Every dealership has its own character and that should be reflected in its website. Using a generic website template will make your business look sterile and disengaged from your internet customers. Try to present your ideas to web designers and find ways to incorporate your dealership’s character into the design of your website. Putting a human touch to your website will make your dealership feel more approachable to customers, and lower the barrier to contact.
Why would you want your website to look exactly like the competition? If you think your customers will not notice a generic website then you are wrong. According to a survey conducted by J.D. Power, an average shopper visits 3.3 dealerships online before even visiting a brick and mortar store. If your website looks similar to your competitor in the same local market, then you lose your edge. And If you and your competitor are both relying on your factory site, then a customer may not be able to tell you apart at all!
It is very important that your website and your physical dealership look similar, both in style and in content. That makes your dealership easily recognizable by the shoppers, and gives customers an image to associate with your dealership, specifically. Using same logo, font, tagline, color schemes in all marketing efforts in a consistent manner will help increase the brand value of the dealership.
Customized websites will have unique content and structure that benefits SEO immensely. Google, Bing and Yahoo! all penalize duplicate content, so it is vitally important that your website is free of boilerplate text, stock photography, and generic landing pages. If your competitor’s website is stuffed full of copied-and-pasted text from the manufacturer’s website, but you’ve got high quality content that speaks to your community, you will have the edge in search engine placement.
Website templates can never offer the level of flexibility that you can achieve with a custom website. Custom websites allow you to be a part of your community in a truly meaningful way. With a custom website, you’re able to implement sales campaigns, charitable efforts, and local events broadly throughout the website, using a variety of multimedia like slideshows, banners, buttons and video that can capture a user’s attention and remind them not just of what you are, but who you are.
What is your real profit center, and are you giving enough priority to that in the design?
What is average age of customers who visit your website? The answer to this question will help you choose between a stunning contemporary design, or a simple, design with high usability. The average age of visitors to your site can be found by using Google Analytics.
Do you consider the popular ethnicities in your region and incorporate their culture into your web design and content? If you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge part of your local market.
Do you show your mission statement on your website? Do you show all the awards or any accolades you have received? These things help to develop trust with buyers.
Are customer testimonials highlighted on your website? Testimonials from satisfied customers in your area are a powerful way for you to connect with your local market on a deeper level.
According to a research conducted by Infosys
59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on purchasing.
90% of retailers believe consistency across their brand’s engagement points has an effect on customer’s loyalty.
First Impressions are Everything
The first impression is always the most important impression, and your customer’s first impression of you is probably going to be your website. Using a generic website template leaves customers with a monotonous impression of you and your dealership. A little personalization and local flair will go a long way to making you stand out against the noise in the background of your market.
Over the past 3 years, Google, Yahoo! and Bing have worked together to standardize their search algorithms to read and display a new kind of HTML metatag format: structured data. Unlike obsolete SEO methods (keyword optimization, for example) that force a search engine to guess at a web page's purpose by connecting the dots, structured data allows a web page to describe itself to a search engine in fantastic detail, in a language that search engines understand. This common language allows search engines to create machine-readable rich snippets that provide expanded information and functionality, and which display beautifully in their search results.
You've probably seen rich snippets before:
We've rebuilt our website SEO from the ground up to take advantage of a particular structured data format--microdata--which we wrap around every possible element in every page on your website. Department names, employee names and titles, addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, videos, photos, aggregate reviews ... if the category exists, we use it. Search engines then crawl this data, and use it to assemble a rich snippet for that page, which appears in the search results as an enhanced listing, containing extra information that we specify (such as prices, similar vehicles, or dealer logos), and even extra functionality, like links to contact forms, credit applications and social media profiles.
Based on the thousands of indexed pages per site that our dealers currently enjoy, we already know that our VDP SEO is top-notch. But we want to take it a step further. We don't just want your pages to be indexed; we want them to stand out in the search results, especially in long-tail searches. We've used every microdata category definition available to make sure that search engines see the full details page, not just the page title.
First and foremost, microdata is good for SEO because Google, Yahoo! and Bing have all agreed to support the microdata format for rich snippets, moving forward. This means that Driving Force websites will always conform to the structured data standard employed by the most popular search engines in the world.
More generally, all search engine spiders recognize a variety of structured data formats, and display that data in their search results in a way that is meaningful to human readers. The advantage we gain by using microdata, instead of a non-standard format (RDFa or hCard), is that the microdata format allows your data to display consistently across the 3 biggest search engines. And when Google, Yahoo! or Bing develops a new rich snippet feature, you may be able to take advantage of it instantly.
