Digital RetailingResearch & Analysis

Digital Retailing
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Auto Dealer Digital Strategies that Drive Engaged Shoppers Online

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Driving shoppers to the dealership website is only part of the battle... getting them to stick around & engage is the real feat! Back in the early 2000s, we marveled at our ability to attract consumer “eyeballs” as they migrated en masse to the web. Banner ads, pop-ups, and search advertising propelled at a pace that would take your breath away!  It took some time and billions of dollars of ad spending, but we finally began to understand the importance of delivering the right content to the right potential customer at the right time. Even more, we figured out that by doing so, our ad dollars yielded much more than just the presence of our target market members – it inspired their participation with our brand, products, and services.  For dealers, the holy grail is to drive a high volume of quality website traffic that gets deeply engaged with inventory search results pages (SRPs) and vehicle details pages (VDPs). By making shopper engagement a priority, dealers can draw more website visitors deeper into the purchase funnel while providing a seamless transition to the showroom. Website Visitor SRP & VDP Views vs. Engagements Digital professionals understand the importance of ad tactics that land visitors directly on SRPs and VDPs. Such a strategy is crucial considering that dealership website visitors only view between 3-4 pages per session on average. These SRP and VDP “views” are synonymous with the “eyeballs” from the early 2000s – and they accomplish the goal of getting inventory pages in the presence of potential car buyers. But what about getting visitors to “participate” with SRPs and VDPs – to engage with content, elements, and tools? Today, the digital imperative for dealers is to drive digital-first shopper engagement experiences – inspiring SRP & VDP interactions rather than just views - the top priority for advertising dollars. Average SRP & VDP Visitor Stats Consider the following facts about dealer website traffic on average: About 30% of a dealership’s total monthly website traffic makes it to an SRP  Total website visitors stay on the site for about 3 minutes Only about 35% of website traffic that views an SRP, drills down to the VDP level Visitors that view both an SRP and a VDP, view nearly 9 pages per session and stay on the site between 9-10 minutes Look at the following Google Analytics reporting from a live dealership over a 90-day period. We can see that there is a huge opportunity to get more SRP visitors to drill down to the VDP level. When they do, they stay on the site 6.9x longer and view 3.6x more pages per session. Additionally, there is a much higher engagement rate at the VDP level than the SRP level.  There is a direct correlation between VDP engagement and a car deal - the more engagement, the higher the probability the visitor will become a customer. Digital Strategies That Drive SRP Traffic To VDPs The typical car buyer spends about 14-15 hours researching before they make a purchase decision with most of this research done online. However, about 50% of car buyers have no contact with the dealership before they arrive in the showroom. This gap from online to in-store indicates a need for dealers to create strategies to get higher levels of interaction from car buyers while they are on the dealership website. When conducting research, car buyers search for the following information and more: Video Test Drives Service History Reports Reconditioning Records Inspection Results OEM Window Stickers Used Vehicle Return Policies Extended Service Options eBrochrues Vehicle Photos & Videos Dealership Reviews Special Incentives Trade-In Value Monthly Payment Estimates Dealership Value-Add Programs Much of the information that car buyers look for during the research process is either not on the dealership website, buried under navigation tabs, or not contained on SRPs and VDPs. If shoppers only view 4-5 pages on the website and two of those are an SRP and a VDP, then we know they are not seeing other valuable information that would aid their decision making. Look at the SRP image below… From this view, shoppers can see that there are reconditioning records, the manufacturer’s ebrochure, an OEM window sticker, the dealership’s inspection results, a video walkaround, a digital portfolio, and dealer reviews. By bringing such valuable information to the SRP level, more shoppers will drill down to the VDP level and ENGAGE. More importantly, you will have provided information that shoppers want right up front – without forcing them to drill down into your website or leave your inventory pages altogether to get the information they need. Not all SRPs are designed to accommodate this size of a widget, but there are a variety of options for creating more interest even with a vertical, narrower SRP layout.  Placing informative banners above the SRP is another strategy for informing shoppers that there is additional valuable information that will help in their decision-making. Today’s, car buyers expect a rich, interactive shopping experience. Serving up highly engaging content such as videos, reports, documents, and photos on SRPs and VDPs allows you to get the right content at the right time to shoppers in the discovery and research phase of the car buying process. Proving relevant information upfront that answers questions and educates shoppers creates a transparent environment where trust is built. The result is increased conversions, a smooth and seamless transition from online to in-store, and higher levels of customer satisfaction.  To bridge the gap from the digital retailing experience to in-showroom – dealers must explore creative options to engage car buyers on key inventory display pages and draw them deeper into the purchase funnel.
