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Best Practices

Dealer Marketing: Embracing the Future Facebook Ecosystem of Today

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The title may have seemed confusing. If we’re going to take a dive into a future ecosystem, how can it also be available today ? The answer is simple: adoption rate. The capabilities outlined in this article are available right now; however, many dealers are not embracing them and continue to advertise on Facebook as they always have. You have an opportunity to do today what all of your competitors will — or at least should — be doing in the future. Here’s what we’ve been so accustomed to do … Create a carousel ad. Send the consumer to the website. Retarget those who don’t engage. The second step is problematic. It’s important that we break the cycle of thinking that all traffic must go to the website. With a 3-5% opt-in rate of Apple users deciding to share their data with Facebook and its applications and losing 85% of website-based conversion data because of this and other privacy constraints, continuing to advertise on Facebook as we always have is already outdated thinking.  Facebook has products that allow advertisers to embrace a completely native ecosystem.  Here’s a question: If a consumer is choosing to be on Facebook, why would we remove them from that place of comfort and take them to a website? Here’s a second question: Isn’t our role as advertisers to meet where consumers want to engage with us and offer a seamless experience?  So here’s how we do that. A Breakdown of the On-Facebook Ecosystem Branding — Top-of-the-Funnel Let’s first caveat this part of the ecosystem. Branding lives outside of the 30-day cycle, and you don’t want to hold these ads accountable to metrics beyond reach, impressions, and frequency. While these will create clicks and drive traffic to your online properties — mostly your website — these ads are intended to keep your dealership top-of-mind as consumers who aren’t quite in-market spend their time on the Facebook platform and its network partners. Your branding ads should communicate your differentiators, value propositions, and culture. They should also communicate facets of your business that are evergreen, such as your ability to purchase consumer cars or the loyalty programs and free estimates that your fixed operations may offer. Such as with Douglas Volkswagen, who’s inviting local potential shoppers to come experience the “Douglas Difference,” which has been nurtured for nearly 70 years. Or you may want the local community to know that you’ll buy their vehicle — whether or not they bought one from your dealership. Regardless of the ad’s message, you want to make sure that the page they land on when they click the call-to-action — in these cases, “Learn More” — is directly aligned with the content of the advertisement.  AIAs and Service Ads — Middle-of-the-Funnel As you continually hold a presence with branding ads, you’ll want to capture those local shoppers who are in-market.  Side Note — We recommend that you don’t rely solely on Facebook targeting as you can add layers of depth and precision to this with a partner like IHS/Polk, who can provide an accurate number of households based on parameters you set — and this data isn’t affected by privacy updates or website data-loss as it’s based on actual sales and credit reporting data, not on online signals like pixels. The ability to create hyper-local, highly targeted audiences will make creating ad sets and ad copy easier as you’ll have a clear understanding to whom you’re delivering those ads. Automotive Inventory Ads (AIAs) are a carousel of vehicles that are relevant to the targeted audience, except these offer advertisers the capability to keep consumers on Facebook for a streamlined experience. The carousel ad gets delivered to the audience to browse the relevant vehicles that are available for purchase at your dealership. When they click a vehicle that interests them, a VDP-like page near instantaneously appears. It has all of the information that your traditional VDP contains, it has deep links to your dealership’s website and onsite VDP for dealers who need a little comfort in making this transition — and most importantly, it has different actions to actually capture a lead, including click-to-call, directions request, and chat. This method keeps consumers within the Facebook ecosystem, so we don’t lose any conversion data. Facebook collects the information on how consumers are behaving, what different attributes and facets of the VDP are most effective, and other pieces that can better inform them and us on what works. The more data that we can feed Facebook, the more accurately they can update this content and assist us as advertisers to make more strategic decisions. Here are the results when we looked at all campaigns that took consumers to the dealership website (non-AIA) compared to campaigns that kept consumers on Facebook (AIA). Significantly more content viewed, significantly lower costs, and significantly more actual leads from Facebook — people chatting, calling, and requesting directions from the on-Facebook VDPs.  I wrote that this is also applicable to service. It’s true: we currently use IHS/Polk ownership data to layer onto native Facebook targeting to create a more accurate picture of the audiences to whom our ads will be the most relevant, breaking these ads out into the big four — brakes, batteries, tires, oil changes — and general service ads. At this moment, we do not have the mechanisms in place to keep consumers on Facebook and embrace the new ecosystem; however, our Social Media Director wanted to be deliberate in getting the sales portion fine-tuned before diving into fixed operations. What I can say at this moment is that there are more sophisticated schedulers that can integrate with your dealership’s internal systems to create the same experience in service as we have in sales. Now not every customer in-market or near-market will become an immediate lead. Just like as with website visitors in the past, the consumers who click on one of your ads will be placed into a retargeting pool. This is where our strategic approach to the Facebook ecosystem has evolved the most. Retargeting Lead Generation Ads — Bottom-of-the-Funnel This is where I may lose you because you’ve done lead generation ads before on Facebook. I’m going to challenge that pushback. The approach is where we, as advertisers, went wrong in leveraging lead generation objectives on Facebook. We cast a wide net and hit people with ads who had potentially never engaged with any of our content — and we expected them to simply opt in to sharing their information. That’s unproductive. It yields spammy leads. It wastes your time and your budget. It was a shiny “instant lead retrieval” object that had foregone deliberate strategy.  The correct philosophy is to understand that consumers who have demonstrated intent and interest in our inventory and services — with our middle-of-funnel ads — are more likely to see a lead generation ad as relevant to their interests and, thus, is much more likely to be a qualified lead.  So using lead generation as your measured and deliberate retargeting campaign will work in your favor because the element of intent or interest is at play. They’ve clicked through one of your middle-of-funnel ads and browsed the VDP but didn’t contact the dealership via Messenger within the last 30 days.   That, however, isn’t the only parameter (intent/interest) that makes an effective lead generation retargeting campaign. It’s also important to still task the consumer to take an action without putting an undue burden on them. We want to pose a question that gauges the urgency of their purchase intent. So when the consumer has engaged the lead generation ad, their name and email is automatically populated — but to ensure that a click isn’t merely accidental, the consumer has to actively select an option from a dropdown menu.  When they have done that and done any necessary changes to email, name, or even add their phone number, they are opted into terms and conditions that they have to accept, and then are given a notification that they will be contacted — that information all gets routed to your CRM so that you can track it from form submission to the sale of the vehicle. Our team uses LeadsBridge for this capability. So you’ve ensured that the consumer has chosen to engage with the lead generation ad and has taken actual actions to share their information, which demonstrates several layers of intent.  It’s all a matter of keeping things simple and structured. When our team put this into a beta test, it generated an average of 83 qualified leads per month at a cost of around $8 per lead .  The On-Facebook Ecosystem Facebook has adapted in the face of privacy constraints and the eventual deprecation of the third-party cookie. It’s important that we embrace the future Facebook ecosystem of today because this is the environment in which we will all compete. By understanding how consumers want to engage with us, as well as the fact that platforms like Facebook and Google are creating ecosystems that keep consumers within their own properties, we will be better equipped to produce content that better resonates with them. If you have any further questions regarding this evolution or the different tactics presented in this article, please feel free to reach out to me, Dane Saville, at dane@reunionmarketing.com.
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Best Practices

