Times have changed drastically for Auto Dealers in the past decade. Car business is quickly changing and smart dealers are embracing Internet tech to score more leads. Are you keeping up with changing technology that effects your bottom line?
Auto dealers are notoriously late adopters of new tech. In our current state of rapid technological advancement more and more dealerships are closing their doors forever. Don’t let that happen to your dealership!
Are you are a small independent auto dealer with a handful of cars? If so a simple website with an integral inventory manager will work well.
For the medium to larger sized auto dealers that move quite a few cars. There are providers who offer inventory management and offer export services. The export is a nightly updated feed of your inventory pulled by sites like cars.com, autotrader.com, Craigslist, and various classified websites.
This setup is usually the auto dealers main website. It displays the inventory to site visitors. And it also collects email leads and credit applications that are sent to the dealerships contact person’s. Most of these providers also offer unlimited exports to Craigslist. And on a per vehicle basis exported to eBay Motors.
The dealer and their assigned sales people has a back end log-in to the website. Once logged into the system vehicles can be added or flagged as sold. This is your total inventory control system. You mark a car sold and select the venue the car was sold from. The system flags that sold vehicle for removal during the nightly export process. The dealer never needs to log into individual websites. All the car dealers inventory management is done from one central location. The dealer can also access their traffic statistics at any time to see where your leads are coming from etc.
Now here is where the Newbie Internet Auto Dealer needs to pay attention. If you have decided that an Inventory Management System is whats best for your car dealership. There are a ton of auto dealer inventory management providers who will promise the world to get the sale. Many car dealer website salespeople are former car salesmen. Prices vary depending on how fancy you want your site to look. A decent package that looks great can be had for as little as $160 per month. Premium packages with home page intro video, and fancy layouts can get real expensive. Keep it simple and easy for consumers to navigate.
We recommend starting out with a basic package. For the most part the basic services are the same. It’s the design and hosting of premium packages that cost the most and do nothing for the websites operation. You can upgrade at any time to a premium graphics package.
Now that we have covered car dealer inventory management websites and how they handle your inventory and sales leads. The next and most important thing to consider is SEO – Search Engine Optimization. It’s imperative the dealer understands what counts most is how your inventory is is presented to search engines. it’s not what they do that counts – it’s how they do it that matters most. Personally i like Auto Revo and their basic package is top notch and easily customized and SEO tweaked.
It’s important to find a provider that incorporates good auto dealer SEO – Search Engine Optimization into their websites. Most of you guys remember when Auto Trader Magazine was the king of car sales. We had a dealer rep that came by each week and took out photos and ad copies. Folks looking for a car would go buy an Auto Trader Magazine at the local convenience store and shop for a car.
Times have changed from those early days when Internet came rolling in. Back then our Auto Trader Magazine rep cursed autotrader.com, as most of the auto dealers had switched to it. Autotrader.com had an option back then to also put your cars in the local magazine as well. Thanks to AOL back then just about anyone could get online with little knowledge of how the net worked.
The trend soon changed to internet surfers shopping online for that used car There was a much better selection of pre-owned cars on the internet site than the magazine. TV and Radio stations were advertising autotrader.com as the place to find any car you are looking for. Buyers flocked to it in droves searching for their best deal and then going to the dealers lot for a test drive. Other sites soon popped up and were advertising to shop for your next car on their site too.
So now here we are in 2017 and there are thousands of websites and apps offering used cars for sale. It is no longer practical to go directly to one site or another looking for your next used car. Enter the GoogleBot to the scene and the other major crawler based search engines. These search engines do just what their name implies. They crawl the Internets billions of pages where data is evaluated and hopefully added to their index.
That’s where Auto Dealer SEO is so important. The whole trick is getting your website on that 1st page without buying ads! Smart used car shoppers use Internet search to locate the vehicle they want. They scour the net and bookmark several cars to compare before sending an email or making a phone call. That’s why it’s so important to be found on the 1st page of search results.
Some car dealer website providers offer great looking websites, but it totally stink in the SEO department. Nobody can find the dealers website or the vehicles on it without knowing it’s domain name. Others think FREE is GREAT and use one of those free builder websites that is loaded up with competitors ads. They get just what they paid for it NOTHING! They could be selling twice the cars with a reasonable monthly investment but will not invest in their business. These kind of dealers have no clue just how much money they are loosing by not having a productive digitally well built website.
These days very few buyers go driving down used car row to see what’s for sale. They do all their research online, look at cars, view CarFax reports, etc. Very few pick up a newspaper to shop for a car these days.
Most buyers will email a seller with some basic questions. The faster you reply to their questions the greater the chance you have of making a sale. A good Internet person will use a smartphone to answer emails wherever they are. You got to get those sales leads while there hot. And especially before your competition grabs the lead. Competition is real competitive don’t let your leads get lost in cyberspace.
Those are Doc’s thoughts for the day. He got into the car business back in 1972 and has witnessed so many changes since then. His passion has always been Electronics and TV Radio repair as a teen before getting into the car business. When computers and the Internet came along he fell right into it. These days Doc is retired from the used car business and studies how the net works religiously. He follows Google like a hawk and has spent countless hours studying search engine algorithms.
Don’t let your used car lot die from the old technology blues. Contact Doc and tell him about your operation. He can run some analysis and make suggestions how to increase your sales. There is nothing better than a former auto dealer and salesperson and internet guru with exceptional skills to boost your sales.
Update 04/22/1017: This article was originally published 09/14/2013 and has been updated to reflect important changes to car dealer internet technology. Doc is now retired but is offering his advice to other dealers free of charge.
Comment below or Contact Doc for a free website evaluation.
Retired Used Car Dealer (trust-me) and ASE Cert Mechanic with over 40 years experience. I'm also a Hobbyist DOS days Fidonet Bulletin Board System Operator (BBS SysOp) turned net guru. Just hanging out in cyberspace keeping up with tech!