Everyone Wins With A Seamless (Online And In-Store) Experience

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Think about the last time you experienced a retailer with a digital experience that seamlessly connected to the in-store experience. Maybe it was as simple as opting to pick up a purchase in-store, rather than having it shipped to your home. Or, it could be that you saw a product at one of the retailer’s locations but waited until you got home to research and make the purchase. Do any retail experiences like this come to mind? Now think about the digital experience your dealership provides car buyers — does your in-store experience connect online? Does your in-store pricing match or differ from your online inventory? Imagine finding a different price for coffee on the Starbucks app than what you find in-store. Everyone, from coffee drinkers to car buyers, cares about a seamless, efficient and pleasant experience, no matter how big or small the purchase. Connected experiences drive customer satisfaction In a recent survey , we learned that almost 50% of consumers find increased satisfaction when provided with a seamless experience in-store and online. When asked which retailers provide the best experience they answered: Walmart , Apple , Best Buy and Target . What’s the common thread? Each of these retailers allows for an easy, transparent shopping experience that fits individual shopper lifestyles wherever they are. Black Friday 2019 is a perfect example -- shoppers clicked and thumbed their way through 20% more online sales than 2018 (a record-breaking $7.4B) while in-store sales dropped by 6.2% and foot traffic down by 2.1% . Walmart’s dedication to the customer experience is evident with its entry into the grocery business, which ranked as the #1 Best Overall Customer Experience, according to the survey. Customers are able to start shopping from their website or mobile app and have their order delivered for free the next day or pick it up in-store. During Black Friday 2019, we can see the impact of their and other retailers’ efforts. Reports showed that 65% of online shoppers made purchases with their phones , but chose in-store pick-up 43% more of the time than 2018. Shoppers want to make the purchase when it’s convenient for them, but are willing to visit the store to ensure what they bought is what they’ll get. The above retailers have Net Promoter Scores that average around +70 (on a scale of -100 to +100), while the auto industry averages around +39 1 . Dealerships are not providing the worst experience by any stretch of the imagination, but what we’re finding is that shoppers are coming to expect similar research and purchase experiences at a dealership that they might get with other retailers. After implementing Roadster’s Express Storefront , which connects online and in-store experiences, we’ve found our dealer partners average a Net Promoter Score of +83. 1 Temkin Group NPS Benchmark Study, 2018 Build relationships to grow loyalty Another key learning from the survey is more exclusive to the automotive industry and a more human one. When asked what they would change to improve the car buying experience, the top choice among respondents was to work with one salesperson from start to finish. For the first time, a “one salesperson” approach beat out transparent pricing and inventory selection. This means the person who reaches out when the initial lead comes in is also the same person who hands over the keys at the end of the deal. It may seem like a big ask for a salesperson to drive every step of the sale (including F&I), but systems like Roadster’s Express Storefront are built to empower salespeople with all of the information they need to complete the transaction while ensuring profitability for the store. This approach also allows managers to get out from behind the desk to focus on higher-level tasks such as early customer introductions and coaching the front-line sales team. Shoppers are willing to pay more for a better experience Consumers are increasingly expecting their shopping experiences to fit into their individual lifestyles, and 80% say they’re willing to pay up 10% more for it. Some people want to go to the store, others want to research and buy in the privacy of their own home. At the same time, car buyers still want someone nearby to guide and move the sale along. It is time to close the gap between online and in-store experiences at the dealership. We can embrace tools that empower car buyers to define their own shopping experience and, at the same time, connect them to onsite salespeople to answer questions, discuss products, and ultimately build long-term relationships that benefit both the buyer and dealership. The technology can get you started but it’s your process and culture changes that will bring it home. Methodology: Between July 11-17th, 2019, we surveyed, in partnership with Survata , over a thousand weekly shoppers who do their purchasing both online and in-store. These respondents also had to have purchased or leased a car in the last year.  Read the full study and learn about Roadster’s Omnichannel Commerce platform here .
