Dealers who sell cars online already know this...
On the Internet, there is no personal connection to you or your dealership. Here is what you should be doing about it.
An online shopper is not experiencing the whole range of verbal and non-verbal communication available in a direct personal interaction. Worse, since there is no personal connection, there is also no polite social norm in place that says don't be rude to someone. Since that is not in place there is nothing to keep consumers on your website if they don't get what they want - instantly and easily.
Over the years, I have heard this said several different ways such as:
- As a consumer, I hit your website. You have 4 seconds to communicate what your business does, why I should care and what you want me to do... or I'm gone.
- An online consumer is just a click away from leaving your site. They are in control.
But are they?
You still control the medium through which they experience your online showroom. They only get to vote with their mouse whether they participate in what you have provided or not. Unfortunately, if you have not designed an effective "Persuasion Architecture" around what you want them to do, they are not. Turning this concept into an execution question: "How do you provide an online experience to your consumers which gets them to do what you want them to do (shop + buy), recognizing that they have to choose to do so?"
What to do:
"Planning involves everything that happens before a visitor reaches your site. It includes the steps you take to get traffic to your site - the creation of the elements for your conversion process and the storyboard of your site that guide visitors once they are there. In includes strategic marketing planning such as the development of your unique value proposition (UVP), your understanding of the marketplace and targeted customers, and your brand and brand positioning. Planning is about understanding your visitors and their values, so you can anticipate their knowledge levels, moods, and mindsets, and thereby meet their needs...
To maximize ROI on your Web site, you must have an organized persuasive purpose for your Web site...
In order to keep your visitors from exercising their right and their opportunity to make that click to another Web site, you must provide them with one or more values that appeal to them or fulfill the search that brought them to you...
If you want lots of delighted, loyal, repeat customer, you have to realize superior value goes way beyond price...online, [many dealers] still believe value is all about price although off-line this was shown to be untrue years ago. Sure, you might get lucky and make a few sales based on a super-discounted price alone. But if that's all you're offering, you're building zero loyalty, and you're begging for competition...
Value is a complete package, filled with lots of human-friendly usability elements, attractive but fast-loading and functional design, great information, great products, appropriate prices, top-notch customer service, plus lots of nice little guaranteed-to-make-them-smile extras you devise to set yourself apart from the guys and gals that just offer... well, price."
-- "Call to Action"
Long ago dealers learned how to do exactly this in their showrooms. Now is the time to learn how to do it effectively on the Internet.
Dealers buy most of their technology, so how can you accomplish all of this on a budget that won't break the bank?
Overwhelmingly, consumers use the Internet when shopping for a vehicle. Can you think of anything more strategic in your business to be doing than figuring out how to obtain a competitive advantage in this arena (especially if you are not happy with the results you have achieved to date)?
If you can build volume that you are not getting today while holding regular retail gross profits through a better experience, what is the ROI available from the money and time you do spend? Can you cut back on current spending such as newspaper advertising to focus here? Does it make sense to you to do so?
Now back to Call to Action...
"the value of whatever you are doing in cyberspace lives solely in the minds of your visitors. They decide what value means to them, and then they look to you to see if you provide it...
[Do you] understand that visitors are there voluntarily, so [do you] entice and coax visitors, avoiding any sign of coercion (...you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink - though you can entice them to take one sip at a time)."
And that last part entirely defines the only messages and experience you should have on your site.
If you have any text that talks about you or your dealership without any context as to why the consumer should care, remove it or put it on the About Us section.
If you have any text that tells rather than demonstrates what the consumer cares about, they will not believe you - remove it, rephrase it or back it up with credible evidence they can experience.
Here are some examples of language I see all the time that the consumer does NOT care about:
- "Guaranteed lowest price" with no link to a detailed explanation of what that means
- Your dealership's mission statement with no social evidence from other consumers RAVING about how their experience was better as a result
- "Largest selection"
- Dealership sales and satisfaction awards they know nothing about
- ACE certified technicians with no explanation as to why the consumer should care
- Factory original parts with no explanation as to why the consumer should care
If you have been reading this management briefing series, you'll understand how I think a shopping cart based ecommerce experience for your consumers fits in to this execution.
- Tell them about it to drive traffic to your site
- Show them everything about the vehicles you have, tell them you can get just about anything, but require them to validate their email address in order to get prices and payments
- Reduce the rest of the clutter on your website which does not funnel them through what you want them to do (or reorganize it on tabs so they can find it and read it if they really care)
Do all of this properly and you will have better and more selling opportunities than you do today, a competitive advantage in your marketplace and you will turbo-charge your online results and profits.
Don't do it and what is your business going to look like when you have to compete with it and can't get one (or have to wait for another provider to come out with one)? How much money will it cost you in the meantime? How is that going to make you feel?
Get your online "Persuasion Architecture" fixed and do it soon.
Fix the part of your Internet strategy that comes before the purchase phase so that it doesn't interfere with consumer's decision to identify themselves to you and ultimately to buy from you.
The large public dealer groups are beginning to roll out their own custom shopping cart ecommerce systems and view this as an area of significant opportunity for competitive advantage (which means they want to take your consumers and lots of them).
I can't tell you to act or make you do anything. You have to choose to do so. I only write these briefings to encourage and challenge you to take a break from working in your business and spend a few minutes working on it.
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