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!

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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.

Pinterest Continues to Interest

Earlier this year, I wrote an article on why and how dealers should establish a presence on Pinterest.    Since that time, Pinterest (launched in March 2010) has established itself as the 3rd most popular U.S. social networking site, behind Facebook and Twitter.  Pinterest has around 20 million users as of June 2012, up from only 1 million users in July 2011.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it was reported that Pinterest is now valued at $1.5 billion, thanks to the way the site attracts users, holds them for very long visits, and converts users to revenue.  A couple of recent independent studies confirm Pinterest’s ability to convert users to revenue, and the incredibly long visits each user represents.  If you’re still sitting on the sidelines, it is time to take action.

One of the biggest risks for dealers who haven’t yet joined Pinterest comes from spammers squatting on key brand names (like your dealership name!).  These spammers will then sell you your brand once you decide to join this hot new Social Media site.  It only takes about 15 minutes to secure your brand on Pinterest, so register your dealer’s brand name right away.  If you need an invitation to join Pinterest (Pinterest is still invite-only), please email me and I’ll get you set up right away.

If you haven’t seen Pinterest’s amazing ability to secure Page 1 SERP, it is a proven fact.  These search results show up not only for a dealership brand name, but also on key search terms.  The most wonderful thing about Pinterest is…it’s easy and fun to do.  You simply establish your brand presence and then develop your style and voice for the page.  What does that mean?  Read on.

I recently gave a presentation on Pinterest at Jim Ziegler’s Internet Battle Plan X in Las Vegas. Having conducted research and dealer interviews prior to the presentation, it was interesting to note the audience’s reaction to Pinterest.  There were a handful of dealers that had established their presence and could talk about their “Pinterest Style”, but most were still on the sidelines.  After hearing my presentation, about 1/3 of the dealers immediately emailed me for an invitation so they could secure their brand and get started.  Establishing your dealership on Pinterest can help you dial into and share your dealership’s personality, appealing to both current and prospective customers.  Fiat dealers for example, feel their customers like things that are fun, quirky, and creative, so the Pinterest pages from their dealers echo that.  Jeep dealers, by contrast, promote a personality of rugged and adventurous customers, and have Pinterest boards with Jeeps used accordingly.  You get the idea; target your customers while promoting your dealership’s history, community involvement, and personality.

As you get started on Pinterest, make sure you avoid “pin dumping”.  Each time you pin and image, it pops up on the feed to all of your followers.  Pinning a few images or videos once in a while is a nice digestible amount for your followers to observe.  However, if you “pin dump” and post 100 images within an hour, you will dominate your followers’ feeds and tend to annoy them.  This can lead to followers choosing to un-follow you, and spoil your efforts to build a strong following.  Instead, spread your pins over time, pinning several images, and then waiting a few hours to pin more.

As dealers get savvier with their Pinterest boards, they should begin to experiment with Group Boards. In fact, Jim Ziegler showed me the incredible capability of this feature.  To get increased collaboration, engagement, and network effect, you can create Group Boards where others can post related images along a common theme.  Keep in mind that the board owner must first enable contributors by inviting them to Pin along, and you must first follow one or more boards of those contributors.  What is most amazing to me about these Group Boards is the network effect they create.  For instance, if you invite 100 users, and each of them have 100 followers; you can now potentially expose your Group Boards to 10,000 Pinterest users!  Every time one of your Group Board collaborators posts to your board, it exposes that board to all of their followers.

How can you measure whether or not you’re successful on Pinterest?  That’s easy too.  Simply visit a site called PinPuff (www.pinpuff.com) and you can get a free rating on your site.  PinPuff is a measure of your popularity on Pinterest and the value of each of your pins.  PinPuff lists the boards and pins with the most traction, and provides tips to build your network.  Through PinPuff, it’s possible to improve content and get more results on Pinterest.  An average PinPuff score is 32, and any score 50 or higher is considered very good.  There is also a free tool called PinReach (www.PinReach.com) that can help you understand activity, measure impact, and gauge your success.

An interesting free tool that is built right into Pinterest, allows you to track the pins that have come from your dealer pages.  The URL structure is: http://pinterest.com/source/[domain].  Replace the “domain” with your website address.  For instance, to find out the pins that have come from Ford Motor Company’s website you would go to this web address: http://pinterest.com/source/ford.com.  This creates the perfect opportunity to find people pinning and re-pinning content, so you can engage these visitors with messages from your dealership (remember this is a Social site!).  The key is to be conversational and helpful.

Many dealers ask how to measure ROI (return on investment) from having a presence on Pinterest.  There is a great tool called Pinerly (www.Pinerly.com) that can help you measure effectiveness on specific campaigns.  You can also use website statistics to track your referring clicks (ask your website provider).  Your CRM can also help you measure the source of your leads and showroom traffic to help you measure conversion.  If you purchase your website and CRM from the same provider, they should be able to give you a complete look at the traffic, leads and sales that come from Pinterest activity.

