Autosphere.ca, in conjunction with Podium, hosted a webinar entitled 4 Ways Dealerships Can Attract and Service Customers.
Moderated by Autosphere.ca’s Editor-in-Chief Huw Evans, the webinar featured Isaac Hernadez, Senior Director, Sales, and Haley Sonntag, Senior Marketing Specialist, Podium.
The webinar provided an overview of four key strategies that dealers can use to maintain and strengthen their online presence.
- Focusing on the online experience
- Opening and communication in preferred channels
- Building a relationship by providing a personalized experience
- Collecting payments via text or app
Isaac Hernandez said that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses, including dealers to reassess their online presence. This, in turn, has focused on the need to create a better online experience for customers, by understanding how they want to be communicated with and tailoring it as much as possible to each individual client.
“It’s been a big challenge for a lot of dealerships in how you deliver that experience—especially when most of the actual purchase experience can now be delivered online,” said Hernandez.
He noted that local SEO tends to play a critical role in helping dealers cultivate new customers in their specific marketplace. As the premier and most widely used search engine, Google frequently changes its algorithms and dealers need to understand how to adapt and evolve to changes that come along.
Additionally, providing a great mobile online experience is also essential, since around 80% of consumer searches for products like vehicles now begin on a smartphone or tablet.
Haley Sonntag added that when it comes to the four key steps, understanding the customer’s journey, from initial contact through the actual sales transaction and subsequent service experience is critical.
Sonntag said there are many ways that dealers can boost their SEO search rankings. SEO continues to evolve, so what is relevant now might not be in three years’ time. She noted that while claiming a Google My Business listing, as well as adding and updating information as well as images can improve rankings, one of the most effective ways is to manage and collect online reviews.
“Nobody knows exactly what and how much Google’s algorithm takes into account when determining search rankings,” said Sonntag, “but we do know that reviews play a huge review in determining search ranking, specifically for local search.”
She noted that Google looks primarily at four things when determining ranking. The first is quality, which determines star ranking. The second is quantity— i.e. how many reviews you actually have. The third is recency and the fourth is frequency.
“These four are all very important regarding your online reviews,” she said. The recency aspect is important, because if a business boasts a lot of five-star reviews but the newest one is from two years ago, “Google might not even know you are still in business,” explained Sonntag.
Therefore, getting reviews on a consistent and frequent basis is critical and that requires asking every single customer for a review. Doing so will help ensure that not only does the business get more reviews, it gets them on a regular basis, helping the business to build its online reputation and gain more customers.
Isaac Hernandez added that while the reality is that customers aren’t always going to leave good reviews, by consistently focusing on delivering the best customer experience, dealers are far more likely to have more good reviews versus negative ones.
If they are able to boast a 4.8-star rating, even after thousands of reviews, it works as a verification for new customers to consider your dealership for their vehicle purchase and servicing needs.
Leads to conversions
Besides good online visibility and reviews, bringing customers further down the funnel by turning leads into conversions is also essential. One way is to make it as easy and as seamless as possible for customers to contact the dealership.
Hernandez said that one way in which dealers can do that is to not only put themselves in the customer’s shoes but also window shop their own staff and processes to see what they look like.
Additionally, paying attention to touchpoints throughout the entire sales process is another way to strengthen your ability to attract and retain customers.
This can include everything from having webchat at the very beginning of the sales process, allowing dealership staff to respond quickly to any questions customers might have, as well as increasingly, having a video communication or virtual walkarounds of the vehicle following the initial web chat, allowing them to sample features before they even come to the physical showroom and gradually build a rapport with the business.
It’s important to consider however that each customer and each dealership and its staff are unique, therefore each situation is going to be different, though tools like webchat and virtual meetings/showrooms can often a great foundation with which to cultivate a positive rapport with customers that ultimately result in a transaction.
Ultimately, Hernandez and Sonntag concluded, that whether dealers are able to utilize the services of Podium or other providers the key message in making it work boils down to having a solid sales process, understanding the importance of Google reviews and local SEO search and most important of all, having buy-in from staff at the dealership.