CommentaryDec 16th, 2013

dealership websites should stop chatting and start communicating


New Behavioral Analytics Technology Finally Make Relevant Website Communications Possible

In the last couple of years, chat for dealership websites has generated a ton of buzz, and considering the pure potential of this online communications platform, it’s well-deserved: before chat’s appearance most dealership websites were static, non-interactive dead-zones, offering dealers no way to engage with those bottom-of-the-funnel auto shoppers that, by the time they hit dealership sites, were typically ready to pull the trigger on a sale.

Given all the industry ‘chat about chat’, and the fact that it’s almost become a cliché that a dealer’s digital storefront may actually be more important than their physical one, you would think that a majority of dealerships would have rushed to embrace a chat solution. But that is not the case: industry estimates are that roughly only about 20-30% of dealerships have. That’s a pretty underwhelming percentage, given the powerful potential of online chat to have relevant, real-time conversations with site visitors, and to convert so many more leads and sales.

So why the low adoption?

The first wave of chat solutions could talk at your site visitors, and interrupt them constantly, but the chats initiated, and the published offers served up, had nothing to do with what that visitor was actually interested in or actively looking at. Chat 1.0 platforms lacked site analytics engines and behavioral tracking technology, so they couldn’t collect all the data on what that visitor was actually doing—from what pages they were visiting, to what specific makes/models they were looking at, and at what price point, to how many times they visited to the site. So, the first-generation chat was, by nature, limited to serving up spammy, untargeted conversations, ads, and offers.

Essentially, it’s like deploying a very big mouth jabbering away at your online customers, but with no eyes or brain informing what your website “says” or does.

Just consider if this were happening in your physical store. A customer walks in and is looking intensely at certain makes/models, and then a blindfolded salesperson keeps dragging them away to totally irrelevant vehicles on the lot. Or, that customer has questions about specific vehicles they’re interested in, so your salesperson asks them to pick up the phone and contact a chat center that has zero idea what that customer was shopping for, and makes them start the whole “conversation” again. That customer would think your store was insane, and would probably leave.

Given these realities, it’s little wonder that less than a third of dealers have adopted chat, and that many of those that did feel frustrated. Well, there’s good news, because emerging, new technologies will now be able to take chat to a whole new level. New site analytics engines and behavioral tracking technology is appearing that can finally make a dealer’s once-invisible website traffic totally visible and, by collecting all the data on every site visitor, finally make truly relevant, personal chat and website communications possible.

This new technology will get chat right. And let’s remember that getting chat right is critical for these reasons:

  • Because NADA data shows that 95% of the average dealership’s site visitors will defect from their site—primarily because of a lack of engagement, meaningful info, and relevant offers.
  • Because online showroom research is fast replacing physical showroom visits for so many more consumers. four in five people now use the internet to shop for vehicles and consumers now only visit an average of 1.4 dealerships before buying. The reality is more car shoppers are dealership-averse (especially the next-generation customer), and want to stealthily comparison-shop and stroll inventory online on their own time and without hassle. Reaching and converting car shoppers at your dealership website is your biggest opportunity and only chance.
  • Because visitors to dealer sites, and those engaging in chat there, are the most ready-to-buy customers, period. Dealers put a lot of dollars into PPC campaigns and a third-party auto site presence, but Google and car-buying portal visitors are way further up the funnel. For instance, research from Outsell, Inc. reveals that 88% of live chat users buy within one month.

The new chat 2.0 technology is a welcome new ballgame:

So, what can the new site analytics engines and behavioral tagging, tracking and scoring technologies, the next “Chat 2.0” wave, make possible for dealerships? In a nutshell, because they relentlessly gather info on what each site visitor is doing and interested in, they can smartly then put all that rich data in motion: engaging and reengaging individuals with calculated actions in real-time, whether with chat, or beyond…including personalized published offers and inventory display.

New chat 2.0 technology should…

  • Track every single site visitor and analyze every page they visit and every inventory click, and then decode the URLs to build a dynamic profile on each unique visitor.
  • Capture how many times that customer has visited and for how long.
  • Smartly engage that shopper via all channels, whether through what’s published on the site right before their eyes, or in chat messages/interruptions or through social sharing components.
  • Allow dealers to predicatively match inventory to individual behavior, on-the-fly, and in real-time and help move aged inventory by putting relevant older vehicles first in line.
  • Transfer all this robust customer data seamlessly and transparently to the in-house dealership or third-party call center.

Whatever chat platform you consider, make sure that intelligent, new analytics engines and behavioral tracking technology power it. Stop flying blind and jabbering irrelevantly via chat, and start making your online conversations polite, meaningful, relevant, targeted, and efficient.

And for all of you that felt frustrated by first-wave chat offerings…chat’s amazing promise is not dead...given new technologies, it’s only just beginning.

Brad Title is CEO and co-founder of Gubagoo. He has over 20 years of automotive experience in the areas of product vision, CRM, BDC, database management, lead management, and behavioral engagement and founded Cowboy one of the very first web-based CRM and ILM tools which was acquired by cobalt in 2002.

Authored by

Steven Couture

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