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Why Having an Accessible Dealer Website Matters to You

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You have no choice but to care about whether your website is accessible for people with sight impairment because the law tells you that it must be so. If your site is configured well for assistive technology (think website readers that read text out loud or make text larger), then you're good. But say your website is not configured properly, then what happens? Simply put: You are at risk of violating the  Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA), and that puts your dealership at risk of a lawsuit.  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ This article was written by Adam Dennis, Principal at SurgeMetrix and Tom Kline, Lead Consultant and Founder of Better Vantage Point. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The Facts We like facts. Facts aren't opinions. They don't have feelings. They tell you what's up and, when used properly, inform good decisions.   As we've discussed in previous articles, we've analyzed over 35,000 dealer websites for a variety of performance issues as well as demographic and digital market data to set a context for the industry and individual dealers who want to see how they rank relative to their competitors.   In this article, we are reviewing the Accessibility of a website as per Google's algorithms. Now you might look at the data and conclude it means nothing to you, but the reality is that with Google being the dominant force in the search market and recognized authority of website performance, you can't ignore their conclusions. So let's look at the facts. Of the 35,444 dealer websites we analyzed, we could not match 5,930 of them due to a range of issues, from configuration problems to software setups that retard Google's ability to analyze certain data about a website. Consequently, our actual surveyed total was 29,514; a not-too-shabby number all by itself. When Google ranks a site for its technical Accessibility, it does on a three-part colored scale out of 100. The sweet spot you want your website to occupy is the 90-100 bracket. This rating is the best and indicates that your website is technically very well constructed for people with sight limitations to be able to read and for those people who use assistive technology, to be able to understand the website as well.   The other two ranking categories stake out in brilliant clarity those websites that do not perform well in terms of their technical configuration for meeting accessibility requirements. The yellow category covers sites with ratings from 50 to 89/100. This is a nether world where you're meeting some, but not all, of the ADA requirements. The lower you are, the greater the risk. Finally, if you are in the red zone, you are in potential trouble. Simply put, you are broadcasting to enterprising lawyers that you could be sued. The red zone covers ratings from 0 to 49. What did we learn? We found the following results with 1.8% of the websites in the Red, a whopping 76.5% in the yellow, and only 21.7% in the green.    That big yellow area was concerning, so we broke that down even further into 10% chunks giving us 50-59 for the first chunk, 60-69 for the second, and so on. We did this because we still see a risk for dealers in the yellow area, especially if they are in the lower ranges. Here is what we discovered: Would you want to be in those lower ranges with an Accessibility rating of 68 or 72? I wouldn't; I have faith in opportunistic lawyers. If I were a dealer who wanted to mitigate risk, I would ask my website vendor to improve my performance: at the very least, to the high 80s.    The Risks According to the Seyfarth law firm, ADA website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court were up fourteen (14%) percent from 2020 to 2021. This translates to 2,895 cases, an increase of 372 actions. These numbers do not account for the following: Demand letters that were sent and/or settled; State court actions; or Mobile application lawsuits were accounted for differently Just as there are attorneys specializing in suing dealers in the automotive industry, there are plaintiff lawyers specializing in ADA lawsuits. The  Center for Disease Control (CDC)  cites these statistics: "Approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have vision impairment, including 1 million who are blind, 3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and 8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error. As of 2012, 4.2 million Americans aged 40 years and older suffer from uncorrectable vision impairment, out of which 1.02 million are blind; this number is predicted to more than double by 2050 to 8.96 million due to the increasing epidemics of diabetes and other chronic diseases and our rapidly aging U.S. population. Approximately 6.8% of children younger than 18 years in the United States have a diagnosed eye and vision condition. Nearly 3% of children younger than 18 years are blind or visually impaired, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses." These are large numbers. Unless you have addressed website ADA accessibility, you open yourself up for exposure to these enterprising lawyers who make a living from ADA-based lawsuits. As with any compliance topic, "willful non-compliance" opens you to higher settlement numbers and further unknown liabilities, and other unintended consequences.  Willful non-compliance  is a term we use to describe a situation where a business lacks a robust Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) program. In short, a GRC program follows the outline of what a "prudent business person" would do in a similar situation. This entails having written (and acknowledged) policies and procedures with your employees, which are then checked by someone performing an audit function. Remember, you manage what you monitor.   Importantly, depending on how the allegations are crafted in the lawsuit, your garage insurance may not cover any of the allegations. If that is the case, settlement indemnities will come from your dealership's bank account.   What To Do This is a simple one, folks, with just three steps to get you compliant.   Step 1, have the website reviewed for accessibility compliance using a tool such as Google's  PageSpeed Insights  tool. The tool has an "Accessibility" section that, when selected, will give you the issues that will need to be addressed.   Step 2, once you understand what needs to be fixed, buy a tool to install on your website to help make it ADA compliant very quickly. We really like Userway ( www.userway.org ) as the interface is simple and clean. Its pricing starts at $490 per year for up to 100,000 website page views per month, to $3,290 per year for up to 10 million page views per month. Finally, for Step 3, test your website again with PageSpeed Insights to see if you have improved. Our experience is that most dealer websites will quickly go into the green. If not, then ask your web provider to use the PageSpeed Insights data as a guide to improving performance. It's that simple. Test, buy Userway, install it, test again to validate (and fix anything that remains), and then eliminate this risk. Don't make it easy for the attorneys.
