Monthly Archives: March 2012

Does Your Website Adapt?

Almost every I talk to these days either wants a mobile or tablet version of their website, or perhaps they already have one.  And why shouldn’t they? We see it every day in stores, at work, at the soccer field, and (unfortunately) while driving in cars; everyone has their face buried in a Smart Phone.  The statistics tell the story best, rapid growth in mobile browsing.  This clear trend makes mobile and tablet website presence a requirement.

The problem is, you need one design for the iPhone, another for the iPad, the BlackBerry, Kindle, Nook.  In the next 3-5 years we will need additional designs for more devices.  We all must recognize that this requirement will never stop.

For dealer website designers and developers, we’re past the point where we can effectively keep up with the onslaught of new devices, screen sizes and resolutions.  Maybe your website designer has told you that building a new version for each device and screen resolution is not practical.  What should we do?

What if you could just focus on building one website, and it would automatically adjust, shrink images, and change content based on the browsing device?  What if you never had to worry about the next new connected device for browsing your website?  The answer is easy, and it starts with a platform called Adaptive Website Design.  What does this mean?  An Adaptive Website automatically adjusts the screen resolution, menus and images, while also altering the content and menu structure depending on the size of the screen.  You no longer need to worry about, “Does this work on the new iPad, or the new [fill in the blank]?”  When websites are built with Adaptive technology, they don’t care if your screen is a jumbo flatscreen in the basement of someone’s house, or the smallest smartphone browsing in the doctor’s office.  The website simply “adapts” to the new device.

The concept of adapting the screen size and images is pretty straightforward, but we do need to give some thought to how we might want to adapt the menu structure.  Making all of the content from a large desktop screen available on a smaller mobile screen is rarely the best answer.  For mobile environments the user wants simpler navigation, more focused content, lists or rows instead of multiple columns.  For car dealers, that means skipping the pictures of our sales team, and instead making sure that the mapping function is high and prominent.  We may also want to adapt the site for mobile to avoid presenting long contact-us forms, and instead opt for click-to-call functions. We must think about the functions that are important to a mobile user, and make sure that when the website adapts, we make the right menu and content decisions.  If your provider offers Adaptive Websites, they can give you guidance and recommendations here.  The wonderful thing about adaptive websites, is that you can set up these defaults, then your website automatically defaults depending on the screen size of the user.

Choosing the Adaptive approach for your dealer website means you no longer need to worry about today’s or tomorrow’s devices, since the site will always adapt to any device.  You can develop a single website design, and know that the same, consistent content will be delivered to users regardless of the device they’ve chosen.  Best of all, the experience can still be customized to tailor to the needs of the mobile vs. home-based shopper.

When I first saw an Adaptive Website, I was blown away by the technology.   It not only improves the experience for the shopper, but it is much easier for the dealer to set up and maintain.  In the future, all websites will adapt to Adaptive Website technology, you should push your website provider to make you among the first.  Say goodbye to worries about mobile and tablet shoppers, and focus on selling cars!

Which OEM Sites are getting Pinned?

I remain very curious of Pinterest, and its increased activity from the automotive perspective.  I’ve followed a few car dealers, more than a few OEMs, and have been carefully watching the “pinning” activity that’s been going on related to vehicles, accessories and related industry topics.  Not all OEMs have set up Pinterest accounts, but every single OEM has had vehicle images posted from their websites.  People have pinned their cars, and placed them on their personal interest boards, and many have asked their social network to help them decide what is the right, next car for them.  Clearly OEMs should begin to monitor, and then figure out how to best engage these shoppers, to be a part of the conversation regarding the interest in their brands and products.

I thought it would be interesting to measure how much of this has currently taken place, and so I’ll share my findings with you.  Using the Pinterest URL:  http://pinterest.com/source/OEMSITE.com/  you can easily find for each OEM, which vehicles (and how many) are being pinned.  This data was gathered both during the first weeks in March 2012 and April 2012.

