THIS year is an important one for everyone in the car industry. We’ve seen the ‘green shoots’ of recovery, but sustaining that will be the hard part. Here, Richard Aucock chats to 10 companies that can give you a helping hand to ensure you’re adequately armed to tackle the challenges ahead…
www.reallygooddomains.com, 0161 482 7650
THIS year will be a very special one for Really Good Domains – because the firm will celebrate its 10th anniversary!
‘Not bad going in the online world,’ said marketing manager Richard Lawton – particularly as, within that decade, the web development company has built up a huge amount of experience and expertise.
The main focus for the year will be, explained Lawton, an entirely new and improved
contracthireandleasing.com site, plus the launch of thevanwebsite.co.uk. These two developments will reinforce the company’s online breadth still further.
‘We are currently in an intensive phase of site redevelopment,’ continued Lawton. The first fruits of this are already on show at carsupermarkets.co.uk – it’s been totally rebuilt, and boasts a significant increase in visitor numbers as a result.
‘It acts as a showcase of Really Good Domains’ website design philosophy,’ said Lawton. ‘It’s built on new technology, it’s safe and secure, and we have integrated CAP vehicle data in the website for the first time.’ This is something Lawton is particularly proud of, as it provides full car specs on all listed new and used cars.
Next in line for a major update is savemoneyoncars.co.uk, which will get a similar host of new features and, again, incorporate CAP vehicle data.
‘But the biggest news will be during 2010 when contracthireandleasing.com is rebuilt and relaunched. Continuing the theme of the earlier launches, it will involve the website being built on the latest technology with improved security and speed, a plethora of new features, CAP vehicle data integration, improved search engine optimisation and a fresh new look.’
And it’s many of these changes that will be revealed on thevanwebsite.co.uk. Lawton hopes this new portal will shake things up in the commercial vehicle sector – and go hand in hand with a timely and overdue recovery in the CV market. ‘There will be a substantial amount of new features, new technology and new aesthetics,’ he says.
Despite hitting a double-digit age, then, Really Good Domains remains hard at work. ‘Not a company to rest on its laurels, we will continue to work incredibly hard to ensure that our portfolio of leading car-related websites continue to bring excellent levels of enquiries to our ever expanding customer base,’ adds Lawton.
‘With the 10th anniversary just around the corner, it shows we have the experience and knowledge to continue to lead the way in online automotive marketing.’
www.findsyou.com, 020 7255 5148
THE internet is great, but it isn’t quite perfect. As Steve Leighton, chief operating officer of findsyou.com, explains: ‘The inability to interact with dealers can make searching for cars on the web a very impersonal experience for buyers.
‘It’s no surprise that the car industry has not really taken advantage of the opportunities online
affords as yet.’ But he has a solution, which could help drive real business to you in 2010. Findsyou.com is the first online ‘wanted’ noticeboard that helps put car traders directly in touch with car buyers.
‘Findsyou.com provides an environment in which, simply put, all dealers, irrespective of size, can compete on product, price and service alone.
This is in stark contrast with the large number of aggregation websites and search engines out there, that display results heavily biased towards the dealers that pay the most in advertising or search engine optimisation.’
How does it work? Well, instead of potential car buyers having to trawl through hundreds of listings on aggregation sites and search engines, they can instead simply post details of the exact car they’re seeking on the findsyou.com noticeboard.
This then does all the legwork for them. It contacts suitable traders, to hunt out cars that meet these exact requirements, saving time, money and frustration for all concerned. The traders who have these cars in stock are then invited to directly contact those potential buyers.
‘It’s a more personalised and effective service for potential buyers,’ said Leighton. ‘By joining us, dealerships are showing that they are committed to extending the personal touch beyond their showrooms and into the online marketplace.
‘We’re confident that this additional sales
channel, with the ability to better screen and
proactively target potential leads, will help them tap into a lucrative new customer base.’
