Since DealerSocket was founded nearly 19 years ago by co-founders Jonathan Ord and Brad Perry in Brad’s garage in California, their vision was to offer auto dealers innovative software with a deep focus on customer service. They began by creating the industry’s first-ever hosted CRM solution for dealerships. After partnering with Vista Equity Partners, they acquired four companies to expand their offering, and by the end of 2015, DealerSocket was nearly able to offer the market a full platform solution, but was still missing a key piece, a franchise DMS solution.
Our founders’ vision from several years ago of an all-in-one platform is today almost a reality. Earlier this month, I shared with you that DealerSocket signed an agreement to acquire Auto/Mate, a DMS that serves more than 1,500 franchise dealerships. Auto/Mate has in recent years become a leading franchise DMS provider, winning more than 82% of their customers from the industry’s two largest DMS competitors, and enjoying more than 98% retention year after year.
Since early 2018, when I first spent time with Auto/Mate’s leaders, I realized that our companies share similar core values, and we both have a dedicated team who care deeply about our dealership customers, many of whom come from families of dealers and have spent years of their career working in dealerships. I truly believe the combination of our two great companies offers dealers a much-needed alternative, a new choice for a full platform solution in our industry, dedicated to serving car people by car people.
Challenges you may have heard about or seen in the media about this transaction are disagreements regarding the valuation and economic terms of this transaction among our founders and other board members. There is no disagreement across our board about the strategic benefits the transaction will have for DealerSocket, Auto/Mate, and our dealers.
We have been working on the acquisition of Auto/Mate for quite some time. Throughout this period, we held very comprehensive and deliberate discussions with our board, including several board meetings and volumes of emails and calls discussing and iterating on financials and the decision to execute on this transaction. The entire process has been handled with integrity, openness, and thoroughness. We discussed and agreed on the strategic value of our combined companies, and we reviewed detailed financials, which were shared amongst all of our board members in connection with this deal. Ultimately, our board agrees on the strategic value of combining DealerSocket with Auto/Mate, and all of our board members, including myself, unanimously voted to approve the deal, except our two founders, due to economic terms related to it.
I am disappointed that these legal filings are causing a delay in completing this acquisition and ultimately delaying our ability to offer our dealers the strategic benefits of a combined offering. I look forward to completing the next steps and welcoming the Auto/Mate family to DealerSocket soon. I believe we will look back many years from now and realize that the combination of DealerSocket and Auto/Mate was one of the most impactful, game-changing decisions for our dealers and the automotive software industry.
I look forward to sharing great news of a completed acquisition with you soon.
Sejal PietrzakPresident & CEO
I am excited to share a great announcement with you as we kick off the new year! DealerSocket has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Auto/Mate, one of the leading DMS providers for automotive dealerships.
By bringing together Auto/Mate’s comprehensive DMS technology with DealerSocket’s software suite, once the acquisition closes, we will offer our dealers a unique and intelligent platform where innovative software is combined with best-in-class service.
As you may know, DealerSocket has an independent-focused DMS product, but we do not currently have a DMS product for franchise dealers. Upon the close of the deal, with the acquisition of Auto/Mate’s DMS, we will be able to offer franchise dealers a complete and comprehensive one-stop-shop solution with great technology and best-in-class service that is much-needed in the market.
We believe the combination of our two companies will be a game changer for our customers, our industry, and our two companies. Upon close, the combined company will support more than 9,000 dealerships and well over 300,000 active users.
We decided to acquire Auto/Mate to offer dealers a new alternative and a better choice for a fully integrated platform solution. After we close, we will invest significantly in a deeper integration between our products. We will continue to innovate to create intelligent applications that make your job easier and help drive increased profitability for you. For our customers who utilize another DMS provider, please know that we will continue to offer you seamless and real-time integrations between DealerSocket products and all DMS technology providers, just as we do today.
