Category Archives: Mobile Technology

Why Google Maps & Waze will Crush GPS

Google’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Waze this past summer continues to be big news.  Waze, by crowd-sourcing mapping and navigation, is changing how we commute and how we shop.  Google wanted Waze since they were both in the Search business.  Google searches the web.  Waze searches the real world.  Unlike Google Maps, Waze’s navigation can be edited by users within its community- adding police alerts, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams.  This social mapping content is shared by other drivers, in real time, and is very valuable: drivers already use it on a constant basis to find the cheapest gas stations on their routes.  By joining forces, Google Maps/Waze combines the power of Google’s individual user data, search history, and Google+ social data  to offer laser targeting recommendations and advertising.

For OEMs and automotive dealers, this has several implications, as the panel will discuss.  First, the OEM or dealer that dominates the search and mapping screens on smartphones and tablets, along with providing targeted ads based on the users’ intentions, will win.  Second, for OEMs and dealers layering customer data onto the new database, the mobile search experience will direct consumers to local dealers for service or sales.  Third, consumers shopping for cars can be alerted when matching inventory is nearby, or offered fixed ops deals or incentives.  Fourth, OEMs will want to rethink current GPS strategies, opting for a Google/Waze GPS that’s tied to the consumer’s social network and search preferences.  This provides a more robust experience to both the OEM and local dealerships, with the opportunity to create targeted advertising to consumers during the moment of decision.  If combined with vehicle telemetrics systems, this software-based solution could determine service needs (oil changes, vehicle recalls, etc) and prompt drivers to local dealerships running special promotions through Google/Waze.

3rd Party Plug-ins Need Responsive Design

If you haven’t seen and learned about the power of Responsive Web Design, you’re missing a great new piece of digital marketing technology.  Responsive Design throws out the idea of mobile websites, and instead builds a multi-device-capable platform around a single website.

My company offers Responsive Websites, and I’m learning that others providers are also entering this exciting space.  For our automotive dealer customers, the benefits are enormous with sites that offer better consumer experiences, improved SEO and Social capabilities, and also also easier to maintain.

The next challenge for Responsive Website Design in the automotive space is convincing our 3rd Party Plug-in Providers that they also need to embrace this technology.  I am referring to the many plug-ins for pricing, chat, online negotiation and financing that currently are built around desktop and mobile websites.  When a Responsive Website attempts to plug-in some of these 3rd party modules, the consumer experience is not always consistent, with chat or pricing windows appearing in varied styles on smart phones and tablets.

Clearly some standardization around Responsive techology is needed for 3rd parties creating website modules, and Dominion is willing to help lead this charge.

What do you think?  Any 3rd Party Plug-in providers ready to dive in?

5 Reasons to Hate Your Mobile Website

On January 9 2007 Steve Jobs announced the iPhone at the Macworld convention, and started a revolution in the way people consumed the web.   As Apple and their competitors began shipping millions of smartphones to the masses, the need for websites compatible with the smaller screen became critical.  The website world responded with a “mobile website”.  The mobile website was designed as a separate site, that would be served up when it detected the user was on a mobile device.  Then on January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs again changed the rules by announcing the iPad introduction at an Apple press conference, and website providers scrambled to update their strategy.

Many dealers still have these old mobile websites.  Folks, your mobile website is a 2007 solution to a 2013 problem, and you should hate it for the following reasons:

Reason 1:  You’re spending too much money.  Logic tells us, if we build both a desktop site and a mobile site, it will cost more than building a single website.  In addition, that same logic tells us if we have to maintain two websites, it will take more time versus one site.   Maintaining two sites also introduces the chance for errors, omissions, and situations where the two sites have different data.  Save your time and money by building one Responsive website.

Reason 2:  Your SEO is not what it could be.  Both Google and Bing are on record, they prefer a single Responsive website instead of multiple sites.  For the search engines, a single website means indexing is easier, and increases the likelihood of delivering the desired content to the user.  With multiple sites, your inbound linking strategy becomes confusing.  Which links should you work to build, ones to your desktop or mobile site?  The choice is clear, a single Responsive website results in superior SEO.