As we saw a number of OEMs bunched up at the low 300s mark, we wondered if Pinterest has an internal limit.  We searched online and couldn’t find documentation to support this.  However in looking at Etsy at 328,  Martha Stewart at 352, Lowes.com at 328, and Amazon at 344, it’s highly unlikely the best automotive brands could beat out these sites that clearly appeal to core Pinterest users.  In Pinterests recent change in “Terms & Privacy”, they state that “…Pinterest may retain your User Content for a commercially reasonable period of time…” which could mean they simply purge or archive Pins after some period of time.  I think the message is to popular brands that are below 200 images, there is room for improvement, including Kia adding non-Flash images for pinning.

We also saw some strange variances from March to April, with very large declines for BMW, Mazda and Volvo.  This could be Pinterest doing archival maintenance, users closing accounts, or Pinterest closing spammer accounts.

I’m interested in hearing your feedback, and what conclusions we might draw.

Automotive OEM Domain Name Images March 2012 Images April 2012 Variance
Jeep jeep.com/

320

335

15

Porsche porsche.com

325

330

5

Land Rover landrover.com/

335

325

(10)

Cadillac cadillac.com

330

325

(5)

Dodge dodge.com/

325

325

0

Chevrolet chevrolet.com/

330

320

(10)

Acura acura.com/

320

320

0

Mercedes Benz mbusa.com/

320

320

0

Honda automobiles.honda.com/

310

320

10

Lexus lexus.com/

330

315

(15)

Toyota toyota.com

325

315

(10)

Ford ford.com/

300

315

15

Lamborghini lamborghini.com/

290

315

25

Subaru subaru.com

320

310

(10)

Hyundai hyundaiusa.com/

270

300

30

Ferrari ferrari.com/

270

275

5

BMW bmw.com/

305

210

(95)

GMC gmc.com/

220

210

(10)

Nissan nissanusa.com

210

205

(5)

Jaguar jaguarusa.com

185

195

10

Audi audiusa.com

170

180

10

Volkswagen vw.com

175

175

0

Mini http://www.miniusa.com/

36

160

124

Infiniti http://www.infinitiusa.com/

130

155

25

Buick buick.com/

135

150

15

Lotus lotuscars.com/

75

100

25

Lincoln lincoln.com/

75

90

15

Ram ramtrucks.com/

80

75

(5)

Mazda mazdausa.com/

225

45

(180)

Volvo volvocars.com

310

40

(270)

Chrysler chrysler.com/

75

35

(40)

Mitsubishi mitsubishicars.com/

4

30

26

Fiat fiat.com/

2

30

28

Hummer hummer.com/

8

8

0

Suzuki suzukiauto.com

2

3

1

Saab saabusa.com/

1

1

0

Kia kia.com/

0

0

0

*Kia was only unpinnable OEM due to Flash images

5 Strategies for Reputation Management

On a recent flight, sitting next to a longtime automotive colleague, I was asked about Reputation Management strategies. Thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi, we jumped on the net and I began to share my opinions. This is always an enjoyable topic to discuss, since the reaction from the audience is usually that of shock, then enthusiasm, and then action! My opinion is that, of all of the opportunities in the dealers’ digital marketing arena, Reputation Management is clearly a situation where “the dealership is on fire”. For many dealers who are ignoring their online reviews, they literally have everything to lose, but also everything to gain.
In 2011, we saw Reputation Management take on an entirely new level of importance for car dealers; with consumers posting more reviews, and Google emphasizing these reviews on the Places pages and on SERPs. What changes will we see in 2012? I’m taking a stab at offering five (5) of my top recommendations for Reputation Management strategies.
1. Get committed to Reputation Management. Any recommendations begin and end with the dealership (at the highest level) committing to managing their online reputation. Dealers who have operated in small, local communities may be the most inclined to understand the importance of this. What was the impact of a detractor 50 years ago? A customer who had a bad experience with a dealership in a small community would share their story at church, at bingo, at the corner grocery, etc. If a dealer was to survive in any small community, they needed to limit (or eliminate) detractors, and encourage more promoters. Today, the Internet makes large markets behave like small communities, since opinions are both easily shared and easily found. Online Reviews are part of the DNA of every dealership in 2012. While the importance of online reputation reinforces the importance of taking great care of customers, there is also much we can learn from the feedback received. Areas for process improvement, problem employees, and new product/service opportunities can all be learned from reading and digesting the content of online reviews. This feedback should be considered in making both tactical and strategic decisions at the dealership.

