We all know that just having a website, no matter how great, is not enough to make sales in the automotive industry. LEARN MORE
This is the 3rd chapter of my "Diaries of an eCommerce Director", and the strategies and processes I am mentioning here are real life-time examples I did and implemented into my dealerships I had worked for.
I have visited hundreds and hundreds of dealerships over the past few years. Some of them were nice looking, some of them were elegant and others were just “awkward”. For example: Why would you as a GM or Owner love an idea during an upcoming Thanksgiving and Black Friday campaign and have your head lurking out of a turkey’s rear end – you want to be funny, alright, but do you think this idea brings you more customers during the holidays and want to buy a car from you because the idea is cute?
During my career I worked with several website providers and roughly 14 OEMs, and I discovered that website success relies on you - the eCommerce Director or Internet Manager and the support teams of the vendors working together. As so often in life, relationship is everything, and with a frequent exchange of ideas, suggestions and plans of these two parties, life should be getting easier when thinking about an ad campaign or message on your websites.
When you have an OEM endorsed website provider, I would invest in the endorsed solution first. Many shoppers are looking for that brand of car, not you, so make that “door” to the dealership as appealing and competitive as possible. It will help you as an Internet Manager to focus on the main duties of your job – processes, response time, coaching your crew, selling cars and reporting.
The other duties of creating specials, developing more content pages, graphic work are important as well, but let’s be clear here – how many of you are educated SEO specialists, graphic artists and writers – wouldn’t you rather leave it to a specialist? The good OEM programs even help you pay for these people to make your life easier. Some OEM endorsed providers will do a lot of the work of running their campaigns on your site for you. The advantage to a dealer is as clear as chicken broth, as we say in Germany. No delays to display your specials, the right numbers, the right models, the right small print. Campaigns like “Autobahn Event” or “Mr. Opportunity” are implemented right from the get-go compliant.
Be honest here, how often did you find yourself surfing hours for the right images on Google, only to create yourself an event on your website mirroring the national OEM campaign and then suddenly receiving an email of the OEM compliance department, stating that your “Civic special does show the wrong trim line and pricing”, and you need to take it down to get not flagged!
Do I hear “cookie-cutter” and “plainness” remarks? Remember what I wrote a few lines prior – you are responsible for success of your department and I expect from you to be pro-active to make your website stand out. If your site is “cookie cutter” it is because you didn’t invest to make it better. One of my sites was an OEM Cobalt site but I found out I had over 1700 design variations I could choose from.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you just work with your vendor.
Here are some ideas which helped me early on in my career to achieve my goal in having the best website in the city:
Last but not least – Let me reflect on the purpose of using an OEM endorsed website provider.
It is all about getting more sales by being consistent with the “personality” of the brand and leveraging the shoppers they are creating for you with their advertising.
For example, the OEM wants their customers finding a constant CI (corporate identity) and consistent message – from OEM website over to the franchise website – and so do many shoppers. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to convince shoppers that your store is better than the same franchise down the road. What happens when you don’t do this?
Volkswagen has a blue/white/gray scheme and I witnessed the following scenario. A dealer located in the Southwest thought it would be great to integrate a desert color palette of yellow, umbra, black and gold throughout the pages for their VW franchise. Not only was it hideous but totally denied the affiliation with the franchise. I actually listened to recorded phone calls generated from the website’s 1-800 numbers, where the customers were asking if they have VW Golf’s in their inventory! True story!
Do you think a McDonalds franchisee, who paid money, time and efforts to build his own burger restaurant and the brand in her city suddenly would come up with the idea to get rid of the branded yellow/red M and instead goes for a pink/purple expression?
Stick to the corporate identity and personality your OEM is providing to display and message your brand appropriately. You’ll get more sales.