Digital Dealer Magazine August 2007
by : Mitch Turck
The following five suggestions on how to get the most from your Internet department should yield some financial benefits. The sooner these actions are put into place, the better.
1. Your used car manager should be the most Internet savvy of all your sales employees. The used car manager should be scouring popular consumer sites (AutoTrader, cars.com, etc.) on a weekly basis to see how your used inventory pricing compares with the competition. The used car manager should also be checking the out-of-state wholesale auctions online, many of which will put together a great package to get your store’s business. And when it comes down to getting rid of one particular car, it should be the used car manager posting that car on Craigslist, enthusiast chat rooms and other community forums to maximize the vehicle’s exposure.
2. Your perceived DMA should shift from a “death grip on a five-mile radius” strategy to a “fishnet across a 50-mile radius” strategy. One huge obstruction the Internet presents to your local business is that it reduces traveling distance between stores from 45 minutes to five mouse clicks. Consumers who live in your area don’t need to come to you for their favorite brand anymore if a dealer 30 miles away is giving them a significantly better price, or has the customer’s car in-stock and ready to test drive while you are showing the customer a paint chip and telling him to use his imagination. Many dealers complain about this loss of local traffic due to the Internet, but then the obvious question becomes, “if a dealer 45 minutes away is stealing from your DMA, why aren’t you stealing from his?”
3. Your managers should submit mystery shopper leads to competing dealers every month. Are you wondering why so many of your Internet leads are telling you that Grass is Greener Motors is beating your offer by $100 a month? Instead of scratching your head, why not put a mystery lead into that store yourself, and see what kind of deal they are sending to Internet leads? Furthermore, find out what everyone is doing to stay in touch with their Internet customers, and how your competition is trying to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. If your autoresponder says, “Unlike other dealers, we focus on 100 percent customer satisfaction,” and your three closest competitors say the same thing, then what good is that line? Use that opportunity to find ways to stand out from other dealers… and don’t forget to mystery shop your own Internet department as well.
4. Your sales staff should come to grips with the fact that Internet customers know more than they do. Depending on the competence of your sales staff, this may or may not be true, but it’s more important to realize that many Internet customers believe it’s true. They have access to information they never knew about before, and this puts them in a controlling mindset. If your staff doesn’t respect that, or is too proud to admit that maybe the customer does know more than them, there’s a high probability you will lose that customer to another store who lets them think they’re in control.
5. Everyone in your dealership should recognize that it’s only a matter of time before your entire customer base becomes Internet shoppers. If you are responsible for the future of your dealership, there is one statement you can’t afford to ignore: every customer is an Internet customer… they just don’t know it yet. Think about it – you can use the Internet to find a vehicle’s color combinations, standard features and options, MSRP, invoice price, typical prices paid by consumers, rebates (including manufacturer to dealer rebates), residual value, inventory availability, and dealer specials. Now try to tell me there’s a single up out there who wouldn’t take advantage of all that information if they knew where to find it.
The sun is setting on the days of uninformed customers – either have a plan of action, or have another career lined up.