“As the world moves from analog to digital, what is your plan?” asked Avinash Kaushik, Google Digital Marketing Evangelist, as he started his Digital Dealer keynote presentation. “Rethink the way you’re finding people and influencing them.”
Last week at the Digital Dealer Conference in Orlando, Florida, over 2,000 members of the automotive community came together to share insights and best practices to help dealers connect with car shoppers online. With a heavy focus on reputation management and customer experience, Digital Dealer 14 speakers gave dealers tips on how to make an immediate impact at their dealerships.
Trust and Value
“Trust has a tremendous impact on everyone in the room,” shared Jay Baer, bestselling author and Digital Dealer keynote speaker.
Throughout his address, Baer encouraged Internet Directors and General Managers to build trust by putting shopper needs at the forefront of their marketing strategy. Even more, he stressed that dealers look to build relationships by providing relevant information about both their inventory and dealerships, rather than trying to “close on the first date.”Dealerships can communicate this through traditional best practices, such as quality vehicle merchandising, as well as new strategies, like answering common customer questions through a dealership blog.
“We need more information because we have more information,” Baer continued. “What do your customers and perspective customers need?”
To be truly useful to car shoppers – to provide Youtility, as Baer called it – dealers must work to understand their customers through structured channels, such as site analytics and online reviews, as well as through informal, in-person conversations. By understanding what customers are after, dealerships have an opportunity to tailor their marketing messages and processes to meet customer needs.
Providing a Relevant Experience
“On my calendar, in my schedule, I block out one day a month to act like a customer,” shared David Johnson of Byers Automotive Group during an interview at the conference. “I walk around and look at the little things. I don’t sit behind my desk; I sit where customers sit.”
Johnson’s offline approach echoes Avinash Kaushik’s recommendations for how dealerships should approach their online marketing. Kaushik suggested dealerships work at identifying common sense errors in the online experience they provide to potential customers. For example, if a banner ad promotes new trucks, don’t have it link to convertibles; if a television ad includes a dealership website URL, make sure there’s a relevant mobile site for prospects to visit on their smartphone while watching.
According to Kaushik, dealerships that aren’t providing a great customer experience and monitoring their online reputation are putting themselves at a tremendous risk.
“You [dealers] lose sales and don’t even know it,” he shared.
Making it Work for Your Dealership
“Establish a process that works for you,” shared Vicki Gibbs of Albright Digital during her workshop on reputation management. “Your dealership is different than the store down the road.”
Since online reputation and customer experience are so closely connected, start by looking at the experience it provides from the customer's perspective, both online and off. Follow the advice of David Johnson and walk in the shoes of a typical customer, then look for opportunities for improvement.
After you've got a sense of your dealership's offline experience, check out Digital Dealer workshop presenter and Cars.com Trainer Jack Simmons’ handout to get started managing online reviews.
How does your dealership provide a great experience to car shoppers? Share your best practices in the comments below!