Article

Building a Web Site That Lasts a Lifetime

September 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Mudd - Also by this author

None of us know what the future will bring; however, whatever it brings, the Internet will be a part of it. It’s now reported that virtually 90 percent of car buyers use the Web prior to their automobile purchase. Does it make any sense, then, to cut back on one of the most important marketing tools in your arsenal?

The shift is already on and will continue to move towards Web marketing, with the advent of Wi-Max (wireless digital communication intended for metropolitan area networks over distances of up to 30 miles), especially when it comes to the second-most important purchase in a consumer’s life. If anything, we should all be revamping and rethinking our strategies to take advantage of this invaluable tool.

What, really, is the Internet? Simply put, it’s a box—a screen on your desk that provides entertainment and information. Let’s not treat the Web like it’s some demon that is a threat to our survival. During an Internet conference recently, a gentleman raised his hand and commented, “We’re not going to enter that program until we get more training.”

The instructor replied, “Sir, what would you do if the phone rang?”

“Well, I’d answer it,” said the man.

“Buddy, that’s exactly what you do with the Internet,” replied the instructor. Let’s not be afraid to try something different.

Do you remember the time when DVDs came out and the media industry was terrified that people wouldn’t show up to movie theaters? Just recently, the film “Ironman” opened to one of the largest audiences in history! Why is that? People enjoy the experience of the “event” and sharing it with others. We are social creatures. This same analogy can be applied to the Internet. We can fear it as a dehumanizing tool that merely tracks and relays data, or we can use it to reinforce all of the traits, talents and personalities that have created our identity in the marketplace.

If a potential customer walked onto your showroom floor, would you have a salesperson simply hand them a brochure and walk away, saying, “Come to my desk if you find something you like”? Of course not. It’s the five steps, from the ‘meet and greet’ all the way to the close, and you never skip a step. You guide the customer all the way to the sale. It’s what you teach your salespeople every day.

However, the former example is exactly how the industry designs their retail Web sites. They simply use it as a static tool to provide information. But, as you well know, the majority of consumers crave more; they want to be talked to, romanced. They want to be sold. If you’re not engaging the customer with a proactive “buy now” or compelling reason to visit your showroom floor via the Internet, you’re missing the boat.

A point of caution: don’t be misled by the word “interactive.” If that interactivity is not shored-up by good retail messaging, all you will have at the end of the day are a lot of useless “cookie” crumbles. It’s not about the toys, but the creative content and messaging that come with them. Never forget that your Web site must always be asking for and expecting an immediate response.

Here’s the good news: since so few dealerships are doing any of this, it’s not too late to turn your site into a retail tool. Use your great retail knowledge and apply it to your Web site.

Your Web site experience and tracking systems need to be just as effective as your bricks and mortar. No matter how cool the graphics or how rich your rich media may be, if your Web strategy isn’t user-friendly and driven by functional and focused content, it is nothing more than mere eye candy for the attention-deficit plagued consumer. Your site needs to engage the user from the word “go” and provide information that is delivered in a unique and creative manner. You want consumers to automatically know that they have arrived at a site that is different from all the rest, a site that engages them and says “this is going to be fun.”

How do you do that? You make sure that your content provider understands the retail automotive business. The same elements that go into building an effective TV commercial, radio spot or newspaper ad apply to your Web site.

1. It needs an attention-getting headline that grabs them right out of the box.

2. It needs to have a simply-stated, true value that is user-friendly, not cluttered and it should flow with ease.

3. It needs to convey urgency.

4. It needs to “Ask for the Order.”

Tell your consumers where your cars are, where your specials are. The way you execute all of these steps is through video. Why? Because peoples’ emotions connect to video. It’s personal, and it gives you total control over the emotional message you convey to your consumer.

Leave nothing to chance; use video! Find a content provider who is able to develop unique and compelling content that is specifically tailored for your dealership and conveys your story. Also be certain the provider has the ability to tell your story—it’s the key to bonding with your Web site shopper.
 
Use your massive retail automotive sales experience and apply the mastery of your craft to your Web site because at the end of the day,  the last thing you will do is shake someone’s hand and thank them for their business.

It’s not about the mouse-clicks. It’s about creating a Web site that is human and engaging. Do this, and you will surely be on your way to building a customer base that will last a lifetime.

Vol 6, Issue 7

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