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AutoShopper.com’s website buyers can find a million new and used certified pre-owned cars from thousands of auto dealers and private sellers. Now with new open source technologies being added to its dealer management structure from That’s Us Technologies, dealers can orchestrate cutting edge classified marketing services. This software suite to simplifies the process’ that dealers use to broadcast vehicles across the web in a one-click fashion. This leverage of web services integrates easily with AutoShopper.com and provides dealers with an easier, more efficient way of posting cars quickly and easily to the latest classified and social media sites, also easy to use dashboard is available for productivity and lead reporting and also integrates seamlessly with a dealership’s website.
Whether you’re a private dealer or you work for a big-time dealership you probably know by now how powerful of a tool the internet can be for selling cars. People like to be able to see photos of the cars and read descriptions before they make a trip to the dealership. If you’re not using the internet to promote your lot then you’re wasting a valuable resource. Over 10 million people visit Craigslist each month and 40% of all online automotive minutes are spent on eBay Motors.
LotVantage delivers a “real time” showroom across multiple marketplaces from a single easy to use web interface. It allows you to list you inventory on Craigslist, eBay Motors and Backpage and creates your own customized web display. These marketplaces have created the conduit for the way vehicles are sold today. Craigslist and Backpage have re-defined classified listings at a zero cost, while eBay Motors extends a reach far beyond a local market continuing to deliver quality leads at a marginal cost. Lot Vantage simplifies the creation of compelling listings within the chosen marketplace(s) all from one interface and delivers lead information and listing automations to ensure sales success.
LotVantage is a monthly service with no setup fees and no contract, so if you decide that it isn’t right for you then you wont be stuck in a long-term deal. To start listing your inventory online with ease you can contact LotVantage at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling directly at 866.881.3229 ext 2.
Internet Directors know how crucial proper web optimization is to a successful dealership. Web optimization is typically comprised of a number of different areas, including search engine optimization, website analytics, and design, among many others.
However, optimization is more than just a standard set of practices. Those differences are one of the primary factors that make ‘do-it-yourself’ optimization without an inventory marketing specialist such a risky prospect. An inventory marketing specialist keeps abreast of the ever-changing landscape in order to implement best practices to achieve good positioning and visibility, and frequently conduct research to understand what your competition is doing as well.
If you are learning from scratch and implementing as you go, you can be put at a disadvantage compared to competitors who hire professionals.
Seeing Optimization as a Project With An “End Date”
Optimization, and online marketing in general, is a process, not a destination. It’s a road that must be constantly traveled for any measurable and optimal levels of success. At no time is your optimization process “complete”, in fact, once your initial online marketing plan sees any level of success, you should be seeking out other ways that you can improve your online presence.
Not Planning For Long Term Optimization
Since online marketing is an ever evolving process, wise companies will plan for optimization over the long run. You can’t think of your online marketing as a short-term investment, and vertainly don’t want to divert internal resources for a few weeks. Think of online optimization more broadly, and give your optimization strategy the time and support it needs to be successful. If the program is understaffed or underfunded, it’s unlikely to find the success you’re seeking. You will only get out what’ve put in!
Not Monitoring Progress
Up until recently, it was next to impossible to know if your marketing plan was doing the job with traditional advertising such as radio, television, and newspapers. However Internet Marketing efforts are fairly sinple to track. I like to use cooking as an analogy, you have to test the food throughout the process to see how it’s going. If you need to make a change, you find out early on, and if the food is great, you know how to make it next time.
Inventory marketing is exactly the same. Track which sites and campaigns bring success to refocus resources in both the short and long run. These metrics are invaluable when you start additional campaigns. The data will provide you with real results that you can point to. In today’s ever changing market, so much depends on customer preference. Only when you start to get a feel for that preference will you see the best outcomes.
By nature, most professionals working in the dealership understand sales. That’s the dealership’s reason for existence, and everyone else within the organization provides some level of support for that function. Online marketing is a very specialized discipline with a number of techniques and strategies to learn. Reaching out to an inventory marketing professional should be viewed no differently than outsourcing something like windshield replacements at the dealership. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend time learning, rather than executing effectively from the beginning.
Putting it All Together
Now that you know some of the most common pitfalls that cause optimization programs fail you’re equipped with the knowledge necessary to eliminate the problem. You can start fresh, and get the optimization results you’re looking for. You might not see them overnight, but with time the effect will be noticeable.
Just for the record, I’m not an “ad” guy. In a “Boom” economy ads work in just about any media, even bad ones. Up until the last 12 months when money was easy, so were sales. Now that the credit markets have tightened up, dealers have to start to market instead of advertise. Auto dealers are commonly the best business people in a city and commonly spend more than most other businesses in advertising. Unfortunately, auto dealers as a whole are sometimes also the weakest marketers. The difference between advertising and marketing is essentially this: Advertising is the shotgun that blasts your message out to potential buyers. Marketing is the mechanism that aims the shotgun to make sure you hit your target.