2. Monitor your reputation regularly. If you are doing this manually, setup Google Alerts, Twitter searches, and regularly check the online review sites (Google, Yelp, etc.) There are also some good monitoring systems out there that can automate this for you. If you use these systems, regularly monitor your dashboards and spring into action quickly, because each day negative reviews from detractors live online, your valuable brand and good name deteriorates. I’ve heard a fair number of dealers complaining about potential “review fraud” occurrences, where disgruntled employees, competitors, or others post negative reviews for the dealer. Some industries have moved more toward sales-driven-reviews, where only recent customers have the ability to post a review. This is definitely the year for review verification. We’ll see how this finds its way into Google’s world.

3. Respond very quickly to negative reviews. Sitting next to my colleague on this flight, we easily found large dealers in his hometown with negative reviews online since last summer. To the online shopper, no response from the dealer means, “the review is the truth”. If the dealer responds quickly, then the consumer will consider both sides to the story. If you find a negative review don’t immediately jump in and type your response. Take a few minutes to cool down, digest everything, and think about how to professionally respond. Taking a defensive or aggressive approach with your response will only escalate the problem, adding fuel to the fire. Instead, show your concern, apologize for the problem and let them know you want to handle it right away. Ask anyone posting negative reviews of your business to contact you directly and thank them for their feedback. Be very brief, take it quickly offline, and whatever you do, don’t get into an online debate for everyone to see (forever).

4. Promote positive reviews. This is also referred to as Review Suppression Plans. This method will be far more effective than trying to control or simply responding to negative reviews, and while the initiative can be a tough one, it is the only way to truly separate yourself from your competitors. Even if you do an incredible job taking care of customers, don’t expect positive reviews to happen without your involvement. You must create a strong internal process to gain these reviews from your customers. When most people have a positive experience, they simply smile and drive down the road. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell a few people. In rare instances, these customers may actually go online without prompting and write you a positive review, but don’t count on it. Since you can’t get rid of negative reviews (you can only respond to them, and improve processes at your store), you must get committed to bombarding the few negative reviews with an onslaught of positive reviews. How can you do this? There are many techniques, including postcards in the store, iPads in the F&I office, email campaigns, and personal outreach. I personally think that an online approach; either during the purchase process or afterwards with an easy click-thru survey will yield the best results. But remember, in general, people will not give you positive reviews without you prompting them to do so.

5. Balance your Reputation Management work across multiple review sites and mobile. It sure would be nice and easy if all online reviews were housed in a single location, but that is not the case. Google, Yelp, DealerRater and many more exist, and you need to balance your approach. Start with measuring which of these sites is driving the most traffic to your website. A simple “Top Referrers” report in your website analytics tool should do the trick. How much traffic comes from your Google Places page? From Yelp? From DealerRater? Your initial Reputation Management strategy should focus on where the most eyeballs are, prior to visiting your site. If you find that several review sites are delivering decent traffic to your site, then balance the strategies across the various sites. Which sites are driving your mobile reviews? I’m a big user of both Foursquare and Yelp, and have both posted and read many business reviews on the mobile versions of these tools. What I’ve noticed is that these mobile reviews are much shorter and to the point. I also find myself more willing to read through them since they are small and easy to digest. Dealers need to pay attention to these short reviews, which often appear in the form of “tips”.
It seems like the world is a bigger place than it has ever been, while in reality, the Internet has made it a much smaller one. Dealers need to manage their reputations just like they did before the digital age, or perhaps even do a better job. Never before has it been so easy for consumers to quickly find out what other people think of your store. If you have “2 stars”, and plenty of negative reviews, trust me…your store is on fire, and any goodwill you think you have will be ashes in the future. Consumers have choices, and they will choose products and people who are more highly rated than their competitors. You have a choice too. Take action today, and don’t be left behind with your online reputation.