The market shift from brick and mortar dealerships to virtual online showrooms has been confirmed with 93% of car shoppers turning to the Internet Super Highway vs. their neighborhood auto dealership or local car row to shop for a new or used vehicle. Of equal interest to auto dealers who have shifted their automotive advertising dollars to the Internet to follow their customers there is that automotive advertising agencies have confirmed that online car shoppers are often using the search engines to look for a specific vehicle, not an auto dealership. As a result, automotive advertising agencies have shifted their online messages to match the consumer’s request for information in more of a pull/push marketing strategy to promote their inventory using local search words and meta tags attached to individual videos of their vehicles vs. the old school push/pull methods that focused on delivering an auto dealer marketing message designed to drive customers directly to the dealers’ website.
The role of the real world auto dealership is maturing into an experience center to test drive vehicles, take delivery — for now — and service the vehicles during their life cycle. Newly developed virtual world auto dealerships are also taking on a new role in the retail auto industry with new technologies that are crashing through the glass wall that used to limit what could be accomplished on the World Wide Web.
Marketing tools using SEO and SEM techniques tied to individual vehicle videos linked to micro-sites with specialized information is more transparent and relevant than driving internet shoppers to a home page on an auto dealer’s website that requires further actions by the customer to drill down to what they need — information on a vehicle that they are interested in purchasing. Online shoppers are less often looking for an auto dealer than they are looking for a vehicle so why not cut to the chase and take them there directly? Google and other search engines have recognized the value of video and more targeted vehicle focused search results with index able vehicle videos taking a priority position over conventional postings and websites with similar local search criteria.
Once a shopper has landed on a vehicle why would an auto dealer want to drive them to an email, a phone call or any similar disconnect in the process directing them to their real or virtual showroom when new technology can answer all of the customer’s questions directly from the video player using integrated online transaction tools? Live two way video customer interaction platforms, like Argistics AutoTransaXion, and third party resources like Car Fax reports coupled with the ability to deliver credit applications, payment calculators and even a complete buyers order — real time — with CRM/DMS integration allowing a comprehensive desking tool for the auto dealer to push/pull all related information needed to actually sell the vehicle online and the required forms for the customer to buy it suggest that there is no longer a need to take the customer back up the sales funnel to the auto dealer’s website.
Comprehensive auto dealership websites are no longer the best — or at least the only — place for automotive advertising agencies to drive online customers to. Auto dealers who wish to survive in the growing virtual world on the Internet must be more focused on internet based tools and techniques that allow them to do it the customer’s way. They must provide online car shoppers with all of the information that they need to find and purchase the vehicle they want without having to fit the auto dealers’ selling processes based on an old and dated adversarial negotiation processes in either their real or virtual showroom where customers perceive that auto dealers will try to sell them something that they don’t want for more than they can afford?
Many vendor applications are currently available and being used by automotive advertising agencies to accomplish all of the above. AutoNation, for example, has recently announced their shift to centralized online transactions using Argistics AutoTransaXion’s customer interaction platform with their two way video transaction capabilities and Sonic Automotive has proven out the role of video to enhance conversions using SiSTer Technologies Video CarLot. Similar announcements by OEM and other technology vendors to the auto industry are expected to be released during the upcoming 2010 NADA Convention in Orlando Florida. As a result, the role of the brick and mortar dealership and their online marketing messages promoting the auto dealership vs. satisfying the needs of the to the consumer must change — and they will because they already are.
Similarly, the role of social networking for automotive advertising agencies anxious to monetize this new consumer driven media is also being accelerated by new technologies and automotive advertising vendor applications. Efforts by automotive advertising agencies to market directly to consumers through social media, B2C, have matured to more successful consumer driven marketing messages. New inventory driven third party websites like ronsmap.com apply new technologies that develop word of mouth, W.O.M., and customer to customer recommendations, C2C, which promise to be the preferred method of selling vehicles online in the foreseeable future.
Simply put, automotive advertising agencies must deliver customers the information that they want when, how and where they want it. All of these issues are addressed through the use of the Internet and new technologies that market vehicles over auto dealers, video vs. copy and recommendations from online friends vs. a self serving auto dealer trying to sell themselves vs. serving the needs of their potential customers.