The road to ruling automotive sales in your backyard and beyond is a long one, and your dealership’s digital marketing strategy plays a pivotal role. With so much of the car–buyer’s journey taking place online, it’s crucial to be present when and where people are looking. Chances are, you already leverage and integrate digital marketing channels in some way. Let’s take that to a whole new level!
Stream Companies Bill Parlaman and DealerSocket’s Eric Giroux join forces for this special webinar to share best practices and real-world success stories to help you reach, capture, and convert more traffic.
Attendees will learn:
Register today to move your dealership forward on the journey to digital domination.
About the Presenters:
Bill Parlaman, Chief Marketing Officer, Stream Companies
Bill Parlaman is one of the founding thought leaders in digital marketing and Search Engine Optimization space. Prior to joining Stream, Bill founded his own inbound marketing agency where he helped hundreds of clients maximize their digital marketing efforts for maximum exposure, lead generation, and brand building. As Chief Marketing Officer, Bill has taken that experience into a leadership role at Stream Companies where he leads a team of sales and marketing professionals, foster client relationships, and enjoys partnering with dealers to solve their biggest sales and marketing problems.
Eric Giroux, VP, Product Management, DealerSocket
After spending time directing digital marketing for a 12-store automotive group in Kansas, Eric Giroux became one of the early members of the DealerFire team. There, he oversaw relationships with some of the largest automotive groups in the country and helped steer dealer and product strategy. Now, as VP of Product Management at DealerSocket, Eric leads a global team of specialists in building web-based software. Most notably, he served as the lead Product Manager DealerFire’s website platform, as well as DealerSocket’s digital retailing solution.
San Francisco Toyota is a one-of-a-kind dealership located in downtown San Francisco. To sell and service its large selection of new and used vehicles, the dealership utilizes nine buildings within a three-mile circle — including three separate showrooms — and keeps most of its inventory in parking garages. They are in the top 10% of Toyota dealers in the nation, moving up 25 spots since they became DealerSocket customers.
After achieving significant CRM success, General Manager Doug Donnellan decided to add a DealerFire website to the dealership’s suite of DealerSocket solutions. Eager to participate in Toyota’s SmartPath initiative, a new digital marketing system designed to fundamentally change the way customers buy and finance vehicles online, Donnellan was also eager to take advantage of DealerSocket’s CRM and DealerFire integration – CrossFire.
“Ultimately, what pushed us over the edge in selecting DealerFire was the ability to use Toyota SmartPath,” said Donnellan. Toyota’s SmartPath program enables dealerships to better service customers who want to complete part of the car-buying process remotely. With a SmartPath-enabled website, consumers can pick out a vehicle, get accurate pricing, and apply for vehicle financing online, before setting foot in a dealership. “We wanted to be one of the first SmartPath dealers.”
Using a DealerFire website helped San Francisco Toyota change how it prepares, promotes, and presents its inventory. Vehicle details entered into Toyota’s Dealer Daily are synced in real-time to the dealership’s DealerFire website, ensuring the most up-to-date and accurate information. Those same details are also updated immediately on Toyota.com and third-party lead-gen sites, ensuring that customers see the same inventory and information no matter which tier website they visit.
“One of the big changes Toyota made in SmartPath is being able to promote inventory that's in transit,” said Donnellan. “Right now, with the scarcity of inventory, being able to promote inventory in transit our DealerFire website is incredibly helpful.”
CrossFire, DealerFire’s website integration with DealerSocket’s CRM, is critical to delivering an optimal experience to SmartPath customers. When car shoppers come into the dealership and provide their name, the sales team can pull up their record in the CRM and view everything they did online; what vehicle they selected, their desired payment, and whether they have a trade. That allows the salesperson to pick up right where the customer left off.
Website-to-CRM integration is also key to managing SmartPath leads. “All of our leads and every ounce of follow-up we do goes through DealerSocket’s CRM,” said Donnellan. “DealerSocket’s CRM makes it easy to track all of our interactions and also to monitor and manage activity. If something is off or a step was missed, we know right away.”
Just one month after launching their DealerFire website, the dealership saw great results. “January and February were our two best months ever from a financial standpoint,” said Donnellan. “Let’s forget March, April, and May because those really don’t count (due to Covid-19). June and July have been back-to-back best financial months ever, and August is pacing beautifully.”
Since switching to a DealerFire website and the Toyota SmartPath program, San Francisco Toyota has seen the following results:
“It's just going incredibly well,” said Donnellan. “Our team is utilizing it well, and our grosses have increased significantly.”