Google Analytics 4 – The Change You Have to Make Happen Now

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July 1, 2023 is the all-important date Google has announced it will discontinue Universal Analytics. At that time, the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the new privacy-first version of Google Analytics will become the standard for website measurement.    If you are anything like me, this far off deadline has meant nothing, that is until a recent conversation I had with Dave Spannhake of Reunion Marketing . I realised that this is a huge change in the world of dealership analytic reporting, and the change requires that dealers pay close attention now.  Most importantly, is that if dealers do not have GA4 in place now, then they will lose all your historical data in 2023 when they need some comparison.   Dave is a smart guy and outlined some very important reasons as to why dealers need to be aware and start the migration to GA4 now.  1.   Universal Analytics stops collecting data on 1 July 2023.  According to Google on July 1, 2023, standard Google Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. You'll be able to see your UA reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023. However, new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties. 2.   GA4 is a complete rebuild with a steep learning curve.  GA4 is a completely new product. It’s privacy-first, designed to fill in the gaps created by restrictions on cookies and identifiers. However, because it’s a complete rebuild, dealers are going to need to learn to use GA4 from scratch. And as many users have been finding, even though GA4 has a lot of features it takes a while to learn.   3.   Dealers need to set up GA4 before it will start collecting data Because dealers rely on historical data they will need to set up GA4 long before they intend to start using it.  If dealers want to make year-on-year comparisons, August 2022 vs August 2023, dealers will need to set it right now.   4.   GA4 Setup is more intense this time. Requiring Google Tag Manager and Google Analytic access. This is a huge hurdle dealers to be cognitive about.  Universal Analytics allows stores to track conversions via Google Analytic Goals.  However, tracking of conversions via goals is no longer part of GA4.   All of the conversions and goal tracking is moving to Google Tag Manger.  The major downfall becomes, that dealers will not have immediate access to tag manager setups on third party plug-ins like chat and trade in tools.  Dave explains, “The majority of website plugin vendors are not properly set up for tracking, including most digital retailing, chat, and trade appraisal leads - creating a blind spot for dealers when tracking website conversion across all key pages” 5.   Google will eventually delete your historical Universal Analytics data. Google has indicated that UA will continue to hold historical data for at least 6 months after July 2023. They have recommended that dealers export their data prior to this time to have access it for longer.     6.   GA4 will ONLY store 14 months worth of historical data   Often as dealers we are looking back further than 14 months at a time to review seasonal trends and or events related to the economy. This will no longer be the case as the new GA4 is only going to store data for 14 months.  This puts the requirement of storing older data on to the dealership.    Some of the benefits of the change for marketers will be that they can now track users across multiple websites, apps, and other digital assets tied to the shoppers journey.   GA4 will also intimately tie Google Tag Manager in with Google Analytics to get a true sense of how the consumer is behaving on dealer websites.  Also, the new platform will be moving to new metrics such as Engaged Sessions and Engagement Rate to really get a better idea of site performance.  While a lot of this seems overwhelming, there is hope and help available to get dealers going. Dave Spannhake, and his team at Reunion Marketing are offering free setups of GA4 as a give back to the industry for the month of July and August.  What better way to have this done for your store than a true digital marketing agency doing it all for your dealership. 
data graph tablet
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. 
digital disruption
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.  