DealerSocket and Auto/Mate will continue to operate separately until an official close has been announced. For both of our companies, it will be ‘business as usual’ as we complete the steps to close, and you should continue to reach out to your normal point of contact at DealerSocket as needed. We look forward to sharing additional updates after the deal closes.
I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends, and I wish you all the best in this new year. Thank you for your business. We value you and appreciate your continued loyalty and trust in DealerSocket.
It appears reports of the F&I manager’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.That was the big revelation to come out my discussion with one of the analysts of a consumer poll conducted this past February by The Harris Poll on behalf of Urban Science. The study gathered responses from 2,001 U.S. consumers age 18 and over.
The individual I spoke to was Randy Berlin, who serves as global director of dealer consulting. My line of questioning began with whether the study’s findings refuted all those consumer studies published earlier this decade, and what the new finding meant for the future of digital retailing.
“We were surprised, too. We had no idea what they were going to come back with,” Berlin said, adding that his firm expected The Harris Poll to come back with findings that point to consumers, especially younger generations, wanting a more click-to-buy experience.
“But what the research told us is that younger generations have no brand identity or loyalty, so they don’t know what to buy,” he said, highlighting the most critical takeaway from the study. See, whereas boomers like Berlin have experience purchasing vehicles and have an affinity toward certain vehicle brands, the young people are just not brand loyal — “… except for maybe Apple,” Berlin quipped.
According to the study, Generation Z and young millennials — the two demographics every consumer study said would skip the dealership experience altogether — visit, on average, 3.5 dealerships before pulling the trigger.
Remember when those shopper studies also told us consumers were visiting less than two dealerships, and those visits would continue to decline in the Amazon Age? Well, older millennials, Gen X, and boomers are visiting, on average, 2.2, 2.3, and 2.2 dealerships, respectively.
What surprised Berlin and researchers at The Harris Poll is the unwillingness of younger consumers to buy a vehicle without seeing it. Overall, seven out of 10 respondents said they would never buy a vehicle without a dealership. Eighty-five percent of respondents also agreed a vehicle is too big an investment to risk not seeing it before they buy.
These insights led Berlin to the most stunning conclusion to come out out of his analysis — that younger car buyers desire the knowledge of a well-trained F&I professional. “These younger folks don’t know what they can afford. So there’s uncertainty there, where they need help understanding their finance options and what they mean for them,” Berlin said.
The dealer consultant said car buyers, particularly younger consumers, want to do as much as they can online. “Remember, for many of these younger consumers, it’s their first purchase,” he said. “So they rely on the expertise of the dealer to help them get through the process.”
Berlin knows they’re online because, according to the study, the average car buyer is submitting, on average, three lead forms. The reason is consumers want to make sure they’re getting a good deal, so they’re cross-checking pricing. And dealers, for the most part, have embraced this desire for pricing transparency. That’s why 81% of survey respondents said they trust the information they receive from an OEM dealership.
“So they know invoice. They know everything about it,” Berlin said. “But a majority of consumers aren’t coming in to write a check. So price is one thing, but then, as you relate that to the payment, is it a two-year lease, three-year lease, a 48-month loan, a 60-month loan, or 72. That’s where the F&I manager really starts to play a role.”
This is where things got interesting. Berlin equated digital retailing to autonomous vehicles, noting that “a majority of people aren’t raising their hand and saying, “I’m all in on that.”
“But if you think about it, from autonomous vehicles, we’ve seen a lot of safety features come out of that, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and automatic stopping,” he continued. “Digital retailing is synonymous with that: I can do most of the transaction online line, and it’s more than just submitting a credit application. It’s a doc you can sign electronically and those sorts of things. Then I go to the dealership to complete the transaction because I want to see the vehicle.”
And to Berlin, consumers are only going to want more of this experience. The challenge for software providers like my employer is to show dealers how these digital retailing platforms work with their current process. It has to be seamless.
“Like what we’ve learned from the whole autonomous vehicle, when it comes to digital retailing, however the customer wants to engage and transact with you, it has to be the same process,” Berlin said. “They don’t want to have to start over.”