Donnellan says that it’s difficult to attribute the dealership’s successes to any one thing. “I think it’s a combination of our in-house marketing team, SmartPath, DealerFire website, and DealerSocket’s CRM being able to talk to DealerFire —that’s helped tremendously. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how things came together.”
Dealers have grappled with the SEO landscape for over 10 years. We've lost our way by creating content and strategies around acronyms instead of people - and that has to change.
Register for our SEO Playbook and know your digital strategy plays. Written by our Director of Digital Marketing, Wes Lungwitz, this 4-part playbook is your new back-pocket trade secret that will take your digital showroom to a level you didn't even know existed.
Each part is packed with a summary, 3-4 chapters, term glossaries, and more.
SEO has become a sort of “catch all” phrase for vendors that know they should be doing something for your business but cannot clearly define the exact methods to get you to the top of that search results page.
By Gregory Arroyo
I recall a conversation I had with an industry attorney during the early days of digital retailing. Technology vendors believed the Digital Age had arrived, while dealers were saying, “Not so fast.” My question to my attorney friend was, “What’s the holdup.”
He said the problem is dealers aren’t treating digital retailing as an experience — that customers should be rewarded for taking that path to purchase. He suggested that dealerships with separate facilities for fleet sales should consider directing digital buyers there vs. the showroom.
He then relayed his recent experience purchasing his second vehicle from the same dealership. He called the store, explained that he was a willing buyer who simply wanted to update to a newer model, and negotiated the deal over the phone. Expecting the red-carpet treatment for essentially being a rollover, he felt disappointed when he discovered he’d have to wait like the other customers in front of him.
That conversation came to mind when I came across Urban Science’s “Around the Bend: How COVID-19 Impacts the Next Normal for Dealers,” a report based on an online poll of 1,506 adult consumers. It serves as an update to the firm’s August 2019 report, which served as a reality check for digital retailing.
The 2019 study, which included responses from 2,001 consumers, concluded that car buyers weren’t ready to ditch the dealership experience because they still want to kick the tires and take a test-drive. Respondents also said they still needed someone at the dealership to guide them through the process.
I wrote about why I think that represents an opportunity for digital retailing in an April 2020 blog entry, “Digital Retailing’s True Test.” However, I’d like to share an even greater opportunity revealed in this year’s updated study.
See, while the report did show that a majority of consumers still believe buying a car is too big of an investment not to see (81%) or test-drive (79%), it did show that 67% would be more open to buying online if it was a brand or dealership with which they were already familiar.
Again, my convo with my attorney friend came to mind, but so did a discussion I had with a DealerSocket Strategic Growth Manager. He said the main reason some dealers fail to realize the full potential of data mining is because they don’t have a dedicated process. Well, based on that stat from Urban Science, maybe a digital retailing represents a missing link.
Take those data-mining campaigns targeting customers approaching the end of their lease or who qualify for smart payment offers. The emails could contain links to a landing page that explains your offer and a link to a streamlined buying process powered by your digital retail tool.
Back in April, another DealerSocket Strategic Growth Manager told me about a Pennsylvania-based dealer group that was rewarded for having a service-drive sales process when the pandemic forced local officials to limit dealers there to appointment-only sales that concluded with service-drive deliveries.
Before the pandemic, the process delivered 100 units a month behind two dedicated salespeople, a sales manager, and an F&I manager, who actually has a dedicated desk (with enough privacy) in the service area. The reason for that is the group wanted that buying experience to feel different and free of pressure.
The group equips the sales team with its inventory management tool’s mobile app (Inventory+) to feed appraisers with scanned VINs and photos of every car that comes into service. The appraisers then prepare a package that includes a vehicle history report, documentation on the vehicle’s going price in the local market, its fair Kelley Blue Book value, a check voucher for an amount over that value, and the salesperson’s business card.
Signage in the service drive lets customers know they can get a free vehicle evaluation by texting a specific number or talking to their service advisor. All customers get an appraisal, but the hand-raisers represent high-value targets the sales team engages.
However, even customers who don’t bite get the appraisal package. They also get enrolled into a CRM-powered campaign that includes email and a phone call — the latter scheduled for the day after the customer’s service visit to ensure satisfaction and to revisit the offer sheet.
I can see three potential opportunities in that process for digital retailing to have an impact. Maybe it’s a kiosk in the service area loaded with a digital retail tool like DealerSocket’s PrecisePrice; perhaps it’s tablets. Whatever the case, digital retail should be a part of those follow-up efforts, whether it’s a link in an email or guiding customers through the process over the phone and emailing a link to their PrecisePrice deal.
And just maybe that buyer’s journey you create in the service drive serves as the entrance for sales opportunities your data-mining efforts generate.