Indeed, if you haven’t yourself, you may at least know a car dealer that’s signed up – Leighton reports that more than 2,500 have joined, with Mercedes Retail, Mitsubishi, Citroen, Renault and some of the larger franchised groups all
represented. There’s also a sizeable collection
of independent car dealers too, he adds.
The proof is in the pudding. ‘It’s working – sales are being made through the site!’ Could this more efficient internet search solution provide the money-making marketing alternative that will help you win big in 2010?
www.Cartakeback.com, 0845 257 3233
SCRAPPAGE has been the saviour for many franchised car dealers. But, being a government scheme, it also has its downsides – not least the amount of paperwork behind it.
Anecdotes to the Car Dealer Magazine office have revealed the extraordinary amount of legwork you chaps have to do, in order to get your £1,000 from the government. What’s more, one slip and you can put your entire payout at risk.
One of the keys to it is actually scrapping the car. Enter Cartakeback, the chaps who really have proven to be knights in armour for many car dealers this year. They are, no less, the complete scrappage package. That ropey old motor sitting on your forecourt, cluttering the place and costing you £1,000 for the pleasure? One email to them can sort it in a jiffy.
‘We are here to take the hassle out of scrappage,’ the firm’s Alison Price told us.
Complicated thing, the End of Life Vehicle Directive. It means getting the official paperwork to get your scrappage money back maybe isn’t as straightforward as you’d think.
With Cartakeback, though, it can be sitting in your email inbox in minutes: courtesy of 300-plus vehicle recycling centres, they have the capacity to give official scrappage documentation to more than two million cars a year. And have provided the route to £1,000 for more than 80,000 scrappage clients.
It’s not an easy thing, scrapping a car. It isn’t just a matter of taking it down the scrapyard and dodging the Alsatians. Some 85 per cent of a car has to be reused and recovered – and that total will rise to 95 per cent in 2015.
Virtually all of the car has to be turned back into something useful!
Luckily, these guys can do that for you. Then email you the Certificate of Destruction, plus
payment (with VAT on top), faster than you can work out how much they’ve actually paid out in scrappage monies. (It’s £10.1m, by the way).
What’s potentially a right old hassle is made easy as pie. No wonder they’re responsible for recycling 70 per cent of the cars on our road – including brands such as Ford, VW, Renault, Peugeot and Audi. As scrappage reaches a crescendo in 2010, the scrabble to snare funds and beat the deadline is going to be intense. With Cartakeback though, the only thing you need to worry about remains finding the new car stock…
www.mytradeauction.com, 0844 4103 103
THE secret to mytradeauction.com is insider knowledge.
Not only does the firm run a successful auction site, explains director Nick Wenger, but it also owns several car dealerships. Who else can boast experience from both sides of the fence?
Not that Wenger, and business partner Paul Rogers, are being overly bold. ‘We don’t claim to be unique,’ says Wenger. ‘No auction site is – but what we can claim is that the customer service you receive from us will be superb. We promise to speak with the dealer, on your behalf, and provide you with all the info you need. Even at weekends!’
So strongly does Wenger believe in the site, it is used to pre-sell all the car dealerships’ part-exchanges. This has the added benefit of aiding cashflow, and ensuring there’s always an even healthier selection of cars on there.
Mytradeauction.com’s unique feature is proxy bidding, and it is this that will see it make big gains in 2010. ‘We are the only independent site to offer this functionality, which allows a trader to enter a maximum bid and carry on working while the site bids on their behalf.’
It’s all very straightforward to use, too. ‘We knew from owning dealerships ourselves that this site need to be simple.’
It’s supported by a marketing agency that boasts a blue chip client base. ‘An expensive route,’ admits Wenger, ‘but the fact we had the dealerships providing cash flow meant we did not need to rely solely on the income generated from the site.
Wenger makes it easy for you to get on board. ‘We don’t charge any new dealer for a month – we like them to try the site and to experience how easy it is to add their vehicles.’
