generate leads by giving the customer incentives and information. Giving something greatly increases your chances of getting something in return. For example, ShowPro incentive cards result in more appointments set, more shows and higher close rates. Payment Pro is a cutting edge payment-quoting tool that gives the customer monthly payment information based on their individual credit rating, without requiring them to fill out long credit applications. Our dealers using Payment Pro are reporting higher average closing rates and lower cost-per-sale. The more dealerships adjust their sales process to help the customer complete as much of the shopping process online as possible, the more likely those customers will ultimately buy from them.
3. Do you see any new trends emerging in auto retail for next year?
We hope that more dealerships will focus on the customer, as discussed in the last question. Many dealerships spend a fortune on SEO/SEM programs, yet according to a recent survey that AutoUSA conducted, Internet departments reported "not enough leads" as their primary challenge. Although SEO/SEM can deliver thousands of visitors, with paltry conversion rates dealers should be focusing on what their website offers the customer. Providing useful information, engaging blogs and videos, and conversion tools designed to walk customers through the buying process will result in higher volumes of leads.
4. Will AutoUSA be highlighting special initiatives at the NADA Convention and Expo in New Orleans?
We will be showcasing our entire suite of website conversion tools at booth #3514. We are also interested in hearing what is working for Internet departments, so we're running a little promotion at our booth: come by and share a "best practice" or marketing or sales tip on video, and receive a $25 gift card in return. We'll be sharing more information about this promotion next week, and we're looking forward to New Orleans!
This article is re-posted from the December issue of AutoUSA's STAR Leader