If the information is location-specific, the microdata will be fed directly into a search engine’s location services, like Google Places, and location-oriented search results, which means more organic web traffic from the visitors who matter most: your neighbors.
The folks over at automotivewebsiteawards.com published a few kind words about Driving Force and our Digital Mystery Shopping application last week:Driving Force has developed what we consider to be the finest outsourced mystery shopping platform for car dealers. Driving Force will shop local dealers not only for pricing policies, but also to evaluate their sales processes. We are excited to announce that Driving Force’s Mystery Shopping has earned them a 2015 AWA in the Sales Process category!
Driving Force’s Mystery Shopping visits local automotive websites and behaves like an auto shopper; they submit a lead. They ask questions specific (even VIN specific) to what that dealer is offering. They use realistic email addresses, local phone numbers, and names consistent with the information. Their software then tracks all contacts (emails and call) for two months to benchmark sales processes are over time.
Dealers who are looking to increase market share by beating their local competitors by delivering an outstanding online experience need the insights provided by Mystery Shopping.
Mystery Shopping’s ability to mystery shop competitors,objectively measure response times and processes, and provide reporting in an efficient and cost effective manner are several of the reasons why we have awarded the product with an AWA this year. Congratulations to Driving Force for receiving an honor in the Sales Process category!
Currently there is much discussion about the superiority of responsive websites to other web designs. To help clarify this conversation it’s beneficial to understand to basic principle of this strategy. It’s all about mobile! As mobile usage explodes, it’s critical that websites satisfy the needs of site visitors.
A few facts.
91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone
56% of people own a smart phone
50% of mobile phone users, use mobile as their primary Internet source
72% of tablet owners purchase online from their tablets each week
83% of US smartphone owners use their smartphones in-store
The easiest way to think about responsive websites is “One Size Fits All”. When the site is accessed it reconfigures itself to fit the device. Meaning every bit of content and every url is there, no matter if the visitor is on a desktop or a handheld. Content is resized and repositioned based on the size of the screen being viewed on. For some websites and certain businesses this is the perfect solution.
Before jumping on the responsive bandwagon it’s important to understand the impact of this strategy. For web developers, responsive is a welcome solution. One code base! The adaptive strategy requires two or three different code bases. When a site visitor accesses an adaptive website, the server that hosts the site recognizes what kind of device is being used and directs the traffic to the optimized code base. So, responsive is easier for the web developer to maintain. Good for them, but what about the site visitor? The end user? The critical reason the site exists? For illustration purposes, think about desktop computers, tablets and smart phones as pipes. Plumbing pipes. The bigger the pipe, the easier it is for water to flow, right? With Responsive design there is one code base no matter the device. It can’t help but perform slower on a smart phone than it does on a desktop. This can be as much as 3-4 seconds slower. Mobile visitors are looking for quick access to information. They will only wait so long. If what should take 2-3 seconds now takes 6-7, they will jump to another site. Another very important consideration, does the mobile user want all the same information and functionality that the mobile user does? Of course not. The behaviors of the mobile user are far different from the desktop user. So why load all the same widgets, information, images, etc into a mobile site when the user won’t use it. It overloads the delivery. Conversely, there could be information and features that a mobile user wants that have no purpose on a desktop. Common sense tells us that the best solution is to provide an optimized experience to the user based on their device. And this optimization needs to be based on performance and behavior. A potentially dangerous byproduct of loading these larger and heavier pages into a user’s mobile phone is potential cost. This page size could turn out to be expensive for users loading responsive sites on a 3g network. A dealership website page can realistically average around 6 MB. If user on 300MB data plan and browses 10 pages on this website they already used up 20% of their monthly data. Does developing an optimized multi-screen solution create more work for the web developer? Yes. But is it worth it? Absolutely!
Here is a list of questions we ask our clients who are considering developing a separate blog site.
If your goal is to enhance your main website’s SEO authority, clearly the better way to do this is with an integrated blog.
A few years ago that was not the case. It used to be that you could build any number of separate web sites, point their links at your main website, and successfully increase your main website’s SEO authority and thus search rankings.
For understandable reasons, Google is not fond of artificial link building. It does not benefit Google’s customers. Google users want to see the best, most relevant websites. Not websites that SEO specialists have created to gain rankings.
Bottom Line, Google is smarter than that and is discounting such websites as linking schemes. Google ranks low value for multiple links from the same site. Google ranks low value for from low value sites.
