There's absolutely no denying that competition between dealers (especially dealers in the same area) is fierce. Many dealers within a fairly short 10-mile radius sell a lot of the same inventory and offer a lot of very similar services and incentives. One thing that's particularly worth mentioning is that the market is only continuing to become more saturated -- with auto groups forever expanding, and entirely new options for consumers to purchase a new or used vehicle, sprouting up out of the woodwork.
As the industry has continued to become more saturated and competitve over the last few years, I've noticed a rather dynamic shift in the automotive digital landscape. Bit by bit, many dealership websites have begun to improve various aspects of their online presence. Dealerships are quickly learning how to get more auto leads through technology. And it makes total sense! It isn't enough to have stellar in-showroom customer service. More and more consumers, everyday, are doing the majority of their research online (for anything -- not just cars); and they already have a really good idea of what they want before stepping foot into the showroom. That said, many dealerships have realized this -- hence the shift.
I think we’re looking at a generation of dealers that are focused on building their own, dealer branded, websites that are customer to their specific dealership. The cookie-cutter, 3rd party branded everything, just isn’t what is working anymore. Consumers want in-depth, engaging tools and content on dealer websites. They want to know about YOUR brand, they’ve already stopped by all the 3rd party sites. It looks like the brightest of dealers out there are very much up to the challenge and are delivering in a big way.
Now, I'm gonna safely assume that 98% of successful dealerships in the United States have a website that allows consumers to look at the most up-to-date inventory, and perhaps, get quotes and sign up for a test drive. While this is definitely the sign of a dealership that understands the way consumers think, these type of cookie-cutter websites (often templated by larger companies) will only make it so far. And no, I'm not saying that you should drop your website provider... the website you have is FINE. The real shift (or change) I'm seeing is that dealerships are now adding more personalized touches to their websites -- and they're doing this as a means of standing out digitally from other dealerships, especially in a non-monetary way. Offering value beyond just price, being that dealers are much more competitive in their pricing between each other than in the past.
Again, many dealership websites are templated by 3rd parties with the purpose of showing off inventory. This means they're really only as vibrant or colorful as the template -- and maybe the inventory. To stand out digitally, dealers have taken to integrating nifty tools that are both sleek and downright useful. For example: many dealership websites are have begun to really customize their own lead generation tools and static forms. They’re swapping out 3rd brand logo images in favor of their own; adding videos and other rich media to make the form more vibrant, and of course, heavily customizing the questions in order to better engage with the consumer. These high personalized interactive lead capture forms are attention-grabbing, useful, and something many other dealerships haven’t adopted yet. They add resourceful color and animation to an otherwise boring and, what can also be, a very stressful experience. And in addition to the widgets and tools being added, dealership websites (in general) are just becoming sleeker, cleaner and more professional looking.
In addition to modifying their own websites, dealerships are also doing other things to ensure that their digital presence is appealing to their target market. Dealerships are now putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in some instances, LinkedIn. Once an afterthought, many dealers have really began leveraging social media as a crucial tool for communicating with the local consumers; AND for answering inquiries on a very personal level. This is definitely a huge shift, as most dealers (n the past) have typically thought about customer service happening in the showroom itself. Dealers realize now that consumers are very busy; and if they can get their inquiries and questions answered with a simple message, they will. Another thing dealers are able to do with these platforms is answer questions before consumers even ask them — and that’s by posting useful information on new inventory, promotions and so on.
Next week, I’ll go into more detail about the most common online implementations and upgrades are for dealerships, and why they’re important for dealership’s to stand out!