The proliferation of small type in online ads and social media could make dealers more vulnerable to digital accessibilities lawsuits, filing of which should increase thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court just did something that should make your stomach turn the next time you are in the mood for Domino’s Pizza. Actually, it’s what the high court didn’t do that will have you reaching for an antacid.
See, Dominos was sued three years ago by Guillermo Robles under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The pizza chain’s customer charged that Domino’s failed to design its website and web app to accommodate screen-reading software that could read and vocalize contents. This, he alleged, prevented him from taking advantage of the chain’s online discounts after he was unable to order pizza online on two occasions.
Dominos argued that the ADA applies to its store but not its website.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Although the ADA does not directly address websites, mobile apps, or other web-based technologies, the appellate court ruled that the chain’s website and app provided a way for customers to access its physical storefronts for delivery and pickup. This “nexus” put Robles’ complaint under the purview of the ADA.
Domino’s then asked the Supreme Court to rule that the ADA does not cover the internet.
The high court declined the pizza chain’s appeal on Oct. 7. The decision clears the way for the more than 2,250 digital accessibilities lawsuits expected to be filed this year.
For California dealers, the Supreme Court’s decision is especially damaging. That’s because California law, according to Auto Dealer Compliance’s Randy Henrick, sets a minimum dollar amount for damages of $4,000 plus attorney’s fees for each violation of the ADA. Most other states don’t have a minimum and only allow for equitable relief to be sought. However, businesses located in all but 12 states have paid between $10,000 and more than $90,000 to resolve website-related lawsuits and threats of lawsuits.
Now consider the special internet pricing you might be advertising on your site, the digital retailing tools you may offer, all those vehicle details pages you’ve created, and the fine print explaining rebate and incentive eligibility. If you employ any of that on your site, you could be a target, Henrick says.
What makes compliance tough is the definition of “disability” in the ADA is broad. Keep in mind it’s a legal term, not a medical term. That’s significant, because the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment “that substantially limits one or more major life activity functions,” Henrick notes, adding that this includes people who have a record of such impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.
“With the Supreme Court letting the Domino’s decision stand, I would expect more of these suits to be filed by the plaintiff’s bar,” Henrick says. “Whether and to what extent auto dealers will be targeted is uncertain, but I think they have the same exposure as other retailers and the proliferation of small type in online ads and social media may make them more vulnerable.”
The big concern here is there is no standard for compliance. Yup, it’s a moving target.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice was in the process of developing precise standards for making websites ADA compliant. Four Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking were issued in 2010. Henrick says it is likely those standards would have been less costly and complex than the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is the standard followed by the European Union and other countries since 1999.
The Trump administration, however, withdrew those notices as part of its deregulation stance. That’s why this Domino’s case is something to watch, and why DealerSocket chose AudioEye as its web accessibility partner.
Under that pact, DealerFire websites now support AudioEye’s Ally Toolbar, which allows users with disabilities to have text read to them or played automatically. The solution, which conforms with WCAG 2.0 standards, also offers automatic captioning and voice-enabled site navigation.
So, you’ve been warned. The good news for DealerFire customers is we got your digital front door covered.
An interesting observation causes a general manager for a Toyota store to wonder if the industry has reached a tipping point in today’s Digital Age.
A general manager (GM) for a Toyota store in Arkansas made a stunning observation: A “super-loyal” customer who has purchased five cars from the same salesperson, who he loves and “won’t buy from anyone else,” came in as an internet lead.
Yup, instead of calling his beloved Jackie to say he’s coming in to look at a new Toyota Tacoma, Mr. Super-Loyal visited the dealership’s website, found the vehicle he wanted, and submitted a lead form. The horror, right? Well, it wasn’t the first time the GM observed such a thing.
“He was an internet sale, so the website got credit for that sale,” the GM told me. “It wasn’t a conquest sale. We didn’t go out and get us a new customer, but, technically, on paper, it’s an internet sale.”