The SEO ability of Pinterest is probably the most impressive aspect of the site.  Since Pinterest is a site built upon links, and Google indexes the text from your boards and from your homepage, it is potentially packed full of SEO juice.  Be strategic with your homepage and board descriptions to make sure you’re getting indexed for the same keywords that prospective customers are using in automotive searches.

The Internet remains a world where change is constant. The key for dealers is stay in tune with where consumers are spending their time, and adjust online strategies accordingly.  Of all of the Social Media outlets dealers need to pay attention to, Pinterest is a very easy one to start.  Don’t delay, grab your brand today and start laying out your strategy.

Some Battles Ahead for Automotive Domain Names

Didn’t you think the dust had really settled on domain names (website addresses)?  Sure, there were tons of land-grabs from the mid 1990’s to the mid 2000’s, but much of that seems to be over.  Every once in a while we hear of a new dot-something extension being added, but nothing earth shattering.  Well, that is all set to change based on the new rules of the game.

Whether you have one or multiple websites for your store(s), you currently have one of twenty-two (22) Top-Level Domains (TLDs).  I’m referring to the .com, .net, .cc, and so on.  This past June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began allowing a large number of new Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), and offered the ability to apply for them.  If a company was awarded one or more of these TLDs, they could begin to sell website URLs with the related extensions.  For instance, General Motors could secure .chevy and create websites with this extension.

However, applying for these new gTLDs was very expensive, with an upfront application fee of $185,000, and if you were lucky enough to be chosen, you would pay $25,000 each year (only one company could be awarded each unique gTLD).

On June 13, 2012 ICANN made the list of gTLDs public on newgtlds.icann.org   I downloaded this list and began to analyze it.  It was extremely interesting to review, some bids were made for some potentially great, and sometimes crazy domains.  I thought that: .APP  .INC  .LAW  and .WEB were all possible winners.  Walmart went for .George and I’ve already sent them a note asking for early registration of Nenni.George, very cool.

As expected, some of the heavy hitters in digital marketing applied for quite a few.  Among the leading applicants of course were Google and Amazon (9% of applications), but another new startup called Donuts Inc. also emerged.  Donuts seemed to come from nowhere to bid for some potentially lucrative gTLDs.  They are well funded by $100 million in venture capital and submitted a staggering 16% of all 1,931 applications.

During my analysis, I pulled out all of the automotive-related gTLDs (listed below), they accounted for 3.5% of the overall list. In the automotive world, we also had plenty of activity, but companies seldom went for large purchases.  The OEMs naturally bought their brands, likely to begin having their dealers move to OEM-approved websites with their own custom extension.  I think OEMs will look back on this and see that it was a very smart strategic move, especially brands like Audi, Ford, and BMW since it creates a 3-4 character extension and still secures the brand well.  I personally think that George.BMW has a very cool ring to it.  As I reviewed the list, perhaps the most shocking news was the few automotive OEMs that did NOT secure their top-level domain.  Acura, Mazda, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Scion, Smart, and Subaru all failed to be a part of this potentially lucrative domain grab.

Time will tell how important this becomes, but as I looked at the number of major global players that took part in this, I would say this will become very big business in the future.

String

Applicant

Website

AAA

American Automobile Association, Inc.

http://www.aaa.com

AUDI

AUDI Aktiengesellschaft

http://www.audi.de

AUTO

Big Maple, LLC

 

AUTO

Dot Auto LLC

 

AUTO

Fegistry, LLC

 

AUTO

Uniregistry, Corp.

http://www.uniregistry.com

AUTOINSURANCE

Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company

 

AUTOS

DERAutos, LLC

 

BENTLEY

Bentley Motors Limited

http://www.bentleymotors.com

BMW

Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft

http://www.bmwgroup.com

BOSCH

Robert Bosch GMBH

http://www.bosch.com

BRIDGESTONE

Bridgestone Corporation

http://www.bridgestone.co.jp

BUGATTI

Bugatti International SA

http://www.bugatti.com

BUICK

General Motors LLC

http://www.gm.com

CADILLAC

General Motors LLC

http://www.gm.com

CAR

Charleston Road Registry Inc.

 

CARS

DERCars, LLC

 

CARS

Koko Castle, LLC

 

CARS

Uniregistry, Corp.

http://www.uniregistry.com

CHEVROLET

General Motors LLC

http://www.gm.com

CHEVY

General Motors LLC

http://www.gm.com

CHRYSLER

Chrysler Group LLC.

http://www.chryslergroupllc.com

DATSUN

NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.

http://www.nissan-global.com/

DEAL

Amazon EU S.à r.l.

http://www.amazon.com/

DEAL

Uniregistry, Corp.

http://www.uniregistry.com

DEALER

Dealer Dot Com, Inc.