While 93% of respondents to the Urban Science study expressed some concern with an entirely online purchase process, more than two-thirds said they were comfortable shopping online, signing paperwork digitally, and negotiating price and terms via email, chat, or phone.
Recently, the individual leading the digital drive for one of the largest privately-owned dealer groups in the United States addressed DealerSocket employees over a Zoom call. He talked about COVID-19’s impact, inventory shortages, the group’s efforts to build that clicks-to-bricks experience, and how consumers still need to be educated on what digital retailing is. What caught my attention was his response to whether he believed consumers still want the showroom experience.
“Absolutely … Only a small group of individuals want the Carvana model, and we’re going to be there,” he said. “But most customers want to step foot in a brick-and-mortar shop. If they want to get their payment, we’ll do that and meet them in the showroom.
“So, we believe a critical point in that process is that showroom experience,” he added. “You shouldn’t lose a customer who completed things online because you told them it would take 45 minutes, but it takes us three hours.”
SEO has become a sort of “catch all” phrase for vendors that know they should be doing something for your business but cannot clearly define the exact methods to get you to the top of that search results page.
In this playbook, we'll cover:
DealerFire by DealerSocket provides the fastest, most reliable websites in the industry (with 18 OEM certifications), along with powerful digital marketing solutions for car dealers. Click below to see for yourself.
DALLAS, July 14, 2020 — DealerFire, a business unit of DealerSocket, and Stream Companies, a full-service, fully integrated, tech-enabled ad agency, today announced a strategic partnership that brings together expert advertising solutions with award-winning technologies to offer dealers a consolidated approach to digital marketing management.
This new partnership taps into the power, strengths, and capabilities of both companies to provide dealers with an innovative way to accelerate their digital marketing performance. Stream will serve as the full-service ad agency and ad tech provider and DealerFire as the website and SEO provider for dealers who will now have the best of both offerings combined together. Dealers will continue to receive the white-glove customer service for which both companies are well known.
“Stream’s partnership with DealerSocket’s DealerFire will allow both companies to innovate faster and provide the best client service in automotive marketing,” said Dave Regn, co-founder of Stream Companies. “Innovation and integrated advertising, plus retailing, are key to long-term growth and competitive positioning in the marketplace.”
By leveraging each company’s technology and expertise, the ongoing partnership aims to drive client success under the following “Core Four” goals:
“When I took a closer look at Stream’s offerings and what it has done to accelerate automotive dealerships’ advertising returns on investment, I knew it would be a perfect partnership and complement our websites and SEO offerings at DealerFire,” said Darren Harris, executive vice president and general manager of retail solutions at DealerSocket. “Today’s announcement allows us and Stream to jointly deliver successful digital marketing that dealers need right now. Our partnership will allow dealers to optimize their clicks-to-showroom buying experience with DealerFire websites while fulfilling their broader digital advertising needs with a full-service, fully integrated ad agency with Stream Companies.”
DALLAS, June 29, 2020 — DealerSocket, Inc., a leading SaaS provider to the automotive industry, today announced that its award-winning DealerFire website platform earned acceptance into the Honda Dealer Website Solutions Certified Program. This certification means DealerSocket’s DealerFire website platform is immediately available to Honda’s approximately 1,000 U.S. dealers.
Today’s announcement marks the 20th OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) certification for DealerFire, which completed Honda’s robust selection process that measured best-in-class services, a national reach, and extensive automotive industry expertise.
“Honda was looking for a cutting-edge website and search engine optimization partner, and they found that with DealerFire,” said Eric Giroux, vice president of product management for DealerSocket’s digital solutions. “Our DealerFire website platform helps dealers have a seamless shopping experience, the fastest mobile websites in the industry, and more control over their virtual showroom versus any other solution on the market today.”
Capable of mobile load speeds of less than one second on 4G and less than three seconds on 3G networks, DealerSocket’s DealerFire websites are built on the first platform specifically designed for the automotive retail industry. The result is fully responsive websites optimized for maximum visibility right out of the box.
DealerFire websites feature native mobile functionality for an app-like shopping experience designed to efficiently connect car buyers to the inventory they’re looking for with Google-like, search-as-you-type functionality, and a search-by-features module.
For dealers who want more control over their virtual showroom, DealerFire websites tout a robust back-end editing system for do-it-yourself web and landing page creation with no HTML coding required. The platform also offers more than 100 different inventory and incentives modules users can drag and drop onto a page, as well as a set of optimized webpage templates and container themes through DealerFire’s new Snapshot Studio.