Remember when market studies told us car buyers were shopping less than two dealerships before pulling the trigger. Well, according to a poll of 2,001 consumers conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Urban Science, consumers are visiting, on average, 2.5 dealerships. Wait, it gets better.
Generation Z and young millennials — you know, the ones who were supposed to skip the showroom experience altogether — are visiting, on average, 3.5 dealerships. Gen X visits 2.3 dealerships, while older millennials and Boomers visit, on average, two.
Randy Berlin, global director of dealer consulting for Urban Science, says the reason visits are higher among the younger demographics is “they have no brand identity or loyalty.”
“The young people, they’re just not brand loyal at all, except for maybe Apple,” he adds.
And get this: Berlin says the average customer is submitting an average of three leads. The reason, he says, is customers are cross-checking prices. See, price (84%) is the most significant influencer of a buying decision — even above a “low-pressure sales approach (72%).”
The GM’s story and all this new data makes me wonder why data mining isn’t getting more hype, especially when we’re dealing with a less loyal customer who is focused on price and is cross-checking two to 3.5 dealerships.
All of this reminds me of something I heard from one of our Strategic Growth Managers for our RevenueRadar tool. His name is Winston Harrell, a 33-year industry veteran and a serious data-mining pro. To demonstrate the power of the tool to new clients, he asks them to load the solution with the conditions that point to a high-target prospect or are important to the dealership. Then he has them run a report to see how many people the dealership sold a car to in the last month fit those parameters.
“It’s pure amazement,” he says. “Unfortunately, no one reached out to those customers, so they showed up as a fresh up or an internet lead.”
And you know your third-party lead providers are more than happy to take credit for those sales.
Harrell says the reason most dealers lose faith in data mining is they don’t have a defined process that’s written down, implemented, and managed by a dedicated person. Think BDC manager.
DealerSocket commissioned its own study. Conducted by Strategy Analytics, nearly 50% of the 500 dealers polled listed “Identifying the best places to invest marketing spend” as their No. 1 pain point. Again, I’m not sure why data mining isn’t getting more hype when it’s clear the answer is buried in the data.
Departing from my recent rants about digital retailing, I thought I’d get a little controversial this month by asking: Why do some dealerships not allow their sales teams to use the CRM to create their own customer lists? Wouldn’t their customer communications be more personalized?
If every car or service you purchased from a dealership was from a particular salesperson, wouldn’t you be more willing to listen to what he or she had to say?
I raised those points during a recent conversation with Regis Saffold, a DealerSocket Customer Success Manager. We were talking about CRM usage rates and why some dealers struggle to get their sales teams to engage the tool. I just wondered if I was crazy to think that access to list builder-type features should not be limited to only general managers and BDC managers?
“Not at all,” Regis said. “All users should have a BDC manager mentality. If not, huge portions of the tool are being ignored — the most important features, in my opinion.”
Having led an industry publication for more than a decade, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from many of this industry’s great minds. One of them is Jim “The Alpha Dawg” Ziegler. The one piece of advice he imparted in one of his columns that I’ll never forget is the importance of the sales team marrying the CRM. It’s “the heartbeat of sales and service,” he wrote.
I figured “Da Man,” as he’s also called, would set me straight. Well, he did. Through Facebook Messenger, I posed those same questions to him. Having sat through his workshops, I knew what his answer would be before I hit send.
“I would NOT allow it,” he responded.
With my tail between my legs, I reached out to one of my old buddies, an F&I director at a Cadillac store in Colorado. The guy is one of the most talented F&I professionals in the business, and I knew his dealership was a Socket store. I posed the same question I posed to Ziegler.
“We don’t restrict access here, and we encourage them to interact with the CRM,” he said.
Feeling less crazy, I reached out to another one of my old friends, a former F&I director-turned-GM from Maryland. She responded with a “No,” adding, “The sales manager or I create those lists.”
