Car Dealers:  Add a Shopping Cart Ecommerce system to your dealership's website.  Use your transactional website capability to attract, engage and sell cars online.




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Car Dealers:
What is the Raison D'etre of your website?


Borrowed from the French, Raison D'etre translates to "Reason for being?" 

In the context of your car dealership's website and what you do online, have you ever stopped to think about "What is your reason for doing it?" 

What is your website's Raison D'etre?

Car Dealers:  When you stop to think about it, what is the reason you have a website?

Those of us who are old enough and have been in the business long enough, remember the late 90's when NADA recommended that all car dealers get a website since consumers were flocking online and using it when buying a car.  Seemed simple enough - get a website and stand back and get ready for a wave of consumers ready to buy cars.

A funny thing happened on the way to instant and easy Internet sales success... 

It turns out that consumers were flocking online for several reasons.  Many did not like being held hostage for vehicle information, others did not like the current in-dealership sales experience and were looking for a better car-buying experience (i.e.  women), and the list goes on.  Good, solid, consumer reasons, based on perception + reality of past experience in buying a car.

Despite all the technology vendors and their promising new language that didn't sound much like selling cars - hits, page views, SEO, SEM, clicks, leads, blah, blah, blah... apparently it turns out that there is no silver bullet in technology when it comes to selling cars online.

What all of this amounted to was a sales funnel that was too wide at the top and too narrow at the bottom.  Consumers only felt partially liberated, since they now had access to information without being held hostage, but other than using it to beat dealers with, didn't really get the better experience of buying a car.  Hence the sales funnel observation.

Here is the sales funnel observation expressed graphically.  For each consumer who starts through the sales funnel what do they do...

Car Dealers:  What shape are your sales channel funnels? 

Because they respond better and close at higher rates than Internet leads, from the dealer's standpoint, it is just too bad that the # of consumers going through the newspaper continues to decline.  

Newspaper circulation + effectiveness continue their death spiral.  Some now call this the Dead Tree Industry. 

So what to do?

Certainly going to trade shows such as the upcoming Digital Dealer conference and learning from what others are doing online is a good first step, but if I was a dealer or dealer staff member charged with online sales responsibility I would be interested in understanding the bigger questions so as to be able to shape the decisions + execution with the context of knowledge.

No I haven't said shopping carts for vehicles.  I'll let you get your own knowledge and make your decision on the shopping cart within that context.

The difficult part in understanding what you need to do online in order to achieve profitable vehicle sales success is to understand, then deliver what consumer's want.  Not what they say they'll do, but what they want.

Here is an outstanding (and free) online tool I came across this week.  It lets you poll your website visitors with three easy questions:

  1. What was the purpose of your visit to our website today?
  2. Were you able to complete your task today?
  3. If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

As Avinash Kaushik, the creator of the tool said, the idea here is that:

"Traditional web tools allow you to view WHAT your website visitors did, not WHY they did what they did... [when making value judgements]... we overlay our own opinions, experiences and preferences.

Unfortunately, we are not our customers.  In fact being as close to our companies as we are, it is quite possible that we are the worst possible people to emphasize with our customers."

I have added the tool to the Ai-Dealer website.  Normally I really, really don't like surveys, but in this case as it is very brief and only dedicated to meeting the consumer's needs, I am making an exception.

I'm also making this recommendation... Add the tool to your website.  It is stupid, simple to do and only takes minutes to get done.  You can even tune the "What was the purpose of your visit questions to your site."  Here are the purpose questions I would use if I was a car dealer (you get 5 questions plus #6 - Other):

  1. To research cars
  2. To buy a new car
  3. To buy a used car
  4. To schedule service
  5. To buy parts or accessories

Be sure to set your survey rate to 100% (Look for the icon to Adjust Survey Invitation Rate) or you'll be like me and wonder why you only get it sometimes on your site... their default rate is 20%.

You should be able to cut and paste the html code snippit to your dealership's homepage through your website administrator panel.  I did it and it took me only seconds to do.

Track your dealership's website results for a week or a month.  If you are sick of seeing 2,000 visitors per month on your website, but only 10 leads, 2 appointments and 1 sale, at least you will now have some direct consumer feedback related to what the consumers are not getting that would encourage them to respond and buy at better rates.

Here is a link to the Ai-Dealer forum.  If you implement the survey, please share your results.