technology

Interactive Video: The Power of Story

by Tim James

Video has taken over as the preferred form of content for consumers. According to an infographic on The Drum, in 2017 only 63% of businesses used videos in their marketing. Fast forward to 2021 and that statistic has exploded to 86%. In addition, 85% of consumers stated that they would like to see even more video content from businesses. But forget about these statistics for a moment and just think about yourself and your habits. Would you prefer to read a bunch of words about a product you are researching, or watch an informative video on it?

In my past blogs I have shared various ways you can use video to engage your customers — but here is another idea:

Most dealerships hold new car-owner clinics designed to welcome shoppers who just purchased a new car to the dealership’s family, introduce them to service, and answer any questions they may have after owning their vehicle. These clinics handle a variety of things from how to set the seat memory function, to how to pair their iPhone with the vehicle’s entertainment system. The clinics are designed to invest the customer in your dealership while encouraging them to continue to do business with you as well as refer their friends and family.

If run well, the clinics show the customer that you care and that they are important to your dealership. This sort of service builds tremendous trust with your dealership’s new customers. The problem is, especially now with Covid, many new car owners don’t show up. Whether that’s because of a scheduling issue, or a feeling that it is not important, varies from customer to customer. What if you could offer a similar experience to your customers through video? It’s quite simple!

Think of an interactive video similar to a choose-your-own adventure-type experience. Do you remember those books? You read a page and then, at the end of the page, decide what you want to do next. How about creating a similar experience for your customers, but with video? As vehicles become increasingly more sophisticated and technology-infused, these questions will become more frequent, and your customers will go online to find the answers to their questions rather than come to you. Why don’t YOU become their go-to resource?

Start with what you want them to see and learn, along with the people you want them to meet, and make videos of those things. Typically, at these events, salespeople answer the customer’s vehicle-specific questions such as how the memory seats work, or how rain-sending wipers are set up.

Then, you need to put these videos where your customers will see them. The best way to get these videos seen is to use video email/text to follow up with your new customers. First, create a video introducing how your process works. Put this video on a landing page that includes videos covering the car-specific topics that you think the customer should see, whether it is features of their vehicle’s infotainment system or unique settings on their seat adjustments. This allows customers to guide themselves through your educational process at their own pace, using the power of video to retain more information and come back to watch whenever they need to.

Finally, offer each consumer the opportunity to Live Stream with you on the fly. I know that we all have become familiar with many live streaming services like ZOOM or Facetime. The problem is that not all live streaming services work on all devices (Apple, Android, Desktop, Mobile, etc.) and scheduling set times to live stream often leads to consumers ditching because something came up at that time. Utilize the new “one-click” live streaming technology that places a “Video Call” button on your landing pages (or any designated page) that the consumer can engage anytime at their convenience. This button will call into your dealership’s system and ring any designated team member who is online at that time. When the call is answered by a dealership employee, the consumer and employee are instantly placed in a live streaming call, and it all happens at the consumer’s convenience. Now your employee can walk through the various features with the consumer, just as if they were at a live event. 

Interactive, personalized video engages your customers. It also makes you their go-to resource, helps the customer gain more familiarity with your dealership and staff, and starts the process of building brand loyalty which, hopefully, culminates with a brand advocate. And there is no better, or more profitable, customer than that!

All Aboard! Using Video to Onboard Employees

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, there are many uses for video in marketing. One thing I haven’t yet discussed is using video internally in your dealership. At many dealerships, training is not always a strong focus and new employees are introduced to the dealership and company culture through piles of paperwork, manuals, and other tedious tasks that, for the most part, get skimmed through – rather like all of those “Terms and Agreements” we are all subjected to continuously. For the most part, these just go unread, and we simply scroll down until we reach the “Agree” button.

Well, similar to how you can use video to great success to engage your potential and existing customers, you can also use video to engage new employees and make it simpler and more enjoyable for them to learn about their new career as well as your dealership’s culture, branding, and messaging. Incorporating training videos into your onboarding process will be more engaging and will also be remembered over piles of paper.