Listen, I get it. As a general manager, you want your salespeople working the hot leads you or your BDC serves up. You also don’t want customers getting hit with emails or mailers twice in the same week. And you certainly want your sales team focused on the campaigns your dealership is pushing, and the programs your promoting.
Then there’s the floor “ups” your sales team needs to handle and your road-to-the-sale process. Keep in mind the car business is the only retail vertical in which salespeople are required to stay with the customer through the entire transaction. Add that all up and there isn’t much time for salespeople to be working their own lists.
Then there’s the transient nature of the business, and you certainly don’t want salespeople walking off with lists of your customers. These are all excellent points for limiting what a salesperson can access. I just wonder if focusing solely on accountability is why the CRM is often viewed by sales staff as kind of a nanny cam, recording everything they are and aren’t doing.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Rudy T., aka El Patronn, about his Brooklyn Mitsubishi dealership. In his first year at the helm of what he described as an underperforming store, Rudy increased sales and profits by 65% and 52%, respectively. This year, Rudy’s store broke into the national sales ranks for Mitsubishi dealerships.
How did he change things? He got his sales team excited about using the CRM by encouraging them to create their own lists. But he did much more than that. He instructed them to become their own brands, create their own logos and websites, get active on social media, and use their mobile devices to record vehicle walkarounds they could email or text to customers.
What he did was show them how his seemingly trivial requirement of logging every customer in the CRM helped them become mini businesses within the dealership. And that spoke directly to their entrepreneurial spirit. Truth is, many of the issues I previously mentioned can be solved with a little coordination between your sales team and BDC, assistance from your vendor rep, and employing the many features today’s modern CRM offers.
“Younger buyers still want the dealership,” read the headline for Automotive News’ Aug. 12 report on a new study from Urban Science. The firm surveyed approximately 2,000 shoppers in February, 75% of whom said they would not buy a vehicle without a dealer involved.
Inspiring the headline were findings indicating that the youngest generations shop the highest number of brick-and-mortar dealerships, with Gen Z and young millennials visiting, on average, 3.8 and 2.6 stores before pulling the trigger. These are the generations all those industry studies said didn’t like the dealership experience, hated the F&I office, and might even stop buying cars.
Well, those studies appear to be wrong. In fact, according to a column penned by J.D. Power researcher Maya Ivanova for Auto Remarketing magazine, “Fears that Gen Y… would turn their backs on the all-American car-buying tradition are unfounded.”
The research also noted that Gen Y shoppers “mostly like to close the deal at the dealership.”
I know of a few “traditionalists” who are grinning ear to ear over these findings, believing they refute all that talk about dealers needing to step into the Digital Age. I believe the opposite. My takeaway is the stats serve as an endorsement of the industry’s efforts to get dealers to embrace the internet, and I believe they point to the digital experience growing in importance in the years ahead — that’s if we can erase the mistakes of tech marketers in recent years.
So what brings me to those conclusions? For starters, the line about Gen Y being OK with closing deals at the dealership opens with the following: “While every millennial starts the buying journey digitally…”
The Automotive News article also notes that 81% of the auto shoppers polled indicated that they “trust the information they receive from a franchised dealership.” Think about that for a second: 81% of your customers say they trust the information you send them. Wait, it gets better.
Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said the salesperson is becoming a trusted advisor. Wow, right? Well, 75% of survey respondents also said they would not want to buy a vehicle without a dealer involved.
So what happened to all that talk about consumers wanting to avoid the dealership experience? Well, thanks to your digital marketing and advertising efforts, car buyers know if stores are “retailing the same vehicle for $10,000 to $10,500, then that is the price of that vehicle.” That’s what Reedman-Toll Auto Group’s Moshe Schoopachevich said in a new report we developed in partnership with Automotive News.
“They look at Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds, too,” he noted, adding, “What the internet really did was end haggling.”
Back in 2015, Google broke down the car-buying process in the Internet Age into five moments:
Now consider all the digital techniques your store employs daily and monthly to help consumers through those moments. Yeah, those studies might point to consumers not minding the dealership experience, but it’s because of everything you do online to reel them in.
