Even if you don’t stick to all of your resolutions, one guarantee of the New Year is that it always brings a renewed excitement to the workplace. People are excited about new goals and new challenges, feeling invigorated after their holiday breaks. You’ll see new faces flock to the gym, and you’ll notice employees putting in extra hours to achieve personal and professional goals they set for themselves.
But it is what happens after the first month, or even two or three months, that truly determines how people and businesses will remember 2016.
2015 brought its own mix of challenges, forecasts, and opportunities. Experts project mobile will finally level off as smart phones have now found their way into the hands of people ranging from eight to eighty years of age. We’ve seen self-driving cars make their appearance on the roadway, as well as companies like Vroom, Carvana, and Tesla push the boundaries on how a car should be sold to customers.
As predicted, last year closed out as another strong year for the automotive industry. The NADA reported more than 17 million units sold. With the new year, we have already seen contradictory views on what the industry will look like. NADA predicts another great year for sales; meanwhile, the CEO of Autonation, America’s largest automotive group, issued a statement airing caution and urging dealers to believe that the growth period may be over.
With all of the new technology and evolving customer needs, we have 6 developments that every dealership should either already implement or have on their radar as we move through 2016.
Adaptive vs. Responsive—Stop Settling for Option B.
Quite frankly, this is no longer an argument. A dealer’s website continues to be the most important piece of digital marketing that any store can have. With the year of “Mobilegeddon” now behind us, dealers will finally acknowledge that it is time to invest in a top-tier mobile platform. Many website companies now offer fully responsive platforms at an affordable price.
… So, it’s time to stop with the excuses and no longer settle for an adaptive site.
I predict that 2016 will be a year that many of the manufacturers continue to see their dealerships flee their OEM-mandated sites for a secondary, which will be better optimized and a more effective converting platform.
Adapting to Voice Technology and Virtual Assistant
The last few years have heralded serious improvements to Apple’s Siri, facilitated the emergence of Google Now, and even brought Microsoft into the virtual personal assistant game with Cortana.
How are these technologies going to affect the consumer shopping experience?
I expect that, in competitive markets, dealers who focus on their online directory accuracy and optimize their local listings will see a surge in traffic over their slower-to-adapt competition. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth will be more than five years old this year, and we still battle with providing customers the answer at time of purchase, and now they have a full-time virtual assistant who is fully capable of providing them any answer they desire almost immediately.
How will your store build content and optimize your site to do the same? Remember businesses are no longer compared to just their competition, but rather everyone who is providing a relationship, good, or service.
Social Media Promotions Demand More Attention
At this point, I think we can all agree that social media is here to stay. With an overly engaged audience expressing their interests, wants and needs everyday, it is time that dealers understand that promoted posts are a vital part of their marketing budget.
The targetability that these social platforms offer dealers is more sophisticated than what direct mail pieces, TV or radio can offer.
I’m not alone in this thought: industry experts like Brian Pasch have gone as far as calling Facebook advertising the “silver bullet” for dealers; and Rand Fashkin of Moz Analytics predicted that Pinterest will become more of a player in social marketing with their release of promoted pins in his 2016 predictions.
Dealerships with High Retention Yield High Rewards
Although this may not initially sound like a digital initiative for any store, I would encourage you consider it one. With the considerable importance of online reviews and how heavily consumers continue to rely on them, I believe that we will see a transition to dealership retention coming back to importance. It was three of four years ago when testimonials become a common practice in our industry.
According to one study, only 33% of sales employees who earned your store great reviews will still be employed when that same customer comes out of their lease or is ready to purchase again.
Let me reiterate that again: the majority of your sales team is not lasting as long as a standard lease term. We know that it costs to hire and train new sales members but still accept massive turnover in our store. I believe that the stores and groups who are focused on work-life balance and employee satisfaction will see most growth and profitability in future years.
Online Transactions Begin to Emerge
We know it’s coming. We know customers want it. We still continue to fight it as an industry.
With e-commerce giants like Amazon and Zappos making the online transaction so effortless and seamless, it is only a matter of time for consumers to expect the same out of their dealership. Remember when I mentioned CarVana and Veroom earlier?
These companies are growing quickly, and it is because they are adhering to the demand of their target audience.
I don’t disagree with dealers that many customers will still want to see the vehicle before they purchase and experience the joy of a test drive before signing the papers. However, it is hard to argue with Vroom’s 95 million dollar investment. Last year, we saw some serious effort by companies to begin offering at least some aspects of the buying process online. Tools like Virtual Deal and Make My Deal give customers the control and flexibility that they will continue to demand out their automotive shopping experience.
I would encourage every dealer to at least take some steps to moving the transaction to the digital age. Even if you aren’t quite ready to give up all control, incentivise your salespeople to do video introductions and walk-around videos of the inventory the customer is submitting a lead on. Be willing to do finance or service walk-arounds via webcams or video chat. The consumer wants transparency and conveniences, so you need to take the steps to be a leader in your market and set the standard for what the transaction looks like.
I can almost guarantee that you will be rewarded with loyal customers thanking you and new customers encouraging their friends via word of mouth and online testimonials about your willingness to work around their schedule and simplify their experience.
Search and Social Integration—Stand-Alone Services No Longer Work
Is it just me or does it seem like content was crowned king then dethroned at virtually the same time? Similarly, many digital marketers have proclaimed that SEO is dead. I am a firm believer that neither of these strategies are actually dead—unless your provider is selling them as stand alone services. Digital marketing as a whole has become more involved, more intricate, and more complex year by year.
As a greater number of companies and manufacturers enter the digital marketing field, it has become apparent that all of the strategies must lean and build off one another.
One of our team members, Andrew Kocha, recently wrote a blog about how SEO has become like a puzzle. He described how removing one piece would leave you with an incomplete strategy, and I could not agree more. Simply subscribing to a content service or just an SEO company is no longer going to work. Dealerships and companies must now have a partner that truly understands how all of the elements within digital marketing complement each other.
It is dealerships who leverage their data in every aspect of their marketing that will really be the winners in 2016. We no longer have to guess who our customers are or what their shopping behavior is. The data and tools are out there and at our disposal. The dealerships who are able to retain their sales team and get them to buy into culture and initiatives while combining forces with partners who are using data in all of their strategies, measuring success are the ones who are building a recipe for dominance and victory this year.
So, I leave you with those six developments that I believe are most important to grasp in 2016. What do you think of these choices, and is there anything significant you think I missed in this digital marketing piece?