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Embrace the Internet

Author: Tim Smith, Commercial Director of GForces.

Many dealers throughout the industry have reported significantly less footfall over the past few months with scrappage ending, the current economy and the rise in internet usage. More and more customers are going online to research and make comparisons on cars, only approaching the showroom when ready to purchase. Google’s study ‘the role of the internet in automotive buying’ states that 55% of all car searches begin online and 78% use the internet throughout the buying process.

So we ask ourselves how many dealerships are actually embracing the internet in their sales strategy by using tools such as live chat, social media, mobile and video to attract and engage with today’s customers. GForces compiled a survey of the Top 200 dealers in August to see how they each embrace the internet. From looking at sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and company blogs, 44.5% of dealers use some form of social media to help drive traffic to their website with Twitter being used more widely by 36%. LinkedIn attracted 17% of the top 200 and Facebook was popular with 32.5%. Surprisingly only 4.5% maintained a blog which can be a highly useful tool for SEO. Blogging can also help “spread the word” about a company, its products, and its services to more people, dramatically increasing brand recognition and awareness..

In a recent article, Jon Goodman, Peugeot UK Managing Director comments that ‘social media is very important. The way we interact with our customers is changing and that means it has to change for our dealers too.’
A large proportion of dealers are still missing out on these key communication tools or using them incorrectly. Social media provides more widespread coverage than standard media outlets, enabling breaking news to reach a much larger and broader reader base. Dealers also need to understand that social media vehicles allow for instantaneous dissemination of not just news, but images, audio, video, and other multimedia content as well.

24-7 live chat fulfils customer satisfaction on a short term basis especially for quick enquiries and shouldn’t be ignored by dealers as real world evidence has shown that personalised visual indicators improve response rates by 25%. From our results only 9.5% of the top 200 dealers have invested in this service which is questionable when a recent report recorded 62% of Internet consumers said they would purchase more products online if live customer support were available. Live chat not only saves you money but those who engage with a business through live chat are more likely to convert than visitors who don’t. This is thanks largely to the speed with which they can have their questions answered. (Econsultancy 2010)

Additionally maintaining a mobile site is a great way to keep up to date in the fast moving technological world we live in, providing a site compatible service making browsing easier. Just 8.5% have a mobile site to support their business but with mobile internet usage on the rise we feel this number will soon dramatically increase. 60% of smartphone users access the internet at home instead of a desk top computer (BrandRepublic 2010)

A video is one of the most powerful forms of communication as it provides highly detailed visuals, which can be aided by explanations or sound effects to better engage the viewer. 19.5% of dealers used video either on their website or YouTube. This is a great utility to exhibit a car as it’s interactive and the salesman can explain more detailed features of the car whilst providing a demonstration at the same time. Videos can also be used for customer testimonials or to better promote a dealership’s services.

Today’s customer expectations vary so much that with a simple action of not giving free car mats with a sale despite excellent service a dealer can find within hours their business under scrutiny via the masses. To counteract this, a dealer could simply say they agree and whilst this may seem small and insignificant you are actually identifying a trend from car buyers and can adapt your offerings to their liking. A visitor’s book and comment box just doesn’t cut it anymore; embrace the internet and its many services to lead your dealership into a profitable future.

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