A winner of 12 Automotive Website Awards, DealerFire also offers a host of digital marketing capabilities, including digital advertising, content development, and social media marketing.
Trend Motors Volkswagen in Rockaway, NJ., is three years into its drive toward a paperless sales process. To accelerate his plans, General Manager Frank Maher signed up with DealerSocket, knowing that to deliver the digital buying experience customers want, he needed consumer and deal data flowing across a single digital ecosystem. DealerSocket not only had all the pieces, Maher says, it also had a knack for staying ahead of the curb.
Using text messaging to deliver customer convenience is a top priority for Maher and his sales team. “You know, my own children would prefer to text me from their bedroom than to come downstairs and speak with me. It's just the world we live in. You have to adapt.” That’s what led him to customize the dealership's opt-in message with the inclusion of “For your convenience” and the salesperson’s name.
In the two months since personalizing its text opt-in message, the dealership has realized a 36% increase in text messages sent and 51% increase in those received. "A lot of the things we've changed, like the opt-in message, have come from a salesperson's suggestion," Maher says. "The CRM is their No. 1 tool, so we listen to what they have to say."
Maher’s deep understanding of lease maturities led him to activate DealerSocket’s RevenueRadar® data mining tool. The 200-unit-a-month dealership’s 68% to 72% lease penetration also made the decision a no-brainer.
“Our DealerSocket Strategic Growth Manager quickly got us on the right track with RevenueRadar. He showed us how to drip opportunities in at a manageable pace, so we get to optimize the opportunities that are sitting there, right in front of us. It’s really a great tool.”
The importance of leasing is also why Maher is excited about the new integration between DealerSocket’s CRM and Volkswagen’s Maturity Manager, a dealer portal VW Credit created to facilitate end-of-term transactions and initiate maturity programs. “It's much more cost-effective to keep or retain a customer that we already have than to try to find a new one. So, having that integration working with the brand and pulling that information into the CRM — the platform my salespeople already use to reach out to those customers — is a great idea,” he says.
Ensuring all these integrations and add-ons are optimized to the store's process is critical, which is why Maher is especially grateful for his DealerSocket Customer Success Manager (CSM).
“She’s a Rockstar. She changed our perspective as far as what we can do with DealerSocket,” Maher says, also crediting his CSM for getting the dealership to switch from a paper log to the CRM's Desk Log to track customer interactions. “The Desk Log has become a bible for us. Every day it's up on my desktop. Right now, I can see how many units have been sold today, who's come and gone, what the notes are, and we have accountability for the sales associates to check in the visit, check in the demo, the write up, that it went to F&I, and that it's in. So, we can see everything that occurred, along with upcoming appointments and those that have been confirmed or canceled.”
Having his DealerFire website perfectly synced with his CRM is key to Maher’s overall strategy. “Part of the reason I went with DealerSocket over the other vendors was to have continuity. I knew if I had the DealerFire platform that the triangulation between my website, CRM, desking tool, and, when I’m ready, PrecisePrice, would make for a much better experience for customers,” he says.
As a next step, Maher plans to use digital retailing to build upon existing foundation. "As for digital retail, you want to jump in both feet first. But that’s how you set yourself up for failure. We're tackling it one item at a time, and DealerSocket is allowing us to do that."
DALLAS, May 12, 2020 — DealerSocket, Inc., a leading SaaS provider to the automotive industry, today released new insights based on aggregated Inventory+ data that shows positive signs for the automotive market. Contained in the company’s new “DealerSocket COVID-19 Impact Report,” the aggregated data set of insights will be updated on a bimonthly basis. The first edition reveals a 34.3% increase in consumer trade appraisals between the weeks of April 6 and April 20 this year.
The report’s first edition also provides a deeper dive into inventory management trends during the COVID-19 period between the weeks of March 2 and April 20. Aside from insights from DealerSocket’s Inventory+ team, the report includes online shopping trends from DealerFire (DealerSocket’s digital and websites business), and regional lists outlining the top 10 pre-owned vehicles based on sales count, average turn, front-end gross, and average sales price.
“Dealers are optimistic by nature, and the data outlines trends pointing to potential recovery signs for the industry from the COVID-19 pandemic, with activity spiking since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed auto sales essential on April 17,” said Brad Kokesh, general manager of DealerSocket’s Inventory+ business unit. “The report also outlines a pick-up in activity among consumers. What’s interesting is consumers continued to initiate appraisals through online lead forms throughout the month of March, and consumer trade appraisals have jumped more than 30% since the first full week of April.“
Here are key findings from the DealerSocket COVID-19 Impact Report:
To access the DealerSocket COVID-19 Impact Report, click here.