How To Create More Efficiency In Your Advertising Strategy

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While a showroom may be full of shoppers and potential leads, dealers shouldn’t cast their advertising to the side. The market for consumers is ever evolving in not only issues but in competition. It is pertinent for dealers to grasp as well as implement several key advertising strategies to continue a successful business. Whether it's shifting advertising spending to help with inventory instead of customer acquisition or figuring out what merchandise is no longer in demand, these advertising strategies are affected heavily by the financial practices of a company. Dealers need to be conscious of their spending if they wish to successfully implement advertising strategies, especially as digital advertising prices continue to increase. How To Combat Price Volatility    Advertisements are one of the most effective ways to reach consumers in the current trend of high media exposure. The demand is high and the cost of ads across retail-focused channels is expensive. Recent evidence supports these claims as reports show a spending increase of 60% on paid search, 41% on paid social channels, 34% on the average cost-per-click (CPC), and 41% on CPM prices for paid social.  Such inflation, measured from last year to the second quarter of 2021, has happened over a short period. Often unaware of such statistics, dealers continue to obliviously spend the routine amount on advertising instead of efficiently eliminating wasteful spending.  More commonplace than expected hundreds if not thousands of dealers across the country deal with the lack of knowledge and the unsuspecting trap of advertisement cost. Reducing Wasteful Media Expenditures    To be a profitable dealership, it is key to reduce advertising waste. Currently, it is estimated that around $13.4 billion on digital advertising will be spent by the automotive industry. Out of approximately 13.4 billion, 40% of digital advertising will be ineffective due to the wrong strategy, bad data, or both. The solution is to leverage advanced advertising data and marketing technology from leading providers such as PureCars. Dealers can take full advantage by distinguishing the best vehicle to aggressively market, the best target audience to cater toward and the best media channels to reach that target audience. With tactics such as these, dealers can focus on the goal of optimizing the lowest cost per sale and RO, instead of vanity metrics such as cost per click and impression volume. Similar to true e-commerce retailers, dealers can market with attention to target cost per sale as well as available inventory. If there is inventory available and the cost per sale targets are accurate, marketing budgets are unlimited! Overall, dealers are at an advantage if they can successfully create a predictable cost per sale, demand, conversion path and inventory to sell! Making The Right Marketing Decisions     Dealers can leverage advanced data and marketing technology to help them make the most suitable marketing decisions when it comes to selling or servicing new and used cars. Moreover, it can be used to properly identify and acquire properly used vehicle opportunities. In either case, however the technology is used, dealers have the resource to maximize profits. Dealers can also utilize this technology to determine if a new vehicle in inventory needs more or less marketing attention as well as the most appropriate media mix models. The proper identification or adjustment of something as simple as a media mix can open a dealer up to millions of dollars in efficiency and profitability. Now, more progressive dealers are thinking creatively of new ways to source used cars at a premium in auctions or by buying directly from consumers in their vicinity. Both approaches have become an attractive way to build customer relationships and outpace competitors’ vehicle acquisition in a sustainable way. Leveraging Data for Better Payments & Offers Dealers, along with their lender and manufacturer partners all need to be seamlessly tied together in a comprehensive system necessary to build, offer and transact. They’re now leveraging solutions from companies like Market Scan that mines, analyzes, and manages the billions of combinations and iterations of all lender and manufacturer programs available in the marketplace and finds truly superior, scientifically perfect solutions for all stakeholders: consumers, dealers, lenders, and manufacturers.  Furthermore, today’s best and most comprehensive solutions enhance the consumer experience and the showroom process by electronically presenting all payment and purchase options to customers with full compliance and transparency – on any computer, tablet, or mobile device – at any/all points along the consumer’s shopping journey. As a result, the process can dramatically shorten transaction times, raise dealership efficiencies and margins, and elevate customer satisfaction as a result of a more streamlined process. The market for consumers will always evolve. To stay current, successful dealers are leveraging a more scientific approach with the help of marking technologies to better align their strategies to retailers who have mastered digital advertising and payment solutions. 

