October 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
I talk to dozens of dealers every week, whether they are attendees at a conference, clients looking for help with best practices or prospects looking for a better digital strategy. One common challenge for dealers that frequently determines the success or failure of their dealerships is inventory management. It is, of course, critical that dealers buy the right used inventory at the right price.
We’ve all heard the old mantra that you make your profit when you buy the car. There are many effective tools out there to help you appraise used vehicles and price your pre-owned inventory appropriately, but many dealers overlook the ways they can use their website and digital strategy to more effectively manage and turn their inventory.
One of the most common oversights for dealers occurs when they don’t create a “Specials” section on their website’s navigation areas or a “Specials” marketing section on their website’s home page. One of the most effective ways of moving aged, stagnant inventory is to prominently feature it on your home page in an area merchandising a “Clearance Specials” section. For an example, see www.Fitzmall.com. Price these vehicles to emphasize their value. One dealer I’ve noticed, www.radleyacura.com, is even featuring a “Daily Deal” to highlight particular inventory they are trying to move.
In 2012, the top website providers have functionality that can automatically feature any vehicle that has been in inventory over 90 days—or whatever number of days you choose—in a “Specials” section both on the home page and in the navigation areas of a website. Some even provide the ability to mark the inventory as being on special, so when a customer is searching your inventory, the vehicles you’re most interested in moving stand out with “specials” graphics. This is one way you can more prominently feature your most challenging inventory on your website.
Another way dealers can get their most-aged inventory in front of the most qualified website traffic is to test changes to the default settings on their used inventory search area. When a visitor clicks on a website’s “Used Vehicles” tab, almost every dealer site shows some pre-owned inventory along with an inventory search box that allows consumers to more precisely search/filter inventory.
Every dealer website that is set up in this fashion has some default offerings that appear first when a customer clicks the “Used Vehicles” tab. Most dealers don’t think about what vehicles appear first or why. Some website providers automatically sort vehicles by price, alphabetically by make or even by year. Instead of relying on the default settings for your inventory section, ask your provider to allow you to set up your oldest inventory to show first or your specials to show at the top of the page.
Many dealers don’t take enough advantage of marketing tools like icons, graphics and information designating certain vehicles as certified pre-owned, CARFAX 1-Owner and CARFAX. These programs and certifications all help dealers move their inventory by providing consumers with valid, third-party confirmation of the value of these vehicles. Don’t miss any opportunities to merchandise these valuable designations for every relevant vehicle on your website. Anywhere in your inventory-search modules where you display vehicles, you should include these recognizable icons. Your vehicle detail pages should incorporate all of these icons and certifications above the fold, near the primary call-to-action on the page so you can build value in the eyes of the consumer who is shopping your inventory.
One strategy that has proven to be particularly effective in creating consumer interest, leads and showroom visits for both new and pre-owned inventory is using incentives and offers on your website. We’ve tested this with hundreds of dealers in virtually every market in the United States and, with a few exceptions, dealers who’ve tested this marketing program have had dramatic increases in leads, showroom traffic and sales from their Internet departments.
This strategy of offering a site-wide coupon for a few hundred dollars of a vehicle purchase isn’t as effective for highline franchises or one-price dealers, but if you have the right inventory and the appropriate market positioning, you should at least test this strategy for a couple of months and measure the results.
You should ask your website provider to create a “most popular” inventory report. It’s not hard for your provider set up a report that shows the amount of traffic every vehicle in your inventory receives, the number of clicks for each vehicle, the time visitors spend on each page, bounce rates, etc. Then you can see what are the most popular makes and models at your online dealership and make inventory management decisions accordingly.
Inventory management is one of the most critical factors in the success or failure of every dealership out there. Don’t overlook the role that your website and digital marketing strategies can play in helping you effectively manage and accelerate the turn rate of your inventory, both new and pre-owned.
Vol. 9, Issue 8