Home

DEALS

DotDeals Inc.

http://www.radixregistry.com

DEALS

Sand Sunset, LLC

 

DEALS

Top Level Domain Holdings Limited

http://www.tldh.org

DODGE

Chrysler Group LLC.

http://www.chryslergroupllc.com

DUNLOP

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

http://www.goodyear.com

FERRARI

Fiat S.p.A. (“società per azioni”)

http://www.fiatspa.com

FIAT

Fiat S.p.A. (“società per azioni”)

http://www.fiatspa.com

FIRESTONE

Bridgestone Corporation

http://www.bridgestone.co.jp

FORD

Ford Motor Company

http://www.ford.com

GMC

General Motors LLC

http://www.gm.com/

GOODYEAR

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

http://www.goodyear.com

HONDA

Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

http://www.honda.co.jp/

HYUNDAI

Hyundai Motor Company

http://www.hyundai.com

INFINITI

NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.

http://www.nissan-global.com/

JAGUAR

Jaguar Cars Limited

http://www.jaguar.com

JEEP

Chrysler Group LLC.

http://www.chryslergroupllc.com

KIA

KIA MOTORS CORPORATION

http://www.kia.co.kr/

LAMBORGHINI

Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

http://www.lamborghini.com

LANDROVER

Land Rover

http://www.landrover.com

LEXUS

TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION

http://www.toyota.co.jp

LINCOLN

Ford Motor Company

http://www.ford.com

MASERATI

Fiat S.p.A. (“società per azioni”)

http://www.fiatspa.com

MINI

Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft

http://www.bmwgroup.com

MITSUBISHI

Mitsubishi Corporation

http://www.mitsubishicorp.com

MOPAR

Chrysler Group LLC.

http://www.chryslergroupllc.com

NISSAN

NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.

http://www.nissan-global.com/

RACING

Black Orchard, LLC

 

RACING

Premier Registry Limited

 

RACING

Uniregistry, Corp.

http://www.uniregistry.com

RAM

Chrysler Group LLC.

http://www.chryslergroupllc.com

SMART

Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART)

http://www.smart.com.ph

SUZUKI

SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION

http://www.globalsuzuki.com

TATA

TATA SONS LIMITED

http://www.tata.com

TATAMOTORS

Tata Motors Ltd

http://www.tatamotors.com

TIRES

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC

http://BridgestoneTire.com

TIRES

Dog Edge, LLC

 

TIRES

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

http://www.goodyear.com

TOYOTA

TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION

http://www.toyota.co.jp

VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen Group of America Inc.

http://www.volkswagengroupamerica.com

VOLVO

Volvo Holding Sverige Aktiebolag

http://www.volvogroup.com

YOKOHAMA

GMO Registry, Inc.

http://gmoregistry.com/

     

Missing:

   

Acura

   

Mazda

   

Mercedes

   

Rolls-Royce

   

Scion

   

Smart

   

Subaru

   

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.

Car Buyers Who Only Consider Your Deals

One of the most biggest challenges dealers face, is the high concentration of competitors in their market.  If a dealer is to win a customers’ business, it is a combination of hard work, advertising investments, discounting, along with a little luck.  Consumers have choices, and they know it.  They also have this great thing called the Internet, which allows them with a few clicks to see every vehicle in a 200-mile radius they might consider for their next purchase.

Wouldn’t it be great if they only shopped your store, or considered your deals?

Of course that happens sometimes, with very loyal customers where the dealer has done a great job of taking care of the customer, and constantly marketing to them.  However, this is the exception not the rule.  How can dealers find customers who may never shop any other store, or consider any other deals?  The answer can be easy, and it’s resting quietly in your CRM.

With this clue, many dealers reading this article may already have answered the riddle.  You simply comb your CRM and look for past customers and try to put together deals for them.  Perhaps there are customers who have positive equity in their vehicles, are not currently shopping for a vehicle, but if presented with the right enticing offer, might be ready for an upgrade.  OK, this makes perfect sense, but sounds like a lot of work.

I’m seeing a growing new segment in the market for systems that automatically do deep scans of the CRM, and dig-out customers that are ideal candidates for a vehicle upgrade.  They are generically called Equity Mining.  Using various 3rd party data sources, along with complex algorithms, they not only find customers who are in this position, but also put together specific deals you can present to your customers.  And when these deals are presented to these customers (who are not shopping for a vehicle), they tend to close without the customer ever shopping for alternatives.  Why?  Because the customer was not in the market in the first place.  They simply may not have realized that they qualified for such a great deal, and once presented all they need to do is say “Yes”.  And from the results I’ve heard from dealers using these Equity Solutions, they say “Yes” quite often.

These systems seem to me like they can print money, especially in the first few months where your CRM is chock-full of potential deals.  After that, they provide a steady stream of new deals, all from non-shopping customers, and all at attractive grosses.  But I’m leaving a very important part out…of course you’re also getting a great trade-in vehicle (at a time of challenging vehicle supply).  In addition, if they were a service customer of yours, it is a vehicle you’re already familiar with since you’ve been maintaining it for them!

If you’ve not considered these types of solutions, you definitely should.  We’ve all got access to tons of data, but it is sometimes hard to sift through to find the answers.  Equity Mining finds the chunks of gold in all of that data, and creates new market opportunities for your store.

Happy Digging!