Commentary & Insights

The Not-So-Hidden Gold Mine That Could Increase Dealership Revenue Instantly

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A customer for life goes a long way in automotive. It’s not just the vehicle purchase, it’s everything that comes with it: maintenance, service, add-ons, renewals, and, of course, referrals.   But it’s hard to scale personalized campaigns to past customers and to leads that ghosted. The messaging is different, the approach is sensitive, and the timing has to be perfect. There are also several factors that come into play like the last website visit, VDP views, and lease/finance renewal.  While no human can physically scale this kind of personalization, this is just another application of machine learning that could turn your CRM into a money-making machine. Think about it: if your CRM has 10,000 non-active leads, and you can reawaken even as little as 10%, you're looking at 1,000 new customers for life. It’s really pure gold waiting to be discovered.  It’s all about the audiences  The first step in making sure you’re investing in the right technology to turn more of your CRM into revenue opportunities is the audience game. You want to make sure your dealership isn’t bucketing opportunities into irrelevant audiences, like lease renewal for someone who has more than a year remaining, or service for someone who just came in. The demanded-- and expected-- hyper-personalization starts with the right segmentation, so you need to be optimizing audiences like people who recently visited VDPs, cash renewals, and cold “non-buyers” (leads that converted over 8 months ago and did not buy a car from you).  Make it dynamic  Once you have the right machines in place to identify and segment appropriate audiences, you need to make sure your email templates and SMS marketing have dynamic templates and merge tags. No one wants to receive an email without their first name or pre-filled forms. If you’re sending the email, you should know who they are!  But it goes even further than this- as you send traffic from an email blast to a specific landing page, your dealership can have dynamic videos and forms already embedded on the landing page to maintain that 1:1 conversation with your prospect. Once someone clicks on a hyperlink from your email, you will know how to identify them and greet them when they land on your website, keeping the transition and user experience extremely smooth. You can also personalize things like vehicles of interest or relevant services with dynamic templates.  Don’t forget connectivity  Even if your dealership invests in the best technology for mining your CRM, real-time machine learning can’t possibly function at its best without connected data. Make sure your dealership’s website data and ad activity is connected and communicating with the CRM so you have a full picture of the prospect’s digital footprint. While CRM information is critical, it has to be coupled with shopper activity in order to make the most of every opportunity and turn more (dead) leads into sales. When data is connected it also provides you with the most updated version of your customer’s story, bringing you one step closer to conversion.   There are a lot of pieces to pull together when thinking about personalized lead nurture at a scale that can convert more of your database into business. And while no human can possibly do this, your dealership should consider AI-powered technologies that can learn your audiences, segment, and target shoppers with just the right message on and off the site. Your data and your customer base could be the gold mine you’ve been looking for, so don’t miss out. 
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Best Practices

Emotional Intelligence: A Good Dealership Habit To Pick Up

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“The purpose of habit is to remove that action from self-negotiation. You no longer expend energy deciding whether to do it. You just do it.” - Kevin Kelly, '68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice' You may have never thought of it this way, but problems at dealerships usually walk through your office door on two (2) legs: Either with customers or with employees. It’s always best to tackle these two-legged issues promptly, as otherwise, they can quickly escalate to regulatory challenges or, worse yet, lawsuits. I’ve seen it happen again and again. There are two main ways to confront problems as the dealer principle: You can personally manage the issue itself, or  You can manage the problems through well-trained employees who are empowered to fix them Your operations will be smoother for you if you choose to embrace your employees’ ability to handle the day-to-day concerns.   One of the most powerful tools you can teach your employees to deploy is effective and strategic emotional intelligence, i.e. the ability to understand, use, and manage emotions through communicating in a positive way. Your managers should understand this skill so they can effectively convey even difficult information to your customers.   The best way to change the communication style within your team is for you, as the leader, to model the use of your own emotional intelligence, whenever possible.  Here’s an example from last week. I was at a dealership group that wants to empower its managers to resolve customer problems through improved emotional intelligence. Together, the owners and I dug in with an action plan and dedicated a day to one-on-one sessions with all key stakeholders. We trained and practiced to ensure the managers understood the concepts and opportunities and could employ emotional intelligence tools effectively.   In this intimate training, we focused on a top-tier issue:  How to De-Escalate Customer Problems and Build Trust (To prevent problems at a dealership, this is step one and is the most important training for employees.) During one memorable session, with just the three of us in the room, one of the managers seemed particularly fidgety, wouldn’t make eye contact with me, despite being only three feet in front of me. He looked at his watch, then looked at the floor, and then looked at his watch again...then, stared at the floor.  Clearly, something was bothering him. (Let’s call him “Anthony.”) Me: Anthony, you look like something’s bothering you. Are you okay? Anthony: Yea, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Me: You look uncomfortable. (When you label the emotion of what someone is feeling, it is disarming.) Anthony: Naw. Sorry, let’s continue. Me: Anthony, I can tell something’s wrong. Please let me what it is so I can help you. Anthony: I apologize (looks at his watch)… let’s keep going. Me: Do you need to be somewhere else? Is that why you keep looking at your watch? Anthony: It’s not about work. Don’t worry about it. Me: Where do you need to be? Anthony, I fix problems; it’s what I do! So please tell me what’s up so I can help. It turns out Anthony had an appointment at the post office to have his passport interview. I asked how long he had been waiting for the meeting (knowing everything is still backed up because of COVID) and he indicated he waited about six (6) to seven (7) weeks for the meeting.  I asked the other manager in the room if Anthony could go to his appointment and I could train him later. And, that’s exactly what ended up happening.  There I was, training about using emotional intelligence, and in that moment, I needed to deploy the very same tool, so Anthony could learn about emotional intelligence! Yes, Anthony should have told his boss about the appointment weeks in advance, days in advance, and the morning of his appointment so we (all) could have avoided the herky-jerky start-stop. When someone is feeling boxed in, they quite often don’t think clearly, as Anthony displayed. (I’m certain he had pressures at home and was told, “you’d better not miss this appointment.” At least, his face indicated that conversation had taken place.)  So the moral of the story is: Use emotional intelligence when managing your employees and deploy these tactics to resolve customer and employee problems. Train on specifics and remind everyone to recognize the emotions at play under all situations. Then, you won’t have to remind yourself of this. Happily, it will be habit. You will just do it!

