Becoming a Web-centric Automobile Dealer

December 2010

In today’s high-performing dealership, the web is the strategic center.

What does it mean to be web-centric? It means that EVERYTHING is built around web-based systems. These systems attract customers, ensure rapid, high-quality initial response to their requests for information, manage ongoing communications, manage inventory and inventory pricing, and schedule service visits. In the high-performing dealership, these systems are built to effectively inter-operate as necessary to support the enterprise.

To build a web-centric dealership, one starts with the end in mind. The job is to attract customers, effectively merchandise, receive leads, respond to leads effectively, follow up effectively, manage interactions, track vehicle status through the sale and engage the social web.

Attract Customers
To attract customers, the web-centric dealership has mastered SEO and SEM. The primary website has been optimized for Google Page Rank. Some auto dealerships have introduced microsites to increase the entry points into the dealership’s web environment. You can’t sell a car if no one ever sees you.

Effectively Merchandise
More than 2 million listings compete for shopper attention at any time. Specific search criteria help buyers filter results faster than ever before. The key is to present in-demand inventory, at a competitive price, with photos and copy that sells. Tools such as vAuto, FirstLook and AAX enable the dealer to appraise, price and merchandise their vehicles. You can also use inventory feed solutions such as HomeNet and Dealer Specialties to ensure your inventory is sent to the right sites for presentation to your marketplace.

Receive Leads
How easy is it for the customer to request a quote on your website? Is the lead form “front and center”? Do you have a benefit for the customer, such as “Receive a Price Quote in 20 Minutes”? Leads can also come from third party providers and OEM’s, but the best-performing lead is one that comes to your own website. Make it easy for the customer to send you a lead.

Effectively Respond (Initial)
The data clearly shows that a price quote response within 20 minutes doubles your conversion rate. Systems exist today to perform this function, which is called “Digital Response Management” (DRM). Make sure you have a DRM solution in place that ensures a multi-vehicle price quote sent from the assigned sales rep gets to the customer in 10 minutes every time. It can double your sales.

Effectively Follow Up
Automated, web-based follow-up solutions are in place today that enable the dealer to check in with a customer who initially expressed interest but then didn’t purchase right away. This ongoing follow-up is a key success driver. If executed well, a dealership will see a significant lift in sales as customers are attracted back into the purchase process.

Manage Ongoing Interactions
To keep track of your leads and to have a total view into the customer, you need a good CRM system. A comprehensive CRM tracks the customer’s every interaction with the dealership, from initial lead through purchase and into the ongoing service experience. If you’re still just operating on an ILM solution, take the leap to a full-fledged CRM

Track Vehicle Status
The DMS system is the backbone of your dealership, as it provides the accounting status of all vehicles. Increasingly these tools are delivered via web-based SaaS platforms. DMS data can also power customer lifecycle solutions such as OneCommand for following up after the sale.

Engage the Social Web
Your customers talk about you online. To the degree you can engage them and solve their problems, you can turn those conversations positive. Many dealers have Facebook pages, but the vast majority have less than 100 Friends. The best dealers in the social space have over 1000 Friends. Make sure your social presence reinforces your overall market position.

Once these systems are in place, the key is to tie them together as seamlessly as possible so that your internal work flows are optimized. At the end of the day, people need to interact with these tools and systems to make everything work properly, and since the tools all come from different vendors there is invariably some work to do to bring everything together.

By tending to the web and your corresponding systems infrastructure, you create a web-centric dealership. By creating a web-centric dealership, you execute a power shift that vaults your dealership into the top ranks.

Learn how ResponseLogix SmartQuote and SmartFollow solutions can improve your internet sales practice

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