One of our GM’s sent me an email with a link to another dealership who had a welcome video on their homepage yesterday. He thought it was very good, and he was right! The video quality was good, the speaker was good, and the background looked good. It was a good welcome video. The only problem is that I hate welcome videos, and this one was no exception because aside from welcoming me to the dealership website it was telling me how to use the navigation bar C’mon. Seriously. Obviously this dealership thinks I’ve never been on the Internet before. I wanted my 30 seconds back after that. If I were shopping for a car I may or may not have started with the dealer’s website, but chances are I wasn’t born yesterday, bought a computer, then decided it was time to buy a car and I was going to start with a dealership website. It is probably safe to assume a consumer knows how to use your navigation bar. And that dead horse has been beaten.
Sorry about the rant, but I figured I’d give you some incite into what enticed me to write this article. It wasn’t just another dealer’s welcome video, but that was the final straw that broke this camel’s back. For years I’ve been looking at some really dumb stuff in our industry. Whether that be the newspaper ad with more disclaimer than ad or a car being released called the Aztek, we have all done or witnessed some moranisms (like that word?). Let’s talk about some of the genius work that is happening online…maybe I should contract with a publisher before I get started on that.
On second thought I don’t have the patience for a publisher so let’s begin with where a lot of this started: the manufacturer. Granted, when the Internet became a consumer device none of us really knew how to tackle it for selling cars. You couldn’t box a car up and ship it somewhere as easily as you could a book. Forget the past, let’s look at 3 things the OEM’s still dictate we dealers do:
- Some, not most, still require a dealer to go to a special Internet Lead Management site to only respond to a lead for the first time. WTF is that all about? So we responded once – I guess we’re going to sell that Hyundai now! Why don’t all the manufacturers work with the CRM companies to help dealers streamline their processes and sell more cars?
- What is the point of these OEM-dictated websites anyway? If you’re going to force my hand, why have them? Just build one VW or MINI website and show the entire nation’s inventory then have a specials section that dealers can upload specials to. You’re not offering a benefit to the dealer or the consumer by forcing uniforms in school. And last I checked your corporate representative either doesn’t live in this marketplace, just moved to this market, and probably doesn’t have a degree in advertising so what makes you think you know how to market in this market?
- Are you so naive to think a consumer looking for a Honda is not going to look at a Camry too? Why do manufacturers require these dealer OEM sites? This particular thing hasn’t been talked about too often, but I think it is so silly to have them. There is no other industry that I know of who separates its products. If I am in the market for a TV, I go to Best Buy’s website and can look at Sony’s and Samsungs right next to each other. Why do we make consumers jump through these silly hoops?
How about a quick look at some of the things we dealers do to keep the rule of equal incompetence going strong:
- Egos: whoa buddy we’ve got some big ones ’round these parts. Let’s put someone with a face for radio and a voice for the newspaper into a video on our homepage…or on TV. Let’s put a welcome message up telling us how to use the nav bar. Who wants to see that? What other industries use a welcome message anyway?
- Frames: I like frames for things you can’t duplicate with your site provider like the service scheduling modules. Until the site providers build this technology themselves, I think frames are the only way to do this. The frames that are bad are the ones where a dealer was too lazy to update the incentives/specials so he just framed in Honda’s national website showing the current Honda incentives. That page was never intended to be a frame, so it looks like you’ve got a website inside a website with links to your competitors. That’s just dumb.
- Video: we have gone wild with video. I think some dealers are just running around with a video camera and throwing it online without any editing or thought as to what the message is. Before you ever hit the record button you need to think about what you’re trying to do – what is the message you want to get across and if it is how to use your navigation bar…um…you might want to think a little harder. You really don’t want a consumer wanting those 30 seconds back. Oh yeah, that older generation who we think can’t use the Internet isn’t watching your videos – they’re reading your site content instead (that generation read books) – don’t put a welcome message telling them how to use the nav bar because they’re never going to see it.
- SEO: I’m guilty of this, but am making an effort to get away from it. Yes, SEO is extremely important, but not the generic content of “Thank you for visiting our online dealership in Virginia Beach, Virginia where we carry blah, blah, blah” – nobody wants to read that and I believe you’re just training your visitors to ignore the written content on your site. We need to get more creative with this.
- The About Us Page: do you even pay attention to this page on your website? ‘nough said.
- Site statistics: the most overlooked statistic in a dealership, but just as important as knowing how many customers walked in the door last month. I guess we still view our websites the same way we looked at television, radio, and newspaper ads: with a quick question – “Did we get any floor traffic off the website this weekend?”
I can go on and on. I’m sure many of you can continue to add to what I’ve typed, and we could do this forever. The real question is what are we doing about it? Are you even aware of these things?
Yes, I am totally aware that the automotive industry is a different retail beast than any other industry, but that doesn’t mean we can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. If you do any online research or shopping, then you probably know what you like in a retail website and what you don’t. Have you ever thought that your customers may have those same opinions? If you could figure out how to navigate another website’s nav bar, maybe your consumers can figure out how to navigate yours. And no boss, you don’t get prettier with age.
Disclaimer: can I make this longer than this novel of a blog article like one of those dealer newspaper ads? Nah, I’ll be serious here. Debate is something that makes us better. If you don’t like some of the things I’ve stated here, I can assure you my intention was not to insult you. This is an attempt at education or at the minimum to spark a debate on some of these topics.
To my GM – keep bringing me all your ideas. You’re one of the most innovative people I know and value your opinion anytime you want to give it. Even if my answers are a little harsh or blunt from time to time, just brush those off your shoulder and keep things coming! Let’s continue the debates.