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Commentary & Insights

Connecting & Collaborating to Grow to Boost Your Dealership

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By now we have become all too familiar with the realities of limited inventory, looking for alternative ways to help customers and create profit can give you the boost you need to get through lean times with a little more ease. With our normal trade-in cycles disrupted, customers are facing expiring warranties, increased maintenance, and repairs. The place customers are still doing business face to face is service, putting extra emphasis on needs discovery and solution sharing in the service drive can benefit the whole dealership. Working Together to Grow When we think about Finance and Service it may seem like they operate in completely different worlds, they should be symbiotic. When was the last time you saw F&I Managers and Service Advisors working together to grow in opportunity areas? There is much to gain from these departments understanding how they can support each other’s growth and working hand-in-hand. Service Advisors are the long-term salespeople in your dealership, they see more customers per day than any other sales point in the store, with the most one-to-one consistent contact with customers they have more opportunity to grow relationships and trust. When it comes to building value in service contracts and warranty products with customers, educating Service Advisors in F&I product areas could be key in planting the seed for future purchases and selling contracts from the service drive. Knowledge is Power Consider the exponential increase you will see in service and warranty contracts when you educate your Service Advisors on your F&I products. “Extended warranty” calls have been a long-standing joke for years, they’ve even been made into memes, there must be people buying when the phone rings for us to keep hearing “I’m calling about your car’s extended warranty”. Often those calls are inconvenient and come when customers are not amid vehicle maintenance or repairs. Imagine this offer coming at a time when it is most needed, while the customer is in the service drive, presented by a trusted source; a knowledgeable Advisor could give customers immediate value, relief from repair costs, and peace of mind. Training is Key Providing your team with training on how to drive F&I products will help Advisors refer to those products and their benefits when working with customers, the more familiar customers are with what the warranty and service products provide, the more likely they are to consider purchasing. Often, when introduced to products in F&I, customers have already been bombarded with purchase information, they get to the service and warranty portion and it is more money, more decisions, and they are overwhelmed. Customers are not always in the right frame of mind to process the value of those products. You do not have to train your Service Advisors to sell like F&I Managers, that is where the F&I team comes in, a referral from the Service Advisor to F&I will allow Finance to finalize the details while the customer’s vehicle is being serviced. Having service Advisors who are knowledgeable on the features and benefits of service and warranty contracts is not just an investment towards increased profitability, it is investing in greater customer satisfaction. When your team on the drive has a complete understanding of the products your customer has purchased in the finance office, it eliminates confusion, frustration, and conflict from misunderstandings over coverage when it comes time for customers to use their products. With added training, advisors are equipped to head off potential complaints and dissatisfaction when they can quickly identify misaligned customer expectations,  Building collaborations between F&I and the Service Drive is a solid investment in the future of your dealership, each department builds value for the other and customer loyalty to the dealership. The two also lay the groundwork for and maintain ongoing long-term profit. 
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Reviews

Dealership Websites: Embracing & Implementing Change an Interview with 321 Ignition