As for whether those findings make an argument against digital retailing, I don’t think they do. I believe consumers are just now learning what’s possible from a car-shopping perspective. And I believe their expectation will only grow in the years to come, but not at the expense of the dealership experience.
See, I think the term “digital retailing” has gotten a bad name in our industry, mainly because of the missteps of tech marketers. They believed the best way to market their solutions was to bash the people they’re designed to help, and they used the buying habits of today’s younger generations to do so.
Hey, calling dealers antiquated because they’re process-driven is no way to get them to buy into your vision of the future. Dealers are process-driven because they know a proven process delivers results, because the state and federal laws governing their activities demand it, and because not every customer has an 800 credit score.
The good news is I think marketers are finally coming around. It’s why we see terms like “connected retail” and “omnichannel retailing” being used to describe “digital retailing.”
As I’ve always been told, buying a car is the second biggest purchase a consumer will make, and it should be treated as such. However, digitizing low-value steps in your sales process, such as filling out a credit app, should be something you embrace. It makes the process more efficient, saves labor, and allows your team to focus on high-value activities like selling cars, F&I products, and the expertise of your service department. That’s the true promise of digital retailing.
There is an economic storm brewing, and it goes by the name Generation Z. The generation whose oldest members are now 23 years old are entering the workforce and beginning to make their impact felt as up and coming consumers.
Gen Z has never known a world where there wasn’t, literally, “an app for that.” They’ve grown up surrounded by smartphones and tablets and think about the world differently than previous generations.
This begs the question…how do we work with, and market and sell to this generation? Specifically, how does the automotive industry harness the power of this storm and ride the wave into future prosperity?
It’s a great question, especially considering this generation’s experience with (and desire for) ridesharing and digital retailing at their fingertips.
The research shows Gen Z is also more frugal and shyer about taking on debt. Having come of age during and in the aftermath of the Great Recession, they view finances almost on-par with the Silent and Greatest Generations that came of age during the Great Depression. That presents an interesting conundrum for an industry that relies on leasing and financing of their product.
We at DealerSocket think working with, and marketing and selling to Generation Z is going to be an important part of a dealership’s business for years to come. That’s why we’ve invited noted generational researcher and speaker Jason Dorsey to be our keynote speaker at DealerSocket’s User Summit.
No matter what generation you are, we’ll save you a seat.
Read more about what Jason has to say on Gen Z buying behaviors in a recent DealerSocket-sponsored AutoNews article on Decoding Gen Z the car buyer.
Just as the business of mining revolves around digging through large amounts of material, so too does the business of vehicle sales. The most effective companies can efficiently sort through the material to find hidden gems.
For dealers, data is the material and hot leads are the hidden gems. Having the ability to quickly identify opportunities buried in the overwhelming piles of data is what separates the best-performing dealers from the average ones.
One key area of focus for top dealers is strategic inventory management, and its downstream result: profitability. A strong data-mining platform that sifts through the data for actionable knowledge provides a good start.
Identify Core Vehicles
The key to maintaining front-end gross is to evaluate historic and market data at the point of appraisal. Your priority should be identifying “core” vehicles: the models that sell fastest, most consistently, and most profitably at your dealership. These vehicles are prime remarketing opportunities, ensuring quick and profitable sales and reducing the overall risk of wholesale losses.
A top-performing dealership’s inventory is composed of 40 percent to 50 percent “core” vehicles. An average dealership’s inventory, however, hovers around 29 percent and drops lower when accepting non-core trade-ins in exchange for closing new car sales.
Sellers too often commit to a gut-driven, one-size-fits-all approach and stock only their store’s brand or change their focus to vehicles that have done well in the past in the hope that past sales equal future profitability.
A fully integrated inventory management platform will help to counteract these gut feelings and allow you to easily identify core vehicles based on data already contained in your CRM or DMS. A fact-based approach analyzes purchase behaviors not only at your store, but also across brands, group partners, and geographic regions.