A Salesperson’s POV on Digital Retailing

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The automotive industry’s shift into digital retailing is no longer a possibility, but a reality. With the accessibility of information and commerce tools on any device, car buyers have already started to expect an experience closer to that of shopping on Amazon , Apple , or even Walmart . In fact, a recent Cox study showed that 83% of car buyers want to do all or some of the purchase process online. The tools are out there and many of the dealerships that have already made the plunge are benefiting from new operational efficiencies and higher customer engagement. At Roadster, we recently hosted a webinar with two industry sales veterans who use Roadster’s Omnichannel Commerce tools every day (and sometimes in the middle of the night, as we learned). Dustin Dutterer from Sun Automotive Group went from selling 15 cars on a good month to averaging 36. Gabriel Hale from Rallye BMW is on track to sell 400 cars by himself for the end of the year. Both were kind enough to share their first-hand accounts of how implementing new processes allowed them to work multiple deals at the same time and provide improved customer experiences, helping to nearly double their individual monthly sales. Digital Retailing Brings a New Efficiency With a digital-first process, the buyer and the salesperson can walk through more transparent pricing together, eliminating the time-consuming back-and-forth so many buyers have come to dread. We have found that those “let me check with my manager” moments, where buyers are left alone, are a clear point of dissatisfaction. In our study, the Roadster Time Study , we calculated that throughout the car buying process customers are left alone for an average of 2.5 hours. After the third time being left alone, satisfaction will likely have dropped as much as 30%. Gabriel discussed how many customers now walk into an experience that’s clean and clear, which eliminates an hour or two of his usual needs analysis and presentation process. He added that because buyers now have the opportunity to hit the pause button in-store and later go online to continue where they left off, he’s able to save time as the sale moves forward remotely. The buyer has already sold themselves on the deal and he can work more on simply facilitating the experience. He has also found a surprising amount of deal-building happens around 2 a.m. It’s about planting seeds Omnichannel Commerce tools have allowed a different sales process to emerge. It’s one that feels more transparent to the buyer and builds loyalty. The salesperson and customer can look at the deal together to see how each add-on affects the price, how their monthly payments can go up or down, and the buyer is generally in control of their own process. Dustin shared that even when the price is higher than a competitor’s, he is able to have a guided, transparent conversation with the customers that increases his credibility. They’re more likely to trust him and if he sends out 5 deals within 10 minutes of each other, usually 2-3 of them will close within a day’s time. In developing a relationship with one salesperson throughout the process, the buyer [1]   [2]  is empowered to move their purchase along in the way that they are most comfortable. Gabriel or Dustin can email or text the deal to the customer at any stage and then support them remotely. The data backs up a collaborative sales approach, as well. In our Customer Experience Study , we asked car buyers what they wanted most out of their experience. 39% of respondents wanted to deal with the same person from start to finish — beating out inventory selection and price transparency. When salespeople are able to act as facilitators and connect with their customers, it feels more transparent and grows investment in the process. Leadership Drives Culture Both Dustin and Gabriel agreed that their experience expanding into an Omnichannel approach would not have been the same without leadership that was eager to change with the times. Both described dealers who were hungry for better efficiency and unafraid to jump into the rising digital retailing tide. At Sun Automotive Group, the sales team was provided with technology, high-quality inventory and a customer-first mindset. They started with just a few iPads but increased the showroom technology footprint as they found more car buyers using them. The ease of use meant they could also bring in staff from more diverse backgrounds. "One of our best guys was a bartender at Red Lobster," Dustin said, highlighting the importance of having people skills, not just sales experience. The leaders at Rallye BMW built foundational skills and empowered their salespeople through frequent 1-on-1 training with the Roadster team. Gabriel shared that there was anxiety because of the newness of the system, but everyone quickly realized how simple the process was once they just dove in. For them, he said, “It’s a tool to get you to the next level.” You can literally see the anxiety leave their bodies Dustin consistently gets a few young, professional couples coming into his store each week. He explains the process, the tools and the transparent pricing, and he almost always witnesses a dramatic shift. “You can literally see the anxiety leave their bodies. They relax, they settle into their seats a little bit more...everything just changes when the anxiety leaves and they know they’re going to be treated fairly.” A customer recently said to Gabriel, “There’s no way you can give me this deal, deliver the car, take in my trade and that’ll be that.” Four hours later they delivered the car to his home. “One of the easiest sales I’ve ever made,” Gabriel said, “It’s so flawless from start to finish. He sold himself on it. Easier than buying an iPhone or ordering something from Amazon.” When you’re able to break personal sales records and remain excited to help the people walking through your door every day, you know you’re doing something right. Watch the full webinar with more insights, ideas and tactics here .