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The automotive industry has certainly been hit hard by the pandemic resulting in everchanging ways of how car shoppers are shopping. This calls for dealerships to implement effective digital retailing platforms to support the new customer of today. To identify what draws these shoppers to a dealer's website and how to keep them engaged, Dealer Marketing Magazine interviewed Lyamen Savy, Founder & CEO at 321 Ignition. She explains why it’s critical for dealers to optimize their websites and monitor their search/SEO strategy — not just today, but constantly. Dealer Marketing Magazine: How have you seen dealership websites change over the last 5 years and are there any important lessons that have been learned that dealers should be aware of going forward?  Lyamen: Dealership websites haven’t kept pace with websites in other industries for many years and that’s part of what inspired the idea for my company, 321 Ignition. As I was doing research on what was currently available to dealers from their website providers, I was shocked. There wasn’t a single mobile-first website provider even though the large majority of dealership website traffic is on mobile. The other thing I noticed was how the industry was very segmented with few companies offering integrations and no one discussing their partners. My previous experience at Microsoft helped me to really understand the power of partners. When I was developing our company, I knew we needed to be mobile-first, customer-first, and partner-powered from the start.  DMM: Creating a seamless customer experience is crucial with an increasing market of millennial car shoppers. How should a dealership set up a successful website? Lyamen: Research has found that 78% of car buyers start their shopping online and of those, more than 70% of people are using their smartphone to access the dealership website. Because of all that online shopping, consumers are visiting less than 3 dealerships on average. If people can’t visit your website, your chances to get them into your dealership are getting smaller.  When it comes to setting up a successful website, it needs to be mobile-first, not just mobile-responsive. A mobile-responsive website is designed for a large screen and is adapted to fit a smaller phone screen. The problem is that a design that works on a computer looks busy and overwhelming on a phone screen. A successful website won’t just work on any device, it has the correct user experience for the device the user is on. 321 Ignition websites are designed with mobile-first in mind and they look amazing on desktop, too.  DMM: How can dealerships use tech tools to create a high-functioning website and create a successful customer experience? Lyamen: A tech tool alone is just a widget. Dealerships invest in tech tools to help them solve business problems. However, if tech tools are not installed on a website using an API, then they won’t achieve the business objective and goal. The problem with a lot of website tech tools in the automotive industry is they are just widgets and iFrame codes vs API integrations. Widgets and iFrames create a poor user experience, they are disjointed single-point solutions vs a complete solution, they slow down the website, they hurt SEO, and most of them don’t match the rest of the dealership branding. At 321 Ignition, we invest in API integrations with any technology provider in the automotive industry to help dealers provide the best consumer experience and achieve the ultimate business outcome. DMM: What inspired the start of 321 Ignition and what is the core dealership problem your business is solving? Lyamen: One of my best friends used to work at a car dealership and she used to come to me for marketing advice all the time as a friend and trusted advisor since I’ve been doing marketing for 18+ years. One day she contacted me because her website provider, MotorWeb, was acquired by FusionZone. She wanted my help and opinion in evaluating them. As I started digging deeper, I discovered all automotive website providers were missing critical elements that I knew helped convert website visitors to leads. These were things we had tested at Microsoft and CapitalOne and I knew would work in the automotive industry, too. I also quickly realized that website providers were charging extra for services and solutions that should be table stakes — things like technical SEO or Google Analytics tracking. On top of all of that, other vendors were calling her every day trying to sell her website widgets that should have come standard with any website. I couldn’t believe what was going on in the industry and realized that it was a good opportunity to help small businesses and follow my passion for marketing. My company, 321 Ignition, is the only mobile-first website provider in the automotive industry designed to assist new and used car dealerships of any size in creating the best customer experience to serve the exploding online car shopping market. Using native mobile features and the best practices from Fortune 100 companies across a variety of industries, 321 Ignition offers a time-saving and frictionless online customer experience optimized for car shoppers on the go. DMM: Why are VDP visitors so important and does 321 Ignition leverage these visitors? Lyamen: The VDP is the moment of truth. The purpose of the SRP is to intrigue consumers about the cars available in stock. The purpose of VDP is to educate and close (aka ask for the sale). When a consumer lands on the VDP page, their sequence of thought is, “Do I want this car? Can I afford this car? How do I buy this car?” The goal of the VDP is to collect micro “yes’s” to all these questions along the way to get to the ultimate “Yes” which is the sales lead and car sale.  To get to the ultimate “yes,” you have to anticipate and overcome all sales objections and eliminate all elements that cause friction and anxiety. You have to be ruthless in prioritizing content based on hierarchy and sequence of thought, especially for shoppers on a mobile device. Imagine as the user is scrolling down the VDP, you’re anticipating their sales objections, overcoming them, and collecting micro “yes’s” along the way. DMM: How do your smart financing applications work? Lyamen: Credit app leads are probably the warmest and highest quality leads salespeople can receive because these are people who are ready to buy a car and they just want to know what they can get approved for. There are 2 parts to the credit app, the consumer experience and the internal staff at the dealership experience (BDC reps, F&I managers, etc.) For consumers, since we know that majority of them, over 70%, are filling out the credit app on a mobile device, with one finger, instead of a keyboard with two hands and ten fingers, it‘s all about having empathy for the consumer. It’s important to think about in that given moment, at that given time, what would be most helpful for the consumer filling out a long credit application with one finger. At 321 Ignition, we leverage mobile-native features to make it faster and easier to complete a long credit application on a mobile device. For example, this means that the keyboard automatically changes to a numeric keyboard when adding in numbers and our Google maps integration allows us to autocomplete addresses. We also use smart field technology which subtracts or adds fields to the form the user is filling out based on their answers. This saves the consumer time by skipping fields that are not relevant to them.  For internal staff at the dealership, they want 2 things — 1) to get more leads i.e. capture consumers' contact info that started but did not complete full credit app — and 2) to save time re-entering credit app information into credit soft pull and hard pull software. To address the first need, our credit app has a shopping cart abandonment feature to help. When a customer starts filling out the credit app, on step 1 we only ask for basic contact info (name, email, phone). When the customer clicks “next”, we wait for 25 minutes and if they didn’t complete the full credit app, we send a lead notification to the dealership’s CRM saying “John Doe started credit app, but did not complete” so that the salesperson can follow up and try to close them.  We also have an API integration with DealerCenter and 700 Credit and all credit app leads are automatically sent to DealerCenter, 700 Credit, DealerTrack, RouteOne, CUDL, and AppOne for F&I Manager to do credit pulls and submit applications to banks. We’re always looking for more credit and banking partners and can share our API documentation. DMM: So your company offering will help a dealer operate a successful and optimized website. What should a dealer focus on after that? Lyamen: Most dealerships we talk to think they have a website traffic problem when really they have a website conversion problem. Once dealers sign up for 321 Ignition mobile-first website, they can confidently invest in paid media and SEO content, and accurately measure ROI. These are some of the ways we’ve seen dealerships leverage their new website:  Google ads When we launch dealership websites, we set up their Google Analytics goal conversion tracking to only track real leads (i.e. online web form submissions, click-to-call, and click-to-drive) instead of page views and average time spent on site. This allows paid media managers and agencies to launch Google Ads with a “Target CPA” bid strategy that will use Google machine learnings to optimize campaigns that will generate maximum leads at the lowest cost per lead. Facebook & Instagram Shops Facebook Marketplace for Auto has been discontinued. Dealers now have an opportunity to advertise their inventory on Facebook and Instagram shops. 321 Ignition mobile-first websites have the microdata schema dealerships will need to get their inventory live in Facebook & Instagram shops. On-page SEO & blogging In-house marketing teams and agencies can save time from cleaning up schema markups, SEO title tags, and meta description, and instead, focus their time on producing fresh new content. Our WordPress backend has a ton of content blocks that help save time and create new pages without HTML knowledge. We also offer a mobile-first blog that helps increase organic ranking and convert organic visitors to leads using relevant HTML5 banners (no coding knowledge required to create them). DMM: Thank you for your time today! Is there anything else you’d like to share? Lyamen: As a company, we’ve been partner-powered from the beginning. We partner with other technology providers to help them provide complete solutions for dealers and we partner with agencies and consultants to help them increase value and achieve more in less time. We know we’re all better together and nobody can do it alone. If you’re looking for a true partner for your dealership or clients, we’d love for you to get in touch. For more information click here
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Research & Analysis

