Category: Technology

From Clicks to Bricks

Car dealerships are an interesting business model in the age of ‘ecommerce’. While so many new startups aim to be entirely ‘online’, dealerships have to establish both a strong physical brick & mortar presence while also having a strong online presence and engagement.

While we’ve seen small inroads to entirely online car purchases, the business as a whole still relies significantly on physical and online. In fact, the online side of the business is less about ecommerce and more about acting as a channel to drive people into the dealership. We don’t anticipate this changing in the near future. The expression here is ‘clicks to bricks’.

From a buyer journey, car dealers need to be aware that the journey starts online and ends in the dealership. There are many steps in the journey, and each is a potential point of abandonment. To truly fulfill a clicks-to-bricks journey, care needs to be taken from the first click to signing the dotted line.

The first step in this journey is to ensure online savvy car shoppers can find your website. Dealers are typically following a multi-channel approach: SEO, print advertising, online advertising and social being the major avenues.

Getting visitors to your website is only the first battle – engaging visitors and preventing abandonment is the next step. This means fine-tuning your website to maximize conversion, having compelling offers, and the right suite of tools to drive engagement.

Finally, you need the ‘hook’ that will drive your online visitor into the store. This can take many forms and include trade offers, credit applications and service offers.

All of this means car dealers are finding themselves at the forefront of both online marketing and brick & mortar marketing and conversion, making them leaders and subject matter experts. When car dealers are willing to share tricks of the trades, all industries and verticals should sit up and pay attention – they can teach us a lot!

Add Social Proof on your dealer site

PT Barnum once said “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd”

Although online car buyers may be browsing from the comfort of their living room, they can still be heavily influenced by social proof. The concept of social proof isn’t new. It’s been used for decades.

Restaurants like to put patrons in the front window seat so that people passing by believe the restaurant is full and “must be good”. After all, who wants to eat at an empty restaurant?

In 1938, Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart. However, people were at first reluctant to use it. To solve this, he hired people to simply push carts around the store. This gave people the opportunity to see other people use it and assume it must be beneficial. Social proof.

Moving into the online world, social proof is even more important. Given that your car buyer is probably acting on his or her own, you need to supplement their experience with social proof.

Different studies consistently show conversion improvement of between 18% to 63% simply by adding well placed testimonials!

Testimonials

The most common and effective way to generate social proof is through the use of customer testimonials. It generates immediate credibility and is easy to do. If you already have a process in place to get testimonials you need to ensure you get these onto your homepage of your dealer site.

Amazon know the power of social proof. The reviews of a product are shown right below the product name…in otherwords, the most important piece of information after the name. Even more than the price:

It’s not like Google struggle to get users, but they too know the power of social proof:

Notice the large testimonial which appears before you even get into exploring all the product features.

Don’t have testimonials?

Incentivizing customers to provide testimonials is a great way of getting these added to your website. You can use electronic vouchers such as those provided by restaurant.com (http://incentives.restaurant.com/) These allow you to give a $25 voucher to be used at thousands of restaurants (at a much lower cost to you) in exchange for a testimonial. Fulfillment of these vouchers is electronic so you don’t have to worry about mailing them.

Caution: Testimonials must be real!

The Federal Trade Commission has been clamping down on website claims and outlandish testimonials or endorsements. Make sure your testimonials are from real people and that they “reflect the honest opinion, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser”. Regardless of what the FTC say, this is just common ethical business practices. The FTC go on to say “Advertisers are subject to liability for false or unsubstantial statements made through endorsements, or for failing to disclose material connections between themselves and their endorsers”,

Social Urgency

Another social proof tactic used by some online retailers is to create urgency by letting you know how many other people are looking at the same product. This works best when you have a limited quantity available of a product. For example, you’ve probably seen this on travel sites when you look at a hotel room for a particular date, you’ll see a message along the lines of “Hurry…only 2 rooms left at this price and 14 people booked this room in the last 48 hours”.

For an autodealer perspective, this doesn’t work too well on new cars given there is no inherent scarcity in the product, but can work great on second hand inventory….”5 people viewed this car in the last 2 hours”…that drives urgency.

Conclusion

Imagine how your dealer site would be with an 18%-63% conversion improvement! Adding testimonials is about as “no brainer” as it can get in the world of online commerce. If you haven’t done so already, start an active process of collecting testimonials from your customers and keep your website updated. You’ll be glad you did!

3 Simple Steps to optimize loading of your dealer site

It’s no secret: Page load time matters. There, I said it.

How much could a second or two really matter, I hear you ask.

Google was one of the first to measure this. When they experimented with adding more search results to a single page, it added about half a second to the experience. The result? A 20% drop in revenue!

Amazon calculated that every 100 millisecond delay cost them 1% of sales. To put it another way, every single second of delay would negatively impact Amazon revenue by 10%. Wow!

Walmart reported a 2% improvement in conversion for every second of delay they minimized.

Not to mention that Google has also said slow performance can affect your SEO and rankings.

Which brings us to you and your auto dealers website. I’m sure you’ve invested in the lookand feel and the functionality and got the point where you’re happy with it. Don’t however neglect page load time. You’re not immune to what ails Google, Amazon, Walmart and every other online retailer.

Fortunately however, you don’t need a degree in physics to instantly improve page load times.

Here are three simple steps to instantly turbocharge your car dealers website. If you’re using WordPress, you can achieve this through plug-ins, otherwise contact your web vendor to ask them.

Cache

Every time a visitor hits your site, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Without getting too technical, basically your web server gets a request from John for your home page, and immediately goes to work to pull a bunch of pieces of data together to construct the html and send it back to John so that John can see it in his web browser. Now Mary happens to also visit your home page, and your webserver again goes and constructs everything to send the html to Mary. Phew, a lot of work for every visitor and this causes your site to slow down.

Cacheing is the process whereby your webserver gets smarter and says “I just constructed this HTML for John. I’m going to keep this here in memory so that if someone else asks for it, I’ll just send them the same copy instead of going to reconstruct it again”. So now Mary comes along and she gets the page much faster since she’s getting a copy already in memory.

If you’re using WordPress, check out wp fast cache as a free instant cacheing solution.

Image Compression

We love nice looking websites right? The problem is all those images on your site can cause the page load time to increase. Did you know that when a user visits your site, your browser has to fetch each image seperately? And sometimes those images are large. Much larger than they need to be. Perhaps you upload a high quality print ready image of a vehicle – an extremely high resolution which is not visible on a browser and typically is massive…many megabytes in size. All those images cause John and Mary to wait…and wait…

Well, you can automatically compress those images. Compression means sacrificing a little quality … though not noticeable to the viewer … in exchange for a much smaller size.

This means much smaller image sizes and much faster load times.

Minify

Ok this one is a little more technical…but bear with me. As a user visiting a website, you just see an entire page. Behind the scenes however, there are 10’s or hundreds of individual files being pulled in to present the page to you. Each one of those files are being fetched individually by your browser. This causes an increase in page load times.

The concept of minification is to take those individual files and essentially combine it on file, letting your browser fetch just one file instead of lots of files.

Fortunately, there are plug-ins that can do this for you automatically significantly speeding your website.

Conclusion

I hope you’ll consider implementing some of these techniques. The world of the online car buyer is increasingly competitive. The large IT departments from the big names in the car industry are constantly optimizing their site performance, but the good news is you can too…without needing a large IT department. Don’t assume a second here or a second there doesn’t mean that much. Amazon and every other leading retailer will beg to differ!

PS: No, we don’t sell site optimization products. Still, we love to talk about everything internet and online in the auto industry, so if you have any questions just post a comment here or drop us a line at [email protected]

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