Drive Them to Your Website

Is your store foot traffic down, even as your brand maintains or even is increasing in share across your market area? It could be consumer “website previewing” at work.

Dealers who complain of lower foot traffic could be falling victim to their own lack of acceptance of today’s busy car buyer and the dramatic impact of dealership website previewing — or going to a website before going to the place of business.

We estimate that only one in five dealers have fully embraced this phenomenon and have designed the appropriate buyer-friendly websites.

We’ve already seen the impact of this in other retail industries. In other big-ticket purchase categories, these are a couple of the percentages of consumers that visit a company’s website before actually shopping its store:

Furniture Stores: 82%
Homebuilder: 85%-91%

Clearly, consumers are loving the convenience of being able to “look in your front window” before stepping foot in the dealership where they might confront an aggressive salesperson. Smart car dealers already know this and are spending more time motivating consumers to visit their store’s website — first.

We see great growth opportunities for auto dealers who understand the new habits of how today’s consumers preview, plan, and finally, buy vehicles.

How can you get started right now? Here are the website questions for you to consider and then act on:

  • Does your website design reflect the personality and taste of your customers?
  • Is it necessary for customers to conduct financial transactions on your website or is it being used simply to preview? (If it’s the latter, simplify your website.)
  • Is your website easy to navigate?
  • Is it necessary for you to purchase traffic from a major search engine or could you promote your website and generate more traffic for less cost?
  • What’s the best way for you to handle e-mails and customer comments from your website? Should you have one business development center manager handle this process to ensure consistency?
  • How do you advertise your website? Does it need its own advertising budget or can it be added to a current TV advertising plan?

Also, think about the profit and growth impact of using local mainstream media, such as TV and billboards, to promote your dealership website.

There is a less of a chance of consumers seeing a competitor’s website address on a search engine at the same time as yours, thereby reducing cross-shopping.

We’ve designed hundreds of “triangulated” broadcast television plus TV station website campaigns, and the results are in. Dealers report web traffic increases of 20% -100% with 10-30% net profit increases following.

Why is this? Cost efficiencies! For contrast, think about this. Consider how many full-page color car dealer print ads ran last Sunday in the newspaper in complete opposition to the fact that most consumers are doing their auto buying online and previewing dealer websites mid-week. Also, the cost per thousand to run these print ads is exponentially higher than a television and online campaign.

Web previewing is big. But if we’ve learned one thing over the last 30 years it’s that many dealers do not accept change easily. Dealership principals need winning website ideas right now. A good starting point is to contact your local broadcast television station and their station website. They already have the muscle that it takes to explode a dealership’s sales and profitability.

Adam Armbruster is partner with retail and broadcasting consultancy Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. in Red Bank, NJ. He is at adam [at] esacompany [dot] com.

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