Connected Car Helps Drive Automotive Retail Consolidation

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Automotive Retail is Consolidating It’s no secret that significant consolidation of automotive retail is underway. Every week, Automotive News reports additional acquisitions by the leading retail consolidators. Earlier this year, Automotive News reported that the consolidation trend has continued steadily over the past 10 years – even through the pandemic. At the end of 2020, the Top 150 Dealer Groups owned 21% of all dealership locations and represented 23% of industry sales volume. This is up from 13% of locations and 16% of volume ten years earlier.   The need for significant technology investments is one driver of consolidation. Smaller dealers are faced with large investments to enable digital retailing to meet customer expectations. Dealers are also facing new investments in electrification technology to accommodate the industry shift to EVs. And some dealers are choosing to sell rather than make the investments. For example, approximately 20% of Cadillac dealers are reported to be walking away from their franchises, rather than make required investments in selling and servicing Electric Vehicles.   Tesla’s Retail Approach Shows What is Possible Tesla’s retail network shows that technology can not only be a driver of consolidation, but also an enabler. Tesla has fewer than 200 Sales Galleries and fewer than 150 Service locations. Connected Car technology is one of the keys that makes it possible for Tesla to service its customers with so few facilities. On the sales side, Tesla enables comprehensive on-line shopping. In service, Tesla says that it can accurately diagnose 90% of all issues remotely and that it can repair 80% of problems without a visit to a service center. Connected Car technology makes this possible by allowing Tesla to remotely connect to its vehicles for diagnosis and for ongoing insights into real-world customer usage. Tesla can also determine the customer’s location if it needs to dispatch a remote repair and Tesla can often repair vehicles with an over-the-air software update. It is safe to say that Connected Car technology is the only way that Tesla could operate with so few physical locations. As this technology becomes more widely used by all OEM’s, there will be growing opportunities for other OEMs to consolidate sales and service facilities. Lessons from the Pandemic and the Chip Shortage Both the pandemic and the chip shortage have accelerated trends toward digital retailing and reduced inventories. As reported in Car and Driver , Ford has concluded that the pandemic accelerated customer interest in shopping and ordering vehicles on line. Many dealers successfully responded by offering at-home test drives and deliveries. A build-to-order mindset for consumers has been further accelerated by the chip shortage, which has made it difficult for dealers to hold inventory and for customers to shop from inventory on the dealer’s lot.   Connected Car Technology Will Enable Further Consolidation Connected Car technology will further enable the trends toward retail consolidation and digital retailing. As Tesla has demonstrated, a well-connected OEM and Dealer network can easily provide remote sales and service to customers without needing so much real estate. As customers become more comfortable with online ordering and remote service, the most successful dealers will be those who make the best use of technology to serve customer needs.   We will soon see dealers making extensive use of Connected Car tech in their sales and service operations. For example: In Sales, vehicles can be made available for any-time test drives and parked inaccessible locations. Vehicles can be electronically disabled to prevent theft and only enabled for prospects with a valid authorization code. Also in Sales, a limited test drive can be extended to a short- or longer-term rental, with data collected to make effective suggestions to the customer for a customized vehicle, accessories, and software. In-Service, ongoing monitoring of vehicles will create increasingly sophisticated predictive models. These will allow Dealers to contact customers long before a failure occurs and offer either a physical repair or a software update. Also in Service, Dealers can monitor vehicle diagnostics trends, and can proactively schedule vehicle maintenance to be done at a time that is most convenient for the customer and also the most efficient for the dealer. The bottom-line result will be continued consolidation and more efficient use of real estate to meet the needs of automotive shoppers and owners. 
digital disruption