The Global Auto Market Is Bouncing Back, With Digital Leading the Charge

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Over the past year, the automotive industry has been through a number of shake-ups — some more disruptive than others — with a fear looming over the heads of industry professionals that the so-called “death of the sedan” would ultimately drag down the global auto market. Although 2017 marked the first year of a slight decline in sales in North America since the Great Recession , the first quarter of 2018 is off to a promising start, showcasing a 10% increase in leads and overall site engagement compared to Q4 of 2017, according to a new IgnitionOne report . The report, which details global Q1 2018 auto trends, examined the regional breakdown of site traffic, user engagement, and leads of nearly 3,000 OEM and dealer sites across the U.S.; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); Asia Pacific (APAC); and Latin America (LATAM). The overall increase in visitor engagement means that the growth in site visits also consists of better-quality traffic, which in turn is a positive indication of future automotive sales growth. Contrary to the dip in sales seen in North America in 2017, the LATAM market experienced an economic rebound, with site visitors almost doubling in volume (55%) since the previous quarter. This trend could likely be attributed to the rise of e-commerce in the region, where sales are projected to grow from circa $57 billion in 2016 to almost $85 billion by 2019. According to Frost & Sullivan , automotive sales in Latin America are anticipated to reach $5.8 million, up by almost 2% compared to 2017, and LATAM’s flourishing economy coupled with the surge of mobile users in emerging markets will likely continue to propel automotive sales in the region through 2018. Given the unprecedented increase in smartphone and internet penetration across APAC and LATAM, auto marketers and dealers alike should be paying close attention to the rise of mobile-first economies by deploying targeted campaigns and initiatives to effectively engage “the next 100 million” users and potential customers. First-quarter 2018 saw an increase in site engagement via tablet (5%) and desktop (13%), with mobile engagement remaining consistent despite generating a 4% increase in site visits. This emphasizes the importance of optimizing the digital customer journey for mobile users, as the quality and size of device screens continue to dictate overall shopping experiences. The trend also reiterates the significance of an omnichannel marketing strategy as customers’ point-of-sale preferences are constantly evolving, not to mention the fact that a customer’s decision to complete (or abandon) a purchase is heavily influenced by the quality of the shopping experience across channels. The reported 10% increase in leads is likely due to more effective lead-generation strategies from OEMs. This number could continue to fluctuate due to a number of economic (and political) factors affecting the cost and availability of resources. For example, automotive consumers in the U.S. are currently experiencing a surge in fuel prices , with 2018 marking the highest rates since 2014. Prices could continue to climb after the U.S. decided in early May to reimpose sanctions on Iran , the world’s fifth-largest oil producer. Additionally, as consumers continue to rally in favor of more sustainable electric vehicles, we could see this influence market share by Q4 2018, with experts predicting sales of these segments to double compared to 2017. For now, trucks and SUVs are still reigning supreme, accounting for about two-thirds of the market overall. Europe is spearheading the popularity of SUVs in particular, and brands are adding more and more SUVs, with the BMW X2 and Volvo XC40 as recent examples of what’s grabbing shopper interest, resulting in a 44% share of site visits in Q1. Of course, continued shake-ups to the auto industry are inevitable. From fluctuation in the global stock and gasoline markets to changes in trends, shopping habits, and consumer preferences, there’s always change on the horizon for the auto world. It’s promising to see an upward trajectory for overall auto sales in the first quarter of 2018, with growth potential buoyed further by the ongoing proliferation of the internet and mobile/tablet use across emerging markets. In an industry that is continually fluctuating, digital channels are set to play an