Reason 3:  You’ve got 2 website addresses.  Remember we said it was a band-aid approach, and having both a mobile and desktop website is a sloppy solution that delivers poor results.  What happens if a desktop user Facebook-shares a page on your main website, but mobile shoppers click on the links?  Redirects happen, and many times they happen poorly, delivering the wrong pages to the user and increasing abandon rate. have different addresses.  Responsive gives you consistency, one site with same content and same experience.

Reason 4:  Your Analytics are difficult to track.  Our website analytics help us answer many questions for our marketing strategy, but two URLs results in misleading and confusing statistics.  To get a true picture of your website results, you may need to combine multiple reports, and layer information.  With a single website, you have a single analytics report, showing you where you’re having success, and where you need attention.

Reason 5:  Your users hate your mobile website.  Why do I feel this way?  A separate mobile website is doomed from the beginning.  We’re giving the shopper a different user-experience depending on the device they’re using, in many cases with conflicting content since we have to maintain them separately.  In addition, nearly every mobile website is “limited function” which means not all of the content from the main website is included.  For reasons listed above, a mobile shopper may be sent to pages that don’t exist, have conflicting information, throw the user onto a desktop site (pinch, zoom, scroll…leave) or simply give an error page.  The old strategy of using redirects doesn’t always work, and is again…a band-aid strategy.

It’s time we stepped back a bit and re-evaluated our reactive strategy with multiple websites.  Is it feasible to create a new website for every new mobile device that hits the market?  Of course not.  We need to replace our band-aid tactics with a strategic approach to build a single website that responds to whatever device is being used.  Once we turn this page, and move forward with a single Responsive website, we no longer need to worry about new devices hitting the market, since we’re already compatible.  We can focus on effective marketing, and stopping fighting technology.

Hiring for Your Digital Dealership

I always enjoy visiting dealers and sharing best practices for social, mobile and digital marketing.  Often on return visits I’m proud to see the store has made significant progress, using some of the information and advice I shared.  However, there are other times I’ll return to visit dealers who haven’t taken any of the advice, and simply returned to their normal routines.  If I were to point to one single factor that separates the dealerships that make progress, vs. the ones that do not…are of course their people.

Jim Collins got it right in his book Good To Great; it all starts with getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Getting the right people on the bus starts with effective recruiting and hiring, and success in the digital world means changing your requirements to attract people who embrace technology.  No matter how many workshops or seminars you send your team to attend, they will never truly “get it” until they embrace, immerse and fall in love with technology.  If you want to have a successful digital dealership, then your team must be made up of digital-loving employees.

My approach on effective hiring is best framed out with three (3) questions:  1) Can they do the job?  2) Are they willing to do the job?  3) Are they coachable?  I look at every potential candidate on these three scales, in that exact order.  Let’s take a look at each one, and techniques you’ll need to be successful with digital candidates.

1) Can they do the job?  This is where we focus not on personality or coachability, but almost purely on skills.  You should start by creating a quick worksheet that spells out what skills are required for all candidates, vs. which ones you are willing to teach.  Once you know your must-have skills, you then start reviewing resumes (or even better, LinkedIn profiles since you get a feel for their digital engagement).  On the resumes you are looking for past experience where they might have gained your required skills.  Next, you will move on to the phone interview, asking them specific questions that will gauge whether they have these skills or not.  Don’t have time for phone interviews?  The truth is, you don’t have time NOT to do them.  How many times have you sat in front of a fresh in-person interview candidate, and realized in 5 minutes they are not a good fit?  Often we want to be courteous and spend 30-45 minutes with the candidate, before dismissing.  Your time would have been much better spent in a phone interview, lasting only 10-15 minutes finding out if they have the skills to move to the next step in the process.  In the phone interview, you want to determine how much knowledge and experience they have in digital marketing.  How computer savvy are they?  Can they effectively use a digital camera?  What do they know about social media? Can they effectively communicate with prospects and customers in the digital world?