Here are four ways to incorporate video into your training:

  1. Sexual Harassment/Discrimination Policies – These are pretty standard in almost every business. Typically, however, there are manuals that have to be read. Then, at the end, the employee just needs to sign the last page and turn it in. These are very important for company culture and legal compliance. Consider having your corporate office or Human Resources department create a video outlining the dealership’s policies THEN have the employee watch the video and sign the form stating they understand them. It would be much more engaging, and, with the right platform, you can have a data record of what has been watched.
  2. Company Culture Overview – Dealerships market the experience consumers should expect and employees are on the front line of this. Employees can either reinforce that promise or detract from it. Consider creating a video for employees that illustrates the company culture and the importance of complying while also explaining expectations. You can then get a head start on the new employee’s indoctrination into the organization.
  3. Meet the Team – All too often, a new hire completes all of the paperwork and gets thrust into their new role without knowing who else exists in the dealership outside of the few they work with directly. Just as it is a good idea to make videos introducing yourself to customers, why not have department managers – front, back office, and service – create a short video introducing themselves to a new employee? This will help the new employee start their career with a sense of who everyone is and what they do and add a sense of the “team” they are joining.
  4. Social Media Policies – Most dealerships have policies in place for employees’ use of social media platforms. Whatever your policies happen to be, the new employee should be informed of them right from the beginning. There have been lawsuits whereby employees were terminated because of social media use and, when the employee sued the dealership, the dealership lost due to lack of a policy.

When you make these videos, you would be wise to use a video platform that provides data. Then you can allow these employees to watch these videos in the comfort of their own home –rather than sticking them in a closet with a bunch of paperwork.

Employees will feel more comfortable, will pay more attention, and should, ultimately be ready to roll from the first day they step into the dealership.

Live Video Calling: Carvana’s Kryptonite

Video marketing has been a growing focus in nearly every industry for over a decade. But during the past year-and-a-half, due to a majority of business moving to virtual, video use at dealerships has exploded. While covid-related restrictions have started to ease in recent months, video has taken root and continued to be an essential tool to help sell more cars. This is because not all consumers are ready to venture out, or they recognize the convenience of an online car buying experience.

At the same time, the used car market is exploding, forcing dealers to increase prices on their lots, with few new vehicles to sell because of chip and parts shortages.

As Carvana and other disrupters are making a play to capture even more market share by running anti-dealership campaigns while willing to lose money buying vehicles high and selling them low, consumers are gravitating towards them.

There is a way, however, to overcome the marketing tactics that these online retailers are pushing so heavily: live video calling. The ability to follow up with your leads with a live video call humanizes your dealership. It gives a face and personality to your sales staff that builds the valuable trust relationship that these companies are trying so hard to break.

While vehicle description pages exist, there is no emotion for a consumer to connect with when they look at text on a screen. Your shoppers will almost assuredly seek more information, while also trying to decide if your dealership is a place that they want to do business with. Through live video calling, your salespeople can connect with their customers, show them the vehicle live and answer any of their questions in real-time.

It does not matter if the live video call is one-sided (where the consumer sees you, but you can’t see them) or two-sided (like a Facebook Live video call). You can build rapport with a customer through a live call, show them the vehicle they expressed interest in and reassure them that YOUR DEALERSHIP will be there for them for whatever they need during the car buying cycle.

As the market continues to lean more and more to the digital side, both dealerships and these industry disruptors will continue getting online leads. The good news is your dealership can still have an advantage over these online companies. Through live video calling, you can prove that you are a business that can still be trusted… much more than any multi-story “car vending machine” can.

How Do You Sell a Vehicle without Knowing Which Features are Most Important to the Customer? Video!

by Tim James

Part of the vehicle sales process is to learn the customer’s needs and wants. You probably encounter a large number of consumers who don’t know exactly what they want (or need). In fact, it isn’t unusual for an online lead to provide no additional information other than the vehicle they are interested in. Reaching the consumer to learn more about them and their wants/needs can also be difficult. They might respond to you simply asking for a price, and that could be the only information you have when trying to move forward with the sale and relationship-building process. This conundrum makes it more difficult than ever to sell cars, but luckily video is the solution to this issue.

Recently, a dealer asked a question in a Facebook group that was amazingly simple: “What’s the most important thing for you in a car?” As you can imagine, the answers were all over the place. One of the funniest I saw was “an engine,” but many people answered with more interesting responses. The reason they were interesting is that, as a salesperson, you don’t know what a customer wants unless they tell you… and many times they won’t. So how do you sell a car to a customer if you don’t know their needs and wants, and they won’t tell you?

Video walkarounds and video communication. That’s how.