Build Your Core
Once core vehicles are identified, a top dealer will turn attention to vehicle acquisition strategies. One overlooked opportunity for acquiring inventory is, in effect, an internal auction lane. Rather than going to auctions, consider using current customers as a means of identifying prime vehicles for remarketing opportunities.
Using our data-mining technology, Revenue Radar, dealerships are able to identify customers who own or lease a vehicle that matches core inventory needs. Revenue Radar provides salespeople with the means to let customers know that their current vehicles are desirable and would be excellent candidates for a trade-in on a new vehicle.
We have found that this method of inventory identification and acquisition is a win-win-win: the dealership proactively gets to its customers before the competition, the customer gets an opportunity to trade in and trade up, and the dealer acquires a core vehicle for less than at auction. Revenue Radar’s data-mining capabilities present the opportunity to put high-demand used vehicles back on the pre-owned lot.
Technology = Profitability
To acquire a large supply of core vehicles to meet consumer demand, successful dealerships employ a mix of technologies to aid in inventory prediction and acquisition.
Revenue Radar identifies acquisition opportunities through both sales and service, with 11 radars to help dig through all of the available data. These automated pings bring information about new revenue opportunities to the attention of dealership personnel, who can then take appropriate action to notify customers.
Increasing the percent of core vehicles available in your inventory results in faster turns, higher front-end gross, and higher close ratios. Revenue Radar’s ability to increase sales, expand pre-owned inventory, and improve customer retention in both the sales and service departments is a key driver to profitability. It makes the acquisition of those vehicles easier and more affordable.
Instead of exerting tremendous effort digging through mountains of data, use tools make it easy while identifying significant revenue opportunities. Those gems may be buried, but they don’t have to remain hidden if you take advantage of Revenue Radar.
Everyone’s looking for the secret sauce in digital retailing. There are many different thoughts and approaches. Do I post price or not? How cheap should my price be? How many pictures should I post? Article after article in automotive magazines describe the same strategy: it’s not the cheapest price that sells cars online. The race to the bottom does nothing for dealerships but kill gross profit. Just because you are the cheapest date in town doesn’t mean you are going to get all the calls. Instead, let’s talk about the three standards for a successful digital retail strategy.
1) Quality of photos. Some dealerships still use a lot service that comes once or twice a week to take photos, post a buyer’s guide plus a window sticker, and in some cases, syndicate that data to all of the internet sources they advertise with. Dealers have tried to distinguish themselves over the years by purchasing high-dollar cameras and photo booths. I was visiting a dealer in Florida in late September that was installing a $40,000 photo booth that rotates and has six or seven cameras take photos automatically. It was shocking to hear how much he was spending. Personally, I think that’s overkill. The newest iPads and iPhones take unbelievable photos. There are inventory management solutions on the market that have the technology built right into the platform. It’s also much more efficient to be able to point, click, and instantly syndicate.
Now imagine this: Dealers can take photos in-house with their choice of background, such as the 18th green at Augusta National, the 50 yard-line of Lambo Field, or right in the middle of their own showroom. No need to spend a ton of dollars. You need the right digital strategy and the right process to have the best quality photos on the net.
Another flaw I see is distractions in the background of the car being advertised. Your car should stand alone. The picture should have one car and one car only. Take the time to make sure the car you are highlighting is the only car in the shot. No bumpers of other cars, restaurant signs in the background, shadows of the cameraman: nothing else but what you want your buyer to see. Dealerships are bringing all merchandising needs in-house because of the efficiency of today’s technology. If you are unsure what you look like online, just sign on to your site and see for yourself.