And the anecdotal evidence proves the wisdom of this approach. ‘Recently, a dealer told us he would only use his local trader to dispose of his part exchanges. However, having taken us up on our offer of a month’s free trail, he is now questioning the amount of profit he had lost out on in the past!’
What further impressed that trader was the charging structure after the month’s free trial. ‘We don’t charge yearly or monthly fees, no buying fees – only if it hits the reserve price will dealers pay £39. This, we have been told, is the cheapest around.’
The site was only launched two months ago, but already has 600 traders registered. Wenger reveals discussions are ongoing right now with many more car dealers keen to get on board. It may be young, but it’s growing fast.
www.anytext.co.uk, 0845 638 1421
WE TEXT way more than we call. Customers read far more texts than they take calls: how many of us see a strange number and don’t answer? Compare this to texts – almost every one is read.
That’s the magic of Anytext Services. They offer you a means of contacting customers directly via text. Even better, you can do this from your PC, in a flash. Yes, fear not: text contact doesn’t have to mean clicking away at the Nokia…
Indeed, says boss Michael Green, doing it via Anytext Services can be three to four times cheaper than other methods: what’s more, setting it up is free. Not a bad way to advertise anything you like – promotions, new stock, special offers, aftersales incentives, ‘car ready’ reminders, MOT reminders, service due reminders… you name it. The service even allows you to send images by text.
‘Another advantage,’ said Green, ‘is that texts are automatically stored, so all the information is there in front of your customer whenever they want it. Even if they do pick up their voicemail, they won’t necessarily have a pen.’
There’s a legion of clever ways you can use it. Have a customer enquiring about a car you don’t have in stock? Then take their number: as soon as that car comes back in stock, you can send them a text alert.
Low intrusion, so you won’t be seen as hassling them – yet at the same time you’re almost guaranteed to get their undivided attention. And then, who knows what! Green says the firm’s focus on specialist end markets such as car dealers has enabled them to really hone some canny solutions to help drive business.
A couple of enterprising firms have even pre-scheduled texts. Yes, you can actually pre-programme a text to be sent out at a specific time: Green’s clients have chosen New Year’s Eve, to thank customers for their business in 2009. Who’s to say you can’t pick other special events to tie in with? There really is no end to the applications such an affordable, easy to use system offers.
It’s not as if the texts will be perceived as spam, either. Anytext Services’ clever software enables you to display not a number, but the name of your car dealer as sender of the text. Instant recognition, and yet another way of getting your name before people.
Remember, there are more mobile phones in the UK than there are people… the potential to
contact these cheaply, and guarantee near-universal attention, is pretty compelling, don’t you think?
www.bca-europe.com, 0845 600 6644
AUCTION firm BCA’s Tim Naylor is in no doubt that 2010 will continue to present big
challenges to car dealers. Thus, he says, ‘making the best use of time, money and stock will be absolutely crucial.’ This is where BCA comes in.
The firm has more stock than any other auction company – and more auction centres, plus a
website that makes bidding and buying online a piece of cake. This all supports Naylor’s mission: ‘To make life as easy as possible for the trade.’
Take the website, he said. One of the driving design aims was to make it easy to navigate through and find the cars dealers actually want to buy. A reason, perhaps, for it attracting three
times the traffic of its nearest rival? That’s not BCA’s figures, either, but audited data from
Experian Hitwise: ‘This will in turn generate even more buying power for sellers,’ says Naylor.
‘In particular, the integrated Auction View functionality now gives trade buyers a seamless web experience. And for professional buyers, it provides access to the best selection of retail quality stock in the UK – from instant market valuations to instant purchase.’
Meanwhile, sellers are further boosted by many more BCA benefits, all of which aim to lessen the time to sell, strengthen retained values and improve market churn.
‘Sellers get improved efficiency, with instant access to account details and bespoke reports as well as direct links from MyBCA into BCA sister companies – UFD, for example, to arrange transport, or JTK Automotive to check pipeline stock.’
These partnerships extend further too, as Naylor explains: ‘BCA has partnerships with all the major fleet companies in the UK.’ This ensures that it has the widest range of stock from its 21 locations.