Best Practices

No Third-Party Cookie Data? How Dealers Can Leverage Marketing

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Third-party cookies have slowly phased out of the internet for years with stricter privacy regulations taking effect in Europe and several different states in the U.S. including California. This can also be seen with major web browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Safari) and significant-tech companies (Apple, Google) also making changes to the way they operate search functionality and target marketing products for business customers.    As a result, dealers and their advertising partners are now emphasizing how critical it is for auto retailers to utilize information from their own systems about customers to promote themselves since this industry can no longer track consumer information and trends across different automobile websites. This is not limited to just one dealer as thousands of retailers are all facing a similar situation.   Dealers Must Now Rely on First-Party Data   The end of use of cookies results in the challenges of increased difficulty targeting customers and the threat of fewer personalized ads. However, a solution for dealerships is to work with their marketing partners to identify new strategies to build and access their own first-party customer data for target marketing purposes.   Many dealership marketing executives believe   that eliminating third-party data collection makes customizing marketing more difficult and retargeting campaigns more vulnerable moving forward.   With this major shift now taking place, retailers and their agency partners must see that the first-party data willingly shared by customers gives dealerships a trove of data about their own customers, such as email, home addresses, phone numbers and even shopping intent or vehicle preferences.    This disruption to legacy marketing practices was initially thought to break the connectivity dealerships had with consumers so dealers must evaluate whether their marketing providers are equipped to build campaigns using first-party data.   Social Media Marketing Just Became Even More Important   Marketers said another solution is that dealerships can reach customers through social media platforms like Facebook to track their users’ activity.   The fear among dealers is that a high price tag and the length of time shoppers spend deciding upon a vehicle purchase (typically 3-5 years) would see car sales more negatively affected than other e-commerce-driven products that leverage first-party data practices.    These dealers fear that marketing strategies in the automotive industry cannot reach the same broad audience compared to marketing efforts of household goods, which is why having good insight into first-party customer data is critical.   Using Marketing Technology To Get More Personal   Savvy automotive marketing consultants instead say that with the growing need for first-party data, dealerships can offer something of value (like personalized discounts or loyalty programs) in return for consumers agreeing to share personal information, which can also address customers’ privacy concerns and provide transparency about how the data is used.   What’s more, dealerships can work with social media companies and host vehicle detail pages with the social platform. With Facebook, the site can identify when someone views any automobile content or engages with an ad. Utilizing this data, dealerships and their marketing providers can build an audience and retarget consumers.    These social-specific strategies are being driven by companies such as PureCars, which has taken the last few years to help dealers build custom marketing programs that not only drive traffic to the web, but also help in creating more conversion efficiency during the pre-qualification stage.   Facebook can’t share or sell to other social media platforms but they can use the data to make more informed advertising decisions on their platform.   Facebook executives said the company is working to build privacy-enhancing technologies to help minimize the amount of personal information it processes, while still allowing to show relevant ads and measure ad effectiveness.   Dealers who have not relied solely on third-party data say they aren’t very concerned about the shift since their stores have always used more first-party data from customers in advertising. The data includes information on visitors to the stores’ websites and customer data from the customer relationship management system.    This data not only helps with the initial target marketing, but can also help dealers, lenders and OEM partners construct unique and personalized offers and payments in a more scientifically accurate way, such as the payments data now built by companies like Market Scan and utilized online and in the showroom to create a more seamless, consistent shopping experience for customers.   The world keeps changing for dealers, and that includes the way in which they leverage data to market toward their customers. By focusing on web, social and other marketing technology, dealers will find new ways to collect more targeted data from their customers so that they can build promotions and offers that appeal to them even more than what they had with third-party data.  
facebook marketplace

Commentary & Insights

RIP Facebook Marketplace for Dealers?

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Facebook Marketplace underwent some changes in September and no longer lists vehicles from partner catalog feeds. This includes the entire marketplace experience: homepage, search function, etc.  There is a lot of debate on how this will affect the industry. But before we get into the juice, let’s clarify how dealers can still reach buyers on Facebook, even with this change. Create vehicle listings from the “inventory” tab on your dealership/business page Dealers still have the option to upload their inventory from their personal business pages (instead of having this also aggregated in Marketplace). While this is still a free option, the click rate on the inventory tab on business pages is quite low, so it’s critical to monitor this. It will be interesting to see if click rate and engagement rate will increase as Marketplace becomes more lean with inventory after this change.  Create AIA ( Automotive Inventory Ads )  AIA gives dealers the ability to upload an entire catalog of vehicles to Facebook so that the Facebook pixel can then target the best shoppers with the right inventory at the right time. The upload process is similar to the one disconnected with Marketplace, where you can send a feed automatically to Facebook. While this is not a free option, it’s an efficient way to get your vehicle listings seen by in-market shoppers (including placements on Marketplace among other placements on Facebook).  Manually create listings in Marketplace  This option does allow for dealerships to continue to showcase inventory (certified pre-owned only) on Marketplace, but since it’s manual the dealership would have to upload every/all relevant listings with all associated information. This is extremely time consuming, and for some, probably not worth the hassle.  So, what’s the field predicting with this change?   Some think it really won’t matter since AIA is the same idea, just paid, and will include ads on Facebook Marketplace when relevant. This is probably true for larger dealerships and/or Franchise dealers who have the means to do this through AIA.  Others think this will be a beneficial change for small and independent dealers since they usually entered manually anyway. Now, these smaller dealerships will also increase visibility since the larger franchises won’t have the capacity to upload manually. Cutting the competition and the noise can skyrocket results for these dealerships.  Lastly, some predict it will be similar to Craiglist’s change a few years back where they also eliminated the overwhelming amount of organic posts and in turn, helped shoppers find what they are looking for faster with a cleaner user interface.  What happens next? Like any big change in automotive, it’s going to be critical to watch trends for the next few months-- understand if this change was good or bad for your business. Do you have fewer leads? Do you have more qualified leads? Is your marketing team being more productive on other channels? Did your predictions for the change match reality? These are all important questions to tackle as we go into October and November and learn as an industry.  *This article was inspired by a forum thread in Dealer Refresh . 
dealership sales

