digital marketing

No More Excuses

There are no more late adopters  

For years, we’ve heard the excuses. At first it was, “most of my audience would rather shop on the lot,” and then it was, “Some my audience still doesn’t have internet access,” a short time later we heard, “There are still some people out there who don’t use the web to do their background research,” and even later we got this, “There’s still a group of consumers out there who refuse to use the internet, so we have to stay in the paper and on television.”

Well all of those excuses had merit at one time or another. And now, we’re here to say, that the time for all of those excuses has passed. The number of people who are both capable of purchasing a new or used automobile, and are non-internet users is so incredibly small as to be unworthy of your time and attention. And the same can be said for dial-up internet users… don’t you worry about them anymore either. The age of the late adopters has come and gone. And even those that came late to the online party have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

So what does that mean to your marketing? A few things…

  • 1. No sense in segmenting your marketing into digital and non-digital formats, now. Every consumer is a digital consumer.
  • 2. Assume that every customer is going to visit your web site. Count on it. It’s already happening.
  • 3. Assume those customers know as much (or more) about pricing, options, financing, special offers and manufacturer’s incentives than your sales people do.
  • 4. Don’t shy away from multimedia content, embrace it. Your audience is broadband.
  • 5. Focus on the user experience of all your digital marketing. It’s just as, if not more, important than the experience a customer has when they visit your lot.
  • 6. Don’t apologize for being digital. In fact, target your competition who isn’t up to date on technologically.
  • 7. Realize that all your materials, now more than ever, need to work together.

These are just a few of the ways an all-online audience will change the way you approach identifying and reaching out to new customers. The days of the late adopter are long gone. Act accordingly.

D. Jones
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
SmackDabble, LLC

Ensure That Your Web Site Pulls in Buyers

From Digital Dealer Magazine May 2008
by : Peter Batten

Your online store is just as important as your showroom, and the reason why is clear: 70 percent of new vehicle buyers use the Internet to vehicle shop, as do 61 percent of used vehicle buyers (2007 J.D. Power and Associates New & Used studies). But, as you may have noticed, simply having a web site will not increase your traffic, leads, or sales. In fact, a flaccid web site can do more harm than good as potential customers quickly ascertain that they will not find the information they want and leave your site in favor of a big portal or automaker site. But it does not have to be that way. You can make your dealership web site a best-in-class consumer destination with the features and tools that give your customers the comprehensive content, intuitive navigation, and breadth of information found on leading portals and manufacturer sites. That’s right: your site can be as impressive as any automotive site out there. And you can do it all with a minimum of development time.

Lifestyle search capabilities
With a lifestyle search, a consumer can search for vehicles that match their needs without having to know any esoteric vehicle information. For example, a customer can search by body style, like SUV, coupe, or convertible, instead of having to start searching by make and model. Many consumers do not know what exact trim they want; they just know they need an SUV because they carry cargo on slippery roads, or a compact because they want to save on gas bills. Lifestyle searches are intuitive for consumers, allowing them to find the vehicle they want with the least amount of hassle and frustration. 

Powerful comparison features
A J.D. Powers and Associates study focusing on best practices on manufacturer web sites found that consumers loved powerful comparison tools that allowed them to compare multiple vehicles at one time (2006 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation StudySM – J.D. Powers and Associates). They found that side-by-side and advantage-based comparisons are especially useful because shoppers can quickly scan the results and even print out results for future consideration. There are several companies who can equip your web site with a robust comparison tool in record time.

Vehicle images and videos
The same J.D. Powers and Associates study cited above found that consumers gravitate to vehicle images and videos, which put them immediately in the virtual driver’s seat. Videos are especially valuable for demonstrating functionality and versatility of a vehicle including: acceleration, cornering, stopping, and much more. Color changes and interior shots are invaluable for helping the consumer to experience the vehicle and for generating excitement and the desire to buy. Consider including a comprehensive equipment listing for each of your vehicles alongside a detailed photo that consumers can click to view different angles, interior shots, colors, and live-action video.
Build-A-Car tool tied to your inventory
The advantages of a Build-A-Car tool on your web site have been well documented. Give consumers the opportunity to design the car of their dreams and they will stay on your site longer, return again and again, and convert into a valid prospect at a higher rate. Bump this tool up to the next level by integrating it with your inventory so customers can see what you have available. 

