technology

Don’t Let Your Dealership Become a Casualty of War

by Tim James

Amazon and Google are engaged in a war. Both produce proprietary hardware that consumers can purchase and use to access content through various means — and the competition is getting vicious.

I recognize that, in terms of video marketing hosting platforms, YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla — it certainly has large market share in terms of search and users. But recently, YouTube chose to engage in a battle with Amazon that threatens the usefulness of their platform. Why? Well, as consumers have grown used to accessing YouTube in different manners – via mobile phone, browser, connected device or streaming hardware – they now simply expect the same access, regardless of where they choose to access that video content.

Why should dealers care?

As in all marketing, dealerships should expect to benefit from the fruits of their labors. While technology has made the path of entry to different solutions easier, as a dealer, it still takes time and effort to create your content and messages.

When it comes to video marketing specifically, regardless of whether you are shooting video on smartphones, or have an elaborate professional setup, most of you probably still make the effort because you realize the value and exposure video content brings.

But, what if you do all the work and miss out on customers because companies don’t like each other?

Ah… the million-dollar question. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “You get what you pay for,” right? Yes, YouTube is highly popular with dealers in the video marketing arena, for good reason. They are the 2nd largest search engine in existence and, more importantly, they are free.

Um, but hold on a sec… are they really, free????

What happens when a customer searching for vehicles gets blocked from watching that video you made of your inventory? What about when they get an “Access Denied” message when trying to watch that personal video response you made for them? Any of these scenarios could cost you a sale, which costs you money. Not so free then, right?Well, that ease of access is no longer the case, and it could get worse. What am I talking about?

First, in October 2015, Amazon pulled Google Chromecast and Apple TV from its inventory and no longer offered it for Amazon customers to purchase, presumably to encourage use of its own Fire Stick product as a streaming solution.

Then, Amazon expanded its voice-activated hardware, Echo, to include the Echo Show, which includes a screen and video capabilities. At first, YouTube was available on this hardware. But soon after its debut, YouTube pulled access from the Echo Show because of how Amazon implemented it, which excluded some features.

Moving on forward, just last month, YouTube again appeared on the Echo Show, prompting many to believe that the companies had made up. However, apparently that was not the case. According to TechCrunch, Amazon simply developed a workaround to allow Echo Show users to access a web version of YouTube without Google’s knowledge.

Next, on the 5th of December, Google once again blocked Echo Show users from accessing YouTube content.  And it doesn’t seem like this battle is anywhere near the end.

On top of that, consider the data deficiencies, CRM integration or other workarounds staff go through to integrate inventory, or personalized video messages to your customers. The mere fact that videos hosted on the YouTube video platform could NEVER BE SEEN, even by those who TRY TO VIEW THEM on what’s arguably the most patronized company on the planet (Amazon), should concern dealers.

Neither Amazon (who is making inroads into selling cars on their website) nor Google particularly care about car dealers. There is much more revenue to be had in the marketing ad revenue world, as well as the cable-cutting trend that led them into the hardware business — and Amazon is working on coming after a share of the pie that Google has carved out.

As the war between the two companies’ heats up, avoid becoming collateral damage and consider the hidden costs associated with hosting your video on these platforms. “Free” isn’t always free. Make sure you have a video marketing platform that protects YOUR interests. Ensure that those valuable, time-sensitive messages are delivered and can be viewed by your customers, and remove yourself from the battlefield.

[Video] Google’s 5 Auto Shopping Moments – Part 1: Which Car Is Best

In this series of video blogs, Flick Fusion COO Tim James shares Google’s 5 auto shopping moments that every dealership should know and how to take advantage of those moments to lead customers to your dealership.

Inflatable Gorillas or Videos?

by Tim James

Most dealers have spent many years in the car business. They know what it takes to sell cars. They know when a customer walks onto the lot, the salesperson must give a professional presentation while being able to emotionally connect with and excite the customer into making that purchase.

To this end, most dealers are really great at merchandising their vehicle inventory on the lot. The cars are gleaming, the rows are tight and they use balloons, inflatable gorillas and other attention-grabbing devices to create an air of excitement.