Video Communication:

While a growing number of dealerships utilize video in their lead follow up process, many dealerships still respond to inquiries with a simple “give me a call” or “we’ll be in touch soon,” without answering any questions or trying to connect with the consumer on a personal level at all. This approach simply isn’t enough to make your dealership stand out against the lot on the other side of town. Shoppers look for transparency and someone they can trust when going through the big commitment of buying a new car – and you need to show that your sales team and dealership are trustworthy. Dealerships that utilize video communication in their lead follow-up process not only stand out, but they build those valuable trust relationships that keep shoppers coming back and sharing their experience with anyone they know that may need a car. In other words, you go from just another dealership to a trusted source for your shoppers — simply by getting face-to-face with them over a video call and answering any questions they may have.

Video Walkarounds:

But… without a great video experience, one that includes video walkarounds, some dealerships might not get much of a response from their shoppers at all regarding their inventory.

By using video to display your inventory, you’re able to make an emotional impact on every shopper and get across all the vital information your shoppers care about the most. When you have a video for every car in your inventory, you get the benefit of humanizing your inventory and your dealership, while giving the customer anything they might want to know in the fastest way possible.

Although photos and vehicle descriptions are extremely important merchandising tools, emotion is what sells. There is no better way to transfer the information the consumer is looking for, while inspiring the emotions that will get the consumer attached to a vehicle, than a good video of the vehicle. With this method, you have a much better chance of selling the vehicle or getting a response from the customer about what works or doesn’t work regarding a specific vehicle. Because of your virtual showroom, once a customer is interested, you know what their needs are and can begin building a closer relationship with them via video communication. Win-win!

Video walkarounds and video communication enable you to better engage the customer, build rapport by selling the vehicle, yourself, and the dealership, and become more of a consultant to them than a salesperson. Don’t simply throw photos of your inventory on your site. Instead, combine video inventory and video communication in your strategy to stand out from the rest.

Think of your presentation like your virtual car lot. Take the customer on a tour of the vehicle via a video walkaround, or personalized video that includes all the selling points you would present if they were there in person – Safety, Comfort, Fuel Economy, Performance, etc.

An equally important note is to, no matter the form of video, use it to also sell yourself and the dealership at the same time you are selling the car. The most important sell is “you.” Introduce yourself and your dealership and let the consumer know that you are trying to learn more about their wants/needs and that YOU will work hard for them and provide them with THE best experience — so no need to shop anywhere else.

Utilizing video in this way, having a video strategy for every stage of the buying cycle, allows you to find out what your shoppers want while establishing yourself as a trusted resource.

Video: The Content that Rules them All!

by Tim James

According to a recent study published by Wistia, consumers watched more than 23,000 YEARS of video in 2020 alone. This means more video was watched last year than the entire history of modern civilization! And it’s almost certain to continue to break records. Why? Because video transfers more information to a consumer in the least amount of time, while also creating the greatest amount of emotion when compared to any other visual medium.

Perhaps even more interesting is HOW consumers are watching video content. According to an article in Forbes, about 72% of consumers watch video content solely on their smartphones. More so than on a movie screen, their desktop, or anywhere else. New video apps and features are infiltrating the current market offering an increasing number of ways for consumers to view this content. Even Pinterest, which has historically been a single image-only site, has started to adopt video into its platform. This is why your dealership must understand that video isn’t just the future, it is the NOW.

Every industry has either begun the transfer to video or is fully engulfed in it, and the automotive industry is no different. Moving forward, high-quality and innovative video experiences on your dealership websites and in the different stages of the buying cycle will set your dealership apart from the rest when it comes to building relationships with shoppers.

Why do you think that nearly every business is scrambling to include video in their marketing strategy? Because it works, and the data is there to back it up!

Entrepreneur magazine recently featured an article stating that consumers want to, “See, Watch and Buy. In that Order.” How does this apply to your dealership website? When a consumer lands on your SRP or VDP, they are “seeing” your inventory. The next step is to “watch” the vehicle via a video. Whether that is a stitched photo video, a live video walkaround, or an interactive 360 spin, video content engages viewers and saves them from clicking through uninteresting photos and from having to read a large amount of text.

Consumers want to feel empowered to gain as much information about a vehicle as possible, as quickly as possible. Why has the test drive and product demonstration been a part of the basic steps to selling a car for decades? Because it works! And now, the technology exists to accomplish the same thing online.

The point is to make content consumers like, while also making that content in the form consumers want to consume. Then make it even better! Watching a video of a vehicle is great, but if you personalize that content and make it resonate with the customer in front of you, then you can move them further down the funnel.

It also helps to have trackable data you can use for your marketing. Use personalized videos on platforms that provide useful marketing data, and which integrate with your CRM for ease of follow-up. “Easy” doesn’t have to mean that quality suffers.