2) Are they willing to do the job?  This can take place on either phone or personal interview, and I like to focus on past jobs they’ve had.  Will this be a step forward, or backward?  Why are they making a career change?  Since I know I will invest significantly on training them, how long do I expect them to stay with my store?  Have they shown a successful track record of hard work, strong results, and career growth?  Do they like to read and stay up on current technology?  How fast do they learn, and what recent technology development have they learned that they can share with me?  How do they handle conflict, confrontations, and angry customers?  Are they people and customer oriented?  I want to determine not only are they the right fit for my store, but also is my store the right fit for them?  My goal is to find long-term employees who can start at the entry level, and then grow into higher positions of authority in a flowing career path.  In this stage I truly need to look for organizational fit.

3) Are they coachable?  For this step, the candidate will need to present herself or himself in person, since you need to truly get to know them and their personality.  You should consider getting them out of the dealership and go to lunch or dinner.  You need to see them in both a formal and informal setting.  For coachability, I also like to focus on past relationships with managers.  I need to know why they left a certain position, and to find out if there was a conflict with their manager.  Sometimes this can be hard to pull out of a candidate, since they may instead want to blame it on something else…like the company was downsizing.  My approach is the same as we’re taught in sales training, to remove the objection.  Sometime like, “So if you wouldn’t have been downsized at company ABC, do you still think you would be working there?”  If you get an answer that says, “No, I didn’t always see eye to eye with my boss”, you now have some work to do.  Your goal then becomes to determine was the boss unreasonable, or was your candidate unreasonable?  The last thing you need is an employee who is difficult to coach or manage, since all of the skill in the world won’t outweigh lack of coachability.  You will be spending a lot of time with this person, training them and coaching them, you must have the proper fit and the person should be very likeable.

The lessons for effective recruiting and hiring are difficult to summarize in a few short pages, more properly would fill a large book.  In summary, when bringing on new team members be committed to changing the profile of your dealership adding people who are skilled and knowledgeable in digital technology.  Create your list of must have skills that you are unwilling to train for, and build a solid process for finding capable employees who can help you continue to be successful in today’s digital age.  Happy Hunting!

SEO + Mobile Websites = #Fail

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

― Albert Einstein

With this famous quote, Einstein got it right.  If we continue doing the same things we’ve done in the past, we are likely to fail.  Several years ago, thanks to Steve Jobs, Smart Phones burst onto the tech scene and forever changed the way we surfed the web.  Retailers responded with mobile websites, and for a short time we felt we addressed this significant change.  Only a few years ago, again thanks to Steve Jobs, Tablets appeared, and again our mobile website strategy cheese got moved and retailers scrambled.  An estimated 122 million Tablets were sold in 2012, in all shapes and sizes.  Today there are an incredible number of Smart Phones, Tablets, and now Phablets (combination phone/tablets), and they all come in different shapes and sizes.  That old strategy of building mobile websites is completely broken.  It is a 2008 solution to a 2013 problem.

I’ve written about this subject, and most who understand these changes would agree, the intelligent retailers are looking for a change.  Lo and behold, the technology gods delivered to us Adaptive/Responsive Web Technology, and we are thankful for it.  What is Adaptive Web Technology (AWT)?  AWT means that you can forget about having a mobile site, a tablet site, and your desktop site.  Instead, you have one single site that simply “adapts” to whatever device is browsing.  This adaptation includes changing the layout, navigation, reprioritizes content and changes calls to action.  Google the subject, you’ll be amazed when you see an example.

When I say “adapt”, I don’t mean redirect.  Redirects are also a 2008 solution to a 2013 problem.  Since most mobile websites are scaled-down versions of the main website, not every page on the main website exists on the mobile site.  That means if I’m surfing a dealer’s website on my desktop, find a cool Specials page and “share” it on Facebook, people on a mobile device may get a redirect that points them to the homepage instead (since that Specials page may not exist on the mobile website).  It is also very common to accidentally create “redirect loops” where users are bounced back and forth between mobile and desktop sites since the redirect code may not be updated.  Finally, you must keep in mind that having redirects on all of your pages will increase page-loading time, which hurts the user experience and leads to high abandonment rates.  Stop doing redirects…time to change to AWT.