As a result, BCA can offer a staggering number of cars and vans through auction, with a huge range of choice from small city cars through to top of the line executive models.
All these complementary channels bring buyers and sellers together. That’s why, Naylor says: ‘It’s the number one partner for motor dealers in 2010.’
MOBIL 1 remained the world’s leading synthetic engine oil during 2009.
Once again, it also helped power the pinnacle of motorsport to TWO world championship wins: yes, Brit star Jenson Button’s Brawn F1 racer was powered by Mobil 1 in the Mercedes-engined machine.
The firm has continued its ongoing programme to help car dealerships make the most from its premium oil product, too. The educational, results-driven programme it has developed to help dealers maximise top-up sales is one such example of this.
Long service intervals mean car services are further apart nowadays. This means the number of bulk fills of engine oil is falling – meaning car dealers are making less money from them.
This is where Mobil 1 can help. The firm has evidence that proves dealers who focus on increasing their pool of service customers can make a healthy 25 per cent improvement on bulk fills. That’s because they sell an extra litre for every four-litres sold, as part of the routine maintenance cycle.
How? Top-up pack awareness and incentivisation. An incredible 65 per cent of all top-up packs are sold at petrol stations. That statistic alone is evidence of something we all anecdotally know – that buying a one-litre top-up pack is a distress purchase for most motorists.
The Mobil 1 training scheme asks two questions of car dealers: Why were these people not already carrying a bottle? And why had the car dealer failed to sell it to them in the first place during a regular service?
It’s not to say, though, that top-up packs are the only area to generate extra profits. They can be driven from in-service fills and even trade sales, too. Dealers can also make the most of Mobil 1 aftersales schemes such as data sourcing.
And there’s plenty more too: 2010 is going to be the year for many such innovative solutions from Mobil 1 – take an enhancement of the Vehicle Health Check system that Mobil 1 offers, for example, which will help drive profit growth by highlighting up-sale opportunities. There is also an online product selector, plus an internet solution for franchised car dealers called Servicing Direct.
For three decades, Mobil 1 has used motorsport to test, develop and improve its oils. Indeed, one of the trick SuperSyn technologies used in the oil car dealers stock on their shelves actually began life in F1 engines of the 1990s!
This has earned it an enviable reputation – which it now reckons can help car dealers make money from the prestige and sales this name brings.
www.wmswarranty.co.uk, 0844 477 4909
WARRANTY Management Services has a really simple proposal for you to muse over while you drink the sherry and eat the mince pies: Make extra profit from each deal!
‘It’s what we do,’ said Eric Stone. ‘We make you money.’ Can’t say fairer than that! And Christmas is an ideal time to consider just how WMS can help, he says. ‘The showroom is locked, the staff are at home with their families and you are left with the responsibility of driving the business.’
To help you plan for next year, WMS has an online showroom for all its many products. This will help showcase all the various offers in an easily legible form, so car dealers can consider the many merits of each.
These products include GAP and Return to Invoice insurance, MOT failure plans, wheel & tyre cover, even breakdown recovery plans. These add-on aftersales goldmines can really boost the money made from each sale, explains Stone.
You don’t need to worry about any pre-existing deals, either. ‘You can, of course, remain tied to a warranty provider that keeps your profit and dictates the gameplan.’ Flexibility is the name of the game for WMS – the online showroom is set to enhance this ease of use in 2010.
Despite 2009 making everyone fight against some of the worst financial situations in most of our memories, the year has been one of continued growth for WMS. ‘We promise in 2010 that we will continue to work hard to supply products and services to increase car dealers’ profitability,’ said Stone.
‘This year, we have increased our sales and support staff, expanded into Northern Ireland and Scotland, and recruited many new dealers to the WMS family.’ For which the entire management team thanks all of its loyal car dealers for their ongoing support.