So how do you grow sales in a local market that’s down in double digits?
Step 1. Figure out what works.
Most dealers will tell you that some of their advertising works, and some of it doesn’t, however if you ask them to quantify that statement with numbers, silence falls over the room.
Start by running a simple cost per thousand analysis to determine what it’s costing you to reach 1,000 buyers through your current advertising streams. The cost doesn’t have to be down to the penny to give you a clear view of the playing field. This will help you determine how to reallocate your buying power by reallocating funds.
Step 2. Explore new ways to reach customers
Once you’ve identified the vendors that are not delivering an acceptable ROI for your advertising dollar, reallocate a portion of those funds to try new ways to reach customers. There is no shortage of automotive advertising portals available on the Internet, but the key is to find ones that work for both your inventory, and market. Craigslist is the most obvious, and if you haven’t already started posting your vehicles there, it’s a great place to start. Craigslist is one of the top 10 most visited sites in the U.S. and allows you to post your inventory one vehicle at a time at no charge. Craigslist does not currently allow for a datafeed, and the use of a 3rd party software like LotVantage is key to effectively promote and manage your vehicles. Lot Vantage provides unlimited craigslist postings for a flat $100 per month and will accept a datafeed of your inventory to eliminate the need to re-enter any information. The posting process takes less than 60 seconds and the software provides key features such as multiple craigslist templates, hit counters per vehicle, and reporting. For more information on Lot Vantage you can visit www.lotvantage.com.
Step 3. Reach the consumer on a personal level.
Any salesperson will tell you that the no one buys a car from someone they don’t like. There are simply too many choices to have to deal with someone that you can’t identify with or worst yet, don’t like. Advertising is the exact same, telling a story about your dealership is the first step in differentiating yourself from other dealers in your market.
The key to success in these trying times is to focus on what works and not get discouraged. The only thing that you have absolute control over every day is your attitude and effort. When you focus on these, everything else will start to fall into place.
Earlier last year, eBay Motors announced a drastic change in their pricing structure. Effective September 3rd, 2008, every eBay user is permitted to list the first 4 vehicles each calendar year with no insertion fees. EBay Motors also lowered their insertion fees 50% across the board in effect allowing dealers to list more new and pre owned vehicles with the same eBay Motors budget.
The result 60 days later is impressive to say the least. On September 3rd eBay Motors had a total of 44,209 passenger vehicles listed on the site. 60 days later, on November 3rd eBay Motors has 57,256 listings. The net change of 12,957 eBay Motors listings represents an increase of 29% in total advertised units over a 60 day period indicating that more and more dealers are finding success on eBay Motors.
In the current economic environment, it’s no secret that dealerships across the board are suffering significant decreases in sales, with some dealerships reporting up to double digit declines forcing dealers to reevaluate their spending habits and advertising budgets. Consumer marketing campaigns through, radio, television, and newspapers traditionally account for the bulk of a dealership’s advertising cost per unit, however in recent years we have seen a consistent shift toward online portals such as eBay Motors, dealership websites, and SEM as viable advertising sources for both new and pre-owned units.
As of late however, the online shift has hit seismic proportions in the auto industry. According to Autobytel, a staggering 91 percent of dealers plan to either increase or maintain their level of online marketing while other advertising mediums continue to feel the tightening of dealership wallets. Rich Greenfield of the Pali Institute reports that local television advertising by dealerships is down 50% from last year, and that the potential merger between GM and Chrysler could further exacerbate local television advertising woes. On another front the Orlando Business Journal reported earlier this month that Autotrader announced the closing of its Orlando call center early next year as part of a larger restructuring by the automotive giant. Last month News Media Group, publishers of the New Your Times, reported a decrease of 14.1% in print advertising revenues while realizing an increase of 16.4% in Internet advertising revenue.
The appeal of eBay as a marketing arm to auto dealers is no surprise given the reach of the automotive portal. Consider the following:
- A vehicle is sold on eBay Motors every minute
- eBay Motors receives 12 Million unique visitors each month
- eBay Motors sold one million vehicles online between August 06 & April 08
This kind of reach into a global marketplace and the recent pricing restructure by eBay Motors will surely continue to deliver a powerful alternative to local advertising portals for dealerships seeking a broader audience and more cost effective advertising medium.
The other day while speaking to a dealership it occurred to me that in recent months I’d spoken to several individuals that used Craigslist to sell their car locally, and then used eBay Motors to buy another car often times several states away immediately bypassing the local newspapers’ car ads and local dealership websites.
Marketwatch.com’s Internet Daily recently reported that a new book published by Edmunds.com has predicted that 30 percent of new cars soon will be purchased through dealerships’ Internet or e-Commerce departments. In this age of online video, online consumer reviews, and access to a litany of information the only reason most people need to actually visit a car dealership is for the test drive and paperwork.