Make it easy to create videos that consumers desire, that they can view on their mobile phones, with data that integrates into your CRM so you can follow up with them appropriately. This will help turn your dealership into a marketing powerhouse that rules over any competition!

Build Your F&I Revenue Through Video

Dealers are increasingly adopting video in order to engage customers and win sales. Well, how about adopting this strategy in the F&I department as well?

As front-end margins decrease, many dealerships are placing more emphasis on F&I to make revenue. With digital retailing on the rise and customers shopping from home rather than in the showroom, how does a finance department sell F&I products in the absence of the dealer?

Going under the assumption that home delivery means that the entire deal has already been done as the paperwork must be printed in advance, dealerships are probably finding it difficult to present finance products in the most convincing way.

And that is where video comes in.

Most companies that offer various F&I products have product videos available for your use. The first step to increasing your F&I profit is to package these videos along with your dealership’s value proposition (Why Buy) videos, testimonial videos, and other finance FAQ videos on your website where they are easy for the consumer to find. Consumers know these “upsell” product offers are coming. Provide them with the opportunity to educate themselves on the various products higher in the buying cycle. 

The next step is to strategically re-introduce these videos to the consumer as they continue through the buying cycle. After you have used “video messages” when following up with inquiries (leads) and setting appointments, include these F&I videos in the “video experience” that you send to your leads to confirm appointments.

This provides the shopper with another opportunity to view the various F&I videos, and, with the right software, you can enjoy real-time reporting on the exact video content they view. When your shopper shows up for their appointment, you have insight into all the F&I videos they have watched (or haven’t watched). You know if they watched videos about purchasing with bad credit, lease vs. purchase, the impact of a divorce or bankruptcy, and all the extended warranty and other F&I product videos that you offer. Armed with this information, your team can provide a significantly better experience for each consumer, while helping them with any questions they may be afraid to ask. Both your profits and CSI Scores go up. 

For the best results, I would suggest having the finance manager make multiple videos of products on an individual basis. This personalization will increase the informational and emotional value of your videos and reward you with an even larger success ratio.

For example, your finance manager could create a video explaining why paint & fabric protection is a worthwhile investment for the consumer. Then another video explaining wheel and tire protection. Then continue to create short videos “selling” products as if the customer is sitting right in front of them. In addition, you could also create a short video with the finance manager summarizing all of the finance products.

Regardless of if you use stock product videos, or your own personalized videos, be certain to include some testimonial videos for each product.  Consumers constantly hear how they don’t need the various “upsell” products. Let them hear a few success stories from other consumers who found the product valuable. 

As the finance manager is the correct person to explain and adjust payments based on product and accessory choices, it is important for them to have that engagement and to have these product videos handy should the customer prefer to do everything online. The finance manager can then engage the customer with video via email or even live over a “one-click” video call, whatever the customer’s communication preference may be, while the vehicle paperwork is being created and sent to the customer.

Video can be used in every department to increase brand loyalty, vehicle sales, F&I product sales and service revenue. It is a highly effective tool that should be added to your marketing toolbox. However, to truly maximize the benefit of your videos, utilize your video content across multiple touchpoints as an end-to-end video marketing strategy that combines video content with video data. Then you will realize the true value of video.

Who You Gonna Video Call?

By Tim James

According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, the “working-from-home” economy is likely to exist far beyond the pandemic. Employers are enjoying decreased expense in office space and increased employee productivity, while employees have more freedom with the luxury of no longer having to commute. A whopping 42 percent of U.S. employees are now working from home.

How are they able to do that? Via Video, of course.

Statistics increasingly show video as the preferred choice for consumers when it comes to media due to its viability and multiple benefits across all platforms and channels. And, during the pandemic, video has become the most used method of communication on all fronts.

Almost every company outside of essential workers is utilizing video services to efficiently continue their operations and stay in business. Video conference calls have become the norm, rather than the exception and video conferences or person-to-person video calls have exploded out of necessity.

According to Forbes, this digital pivot may become permanent – in all walks of life. Many students are having to do in-home learning and the only way some employees can continue professional development is via video. Trade shows and conferences are opting to hold virtual events First, because it is safer during a pandemic, second because it is much less expensive than in-person events, and third because viewers can choose to watch an event live, or later at a more convenient time.

Video is not going away and is certainly not losing any ground. Its popularity has exploded faster than was expected! When this pandemic eventually goes away, consumers and businesses alike will be fundamentally transformed.