In other words, getting a single link each from a handful of trusted 3rd party authority sites will be more valuable to your website’s SEO strength than getting hundreds or even thousands of links from low-value sites.
You could spend the time and effort to build quality backlinks to your blog website so that its links, in turn, pass more value to your main website. But the basic idea of sending any visitor off your main site just to get them back is absurd. By making the blog part of your primary website, any connections that it gains will more effectively increase the SEO value of your main website.
Blogging helps drive organic traffic to your website. There are a handful of ways that most dealers rely on to get potential customers to find their website:
How do you drive new “organic” traffic? Well, one way to do that is to keep content on your site fresh. This poses a challenge for dealers. Think about how many pages there are on your website. How often do you update your non-inventory pages? Chances are it’s not nearly often enough. A blog can help solve this problem.
Every time you publish a new blog post, it's another indexed page on your website, and another indication to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking it frequently to see what new content you've published that they can serve to users. Every new indexed page is one more chance for you to show up in search engines, and drive traffic to your website through organic search.
Blogging can significantly amplify your social media presence. With each blog post, you create content that people can share on social networks like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest, which helps introduce your business to more potential customers that might not know you yet. Google pays special attention to your social media presence, and uses that activity to determine how popular and relevant you are, compared to your competition.
Staying on top of your various social media profiles can be a daunting task. Instead of struggling to come up with brand new content for each of your social media profiles, your blog can serve as your central content warehouse. By linking back to your blog on your Facebook wall, or in your Twitter feed, you will engage users across platforms and increase your social reach. You increase your social reach by posting distinctive and useful content that points new visitors directly to your website.
A relevant blog will also help establish authority. The best dealership blogs answer common questions their customers have. They identify current issues and events in the automotive industry and address them. If you consistently create content that's helpful for your customer, it'll help to make you an authority in their eyes. This is a particularly handy tool for sales and service professionals.
It’s not uncommon for digital marketing at the dealership to give primary focus to vehicle sales processes and practices and for the most part ignore service and parts departments. The reality is that more and more of your customers are online and touching all of the dealership’s departments. The frequent strategy for addressing these divergent points of communication is like the story of the blind men and an elephant. A group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. The first blind man, who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, the one who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar and the one who feels the tail says it’s like a rope. As with the various departments in the dealership, all are correct and vital to the overall body. But unless you consider all parts and pieces, you don’t get the entire picture. In the same way, many times a dealer’s digital marketing strategy is developed only through the aspect of vehicle sales.
It’s critical to understand that communication is a two way flow. However, most inspection of this process only occurs from the dealer response end of this activity. How can you determine the quality of the response if you don’t know the question? Here is a scenario that is more common than you might believe. A customer visits your website and submits a parts request. The lead is sent to your CRM. Because the vehicle is a late model vehicle the opportunity is routed to your used car internet manager. The email and or phone response then goes back to the customer asking when they could come in and take a test drive. This counterproductive communication has now quite possibly put a seed of doubt in the customer’s mind. As a side not, many dealers record inbound and outbound phone calls for training purposes. So, if a manager were to listen to this call without knowing the original request, the outbound phone response would seem appropriate.
It’s imperative to self-inspect all of your digital touch points to determine if your strategies target the needs of your customer. Through the regular practice of mystery shopping all of your departments you will be able to identify the elements of your systems and processes that need improvement. You can then modify and adapt these approaches to stream line your communications from all departments. You can’t just assume that you have a customer-centric digital communications strategy in place. It has to be tested and retested regularly. You don’t tell your customers to bring their vehicles back for service strictly because it’s a profit center for the dealership. You recommend regular check-ups because it provides the best return on their significant investment. For the long term health of your dealership, take your own advice and make a regular appointment for a digital checkup.
Driving Force was selected this year by PCG Consulting to receive a 2013 PCG Spotlight Award. We introduced Mystery Shopping to provide a thorough and consistent mystery shopping service for car dealers. By outsourcing the evaluation of our own team, dealers have found that results are not hidden from senior management.
With many OEMs focused on quality lead response processes, Mystery Shopping keeps everyone at the dealership accountable. The dealership will also be first to know if their competitors’ processes are better!
Mystery Shopping also provides valuable insights by shopping local competitors. The service will benchmark local dealers on response time and quality of engagement and also summarizes the email communications and marketing message for their clients to quickly review. This service is especially useful in metro markets where multiple OEM franchises are located within 30 minutes of each other.