2) Quantity of photos. The first thing I do before I walk into a consulting opportunity is scan the dealer’s website. Locking in on the pre-owned vehicles and drilling down to a few vehicle details pages tells me just about everything I need to know. Most dealers post between 12 and 20 photos, about half of what successful digital retailers post. Normally that’s based on the agreement they have with their lot service. In most cases, providers charge between $12 to $15 per car for 15 photos or so. Don’t limit yourself to that. Potential buyers want to view more than 12 photos before they actually drive to see the car. Pictures of the key fobs and the owner’s manual are a must. Forty to 45 photos will keep a potential buyer engaged. Twenty will not. Too many dealers have figured that out. There are certain angles to start and end with when taking photos. I have a best-practice manual that I would be happy to email you.
3) Quality of descriptions. There are many automated description builders on the market — some good, some not so much. Writing descriptions isn’t about convenience anymore. There are some description builders that still try to add humor to their descriptions. Don’t invest in those. It’s all about search engine optimization (SEO) these days. Your description builder needs to be a lead-generation tool.
When shopping for items online, most of us start a search from a search engine and wait for the page to load with choices we can view. A pre-owned car search is no different. I needed to purchase a car for my daughter recently. With my 30 years of experience in the auto industry, I have a ton of contacts I could have reached out to. I didn’t. I found a search engine, put in specific details, and hit enter. I can promise you that as crazy as I am about a clean car, I never got past the third page of choices. Guess what? Your potential customers don’t either. A description builder without an SEO strategy is probably not worth having anymore. Your car needs to be found and found quickly. If not, all you can do is compete in the race to the bottom.
Did you have a pen pal growing up? I was always excited to get mail as a kid. It was even more exciting to receive mail from a pen pal and to learn about the things they did in a place that was foreign to me. Then I got to write back to them and share the things I was into, which I hoped was foreign and exciting to them. The information exchange was always exciting.
Email marketing is today’s pen pal. It is a way for two people to create a relationship with each other no matter how great the distance. It is today’s platform for sharing your happenings with a customer or patron.
But, it will only work when it is customized for that person. Today, everyone receives email after email and it’s easy to get lost in all the information. Personalizing an email like you would to your pen pal makes the relationship a relationship. By sending personalized deals when it’s time for an oil change or just checking in to let your customer know the latest news on his or her product is all it takes to keep that relationship.
Email marketing is also a great way to get information from your customer. It wouldn’t be fun to have a pen pal that didn’t respond to you. If your customer actually shows up for that oil change, he or she is showing that appreciation for what you sent. It’s a way to gather information about where he or she is in the car buying process for his or her next car.
Email marketing is a long-term investment, just like any other relationship. It’s easier and more cost-efficient to retain an already existing customer than finding new customers every time. I know email marketing can seem old school, but done correctly with genuine intentions, it can be fruitful.
At DealerSocket, our dealers are constantly striving to be on top of the hill when it comes to competitive advantages. For those who have taken advantage of our digital advertising options, we are pleased to announce that message extensions are now out of beta and available free of charge!
What are message extensions, and why are they so important?
Message extensions are click-to-message ads that bring the efficiency and effectiveness of messaging to search ads. This free enhancement provides potential customers with an opportunity to get in direct contact with a member of your team by sending a text message. With more than 50 percent of all Google searches originating from mobile devices (google.com), consumers will be provided the opportunity to immediately get in contact with you in a no-pressure environment. Through messaging, you can enable valuable conversations by engaging your consumer through one of the most preferred methods of communication.
DealerSocket was provided the opportunity to test message extensions with a few of our clients. The results have been encouraging to our clients yielding over a 10 percent conversion rate. The layouts of the extensions integrate seamlessly with a professional layout. Message extensions offer the ability to create a call-to-action message that is customized to your dealership.
Requirements to Enable Message Extensions
As previously mentioned, message extensions are free to enable for all of our clients. In order to utilize this new feature, dealers will be required to provide a phone number that is readily accessible and have the ability to send/receive SMS text messages. Message extensions will only be enabled during hours that you specify. If you already have a digital marketing PPC account, contact DealerSocket’s DealerFire PPC Team at email@example.com or talk to your individual PPC specialist.
Want to learn more? Visit us at dealersocket.com or call 866.813.1429.