If you’re not convinced yet that AWT is the technology of the future, would it help to know that both Google and Bing have embraced and recommended this technology?  This past summer they both said they preferred a single responsive website, vs. having both desktop and mobile sites.  Why did they make this recommendation.  A single website simply makes search indexing much more effective.  Google stated they prefer single URLs because ‘it makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content’ and that is helps ‘Google’s algorithms assign indexing properties for the content.’  Bing also agreed that there are SEO benefits for single URL: ‘You have more ranking signals coming to this URL… the vast majority of mobile URLs do not have inbound links from other websites as people do not link to mobile URLs like they link to regular web-situated URLs.’  I don’t know about you, but if it’s important to Google and Bing, then it is important to me!

The Search Engines also have a vested interest.  When you have both mobile and non-mobile sites, the SE crawlers are actually crawling your site multiple times, using a lot of your bandwidth, and slowing performance for your users.  Very bad.  The indexing process is also completely duplicated, since Search Engines sees an entirely new site, potentially causing duplicate content issues.  Remember, around 30% of searches today are via a mobile device, and that number is rapidly growing.  Dealers need a 2013 mobile strategy.

From the dealer’s perspective, multiple websites means multiplying the work involved to achieve great SEO.  Third party linking must be duplicated from scratch for your mobile site, and that is not likely to happen effectively since people don’t tend to link or share mobile URLs.  Whether you do your SEO internally or use a third-party, all SEO optimization effort is duplicated, increasing costs and decreasing performance of your campaigns.  Some will deal with these problems by altering the ROBOTS.TXT file to block the Search Engines from crawling the mobile site, putting priority on the non-mobile site.  They will then use redirects to send mobile traffic to non-indexed mobile site, however redirects often fail (see previous).

From the consumer’s standpoint, we would all prefer a single website that automatically adjusted to any screen size, from the smallest Smart Phone, to the largest LED television.  Consumers don’t want a scaled-down mobile site that is lacking key content, or has out of date information.  Most consumers will form their first impression of retailers based on how well the website performs on various devices.  I know if I go to a website that doesn’t adapt well on my phone or iPad Mini, I abandon and go somewhere else.

You get the picture; you need a 2013 strategy to deal with the device explosion that is going on today.  You need a strategy that makes it so that your website is immediately compatible with the new iPad Mini the day it arrives in stores.  It’s all about conversions and sales in the end, and Adaptive websites help the Search Engines find your website, improve the experience, and help get them converted.  Adaptive and Responsive website technology is that 2013 solution, and Mr. Einstein would be proud of those ready to adapt to this change!

Dealers, Managers…You Must Immerse

One of the biggest challenges dealerships and other business people face is the rapid pace of technology innovation.  Just when a dealer or manager feels they have a grasp on where Digital Marketing technology is, new developments come to market that confuse the audience.  For many, this results in the dealers either making no decision, or very uninformed decisions.  Progressive dealers will attend training at conferences, read articles, and try their best to ensure that when that next vendor begins explaining “the next big thing”, that they have some idea of what’s being discussed.

In my new book, Unfair Advantage, co-authored with some of the most respected names in automotive retail, in his gripping introduction titled “The Fear Stops Here”, Brian Pasch outlines these challenges and assures the reader that the book will help them be more educated and informed.  He advises dealers to “…take one step at a time,” and embrace the change.  Brian is right.  The old adage that you must approach eating an elephant one-bite-at-a-time definitely comes into play with gaining an understanding of technology.

I also feel that is goes far beyond reading, attending conferences, and listening to informed consultants.  I would argue that you could attend a dozen seminars on how Twitter can help your dealership, but you still won’t truly “get it”.  In order to truly understand, you must immerse.  What does this mean?  Immersing means saying goodbye to your fears of the unknown, and instead diving right in headfirst.  In order to understand technology, you must begin to truly experience it.  You must sign up for, and use: Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Facebook, recognizing that early sledding may not be easy.  There will be periods of confusion, misunderstanding and general frustration!  But over time immersion will lead to osmosis.  Without even realizing the moment, you will begin to understand, you will begin to “get it”.