PCG Consulting recognized Mystery Shopping with a Spotlight Award this year because they believe that dealers need a consistent way to measure the pulse of the market and how well their team is performing. By using a competent outsourced solution, dealers will not allow normal work activities force mystery shops to get pushed off for more immediate needs.
Driving Force was selected this year by PCG Consulting to receive a 2012 Automotive Website Award (AWA) . The 2012 Automotive Website Award ceremony was held at the Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Over 600 automotive industry professionals attended this prestigious awards ceremony, which identifies the most innovative technology and software solutions for automotive retailers.
This year, 41 awards were presented to companies and individuals that represent innovative solutions for car dealers in the areas of website design, mobile technology, social media, proactive chat, merchandising tools, CRM, reputation management, advertising, customer service and industry thought leadership. Driving Force was one of the finalists at this year's ceremony in the Website Rising Stars category. PCG Consulting congratulated Driving Force and their employees for being recognized above their peers in this competitive category.
The AWA is the highest recognition for companies that assist the automotive retail industry to operate more effectively. The honorees are selected after a rigorous testing and evaluation from the staff at PCG Consulting. PCG is a leading consultancy firm that assists car dealers with best practice solutions for business operations and marketing.
Driving Force Automotive recently completed a study of over 1,000,000 website visits to better understand general traffic, conversion, and abandonment patterns. The study was also conducted to determine the effectiveness of one of the innovations DRIVING FORCE AUTOMOTIVE has developed for their website platform. The SuperForm is a simplified data input area that dynamically conforms to the visitor’s needs, and significantly reduces the time it takes to receive the information they desire, by enhancing ease of use, simplicity, and convenience for website visitors.
The concept behind the SuperForm is, when a Driving Force Automotive shopper navigates a dealer's website and locates their vehicle of interest, there are potentially several things that they would like to communicate, such as:
Unfortunately, on the vast majority of retail automotive web sites this requires navigation away from the vehicle details page to several other pages within the website, forcing the visitor to find alternative pathways to communicate these various requests. The probability is that (even though the site visitor is interested in sharing this information) they most likely won’t end up completing the process due to the time required for additional navigation, the likelihood of distraction to other items, and the overall inconvenience of the additional steps required in completing the process. Abandonment rates by site visitors due to this environment are simply unacceptable to most auto retailers.
By combining many forms and request processes into one simple, easy to use and access submittal portal, the SuperForm empowers the site visitor to choose the information or questions they would like to communicate, and quickly complete the process without any additional navigation or search requirements. To ensure there are no mistakes by the customer, the SuperForm updates in real time, and constantly examines and analyzes the customer input. If any data is wrong or missing, the SuperForm highlights the incorrect field in red, while all correct data boxes are highlighted in green. This simple visual checklist communicates to the customer that they will receive exactly what they want, and greatly reduces the number of erroneous duplicate leads. In other words, the SuperForm has been designed and engineered to dynamically modify itself for the customer, based on their active preferences, to act as a virtual universal form to meet whatever needs the visitor may have.
The recently completed Driving Force Automotive study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of the SuperForm in the following areas:
After researching and analyzing over one Million (1,000,000) website form submission from Driving Force Automotive websites utilizing the SuperForm process, the following information was concluded:
Driving Force Automotive believes that the results of this study indicate remarkable groundbreaking findings about the increases in Visitor-to-Lead conversion rates, and the potential to significantly increase lead generation by re-engineering convenience factors, and consolidating processes in the information gathering and transmittal process on retail automotive websites.
Driving Force Marketing is a comprehensive design and web services company that is dedicated to providing our retail automobile dealer clients with unique, functional and user-friendly web sites, technolgies and services designed to maximize traffic, increase sales, and distinguish our clients from their competition. All of our sites come with our comprehensive DealerCare services. To find out more, please visit www.drivingforceauto.com.
“Dell has simplified my life so that I can focus on developing new products for our customers.”
- Josh Stevenson, Partner, Driving Force, United States
Driving Force needed to move its Web hosting services to a new server in a colocation center, and it wanted to reduce staff time spent addressing client computer issues by standardizing on high-quality workstations running Microsoft® Windows® 7.
The company migrated its Web hosting to DellTM PowerEdgeTM servers supported by a Dell PowerVaultTM network attached storage (NAS) device, then rolled out Dell PrecisionTM workstations running Windows 7 to all employees.
Download a PDF of the study here.