Sean Speaks: Don’t skimp on the attention you give your digital forecourt

Sean Speaks: Don’t skimp on the attention you give your digital forecourt

Make someone responsible for social media strategy and be consistent, says Sean Kemple

We all hear so much about the fact that consumer-buying behaviours are changing. Well, from an online perspective it’s already changed. And it will continue to change with the evolution of digital going forward.

It’s no secret that car buyers are more knowledgeable and empowered than ever – largely, of course, due to the internet. In fact, using the web is now the most common method for researching a car.*

Dealers are still central to the car-buying process, however – just two per cent of people actually complete their purchase online.* But to retain their position of influence, there are certain things dealers need to be aware of – and there are lessons we can all learn when it comes to making the best use of our online presence.

Interestingly, our insight tells us that third-party classified websites aren’t consistently successful when it comes to appealing to private buyers. New entrants to the market have been known to experience certain difficulties and
high bounce rates (the number of people who leave a web page immediately after landing) because they are not delivering when it comes to the consumer experience.

Maximising your digital footprint

It could be argued that automotive doesn’t always lead the way online.

It might be an unusual analogy but think about buying a pair of socks from the John Lewis or M&S website. Those socks will be presented with nice pictures and informative descriptions – all for a product that costs perhaps £5.

If we think about that from a dealer perspective, it’s essential that the digital forecourt is utilised as effectively as possible – after all, it has many more pairs of eyes on it than there ever was footfall on their forecourt.

Dealers invest huge amounts into their physical sites, but just as much, if not more, attention needs to be paid to their digital presence.

Consider carefully the phraseology you use to win the attention of potential customers. Saying a £40,000 Range Rover Evoque has a ‘full service history’ could be a wasted opportunity when it might be loaded with appealing extras.

Face to face, customers can ask us questions, but with buyers doing their research online, we need to pre-empt their questions and position vehicles in the right way.

There are a number of channels over which dealers don’t have full control, of course. One of these is the aforementioned third-party classified sites. But dealers do have control of the images and text they upload, so making the most of their real estate there is vital. Pricing correctly and having an effective overall strategy is key, too.

Above all, remember that people are looking for value for money, so avoid focusing too heavily on ‘trying to appear on page one’ – customers search for cars in different ways. If you’re offering genuine value for money, it will certainly count in your favour. You don’t always have to be the cheapest!

Social media and reviews

If you’re using social media, have a consistent presence. It won’t work for you if you just dabble – but if used properly, sites such as Facebook can give you a huge return.

The main social media platforms are simply enormous – the number of people who are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn on a daily basis is incredible.

We would advise making a member of your team responsible for your social media strategy. Appoint someone to the role, put them in control and, above all, as I have mentioned, be consistent.

Whatever your physical forecourt looks like, whatever your digital forecourt looks like, your social media presence needs to be exactly the same.

Reviews are key, too. The first step is to actually give your customers the chance to give feedback. Reviews can be incredibly powerful – especially when they are positive. But on the off chance that you get a negative review, reply in a measured, courteous way and do your utmost to rectify the issue. Take the approach that ‘the customer is always right’.

How can Close Brothers help dealers?

We act mainly in an advisory capacity at the moment. But we have some exciting plans coming to fruition in 2019, so watch this space!

Our principal message to dealers is that your role remains central to the car-buying process, even in our changing world. The internet isn’t going away any time soon but buyers still want to talk to dealers. That’s partly because there is so much confusion in the market.

This is to do with finance options (PCP, HP, PCH, etc), the emergence of electric vehicles, the demonisation of diesel and a whole host of other issues.

Customers still want dealers to help them – it’s very important to remember that.

Close Brothers Motor Finance can help you maximise your opportunities online and on the forecourt.

* Britain Under The Bonnet report, Close Brothers Motor Finance, 2018

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