The internet is making consumers increasingly demanding… and it’s up to car dealers to meet that challenge. that’s according to Alex Rose, associate industry manager (automotive) for Google, who gave a fascinating insight into the workings of the international internet and software corporation at the Car Dealer Profit clinic.
Rose, based at the company’s London office, works mainly with manufacturers but increasingly large dealer groups too. His job is to make sure people get the best out of Google’s products: mainly the search engine but also offerings such as YouTube and display banner advertising.
He bombarded his audience with a host of quick-fire facts designed to equip them for the year ahead and help them boost their profits.
Underpinning the modern way of doing business is the slogan: ‘content is king’. As the company says, marketing content used to be your ‘ad creatives’ and product information. But in a digital world, content needs to be completely redefined to include forums and communities, product reviews and surveys, games, videos, gadgets and viral marketing – all of which can help shape consumer perceptions of your product and brand.
Rose revealed that Google runs an annual survey involving 500 UK consumers who have bought a car in the last 12 months and looks at how they went about researching and buying that car.
He said 85 per cent of them would use search engines, with the majority turning to Google – and that search engine users presented a great opportunity for car dealers.
‘There’s one point that’s really key about people who use search engines,’ said Rose. ‘They are a different sort of consumer. People who don’t use search engines are less open-minded and more brand loyal.
‘Those guys who search online are more likely to present a conquest opportunity for your business. The more unusual the thing that people are looking for, the more likely they are to use a search engine to find it.
‘It’s all about demystifying the large amount of information that’s out there’
‘When it comes to finding manufacturer sites, Ford.co.uk for example, people could probably guess that, but seven out of 10 people are still going to use a search engine to get there. When it comes to consumer reviews and ratings sites, 75 per cent of people will look for those via a search engine. It’s all about demystifying the large amount of information that’s out there.
‘Online usage when it comes to people buying cars is pretty dominant. Dealer visits are still critical but a visit to a dealership is becoming more of an affirmation of their intended purchase.’
Among a host of other fascinating insights into the way your customers are using the web to make their car-buying decisions, Rose revealed:
1. Year on year, there has been an increase of 27 per cent in the number of people carrying out offer-related searches to do with cars involving categories such as car finance, deals, discounts and upgrades.
2. Across the broader retail environment, that figure is 56 per cent.
3. Although vouchers and coupons may have been seen as a ‘little bit low rent’ in the past, things have changed with companies such as Groupon thriving like never before.
4. Brand loyalty is currently running at 48 per cent meaning that a Ford owner searching for a new car is less than 50 per cent likely to end up in another Ford.
5. 94 per cent of consumers use the internet at some point, meaning it is ‘key at every stage’.
6. January is the biggest month for car searches.
Rose said the biggest challenge for car dealers was standing out online and in an interesting comparison to the way a supermarket is laid out, said your position on the ‘digital shelf’ was all-important. he drew comparisons with ‘end- caps’ in supermarkets – the shelves at the end of the aisles where clear offers can be displayed to attract customers and sell more products.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, he was keen to highlight the ways in which Google can help car dealers make the most of web-based opportunities… by using the company’s ‘paid search’ facility as well as ‘natural search’.
‘When it comes to search advertising, there is no minimum commitment,’ said Rose. ‘You can pause your ad whenever you want, you can have the budget you want and most of all you only pay when when someone decides to interact with your ad. and that’s obviously by clicking through and visiting your website.’
Transparency is key too, with the ability to measure your return on investment.
‘You can say exactly what you want to the right customer at the right time. You can target to a radius round your dealership and you can even target by time of day,’ Rose added. ‘But there is a more fundamental way you can target your ad. And that’s by deciding the key words, the words you type in, when your ad appears.’
Perhaps the key point from rose was that your website has never been more important to the success of your business than it is now.