Opinions & Advice

The Car Shopper on Your Website has Changed, Have You Noticed?

Shoppers love car shopping on the ‘net.

For the last decade they’ve used the internet as their primary vehicle shopping tool.  Internet shoppers on your site right now are on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th “internet vehicle”… BUT, something has changed!  What’s different this time?

This is the 1st time your internet shopper has been in a recession while shopping for a car.

Never before have your Internet Marketing efforts been more important to you, your store and to your very cautious car shopper.  News of the Recession is everywhere (and so is the evidence) so it’s no surprise our car shopper in 2010 is very cautious and is taking their time.  I can confirm this “cautious shopper” observation via our post sale survey we do at delivery. This year’s results clearly show that impulse buying is down dramatically and cautious shopping has grown in its place. (e.g. shopping under 2 weeks is way down and shopping more than 2 months is up).

Here’s some more proof, compare the 2 Google charts below…

Google stats:

  • June “Vehicle Shopping” searches at 6 year low
  • June “Vehicle Maintenance” searches at 6 year high

—I’ve put a circle over June on each year so you can easily compare year over year changes—

Recession’s traditionally create strong used car markets as the New car buyer steps down to a used vehicle to find more value,  but, the recession of 2010 is different, used cars are very rare and so expensive that the price gap between new and used are at historical lows. What’s that mean?  The “Used Vehicle vs. New Vehicle Value Equation” sucks!  You can see the all time high prices for used cars in the Manheim Used Vehicle index chart below.

What’s that mean? The “Used Vehicle vs. New Vehicle Value Equation” sucks!  The cautious shopper wants to replace his tired car and buy a newer used car yet all he finds is… really expensive used cars!!  Ohoh… not good. Mr Cautious shopper is forced into sucking it up and getting his car fixed instead of replacing it (or, he lives with the rattle and he does nothing).

Ok… so where’s the opportunity?

Right now, like no time before, your dealership web site is a gigantic magnet for your service and maintenience business as car buyers are crawling around your site looking to trade-in their clunker, but market conditions have them in decision paralysis.  Tensions build as each week passes, Mr Cautious shopper still has to get to work and that noise is getting louder and louder. You can see how service demand gets stronger and stronger as each week passes.

Now more than ever, your service business is an outstanding gateway to your sales floor. Your site is rich with pent up demand,  visitors know they’re trapped and have got to spend money, either by service or in sales.  This shopper behavior observation is confirmed in the 2 Google charts above.  Everyone knows they’d prefer to buy new than repair, so, if you want to sell more cars, use your service drive as a gateway and market your service business hard!

In your new service marketing efforts, offer all the service coupons and free “squeak advice” that you can, think of all of the ailments a common aging car has and use it as Internet Marketing honey. Get your service department on a Google Pay Per Click ad campaign RIGHT NOW.

Consider every single up in the service bay as a reluctant buyer that is deferring a replacement purchase. Bird dog your writers handsomely to get referrals on any high RO.

Speaking of right now, It’s time to be working those trade-in opportunities HARD.

What buyers don’t know is trade-in valuations are at record highs.  Have your webmaster add trade-in forms to invite shoppers to discover how surprisingly affordable a new cars are due to temporarily record high kelly blue book prices. Get the dialogue going, There is plenty to talk about that the shopper is unaware of.

Let’s build on these ideas.

Bring your ideas and best practices to the DealerRefresh community. I am looking for marketing ideas and incentives to help us get “Mr Cautious Shopper” into service bay and let’s talk about some best practices and new ideas on how to help Mr Cautious shopper out of an RO and into a new car (you’re going to want to watch for Jerry Thibeau’s “service drive to sales” comments, they work!)

This post is a spin off from a interesting topic at Dale Pollak’s place The path to profitability: A call to action for all dealers

What are you doing to drive your service customers over to the sales floor?

As I was reading this article, I was trying to figure out who wrote it before scrolling to the bottom. My guess was correct! Nice article Joe!
Here they come!

Jerry Thibeau&#039;s easy 2 step service lane smackdown! <a href="http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/service-lane-gateway-sales-best-practices-needed-1134.html#post9344" rel="nofollow">http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/service-lane-g...</a> (complete with custom call scripts!)
Service Coupon Ideas for Mr. Cautious Shoppers aging auto?

Check Engine Light Tuesday

--bring your ck engine light to us and we&#039;ll computer analyze it for $___

Car Starting Problems?

--Batteries starting at $_____, installation at no charge

Need the low down on your slow down?

-- Brake pads BOGO

What Service promos work for you? Visit the forum!
<a href="http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/service-lane-gateway-sales-best-practices-needed-1134.html" rel="nofollow">http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/service-lane-g...</a>
@Joe -

Great post Joe; excellent analysis &amp; explanation of the searches &amp; pricing.
Your &#039;ol Uncle Joe, Senior Analyst for DR, wants you to know the Edmunds PR below is 3 weeks late...

See above, You heard it here 1st!
<a href="http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/press/164946/article.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/press/164946/ar...</a>

SANTA MONICA, Calif. &mdash; August 20, 2010 &mdash; Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, estimated today that the average price paid in the U.S. for a used three- year-old vehicle in July 2010 was $19,248, up $1,800, or 10.3 percent, from July 2009.

&quot;Consumers are generally paying considerably more for used cars this year compared to 2009,&quot; stated Joe Spina, a Senior Analyst for Edmunds.com. &quot;A lack of confidence in the economy is driving more people to used cars, putting upward pricing pressure on a limited supply of vehicles.&quot;

Maybe Joe Spina, a Senior Analyst for Edmunds.com is a regular here ;-)

Glad to be of service,
Your Uncle Joe
-Senior Analyst
We&#039;re #2 and we try harder.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that marketing, especially in service, is the vehicle that gets customers in the door and, handled properly, keeps them returning for service. It&#039;s critical that the goal of those return visits is establishing a relationship between the customer and a specific service advisor. Once the relationship is established, it&#039;s far easier to transition the customer into a vehicle purchase when the time is right.

If we look at it from the customer&#039;s perspective, who are we more likely to listen to and trust, the advisor that has made recommendations over time and gained our trust, or the advisor we don&#039;t really know?

An important part of this process is making sure that online appointments provide a method to select a preferred service advisor by name and by picture. This assures the highest likelihood that repeat visits with the same advisor occur, promoting an ongoing relationship.