Article

Downeast Toyota’s Interactive Web Site and Rapid Response Time Reels in Customers

August 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Daymond Decker - Also by this author

After 42 years in business in Brewer, Maine, Downeast Toyota is still taking strides to make its Internet sales a top priority—and it shows in results.

Since their new site went live, there have been 65,355 unique visitors and 4,351 total sales and service leads. About 40 percent of Web site visitors spend one to five minutes on the site, and another 40 percent spend five to 30 minutes browsing, with 2 percent staying on the site for one to two hours.

Before Downeast switched to a new Web site, only 4 percent of the dealership’s sales were from the Internet. Now, the Web site accounts for 17 percent of sales, with a jump in average monthly Internet sales from 11 to 43.

Downeast Toyota, owned by Ted Darling and managed by Kevin Kelly, started with a basic Web site in 1996 because they believed the market was about to shift in the direction of Internet sales—not just in the automotive industry, but all over.

At that time, most dealerships were creating Web sites for basic informational purposes, and Downeast was no exception. They used a site recommended by Toyota that told visitors what the dealership was and where to find it. However, it did not list inventory or allow users to make an appointment, and worse, there was no interaction.

Over the years, Downeast has evolved its Web presence with several different Web hosts, switching to BZ in January 2007. The site they have now is interactive and user-friendly. It’s so much better than static Web sites they’ve used in the past, said Kelly, general manager. Because of the many ways the site helps keep customers interacting and engaged, they spend more time on the site than they would otherwise.

The dealership has two full-time employees in the Internet department, led by Christy Clark. According to Kelly, those dedicated employees and their quick response to leads are what sets Downeast apart from the competition. When a customer makes an online request, he or she gets an almost-immediate response. Downeast does use an auto-responder, but generally customers are first contacted by phone, giving the dealership a more intimate relationship with its customers.

And that translates to more sales leads. So far, Downeast has averaged 278 leads during the first five months of this year and sales are ahead of last year. But sales take more than a Web site and leads. Kelly believes the dealership’s greatest success is its people and employee retention. Downeast has about 150 employees. Kelly has worked there for 16 years, and he’s still considered the new guy among the department managers.
 
As for the dealership’s customers, they appreciate the ease of use of the Web site, Kelly added. Inventory can be updated immediately as new cars come in and others are sold. Downeast can post and delete specials in real-time, and they can respond to service and rental requests made online, as well as provide directions for their customers. Directions might not seem like such a big deal, but to Downeast, it’s critical. The dealership has a target market of about 140 miles around the store. It is the closest Toyota dealership to Maritime Canada and customers frequently drive long distances to get there. They’ve even sold a vehicle to someone from as far away as California.

The Web site, downeasttoyota.com, is simple, pleasant and fast, with easy-to-find information about all aspects of the dealership. You can jump to parts, service, rentals, collision center, new inventory, pre-owned inventory or even pricing with a simple click.

Downeast has also enjoyed the ease of BuzzTrak, the virtual BDC manager. Through BuzzTrak, the dealership is able to send automatic responses to customers, and it gives them an easy way to keep track of leads and obtain e-mail addresses from visitors. It’s one more way to stay connected to the public. Downeast now has more than 4,800 e-mail addresses in their database for use in e-mail marketing campaigns, and they never rely on third-party providers.

But the Web site wouldn’t be a success if people didn’t know about it. Downeast posts its Web address everywhere. It’s all over the newspaper, radio and television ads, business cards, delivery vans, parts vans, and all rental vehicles. Because of this marketing campaign, they’ve been able to cut back some on their more traditional ways of advertising, like newspapers and TV.

Downeast is able to track performance online to see how much Web traffic they are getting and how many people are making and keeping appointments. With this information, they can see just how much their Web site is working for them. It’s more difficult to track the performance of more traditional forms of print and advertising media because that’s top-of-the-mind awareness, Kelly said.

“You can ask someone in the showroom what brought them there, and they might say an advertising medium that you haven’t used in years simply because that’s what the customer thought of at the time, instead of the three other advertising mediums they have seen or heard since then,” Kelly said. The Web site allows Downeast to have more specific tracking of results.

Downeast will continue striving to sell more cars by staying ahead of the curve with its Web site and other marketing campaigns and by tracking their success.

Vol 5, Issue 7

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