December 2015 saw Motor Trader Magazine release its latest list of the top performing 200 dealerships in the UK. As we now know, 2015 was a record year for new car registrations, but there are always going to be businesses that capitalise on the opportunity more than others. The beauty of the Top 200 is that throughout the list, each year we can expect changes, new entrants and a few exits.
We monitor the Top 200 closely, especially with regards how these businesses are using digital tools to drive home their advantage. Since March 2010, we have kept an eye on numerous different aspects of dealer websites, from live chat and social media, through to newer developments like responsive design and consumer reviews.
Since the December 2015 Motor Trader Top 200 has come out, we have once again taken a look at what web tools dealers are using. And the upshot is that whilst none of the tools we monitor has reduced in uptake, the increases are extremely modest across the board – none increasing more than 1% (i.e. two dealers) since August 2015. However, with 12 new entrants into the Top 200, there is a question to be asked as to whether the digital tools they are using are in line with the wider list.
Firstly, it’s interesting to note that six of the 12 new entrants into the Top 200 use GForces’ NetDirector Auto platform. Looking across the new entrants, those using a NetDirector platform have an average of 12 of the value-adding tools that we monitor, whilst those on other platforms will typically have nine.
Lead-generating and sales tools
The platform upon which dealers base their website is fundamental to creating a successful digital dealership, and with well over 50% of dealer web visits now coming from mobile devices, it’s encouraging that all of the newcomers have a mobile-optimised site. Half of the new entries to the Top 200 utilise live chat on their website, four of which cover out-of-hours. This is broadly in line with the entire Top 200, 44% of which offer live chat and 25.5% out-of-hours cover. All but two of the new entrants offer videos through their websites, including new or used car videos and even personalised customer videos.
Looking at other lead-generating and sales tools the picture is less positive. Only one new entrant (Dingles Group) utilises online deposits which reflects the wider situation in the Top 200, which has an 8.5% uptake of this particular tool. It’s an omission as dealers can effectively secure sales of used cars online, as well as using it to promote exclusive offers to those who do lay down an online deposit. Online valuations are used by five of the 12 new entrants, whilst Reevoo consumer reviews are used by just three. Perhaps more happily, all but two of the new entrants enable their customers to explore finance deals by integrating a finance calculator.
Both Facebook and Twitter uptake among the newcomers score a perfect 100%, not surprising when 99% of the full Top 200 has Facebook and 99.5% Twitter. YouTube and LinkedIn are left somewhat wanting, with eight and six of the new entrants using them respectively, while just three of them run a blog. It’s encouraging that almost all of the Top 200 now uses social media in one way or another for certain, but exploiting the potential of YouTube especially is something that could be improved upon.
Online service booking, tyres and service plans remain a mixed bunch when it comes to uptake by the Top 200. By far and away the most popular is service booking, which enables customers to book a service at their convenience via desktop or mobile. Seven of the new entries run an online service booking tool, a reflecting the 45% of the entire Top 200 that do likewise.
Tyres are an obvious upsell; every motorist will need them at some point in time, so offering the ability for customers to order them online – especially alongside scheduled servicing – is a big bonus. Despite this, just three of the new entrants offer the opportunity for customers to do this, a figure which is yet again representative of the wider Top 200 within which 13% offer tyre ordering facilities. Similarly, whilst many of the Top 200 undoubtedly promote service plans online, just 8.5% enable customers to buy them. Of the 12 new entrants, the figure is a fairly healthy five.
Looking at the new entrants to the Top 200 there is a spread in terms of the number of online tools they are operating (that we monitor). It’s reassuring that for the most part, these newcomers to this list of the UK’s motor retailing elite are well equipped to compete online, with the best of the sample operating 14 out of the 20 tools we monitor.
We’ll keep an eye on how things change over the next quarter and report back with special interest in the 12 businesses that have just broken into the Top 200, to see whether the fierce competition has meant that new digital tools have been employed to gain the upper hand.