increasingly important role for brands, dealers, and marketers in the global auto market in the months ahead. Frank Goldberg is the senior director of automotive for North America at IgnitionOne . He is IgnitionOne’s automotive industry expert, educating marketers on trends in the digital space, and oversees sales for the North American automotive vertical. Prior to his role at IgnitionOne, Frank was the North American director of sales for Emailvision, a global email service provider, focusing on the retail, e-commerce, and finance verticals. Before Emailvision, he was a senior director at various marketing and marcom agencies, including Edelman Worldwide. Frank brings over 15 years of experience in traditional, digital, and advertising technology to IgnitionOne.
A Look Back at Automotive Retail in 2017 Reveals the Path Forward for 2018

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When we look back at 2017, the best word to capture the year in automotive retail is fascinating . Between the drop in the record-setting 2016 sales figures to the uptick in vehicle demand from the disaster-ravaged states in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, this past year’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. 2017 insights When it came to online shopping behavior, Dealer.com , which operates 62% of U.S. franchise dealership websites, captured key insights from its proprietary DataView reporting that underscored the fascinating year: Presidents Day was both the most popular holiday and day of the year for vehicle shopping. In fact, four of the top five shopping days of the year fell during the week of Presidents’ Day weekend. The one outlier in the top five was Friday, March 24, which coincides with Friday being the most popular day of the week for vehicle shopping and March being the most popular month for car shoppers in 2017. All of this took place in Q1 2017, despite the dip in monthly sales figures . Texas and Florida were two of the top five states for car shopping this year, likely a tie-in to vehicles lost to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The state with the least amount of vehicle shopping? Wyoming. Consumers love their daytime car-shopping window: 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PST was the most popular block of the year. Going into 2018, confidence is still high across the industry for another healthy sales year, particularly from dealers themselves. In our recently released Cox Automotive Q4 2017 Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI) , U.S.-based dealers were optimistic about the first quarter this year, and believe recent inventory issues have begun to subside. The CADSI also indicated, however, that both franchise and independent dealers continue to feel pressure to lower prices, experience high costs of running their business, and report weak customer traffic. Let’s take a moment to address that third caution flag — weak customer traffic — as a New Year’s resolution, so to speak. New year, new traffic Make no mistake, the automotive industry should continue to hone in on online storefront traffic to generate sales leads. Because we’re in this post-peak sales period, however, we need to reframe our core belief that the quantity of sales leads eclipses all other key performance indicators (KPIs) when it comes to profitability. It’s just not the case anymore. Instead, dealers should be focusing on attracting quality over quantity — car shoppers with a higher intent to purchase a vehicle — when it comes to lead generation in the sales funnel. How can dealerships conquer this New Year’s resolution of improved quality of online traffic? The key to 2018 digital marketing ROI is through attribution , which uses data to decipher and predict shoppers’ purchasing intent, and shows how to use that information to maximize ROI. Multi-touch attribution models help track the series of digital touch points from shoppers as they work their way toward a purchase, and assigns the respective touch points a value. This lets dealers see what campaigns are resonating most with their customers, and allows them to adjust accordingly. The coming year will bring another healthy clip of sales across the industry; however, the key to your success for the year will be through digital attribution to identify and connect with those quality car shoppers. Here's to 2018! James Grace is the senior director of analytics products at Cox Automotive Media Solutions Group.