Dealers and dealership managers should resist the urge to outsource this to their IT folks, or people that already understand technology.  If you outsource it, you will miss out on both the true confidence to make informed decision, and the experience of trying and learning something new.  In addition, if the person you outsourced it to leaves the dealership, your knowledge goes with them.  New technology is not that tough, but you have to make a commitment to embracing and immersing.

So what exactly do I mean my immersing?  First it means stop saying, “I don’t Tweet”, “Foursquare is a time-waster”, and “I’ve got better things to do than be on Facebook”.  Go online, sign up for these services, and begin experiencing them.  Don’t be worried that at first everything seems confusing and overwhelming.  On Twitter for instance, you can start out by simply setting up an account, picking 20 of your favorite automotive industry folks (or others) and commit yourself to following them daily.  I guarantee that will only take about 10-15 minutes per day.  At the same time you’re learning about Twitter, you will also be learning about what is going on in the industry, what trends they see, and what they’re thinking.  Over time the # hash tags and @ symbols will begin to make sense, and you will start to “get it”.  It is only by this commitment to immerse that you can become one with the new technology that your shoppers and customers are using, and trying to communicate with your dealership with.  Another great benefit of immersing is setting a great example for the rest of the dealership personnel.  If you want them to embrace technology, then their boss needs to do the same.  Lead by example by diving in, asking them to dive in, and then learning from each other along the way.

Brian was right, the fear needs to stop here, and it needs to start with you embracing and immersing yourself in technology, before you’re left behind.

Mobile Websites are Dead

Wow, now that is a shocking headline to read, eh?  What kind of idiot would say that mobile websites are dead?  We all know that mobile Internet use across the U.S. (and the world) is growing extremely rapidly.  In fact, many studies agree that Internet use on mobile devices will exceed desktop use within a few years (already happened in India in Spring 2012).  Global mobile web traffic now stands at 10%, and is quickly increasing.  And don’t only think about Smartphone usage, since 29% of U.S. adults now own a tablet or eReader.

So with all of this growth, why would I be telling you that mobile websites are dead?  Because I actually mean, separate mobile sites are dead.  Technology now exists that allows you to have a single website that “adapts” to whatever device the user is browsing on.  The technology is appropriately named, Adaptive Web Design, or Responsive Web Design.  The good news is, well there is quite a bit of good news that I will outline in this article.  I’ll summarize by saying, your website strategy just got a lot more simple.

First I would like to briefly explain the two terms mentioned above, because they are slightly different.  Responsive web design is sites that can stretch and rearrange themselves based on the width of the browser rendering the site.  Adaptive web design first starts with Responsive design and then adds the ability to selectively add, change, or delete functionality based on a user’s capabilities.  So the Adaptive design starts with the ability to shrink the design of the website to match the smartphone or tablet that is being used, and then also tweaks the menus and content to match the user’s behavior.  For instance, tablet users may want shorter menu choices, and the ability to finger-swipe pages.  Smartphone users might want even shorter menus, and the ability to click-to-call, get driving directions, etc.

When I first learned of this technology, and that it was now being offered in the automotive industry, it blew me away.  How simple!  One single website to manage, drive traffic to, maintain consistent content, and strategize around.  It confirmed my enthusiasm this summer when both Google and Bing began officially recommending Responsive Web Design for SEO in their Webmaster Guidelines.  Specifically, Google said they prefer a single URL since it “…makes it easier for users to interact with, share, and link to your content…”  Bing also agrees and adds, “You have more ranking signals coming to this URL…” since “…people do not link to mobile URLs like they link to regular web-situated URLs.”  Clearly the two Search giants are telling you that for optimal SEO, Mobile Websites are dead.

How about the challenges we all are familiar with, maintain multiple websites?  If you have twice as many websites, you now have twice the work involved in maintaining and promoting these multiple sites.  In their guidelines, Bing adds that it is less work (for you the dealer), “…updating and maintain a stand-alone mobile-focused website.”

A single Adaptive website keeps your Internet Manager focused on a single site, removing the distraction of spending time with a separate mobile site.

As we all know, there is a tremendous amount of change occurring in the technology arena.  This is one change that we all should embrace, as it actually makes our lives easier!  Keep your eyes and ears open for more on Adaptive and Responsive web design, please let me know if I can help you with any questions on this new technology.