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Friday, August 25, 2006

Do Customers actually buy the vehicles that they search for?

Digital Dealer published this article that publishes some interesting statistics around if customers actually buy the vehicles that they search for. It looks like the data that was collected by NADAguides.com shows that the customers do purchase the vehicles that they search for. This leads to some interesting opportunities for dealers that can get their hands on vehicle search data. Especially if that search data is local data. Vehicle trends happen, and is talked about in the article about hybrids and how the number of searches are increasing because of high gas prices.

Understanding what vehicles are being searched for in the major search engines is valuable data for dealers.

Best Features for Your Auto Dealer Website

One thing I've realized recently about website design in the automotive industry is that there seem to be an almost unlimited number of features available. If someone thinks it will benefit a car dealer, it will be made. Unfortunately, I've noticed that some of these features are practically force-fed to the dealers gathering info on the best features for their own website design. How many times have you been to an auto dealer site and as soon as you pull up the home page you hear a virtual "person" talking to you? My first instinct is a frantic "where is the button to stop this make-believe man or woman from interrupting my search?". Similar to flash intro pages on sites. It's been said that the "skip intro" button is the most widely used across those sites.

If you're just getting started shopping around for a web design company to handle your car dealer site you've probably realized one thing already. There are a ton of companies out there. Several major players exist in the market, and even more smaller players. Just look at these search results on MSN and you'll see there are (at the time of this post) over 161,000 results for "independent auto dealer websites). Good, bad, and everything in between. Most offer the core features you'll need for your site, and then each company seems to have their own "secondary" products that are available.

My advice to anyone looking for decent web design, especially for an auto dealer website, is to focus on the features you need. I'm a believer in keeping things simple; if it works, don't change it. There are of course things that can increase dealership profits on the online side of things, just make sure if you're spending money on these things that they actually provide a significant return on your investment.

It's always worthwhile to ask the companies you check out how much customization they're willing to do. If they have features in their packages that you just don't see yourself using, ask for a price without those features. If you're looking for cheap web design, my advice is to shop around, narrow it down to 2-3 companies that you're confident can handle your account, and see what each is willing to do to earn your business. No great secrets here, just like if you were buying a car you'd shop a few dealerships and not spend extra money on a convertible when you don't like the sun.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Selling Vehicles on eBay

I recently read a press release that eBay just had their 2 millionth successful auction, again connecting an automotive buyer with a dealership. Considering neither the buyer or the seller would have normally even known about each other, this is yet another piece of evidence of where the industry is headed. 2 million vehicles sold is a powerful number. Add in the millions each year sold by the other big players like Autotrader.com, Cars.com, etc. and you just can't ignore the internet. I talk to several dealers every day who are anti-internet. Call them traditionalists. Magazines and newspapers aren't going away, although they are losing marketshare at a fast pace. These traditional dealers who haven't embraced the internet will continue to sell cars as well, but the question in my mind is not "if" they start migrating online, but "when" they will. If any dealer plans on being successful beyond the next few years, I'd say they should start thinking about buying a computer. There are internet sites for different types of sales. Some major differences you should know about:

eBay says it themselves on their site. It's meant to be a wholesale marketplace. They recommend using their site for vehicles that a dealer would normally take to auction or wholesale. With the few cars I've sold through eBay I've noticed that most of the people are looking for a deal and do not want to pay retail for the vehicles. Some cars I've still managed to make money on, while others I've taken quite a hit. I recommend following eBay's own recommendations, because when you put a car up for auction, it's a legally binding contract and you have to sell it once it hits your reserve.

Autotrader.com and Cars.com are more retail-oriented. On these sites you can expect customers who are willing to pay retail for your vehicles. There is more opportunity to practice your traditional car-dealer tactics....sales and negotiation...whereas auction sites are more of a "put it up, let the car sell itself, and get what you can get" type mentality.

The bottom line is that there are sites out there for your vehicles, however you want to sell them. Move them quick for wholesale or hang onto them a little longer for more money. Each site has its own style, traffic numbers, and ultimately sales. Prior to trying any out, make sure you talk with some other dealers to see what seems to work best for the type of vehicles you have and your particular area. The biggest complaint I do hear from dealers that use heavy online advertising is that they are required to enter the same vehicles on multiple sites. If you have a website provider for your dealership it's worthwhile to ask about inventory feeds. This will eliminate double and triple-entry, and save you a lot of time.