As a marketing and sales tool, video will allow your team to inspire more emotion from a consumer than a text, email, or chat could ever get close to accomplishing. Think about this — when are your sales associates at their best? When they are face-to-face with a consumer, of course. An effective video marketing strategy embraces that understanding and puts your sales associates face-to-face with the consumer, even when the consumer is still at home.

Your dealership would be wise to have a video-first marketing strategy to place you in a position of dominance over your competition who may only use video as a stopgap out of necessity.

Be sure to embrace video now more than ever to take advantage of this extreme acceleration in video adoption by consumers. This will put your dealership ahead of the game and build a sound foundation from which your dealership will benefit for decades to come.

Three Tips for Great Live Video Conversations with Customers

By: Tim James

During these times, consumers are becoming more comfortable with online transactions and are much savvier about how they chose to communicate with businesses. As a result, dealers are having to utilize technologies they may not have previously embraced

Video, in and of itself, has proven to be a necessity for successful marketing for dealers. In today’s world, live video is even more important. But not everybody does it as well as they could!

A great article on Business2Community lays out some simple best practices dealerships can use while performing a live video for a prospective car buyer. These tips are great for salespeople or BDC agents who communicate with your customers.

Here are three of the top tips:

Pause! –  When you are having a conversation with someone and they do all the talking – that quickly gets old, right? A one-sided conversation is not something many people enjoy which leads to the first tip in the article, Pause!

You have the customer’s attention. You have them on a live stream and, just like selling a car in person, you need to listen to their needs and wants. You have to listen to tailor that walkaround and your conversation to supply the information they requested. Listening is also how you find out what is important to them so that you can tailor your conversation to that specific customer.

It is much more effective to listen to your customers, answer their questions, and proceed to the sale than to dominate the conversation. Take a breath. Don’t worry about the uncomfortable pause. As long as the customer is still with you, you don’t need to fill the gap with conversation. They may be digesting what you have already told them and considering their next questions. If they don’t ask any questions, you can easily prompt them by saying something along the lines of, “Should I proceed with the other features I was going to show you or did you have specific things you would like to see?” — just like you would if they were physically on your lot.

Engage – The customer didn’t agree to a live video engagement because they weren’t interested in the vehicle. The very reason that they are on a live video call with you is that they are VERY low funnel and in the market RIGHT NOW! Think about all the Internet leads your dealership gets and how hard it is to contact the majority of these opportunities. Here you not only have a customer that engaged with you but one that agreed (or requested) to do a live video call about a specific vehicle.

Perhaps something about the vehicle which they inquired about doesn’t suit their needs. Since you have them live, you can easily ask them if you could show them similar vehicles you have in stock and, essentially, show them multiple vehicles.

What’s the other option? The customer doesn’t like the one you showed them and disengages simply to move on to the next dealership. Don’t waste the opportunity to show them more inventory. You only need to ask them — just like you would if they were physically on your lot.

Eye Contact – While you may not be able to see the customer, the customer can see you. If you aren’t looking into the camera while engaging, you lose the opportunity to build rapport. Most of our communication is physical. We typically read expressions and interpret answers by how someone is looking and/or physically gesturing. In a live video, the customer can see you. By making eye contact with them, it is much more personal.

How do you do that? By looking into the camera, itself. Not just at the phone. You can practice with another salesperson beforehand to get the hang of it. When you are talking to the customer, look directly into the camera. To them, it will seem as if you are talking to them rather than seeing your eyes focused elsewhere.  — just like you would if they were physically on your lot.

Bonus Tip:

Smile – There’s magic in your smile and smiling while engaging in a video call can be one of the most important strategies for success. Smiling while on the video call will not only help you relax and improve your mood and energy, it will also help the consumer relax.  Remember, it’s not only “what you say,” but “how you say it” that matters. The video call is your opportunity to build a personal relationship with the consumer and get them to truly like you. We all know that people buy from people they like, and a simple smile while engaging the consumer is scientifically proven to improve your chances of being liked — just like you would if they were physically on your lot.  

Live video has never been more important in the sales world. Buying a car is a big decision for most customers, typically the second-largest purchase any consumer makes. Regardless of whether you are open for business completely, or only online, consumers are getting more comfortable with online shopping. If you are a veteran in the automotive industry, think about how different your communication strategy was in 2010 versus 2020.  Now imagine how different it will be in 2030. Trust me, the next ten years are going to fly by, so make sure you stay ahead of the competition and are prepared for the acceleration and adoption of this technology by consumers. Great conversations certainly lead to more sales. And live video is a highly effective way to have great conversations with your customers.