And what about their online inventory? With more than 90% of car shoppers beginning their journey on the Internet, is your dealership doing everything it can to merchandise your vehicles online? After all, your inventory is your #1 asset.

Unfortunately, most Vehicle Display Pages (VDPs) on dealership websites look very similar to each other. This is not the fault of the dealers or even the website providers; these page formats must be standardized so the inventory data can be pulled and distributed to third-party sites. But the result is that these pages, their data and photos look static. A dealership’s most important online merchandising presentation, of their #1 asset, and it is unemotional, unappealing, and has nothing unique about it at all.

That’s why more dealerships are creating inventory videos. Videos convey information while appealing directly to car shoppers’ emotions. In a video, you can include intros that state your dealership’s value proposition; what makes you stand out from your competition? You can include custom promotion and incentive information; why should this shopper come to your store today?

In videos, you can include information beyond what just appears in the inventory data. Instead of reading data (the what), your customers listen to custom voiceovers that appeal to their comfort-loving side, or adventurous side, or budget-conscious side (the why).

Inventory videos are a great way to make your VDP pages shine. However if you decide to go this route, make sure your customers are aware that you have these videos! One mistake that some dealers make is that once the videos are created, they get buried somewhere or can only be accessed via a tiny button somewhere that may have a video symbol but no real call to action.

Fortunately many website vendors are realizing that VDPs need to be re-designed (only slightly) so that videos are more visible. If your dealership is creating inventory videos, make sure your videos can be seen! Here are a few tips:

1) Add a video slider or widget featuring inventory videos on the homepage of your website so your online visitors know that you have videos.

2) Make sure your inventory videos are clearly visible on your VDPs

3) Create a landing page for each inventory video. This will make it easy for your shoppers to have access to your value proposition, customer testimonial or additional inventory videos without having to search your site. More importantly, it puts these videos in front of your shopper at a time of the buying cycle where they can have the biggest impact on your sales. Your landing page should also include a call to action and a lead form.

4) Give your videos emotional appeal! Use professional voice over, music, banners and intros to convey your dealership’s personality and make the customer want more.

The fact is online merchandising efforts have a greater reach and more impact on potential car buyers than merchandising efforts on your lot. As appealing as that purple inflatable gorilla may be, inventory videos are bound to give you more bang for your buck.

Think Virtual Reality is a Fad? Think Again.

by Tim James

Virtual Reality has been quite a craze recently with video gaming and other consumer electronics. However, the high cost of entry and expensive units limited its reach. Even Google’s cardboard VR glasses required smartphones that cost upwards of $700. The Oculus Rift Goggles were even more expensive and required high-end computers to work.

Now, however, Sony has provided a more cost-effective way for consumers to experience VR with the release of VR glasses designed for use with the Playstation 4 game console. With an installed base of 44 million Playstation 4 owners, the glasses instantly sold out on pre-order and are still hard to acquire, which illustrates the high demand for VR experiences. This release immediately made Virtual Reality readily available for mass consumption.

But if you think 44 million is a lot, what about rolling out Virtual Reality to over 2 billion consumers?

Well, that’s about to happen!

In a recent article, Facebook’s CTO revealed a roadmap for the future of Virtual Reality. As you may or may not know, Facebook owns Oculus Rift. However, according to Facebook, their plans for the future of VR for Facebook users do not include Oculus Rift. Instead, Facebook is working on a standalone product that will make Virtual Reality glasses which are integrated with Facebook “cheaper, easy to use and highly distributed.”

The project, named StandAlone, could instantly thrust Virtual Reality into almost every consumer’s hands, transforming it into common use in all areas including conversations via messaging (both audio and video), marketing and content on Facebook’s platform. Imagine experiencing all of the content posts and marketing messages in a VR setting.

Many automakers are currently implementing or actively working on their own VR experiences. And a few already have VR content in place. Virtual Reality is here and consumers are pursuing and embracing this technology. With the cost of entry decreasing and consumer adoption increasing, Facebook’s VR glasses could instantly change the game.

Dealerships that aren’t prepared or that have not already implemented VR experiences with their inventory merchandizing may find themselves scrambling as this technology is increasingly in the hands of consumers. VR isn’t going away, and it is not a fad. It’s also not the future. It’s the now.

Are you prepared?