The core of any successful business, regardless of its size or the industry it’s found within, comes in the patronage of its clientele. Some businesses thrive upon a large volume of one-time purchases, while others are reliant upon incremental repeat business. Years ago, the difference depended simply upon (i) the quality of product and/or service offered (ii) the demand for that product and/or service within its sales reach, and (iii) the presence of competition within shared sales reach.
You don’t have to be an industry veteran or skilled analyst to understand this, or to recognize that these factors are just as relevant (and influential) today. You’re in automotive marketing for (bleep)’s sake. You know, all too well, that the difference between the challenges faced by today’s business and that of years past, is in the expectations of the consumer.
Transparency. Immediacy. Personalization.
These are three of the primary challenges faced by today’s marketers when attempting to address the expectations of an increasingly more powerful and demanding consumer. And a business’s competence in tackling these three challenges ‘head-on’ exists almost exclusively online. That said, ask yourself these questions in regard to your online presence:
- Does it provide your customers with assurance of your reputability and professionalism?
- Does it meet consumer expectations regarding promptness, if not immediacy of both response and results?
- When your clients close a session, be it informational or transactional, do they feel as it the experience was built with them in mind?
Now, in all fairness, you might be employed by a dealership who would answer “no” to one or more of these questions. Perhaps, it’s your responsibility to fix the problem. Or perhaps, you’re building a ground-up strategy and aim to create the best possible results, and are already taking expectations into consideration. Either way, let’s talk about how the quality of your online presence can either strengthen or weaken the experience of the automotive consumer.
Remember, in this age of Amazon.com, customers have been spoiled. And yes, Amazon is the bar which you need to aspire to.
For starters, “Show us your website.” Don’t be embarrassed, we’re all friends here. That said, we hope that your website wasn’t built by your nephew in 2007 when he took a single-semester web development class that required a real-world application. If so, one can assume it might offer poor navigation, limited functionality and/or a dated aesthetic.
But there’s also the manner in which it’s formatted. Just a few years ago, the design of a website was acceptable as long as it worked well on a desk or laptop. Enter tablets. Now factor in statistics on handheld / cell-phone usage, and just how exponentially it exceeds all other devices. Is your website responsive, designed to work consistently, regardless of the device being used? Let’s take a look.
Oh, you’re embarrassed and don’t want to give up your website? Okay, fine. We’ll Google it.
Transparency begins with accessibility. And according to the All-Seeing Eye of Google, any lack of accessibility in an online search renders you all but non-existent to customers who are looking for you (just like we are). And if you’re not placing in the first page of a search result (if not the first few results listed) you might as well close up your doors. With that in mind, what is your SEO strategy? And if you don’t have (or are ill-equipped to execute one) are you employing an SEO professional to help you improve your standing?
Now, let’s pretend a customer has found your website. Does it provide the information, services and/or functionality that they’re looking for? Remember the ‘A-word’ (Amazon). Through an easy search tool, we’re able to find an existing item, supporting information & documentation, comparable and/or associated items, as well as the option of purchasing that item. Why should a vehicle purchase be any different? In fact, considering the expense involved, shouldn’t any vehicle purchase be afforded the same (if not greater) transparency than Amazon gives us?
But transparency extends beyond inventory, information, and transactions. Your website should empower your customers to understand who you are. Not just by name or face, but through your intention to present your operation to them openly, as a result of your desire to build a relationship with them. This should be echoed (and can be reinforced) through your Social Media presence as well.
In many cases, today’s consumers know what they want. In far more instances, what they know best is that they want it now. This expectation is present in an online search, in the loading of a web page, and in the ease with which a customer can obtain information or perform a transaction.
Think of it as your first impression. If you’re early, you’ve done it right; whereas a late arrival is viewed as unprofessional. In fact, it’s been estimated that nearly 80% of prospective customers will choose not to do business with you if your website loads slowly. And that’s just your website! Now think about how demanding (and damaging) a customer can be on your public social media profiles. That said, the speed of effective responsiveness means everything!
- If a customer wants to know if you have any Certified Pre-Owned Chevy Traverse, tell them fast.
- If they want to obtain a Vehicle History Report, make it readily available for them to download.
- If they want to schedule a test drive, be there waiting for them.
- If a customer wants to know the hours of your Service Dept., give it to them fast.
The circumstances don’t matter, only the results do. Make sure that every aspect of your online presence is facilitated for immediacy.
It’s not about you. It’s about them. The ability to create and/or manage an online presence which is designed with the customer in mind exudes humility. Through each mouse click or finger swipe, it reinforces your desire to have their business, simply by how accessible you feel to them. That said, look at your website and social media account through the eyes of a stranger. Now ask yourself, in its design, functionality, and use does it come across as being about ‘you,’ or your ‘customer.’
I think by now you realize that there is both a right and wrong answer here. As a dealership, sales goals are in place, and big dollars are at play. Owners, management and marketers alike need to ask themselves honestly, “Is our online presence driving customers TO us? Or away FROM us?”