Best Practices

5 Keys to Get More Customer Referrals

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We all know that referrals represent our greatest opportunity for peak profits and predicable growth. As Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged, “People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”  There is no other business strategy that can provide the compounding results that can be realized through executing the right referral strategy. It’s simple math. With only half of your customers providing just a single referral every two years, your business doubles every three years.  Unfortunately for most teams, their strategy is simply to ‘ask for a referral.’ This too often leads to an awkward experience with many people avoiding the exchange altogether. There is a better way! With the right referral strategy customers actively share your message and support your business. If you are ready to get more referrals now, ask yourself these five questions: 1. Are my customers capable of referring business? In order to be capable of referring business, your customers must remember you, remember what you can do, and remember why people choose you.  Our customers might know how we’ve helped them and why they said yes, but that doesn’t mean they know all the ways in which we can help. We cannot expect our customers to remember us and how we can help each time an opportunity arises unless we’re in regular communication creating engagement, sharing successes, and continually providing value. Thankfully this can be accomplished with minimal effort leveraging old tools in a new way. You already possess the contact methods and the mediums. The next step is to marry automation with personalization to maximize each interaction and compound your results. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next level strategy that ensures they stay top-of-mind, they stay connected, and they stay relevant. 2. Are my customers compelled to refer business? Customers that are compelled to refer business are all motivated by one or more of the following three factors. First, these customers genuinely like us. When you align and connect with your customers on a personal level they not only gladly say yes, but they gladly tell others why they said yes as well. Second, these customers enjoyed a remarkable experience. They did not just have their expectations met; they had an experience worthy of a remark. What is unique and memorable about what you do and how you do it? For some it is a special gift, for others it is a special gesture, for some it is a special service, and for others, it is as simple as a special greeting and goodbye. Third, these customers genuinely want to help. These customers might want to help you because they want to see you succeed, they might want to help the people they are referring because they want to save them from an alternative and potentially bad experience, or they might want to help themselves because of an incentive or rewards program that you have in place. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that compels and drives their customers to openly share their experience. 3. Do my customers know I want them to refer business? When conducting a next-level referral workshop, I often ask the class to think of a business they recently worked with where the representative met their expectations, where their experience was positive, and where their needs were met. Then I ask the individuals to raise their hands if they have referred business to that company and representative. To no surprise, very few, if any hands go up. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that doing a good job does not equal referrals.  When it comes to getting more referrals now, good is never good enough! We have to ask for referrals, and then we have to continue to ask. This is accomplished by having purposeful conversations at the time of sale, after the honeymoon period, and around key dates on the calendar. A cornerstone of these conversations is the personal referral story crafted in the workshop. Each persons’ referral story is unique to them, but every story helps customers emotionally connect, conceptualize the value, and convict themselves to refer business.  Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that creates an environment where customers know that referrals are wanted, important, and beneficial to all. 4. Is it easy for my customers to share? One thing is for certain, if we make it awkward and difficult for our customers to refer business to us, we can expect little to no referrals. Technology plays a role. With that said, there is a lot that can be done with your existing technology, without having to invest in anything new. Aside from technology, there are three things you can do to make sure it is easy for your customers to share your message and refer business.  First, ask at the right time. Whether it is at the time of sale, or at a later date, there is a best time to ask. At the time of sale, it is not when you are signing agreements, or when you are saying your good-byes. When you follow up with your customers at a later date, it’s not on their birthdays, or when the new programs and incentives come out. The best times to ask are times where we can have a real purposeful conversation that strengthens our connection and compels our customers to act. Second, always put your customer first. One of the reasons why so many people feel awkward when asking for a referral is because they shift the focus from their customer to themselves. It doesn’t have to be this way. The focus should remain on the customer the entire time. After all, there is much that our customers stand to gain from referring business. Lastly, ask for the right number. One. Just one! One at a time. Too many people ask their customers to identify multiple people who might be interested. In this situation, the focus shifted away from the customer long ago. If a customer wants to refer more than one person to you at one time, great, but I recommend only asking for one. Invest your energy into that one, and it will turn into three more. Professionals who get more referrals now, execute a next-level strategy that makes it easy for customers to engage and refer business. 5. Do I share? The final question to ask yourself is: who am I referring business to? There must be people with whom you’ve conducted business that are worthy of a referral. Think about all of the people you’ve worked with over the past year both personally and professionally. What if all of those people were capable of referring business to you, were compelled to share their experience, and knew exactly how the act of referring business benefited everyone involved? One thing is for certain, when you refer business to these people, they will seek to refer business to you. Maybe not right away, but eventually the Law of Reciprocity will kick in. When you invest in the success of others, more people will want to see you succeed as well. Prioritize your efforts and begin referring business today. We all know that referrals represent our greatest opportunity for peak profits and predictable growth. Unfortunately, for most teams, their strategy is simply to ‘ask for a referral.’ Too often this leads to an awkward experience, with many people avoiding the exchange altogether. There is a better way. It all starts with answering the five questions above and executing a next-level referral strategy. If you want to build greater influence in your market and double your business every three years, focus on getting more referrals now! If you believe in the power of referrals as much as I do, reach out and share your experience. It would be my pleasure to connect.