Article

RickCase.com Uses e-Commerce To Double Sales

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

With 15 dealerships throughout Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Cleveland, Rick and Rita Case have led the Rick Case Automotive Group through tremendous growth in recent years. Founded in 1962 in northeast Ohio, the group is now based in south Florida. Their franchises include Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda and Mitsubishi. They also offer an exceptional selection of pre-owned, exotic automobiles including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, along with an outstanding selection of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Porsche and more through the new Rick Case Luxe Collection.
Rick Case Honda — opened in Fort Lauderdale in 2002 — is the world’s largest automotive complex with more than a half a million square feet and over 1,500 new Hondas under showroom lights. In March, 2002, the dealership’s first month in operation, Rick Case Honda became the world's largest volume Honda dealer and broke all Honda sales volume records. Today, the Rick Case Automotive Group is enjoying tremendous growth after its e-commerce initiatives and has doubled Internet sales from 250 units to over 500 per month, while cutting their cost per sale from $340 per car to only $210.

How has the Rick Case Automotive Group achieved incremental sales and a boost in profitability during this growth period? Any high volume dealer knows it takes more than a new facility and extensive inventory to increase sales, profit and customer satisfaction. In fact, without the right process, people and marketing strategy, a new facility and large inventory will only increase overhead, making a profit more difficult to turn. One key to recent success at the Rick Case Automotive Group was their switch to a new technology vendor. The group put together a new e-commerce strategy that uses the power of Search Engine Marketing and e-mail campaigns to increase sales while lowering ad costs.

The Right Strategy

Their new e-marketing strategy is what helped reduce cost per sale from $340 to $210 per car while generating an average of 5,000 leads per month — up from 4,000. Also, this new strategy is what boosted Internet sales by 250 units per month out of their e-commerce department.

Phil Cohen, national e-commerce director for Rick Case Automotive Group, said, “We see the highest return on investment from Internet and phone leads generated from our own Web site, www.rickcase.com, and from the e-mail campaigns we run, so we shifted some of our focus to these areas. By tracking cost per sale by lead source, we’re able to make smarter decisions with our marketing strategy and budget. For us, it makes the most sense to reduce our reliance on traditional forms of advertising. With our new Web site, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and e-mail campaigns are cheaper and get better results.”

Customers tuning out radio and television and becoming less responsive to direct mail and newspaper compelled the Rick Case Automotive Group to turn it’s focus to using the Web as an alternative way to drive traffic to their site and ultimately, their showroom. In tracking their new marketing strategy, they saw their average cost per sale drop.

Here’s how they did it:

  • Implement the right balance of advertising and SEO/SEM
  • Create effective, low-cost e-mail campaigns
  • Establish a strategy to populate the e-mail database
  • Build the right Web site
  • Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing

Without traffic, it’s tough to generate sales, and Rick Case Automotive quickly learned that customers today are using Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo throughout the buying process. To attract today’s shoppers, Rick Case relies on technology and training partners to help generate more high quality leads at a lower cost. Cohen explained, “Our vendor, BZ Results.com, uses Search Engine Optimization to ensure we appear at the top of the most popular search results. There’s organic optimization, which is free, and pay-per-click, which is not. We appear up top for free when a customer Googles a popular phrase like ‘Fort Lauderdale Honda’ or ‘Fort Lauderdale Hyundai,’ whereas our competitors have to buy sponsored links. They pay to get a position that’s worse than our free positions. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in the traffic to our phones, our Web site and ultimately, to our stores.”

E-mail Marketing

The goal of e-mail marketing is the same as the goal for SEM: To attract more quality traffic at a lower cost. Cohen explained, “We love how quickly, easily and inexpensively we can reach hundreds and even thousands of customers and potential customers. Best of all, we love that it’s 100 percent measurable. We’re able to create unique mini-movies that get the customers attention, that prompt them to come in or contact the dealership, and if they don’t contact us, our highly trained CRC team follows up until they do.” For example, they recently featured Rick and Rita Case in a "Race for the Record” e-mail campaign. Once the Buzzmail is created, BuzzTrak makes it easy to query their database with specific targeted criteria, load and blast. For example, if Honda comes out with a low lease payment or special rate on the Accord, they can target every prospect who’s been in the last 60, 90 or 120 days on the Accord and send them an interactive e-mail. Customers love the virtual test drives section of the Rick Case site because they hit play and get to watch a mini-movie starring the vehicle they’re interested in.

How effective are these e-mail campaigns? Cohen said, “It’s impossible to create 100 percent accountability, but our technology helps us measure how many e-mails were sent successfully, how many duplicate e-mail addresses we have and how many customers opt out. This is our fastest, easiest, most effective and least expensive form of marketing.” Compared to conventional advertising like print, radio, television and mail, e-mail marketing allows the Rick Case Automotive team to communicate with hundreds or thousands of customers with a few clicks at virtually no cost. It’s faster, easier and more effective.

Populating their e-mail Database

However, one word of caution: e-mail marketing only works if you have a database of e-mail addresses. With the right people and process in place to hold the team accountable in both sales and service, Rick Case Automotive has seen their e-mail address capture rate increase nearly 30 percent. All leads go into their lead management tool, which makes it quick and easy to execute as many campaigns as desired as often as they like.

The e-Commerce team at Rick Case is responsible for capturing, recording and following up with all prospects to sell cars and keep buyers loyal to the dealership. They appreciate that their CRM tool makes it easy to manage and measure all customer activity. The Virtual BDC can automatically execute thousands of daily activities and do the work most sales people resist doing.

The Right Web Site:

www.RickCase.com is more than just a Web site; it’s an attractive, user–friendly virtual dealership which serves as their own regional buying service. Their site, along with very good SEO, now enables them to increase leads and sales, reduce their reliance on 3rd party lead providers and lower costs.

Cohen said, “After putting together the right people, process and technology partners, our numbers increased dramatically. Due to the success we’ve had with our digital marketing provider in Florida, we recently switched all of our Georgia and Ohio stores to the same provider. We are increasing our leads and sales at a rapid pace.”

Rick Case Automotive established a dominant presence on the Web in increased appointments and sales. Cohen said, “We’re operating 15 stores in 3 states, so we need a vendor that’s responsive and easy to deal with. None of this would work if customer service was a struggle.”

Rick Case built an Internet sales model that reflects the shift in customer behavior and expectations. As a result, they’re generating more leads and increasing their appointment, show and closing ratios.

The Importance of Process and People
Rick Case Automotive fine-tuned the process for handling leads. Initially, they had sales people responding to leads. The pitfalls became obvious: high-volume stores during a busy weekend or near the end of the month when a sales team has customers face to face meant too many leads generated by the new strategy went unattended. Additionally, too many commission-only salespeople fall into the trap of selling the car over the phone, rather than selling the appointment. A dedicated team and a clearly defined process can solve that problem. The Rick Case Automotive Group now has highly-trained teams of people with specific duties. Some are solely responsible for responding to phone and Internet leads and are compensated in such a way that drives appointments and shows. Their top-notch sales team sells the car. The right process, job description and pay plan makes motivating teams easier, holds them accountable and drives desired results. Today, the Rick Case e-commerce team is setting and confirming more appointments, resulting in more sales.

Vol 3, Issue 7

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