‘More and more of our business partners are seeing real benefits from a company that can provide solutions to fit your own unique business requirements,’ he said. The
showroom showcase will, in 2010, make it even easier to discover these.
www.dragon2000.co.uk, 0845 838 2000
‘WE see 2010 as being another growth year as we introduce new product lines,’ says Mark Kelland, sales and marketing executive at Dragon2000.
Several key products are to drive this in 2010, for the 6,000-plus users of the DMS system across the UK.
It’s lower-volume car dealers who are set to receive welcome attention, as Dragon2000 rolls out its smart Car Dealer Stockbook.
It can manage new and used stock, advertising details, invoices, even VAT records. If you’re struggling with spreadsheets, this one’s for you.
There’s more, too. DragonRPM will be launched in 2010, which will extend the DMS offer to help monitor business performance and KPIs. This all-inclusive performance monitor, which works in real time, will be launched in the first quarter of 2010.
Dragon2000 will also roll out History Wizard, as an aid to help those migrating from other DMS. Existing data can be added to, edited and cleansed in an entirely operator-customisable way.
Microsoft and Intel are so impressed, they’ve given Dragon2000 official recognition. ‘Dragon2000 has gone through Microsoft’s approval programme for compatibility for Windows 7 users,’ Kelland told us. ‘We are also actively working with other data platforms and hosting packages in order to offer maximum flexibility to our users.’ If Bill Gates and co say they’re good, then that’s good enough for us.
You can get 12 months’ subscription to Stockbook – AND a netbook computer! – for £495. Data History Wizard costs £495 per network, and the firm promises DragonRPM will be competitively priced when it’s launched in 2010.
Nothing stands still in the IT world, Kelland added. That’s why Dragon2000 continues to roll out the initiatives, meaning 2010 will be another busy one for the firm. Sign up and let them help you too. With the added bonus of getting a trick new computer thrown in for free.
Sole traders, multi-franchise operations and a rapidly growing overseas market are all on board. ‘And with pay-as-you-go “Software as a Service” rental initiatives to make it as easy as possible. We really are in reach of all businesses,’ Kelland added.
www.zype.co.uk, 07955 113667
WHAT’S the next logical step in online communications and interaction with website customers? You’ll soon realise it if you appreciate the problems of the logistics involved: buyers are remote, not in front of you.
So why not bring your cars and your car dealership live into their homes and living rooms, via the power of cutting-edge technology? That’s the promise of Zype’s Andrew Howells, whose C It Now product will help car dealers ‘broaden their hinterland’.
‘They’re spending big on websites, on effective SEO. Now they need to enhance this through
better communications with remote customers,’ he says. ‘By default, C It Now gives them a completely new customer base, and a huge broadening of their business.’
Zype’s C It Now is a live online video presentation tool. It enables car dealers to provide bespoke TV shows for customers, no matter where they are in the world. This real-time demonstration can be conducted on the exact car they’ve just searched for and chosen on the internet. The personal touch does not get better than this.
‘Customers love live video,’ says Howells. ‘It’s hard to quantify just how this can help sales – but believe me, it really does work. You’re letting the customer conduct things on their terms, no matter where they are in the world. This makes it far more likely for them to then follow it up with a showroom visit.’
The films are produced live by the car dealer, who communicates to the customer via a headset. ‘This means they can view online and focus in on any aspects particular to that customer,’ said
Howells. ‘They are in control.’
For 2010, Zype will be showcasing its archiving facility. This means that any potential buyer who’s keen on the car can take part in the presentation, then download the video they’ve just made and share it with others later. This is extremely clever – effectively, it’s a personalised car TV show, featuring what could well be their next new car. Everyone they know can see this at the click of a computer mouse.
Following on from this, people are much more likely to buy, confirms Chester Volvo’s Phil
McCaffery. He’s been using it for a while now, and reports people see it as a commitment – the conversion rate is extremely high.
‘If two dealers are offering the same car, for the same price, they’re much more likely to buy the car shown to them through live video. It’s the next-best thing to actually coming in,’ he says.
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