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Digital Dealer Overview, Part 1

I just returned from the Digital Dealer Conference and have 38 pages of hand written notes (I was one of a handful of people handwriting notes – so many iPads). One thing that was beaten to death throughout the conference was the need for original content, so I have decided to summarize my notes in separate blog posts. That is assuming, of course, that I can read the chicken scratch that is my handwriting. I should probably get an iPad….

Gen X & Y – Online Strategy for Young Car Shoppers

Patrick McMullen of Max Ad Systems provided some interesting results from a study done by his firm as well as an outside company whose name I missed. For the study, they videotaped a couple hundred 25-39 year olds with no brand identity who were shopping for a used vehicle. Additionally, they did around one thousand exit interviews at dealerships with customers that had just purchased a vehicle. Here are some of the numbers gathered from these studies:

• 40% of the customers ended up buying the same make/model they previously owned (20% without question and 20% after looking elsewhere) – this would suggest some brand loyalty to me, even if just on a subconscious level;

• 50% of customers learned about a vehicle online, while 20% learned about it from friends/family – another 17% learned about it at the dealership but not sure what originally brought them to the dealership;

• Nearly 80% of the traffic that comes to a dealer’s website is direct or from organic search, while 10% came from Google Adwords – moreover 45% of online buyers are sourced from the dealer website (though I don’t know if they tracked where the search started or just how the customer contacted the store);

• 50% of the customers decided to go the dealership that they bought from while on that dealership’s website;

• Customers in the study went to an average of 1.8 dealerships – I heard 1.3 during another session, it’s clear they are yours to lose once they reach your lot;

• 44% of 18-35 year olds used a mobile device while in the store – though I don’t have this in my notes, I am going to assume that was from a different study since theirs started at 25 year olds…..

McMullen also introduced the different focus of computer, tablet and smartphone search, something that was discussed often throughout the conference. It is clear that customers are looking for different things on different devices and much of the success in the retail auto (and every other) industry is going to come from those that understand how to harness this distinction. Basically, it was suggested that computers are used for research, tablets for reading reviews and watching video, and smarthpones were used to get dealership info and to research competition while at the dealership. Much more to come on this in future posts.

Much of the additional discussion focused on the need for robust and relevant vehicle descriptions. The study found that consumers in this age bracket are especially keen on research and may add a number of different brands to their original list once they start searching. For example, they found that of the people that searched for a Honda Civic, 60 bought Civics, 100 bought Accords, and 100 bought Altimas. Thus, listings have every opportunity to sell a vehicle even if the customer was not orginally searching for that vehicle. Dealers should be answering key questions for the customer with their vehicle listing, specifically focusing on the quality of the car and the dealership as well as what makes the car better than one at another store. McMullen suggested having as much information as possible available to the customer (many customers go to the OEM website to learn the difference between trim levels and to confirm the photos have the proper options). He also recommended utilizing OEM package descriptions (“sport”, “power”, etc.) in UV descriptions and on window stickers.

Most of the information from this presentation was not ground-breaking but still completely relevant. Of course you should have the most compelling and attractive digital inventory, not to mention tracking click rates for each unit on a third party site to see what descriptions work, and making sure you have contact info, directions, and pricing information on your mobile site (also, make sure you have a mobile site). The question is, why aren’t more dealers completely aware of this? This was the first of many times that I wondered just what everyone was spending so much money on in their Internet Departments….

 

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