One of the largest contributing factors to car buying via the Internet is the consumer’s ability to research prices, specification, and availability at local dealerships from the comfort of their own home on their timetable. Consumers also feel that by arming themselves with information prior to visiting the dealership they are more likely to shorten the amount of time spent at the dealership and negotiate a better price on the car they want.
I speak from experience, because it happened to me. I bought my new (used) car from a dealer selling on eBay and negotiated my price prior to the end of the auction. When I checked with several other local dealers for the identical model and year with roughly the same mileage, the advertised prices typically were $2,000 to $5,000 more than the vehicle I found on eBay Motors.
Simply put: Newspapers, auto classifieds, direct mail campaigns, and television are facing what could be one of the most significant shifts in advertising dollars in generations. EBay Motors, Craigslist, and other online portals provide instant access to information for consumers and deliver a more cost effective advertising medium to dealers.
As of September 2nd, 2008 at Midnight Pacific Time, eBay Motors implemented a new pricing schedule. eBay Motors is eliminating all Insertion Fees for the first four vehicles listed in a 12 month period. Starting with the fifth vehicle listed, the Insertion Fee is $20 per vehicle listed. After 12 months, the counter resets and you get another four vehicles with no Insertion Fees. However, if the vehicle results in a sale on eBay (meaning it meets reserve price or auction is won by Buy It Now) there will be a final value fee of $150 compared to the previous $50 fee.
This will result in a $40 savings on each of the first four vehicles listed and a $20 savings on every vehicle listed thereafter. But don’t re-adjust your budget for this change, why not re-adjust your listing volume from the aspect of you can now list 2 vehicles for the same price it used to cost for 1. Click here to see the news on eBay Motors.
According to Automotive News, automotive advertisers have cut their spending to the lowest level in nine years as more money shifts from TV and print media to the Internet. This year’s automotive advertising budget for both automakers and dealers will be down 16% from 2007 in U.S. media according to the Wall Street research firm, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. This year’s 15 billion in auto advertising represents the lowest advertising spending in almost a decade for the automobile industry.
Bernstein Research projects that auto advertisers will spend an average of $1057 for every new vehicle sold in 2008 representing a 19% decrease from the spending peak in 2004 with TV and Newspapers losing the bulk of the advertising dollars.
According to a study conducted by TNS Media Intelligence, car companies and dealers spent about $3.63 billion dollars in U.S. advertising in the first quarter of 2008. According to TNS OEM ad spending dropped 14.5%, dealership spending declined 6.8%, and dealer association spending fell 4.1% when compared to the first quarter of 2007.
TNS reported that the decrease in automotive advertising spending was not across the board for all mediums. In Q1-2008 the automotive industry as a whole spent less on TV, magazine, newspaper, radio, and outdoor advertising while increasing spending on Internet display ads.The Quick change to digital marketing includes a renewed focus on company websites, third party automotive sites, and keyword ads on search engines such as Google.
The automotive industry is changing. Dealerships nationwide are shifting their advertising dollars away from print, radio, and newspapers. They’re expanding their reach and maximizing their advertising dollars by leveraging the power of the Internet. Recent Neilsen data tells us that newspaper subscriptions are down, the effectiveness of direct mail has plummeted, and even television commercials have suffered thanks to DVRs. But Internet usage continues to skyrocket.
Today the automotive industry is faced with a more educated consumer. 90% of all car buyers begin their search on the Internet, and almost all of them think the transaction should take less than 2 hours at the dealership.
But despite all this some dealerships still try to use the same old methods to get consumers on the lot that they did over a decade ago.
- Newspaper Inserts and classified ads
- Tent Sales
- Radio Blasts and on-locations promos
A dealership’s website is the best source of Internet leads closely followed by Search Engines and 3rd party sites such as eBay Motors. History tells us that dealerships should be converting an average of 12% of their website leads to sales, and that Internet leads should account for about 40% of overall vehicle sales.
Most dealerships already have advertising dollars set aside for online automotive portals such as AutoTrader and Cars.com, but these sites overlap other local marketing efforts.Â Vehicle searches on Autotrader and Cars.com have a default search radius of 25-30 miles and neither are transactional sites. eBay Motors however is a transactional site, and searches worldwide. eBay Motors is one of the top sources for quality Internet leads but is often overlooked by dealerships.
A visitor to eBay Motors can actually complete the purchase of a vehicle without ever setting foot on a dealership’s lot, and it happens everyday. Earlier this year eBay completed their 3 millionth online transaction. EBay Motors is the largest online marketplace in the world and sells more vehicles by 9am than most dealerships will in an entire year. In fact, a vehicle sells on eBay Motors every 56 seconds.
If you’re ready to refocus your time and energy to sell more vehicles, we are waiting for you. You don’t need to spend any more money than you are today, only to review and reallocate your existing budget to reach a broader audience with a comprehensive Internet marketing strategy that incorporates eBay and reaches a global audience. The world is waiting. Show them your cars.