lady buying a car
No Inventory? No Problem. Marketing Tips From the Field for Your Dealership’s Success

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The automotive industry is consumed with the inventory shortage-- while gross is higher than ever, dealerships are finding it hard to strategize marketing without the usual suspects on the lot. That being said, it’s still critical that your dealership maintain a hefty strategy so that you don’t lose your brand recognition; this could lead to giving your competitors a potential customer for life that could have been yours.  Below is a roundup of the latest tips from the field to make sure your dealership is staying at the cutting edge: Brand Campaigns While inventory may be low, you can still maintain a good reputation for your dealership. Shoppers looking for their next vehicle don’t only prioritize the make/model they’re interested in, but also the shopping experience- starting online. If your dealership brand can provide a superb experience-- answering promptly and locking in the customer before they look elsewhere-- your marketing will see high ROI during this tumultuous time.  Make sure your brand campaigns are also answering current events. During COVID, this was all about hygiene and sanitization. Now, focus on how you have the right process for getting the vehicle of their dreams to each and every customer with the best customer service. Advertise Pre-order Options Your dealership is not the only dealership with low inventory, so marketing inventory which is not released or in stock will keep your dealership competitive and give you the chance to lock in customers for life that may look elsewhere if they don’t have this option with your store.  Dealerships that advertise future inventory support brand goals, engage and conquest new shoppers, as well as continue to see high quality conversion rates on their websites.  Finetune Your SEO   SEO is an efficient way to keep your dealership on the map without spending too much money. Find the high-search keywords in your market and include them in your vehicle descriptions, promotions, and blog posts. If your dealership doesn’t have a blog, now is the time to invest in one -- especially if you’ve cut back on other marketing resources. Blog posts are excellent resources for shoppers (the more descriptive, the better). Pro tip: take a high-volume search term and use that as the basis of your blog post. This way you won’t only be answering questions that people are actually searching, but you’ll probably have priority for showing up first on Google.  Work the Service Drive   We all know the importance of the F&I profit center. But while people are sticking to leases longer, or can’t yet find the car of their dreams with inventory shortages, service is more important than ever. Make sure your dealership is advertising all service options in descriptive ad campaigns. Double-check that you’ve properly set up your service center on Google my Business so you can be easily found, and separately for those interested in service rather than sales. Lastly, set up an easy-to-use service booking calendar on your website so it’s a seamless experience for shoppers.  Trade In/Trade Up Scoring inventory is gold right now, so make sure you’ve perfected your trade in campaigns. Make sure shoppers know they can trade in their cars without buying new ones. Shoppers are also interested in comparing trade in prices, so your dealership should have a seamless infrastructure for providing trade in values, at the most competitive prices. If you haven’t already, you can also train your service staff to focus on trade in upsells right from the service lane.  We already know that pausing marketing right now can hurt your dealership brand and ROI. With these expert tips, your dealership can now focus the marketing strategy to fit today’s climate and continue to bring in new customers for life.  *Isaac Hertzberg from Napleton Cadillac and Kyle Mountsier from Nelson Mazda were interviewed to help with this article
marketing strategies
How to Set Up Google My Business (GMB) Nested Department Listings for Car Dealerships

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Leveraging the power of Google My Business can place your store before the right customers, increase your sales potential and grow your dealership revenues. Most dealerships structures are broken down into departments, and it might be beneficial to increase the visibility of the service, parts, etc. departments of the dealership. That is where Google My Business Departmental listing can help in nesting them. To create nested departments for your dealership, you first need an optimized main Google My Business profile page for your parent store. Before we dig deeper, let’s first have an overview of Google My Business for those that are not familiar. Google My Business Overview: What is it and what are its benefits? It’s a Google service, which allows dealerships and other businesses to manage their online presence.   With My Business, you can: Manage your dealership contact information on Google Maps. Get directions to your store and share it with others. Share updates about your business and connect with customers via social media. See insights such as when you receive calls and when the store is busy.  Before you set up nested departments for your business, you should ensure you have optimized the appearance of your main Google My Business profile page for your business. Besides the obvious of having name and address correctly completed, here are some tips:  1. Complete the description field of your profile The description field is often overlooked but it is where you can describe your store offerings and what makes you different. This is also an area that you can use to highlight the brands that you sell. 2. Upload photos of your dealership’s exterior and interior in the "Photos" section of profile Posting photos of the store in the Places section will help prospective customers to see what the store looks like prior to visiting. It helps them feel more comfortable when they arrive. Customers like images of people smiling and dealership personnel. It humanizes the store and also puts customers more at ease prior to their visit. However, be aware that Google users can also upload images to the page, so you need to closely monitor the page.  If the store fails to add photos, Google places a Google Maps image that is not very attractive. Adding photos also help customers see how popular your dealership is by viewing the number of reviews and photos other users have uploaded. 3. Add a Virtual Tour if you have one. Upload a 3D virtual tour of your dealership to showcase vehicles and the customer experience 3D virtual tours are becoming more and more popular with dealers and are a great way to showcase your business, employees, products, and services in an innovative way. 4. Ensure all contact information is correct and up-to-date, including phone number  Google has now become the phone book of the world. It is critical that the phone number you use for the store is local and that it is the same phone number listed throughout the main other online directories. Do not use different phone numbers for Bing, Facebook or other sites for tracking purposes as it will reduce the Google rank for the store. If you want to check how your listings look across the website I suggest the use of Moz.com or BrightLocal citation checkers.  Once you have the Google My Business listing up to date here is how to create the nested departmental listings: Step 1: Create a new Google My Business listing and assign it a different number and category other than that of your dealership. For instance, “Mercedes-Benz Beaverton Parts Center”. It will require you to verify the listing which can take some time if you have to complete it by mail. If you already have department listings you can skip this step.  Step 2: Once verified, as a Google User, search in Google Maps for the newly created Google My Business page created in step 1 above and click “Suggest and Edit”. This cannot currently be done by the GMB Owner of the dealership page. It must be done in Google Maps as a Google User. Step 3: Select or choose “Change name or other details”, once on the change page, navigate to “Located within” and type in the name of your primary business where you would like to nest the department. Step 5: Your department page should now display on the primary dealership’s GMB page as “Located In”. Although your department page displays “Located In” Google will take a few days to review your submission then it will be live on Google under the main business Google My Business page profile. So, be patient. That’s how simple it is to create Google My Business department listings for your dealership. Feel free to reach out to me if you get stuck and need a hand.