CD Web Guide

Torq of the Town

Time 11:32 pm, June 23, 2009

Speed and flexibility are everything when it comes to building your online presence. Richard Aucock finds out how Autotorq works its web magic


STEWART Niblock’s sole aim is to make the internet easy for you. How many times have we heard that before? But here, he’s not kidding

Chief operating officer of Autotorq, his job is to demystify the world of the web. And he uses one marker to measure success here: how much money you make.

‘We tell dealers how they can boost profits by 15-20 per cent,’ he explains. ‘And show them how we can do it.’

If you like this, you’ll love how he goes about doing it: by getting his team to talk with you. Tell them what you want, and they can help you do it. That’s it? Oh, sure, there’s a bit more to it than that – but only as much as you want.

Tell them to just make a website that is fresh, manufacturer-compliant, that helps you sell more cars and make more cash, and that’s just what they’ll do. ‘Listening is half the battle,’ says Niblock.

Interesting. So what exactly is Autotorq? Well, it’s a company that grew out of long-established digital agency Global Beach. That company was set up 14 years ago – created as the internet started to become the revolution it is today, and growing throughout that time in parallel with it.

Global Beach developed a strong suite of automotive brands among its clients – including Jaguar, Bentley and firms from the West Coast of the US.

However, as the company diversified, it was decided a stronger focus solely on automotive was needed. So, 18 months ago, the cars side was split out, and Autotorq formed.

‘The logic here was to go after the industry in a big way,’ says Niblock. ‘The car world is not as sophisticated in its use of the web as other industries. With our platforms, we aimed to offer state of the art solutions to car dealers.’

bentleyQuickly, the firm grew. Right now, it operates in 50 countries, and develops websites in 24 languages (‘that’s a job in itself!’ says Niblock). And this worldwide reach is something you can directly benefit from.

‘We are able to take best practice from all nations, and offer to it car dealers in all other countries. The UK market, for example, has a very well developed used car sector. In Japan, though, it is virtually non-existent. This experience goes to them, while we pick up and share their highly advanced use of modern technology.’

Not many can do this.

All of this is harnessed, and revealed, by that dialogue stream. It’s the whole ethos of how the company works, and benefits stretch far and wide. For example, senior account director Branson Atterbury often finds car dealers will tell them stuff they wouldn’t tell the manufacturer.

‘This means we can take on board the true feelings of both parties – and come up with a solution that suits both,’ he says. ‘We’re the glue between both, giving each what they want.’

Carmakers, as we all know, have mandates imposed from manufacturers. All dealers have to use so-and-so, for instance. Fine; Autotorq ensures that.

But it also makes sure dealer X can develop a bespoke site, playing on the strengths and differences he has over the same-brand dealer Y, five miles up the road.

Subtle, yes, and an important part of what the company does.

Any such configuration happens fast, too. Crucial, in the new web world, Niblock says. There’s no point thinking of creative new ways to do things, if it takes weeks on end to see your brainstorms in action. Autotorq’s systems let reconfigurations happen in minutes; clever software engineers have toiled for months, so you don’t have to…


‘We’ve already done all the hard work,’ says Niblock. ‘It’s something car dealers simply don’t have to fear. They’re there to sell cars – not spend eight hours a day at the computer…’

For those wanting more guidance, Autotorq has even developed a bureau-type consultancy service. You don’t need the expense of employing your own new media expert; instead, get Autotorq in for a few days, and they’ll bring you right up to date. ‘Smaller car dealers in particular appreciate the insights into performance we offer.’

This is on top of the training it gives as part of the sign-up package – generally, in classrooms of eight, off site. ‘We find this is the best way to train,’ says Atterbury. ‘We can guarantee full concentration.’

Looking ahead, the major area for growth and profit generation is customer interaction, says Niblock. Now, we’ve all heard about internet ‘journeys’. Virtual trips through your virtual showroom. Often it sounds like marketing mumbo-jumbo, but not here. Niblock says Autotorq actually imagines they’re a customer ‘walking’ into a showroom when they develop their tools and sites.

So, if someone ‘walks’ straight over to, say, the car finance ‘desk’ (or section on the website), they can still be hooked into the car-buying process. Just as the real dealer wouldn’t be thrown by a customer doing this, neither are Autotorq’s websites.

beforeandafterWhat’s more, the customer is presented with all the options relevant to them from that point on, too. If you visit a real life finance desk, you certainly wouldn’t be told about the latest MOT deals.

Nor will you be on an Autotorq site, either. But, all the gen on the latest special finance offers? There in bold will they be displayed…

All part of the process customers now demand from a website. So quickly have things moved on, it’s no longer enough just to have a static web page, which you upload stock lists on to every now and again.

These days, you need to be interactive. You need to be configurable. You need to be the car-dealing version of Facebook, ‘Web 2.0, it’s called,’ says Atterbury. ‘Our new developments are fully in line with the new standards they’ve bought. And, all the many new tricks and tools.’

This can even help KEEP existing customers. Crucial right now. For, retention rates are dropping. A few years ago, they were 48 per cent. Today, the average is just 37 per cent. ‘We give car dealers the tools to improve this.’

Hang on, you’re thinking. Surely that decline in retention coincides with the growth in importance of the internet? Coincidence… and not in a good way? Quite the opposite, says Niblock, so long as you’re aware of why the number is declining.

‘Current internet best-practices are focused in acquisition and sales. Car dealers are generally very good at this – dealers have fully grasped the importance of SEO, for example – but few have harnessed the customer retention tools offered by the internet.

‘This is why we have developed all-new CRM tools for our very latest systems. We see customer retention as the next big leap forward.’

But this, he warns, is a game of high stakes. Many people may be talking about whizzy eCRM – but, if you get it wrong, you’ve lost that lead in a flash.

Yes, you can send out an email for 1p. Compare this with the cost of sending out a letter – £1 is the oft-quoted figure. 500 mails for a fiver, instead of a monkey? You can see why it’s such an enticing proposition. But be careful.

As Niblock says, you don’t want to be sending out the blanket email he recently saw. To an existing owner, advertising cars that, in every instance, were older than the one they currently owned.

Branson Atterbury

Branson Atterbury

‘Blanket emails are spam. To run a successful email campaign, you have to offer something bespoke to that person,’ he says.

You also need to be fast in responding to them. ‘We know that if you contact any customer following up a lead with you within 20 minutes, you double the conversion rate. Leave it four hours, though, and they’ll not only go to another dealer, they could even go to another brand.’

Blimey. So that’s why ‘the importance of the right response here is so critical on all levels’.

Listen to Niblock and Atterbury, and the ideas really do start to flow. They show you how the web can be exciting, how you can profit from it, the many opportunities it offers to your business. While, all the time, taking away the need for you to worry about the ‘how’. Couldn’t be easier.

For more on what can do for you visit their website by clicking here or call 020 7384 8510.

Want more Car Dealer Guide to the Web? Find it here


James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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