Online credit applications
You want prospects to become buyers. An additional feature to help you meet this goal is the online credit application. By including a secure link to a credit application that a customer can immediately complete, you are saving that customer time and hassle and also converting a lead into a viable prospect. Use the credit application as a virtual shopping cart to close qualified buyers in record time.

Maximizing Pre-Owned Traffic From the Internet

By: Pat Ryan, Jr.
From Digital Dealer Magazine February 2008

Every week seems to bring an interesting new study on how consumers are using the Internet in their car buying process. While all of these studies point to the importance of an evolving e-strategy for dealerships, it is not always easy for dealers to glean actionable takeaways from these studies. With all the data flying around, this presents a great opportunity to make sense of it all. Let’s start with the most dramatic headline.

The 2007 Dealer eBusiness Performance study sponsored by Yahoo revealed that 88 percent of consumers use the Internet for research prior to visiting a dealership. At the same time, dealers we hear from typically report 15 to 20 percent of their business coming from their Internet departments.

What happened to the 68 percent of buyers that used the Internet to research vehicles yet were invisible to the Internet department? Simply put, they may have shopped your “virtual frontline” but did so anonymously; some later came to visit your dealership while others bought from your competitor.

Why do the majority of buyers using the Internet choose to stay invisible to your Internet department? Because the majority of Internet shoppers are reluctant to share their personal information online with dealers or third-party web sites and therefore never become a “lead.” The result: the majority of visitors to your “virtual frontline” are invisible and untouchable for your Internet team.

How does this impact my business?
Dealers routinely work hard to engage every guest who walks their lot and shops through the traditional buying process. In the online world, if your vehicle is not competitively priced with similar vehicles in your market, a consumer will leave your virtual frontline for another dealer’s with one click, never returning and never speaking with anyone on your team. Buyers will also “vote” with their mouse by clicking away from vehicles that do not have enough pictures, have poor quality pictures, or lack compelling descriptions.
What makes dealerships vulnerable to these kinds of missteps?

Dealerships traditionally priced pre-owned inventory on a “cost-plus” basis-pricing the vehicle to ensure they have enough room to negotiate with a customer and still sell a vehicle for a strong gross profit. Since pre-owned vehicles are more varied in value because of age, condition, mileage etc., consumers were unlikely to find a similar vehicle to yours across the street, giving dealers the upper hand. However, in the Internet age, customers can see your pricing next to nearly all of the similar vehicles in your market, making cost-plus pricing a barrier to driving traffic from the Internet.

In addition to the consumer being empowered by the Internet, dealers who are inconsistent in putting enough pictures or robust vehicle descriptions online will find themselves clicked past by consumers as well. It’s no longer enough to just be online. Dealers need to excel online by being as diligent in merchandising your online inventory as you are in the presentation of your dealership’s showroom.

How can I maximize my pre-owned traffic from the Internet?
1. Market pricing – Replace “cost-plus” pricing with market pricing by competitive shopping every vehicle versus the competition. This ensures that your pricing will appear fair for its value in online search results. Treat competitive vehicles online the same way you would if they were on the frontline across the street. Price based on the “key strengths” of your vehicles but be realistic given the competition.

2. Consistently execute the online advertising fundamentals – Mystery shop your own dealership to ensure all of your vehicles are online with robust descriptions and pictures. You’d never put a vehicle on the frontline without detailing it. Make sure you detail your online vehicles to the same standard.

3. Mystery shop the competition – Experience your dealership’s “virtual frontline” versus the competition as the consumer will experience it. Go to an online advertising site such as or and see how your vehicles compare. If you are using market pricing and executing online advertising fundamentals consistently your vehicles should show well, but you may find that your vehicles differentiation is not clear to a potential buyer. For example, you may find that your vehicle is the lowest mileage vehicle in the market. In that case it may be okay to be the highest priced vehicle; you simply need to ensure that your online listings are highlighting the value. Know each vehicle’s online market and ensure that your listings are highlighting the unique value of each vehicle.

With those three simple steps any dealer can ensure that they are maximizing the potential of the online advertising they are purchasing. The key is to execute consistently, the same way you do every day in merchandising the showroom and frontline at your dealership.