Ask any dealer what the key to dealership success is and they’ll always say: “Sell more cars!” Whether it’s the owner, sales manager, Internet sales manager or sales associate, “Sell more cars!” is always the battle cry.
Sounds simple enough, but actually boosting sales, lowering costs and improving the bottom line is a witches’ brew of marketing, sales, PR, promotions, inventory control, CRM and cost analysis. Each of these ingredients to success, right down to the coffee and donuts that are served to prospective customers, needs to constantly evolve to match emerging trends, consumer behavior, the latest technologies and what is proving most successful in today’s automotive retail marketplace.
To stay ahead of the curve, the strongest, most innovative and smartest dealers are constantly adapting their business models to car shoppers’ behavior. What was important five years ago, may be passé in the current marketplace. This is particularly true with the emergence of today’s preeminent online marketing and sales tool: Video.
Today, 87% of in-market consumers view multiple videos of cars in motion while in the process of finding the right car for them. With each viewing, the car shopper learns more about each car, makes choices on what is a good fit and what is not, narrows the list of contenders and quickly and easily moves along the path to purchase.
While much of what goes on in a bricks and mortar dealership, from the sales floor to the service department, appears to be the same as it was five, ten or even twenty years ago, the relationship between the dealership’s team and the consumer has changed dramatically. There was a time when car shoppers entered the dealership showroom with little or no knowledge of the car they might be buying. How far along they were in their decision-making process was an unknown to the dealer. As a result, high-pressure, commission-based sales tactics were common and a negative reputation was created for dealerships that persists to this day.
With the emergence of the Internet in the 1980’s, the earth beneath traditional commerce began to shift. In his recently released treatise on the evolution of the Internet entitled The Third Wave, AOL founder Steve Case details how the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet was laid during the Internet’s First Wave in the ‘80’s. With consumer acceptance of the early Internet, access to information became immediate, global and immense.
By the mid-90’s, the Second Wave was taking shape. With it, consumers were given the ability to do more advanced online product research as more and more sites provided reviews and specifications. This dramatically improved the speed and efficiency of consumers’ decision making and accelerated adoption of the World Wide Web as a research tool for countless consumer products. The launch of Amazon.com book sellers in 1994 would herald the emergence of online commerce that today is forcing long-established bricks and mortar institutions such as Macy’s to close many stores, or like Circuit City, close their doors forever.
As consumers discovered the growing wealth of information available on the Internet, savvy car dealers realized that to reach a younger, better-educated car shopper they had to have a strong online presence. To stake a claim on the web and reach out to these early adopters, dealerships went online, creating a thriving business in auto dealership website design firms and managers.
With the launch of Edmunds.com in 1995 and emergence of online car shopping resources such as AutoTrader, Cars.com, Consumer Reports and Kelley Blue Book, shopping for a car online became common practice.
Google, launched in 1998, fine-tuned the web’s search capabilities.
Facebook’s appearance in 2004 created a social networking infrastructure that now spans all age groups and all continents.
But it was the launch of YouTube in 2005, then the iPhone in 2007 that would lead to the emergence of video as major social behavior influencer and preeminent online marketing and sales tool.
With mobile phones morphing into “mobile devices” the emergence of third-party apps that would function on the iPhone’s built-in Safari engine emerged. Instagram, launched in 2010 and Snapchat, launched in 2011 were each built upon the smartphone revolution and its ability to transmit images and video to a new generation of young socially active consumers.
Throughout these first two Internet waves, car dealers, with over a century of history behind the franchise system, have struggled to stay abreast of consumers’ shopping habits. Dealerships’ websites have been constantly redesigned. CRM system providers have been swapped out like worn tires. A second, local website has been added to the website provided through their OEM franchise.
Today, in the views of Steve Case and me, we’re entering the Third Wave of the Internet: a time in which online commerce will revolutionize major sectors of the retail marketplace—and in the process change the way we live. The greatest impact will be felt by the largest market sectors. With close to a trillion dollars in annual sales in the USA alone, franchised auto dealerships are at the top of that list.
In fact, many consumers in our southern states who are searching for a good used car already have the opportunity to ride this third wave. By going online at Vroom.com or Carvana.com, they can pick out a car and have it delivered to their door at no charge, along with a money-back guarantee. No hours spent in a dealership. No negotiating with commission-based sales associates. No lost weekends.
With used cars providing a higher profit margin than new, traditional dealers are now being challenged by disrupters on all sides.
To succeed in the Third Wave, dealers must adapt to this reality: For more and more car shoppers, the first impression that an in-market consumer will get from a dealer is NOT when he or she walks through the dealer’s front door…It’s when he or she visits the dealer’s ONLINE DEALERSHIP. (Note that I do not call the dealer’s Internet presence a website.) This is a critical distinction when considering harnessing the power of the Third Wave.
No longer do car shoppers enter your bricks and mortar showrooms without having first done their homework. Rather than traveling from dealer to dealer on weekends, they start with a visit to your online dealership via laptop, tablet or mobile device. They do their research at their leisure, viewing videos of the cars they are considering and gathering key mileage, performance, safety, technology and warranty information.
The following data has been drawn from a study conducted by WheelsTV’s marketing and distribution partner, CDK Global. It reveals the effectiveness of video in today’s connected automotive marketplace.
The key takeaway: “Video Nearly Doubles Every Key Metric.” Video doubles Time on VIN, Doubles Vehicle Views and Doubles Leads.
While raw data and photographs will always have a place on automotive websites and portals, today’s car shoppers expect to see cars brought to life through professionally produced videos. They want to picture themselves behind the wheel of their “dream car” and experience that “wind in your hair” feeling. Only video can create this burning desire to get off the sofa, visit the dealership that’s providing the video and happily drive away in that car.
Here are some action-inducing statistics for any dealer considering adding essential video marketing and sales tools to their online dealership:
Insights and Takeaways
Thank you for your attention,
Jim Barisano, CEO, WheelsTV
Automotive Networks Corporation d/b/a WheelsTV, is an industry-leading video technology company that creates and distributes cutting-edge interactive platforms and original automotive content for all screens. Patent-pending products include the Digital Video Showroom and iDrive Interactive Video Player. Exclusive content includes 1onOne Plus new car video test drives, New2U used car video test drives, POV Reviews and international auto show coverage. Visit http://dealervideoshowroom.com/