Sunday, 14 October 2012

Is your Website Mobile Optimized yet?

Nowadays a staggering  9 out of 10 New Zealanders have access to the internet, with the  time we spend online doubling since 2005. And 59% of New Zealanders using the internet are over 35 – its a myth that it is just gen Y surfing the net!
 More and more people are searching the internet and shopping online, particularly on their smartphones.  In 2013, 50% of online traffic will come from mobile devices – smartphones like the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows mobile, Palm Pre). The use of these devices is sky-rocketing with 60% of Kiwis are expected to have a smartphone by the end of this year. Soon enough, all mobile phones will be smartphones.  More people than ever will use their smartphones rather than computers for surfing the internet and shopping. The ‘second screen’ is commonplace in many Kiwi households – people are looking at their smartphones and iPads whilst watching telly, or eating tea.

It is essential to keep up with the technology that your customers are using. Look at a normal website on a smartphone  – the majority look woeful. Most of them look teeny tiny and really hard to navigate - you need to pinch the screen to enlarge everything, and the pages take ages to load! A recently survey showed that 40% of users have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad experience trying to search an un-optimized website on a smartphone.

If you have website, optimizing it for mobile use is imperative.  People who are shopping on their mobiles have different needs and expectations than those who are shopping online on their lap top or PC.  They need easier to read pages, and for pages to appear quickly. They are searching for specific items, the information accessed on their on mobile needs to be easily searched and accessed. They are looking for specific makes and models, information on the makes and models that dealership has for sale, as well as dealer contact details. If your dealership does not have a mobile website, you are missing out on potential leads and sales.
As well as when people are at work or out of their office or homes, dealer mobile website use increases at weekends, when people are out and about doing the rounds of yards on a weekend. These shoppers are far along the car buying process, they will have a make, model, year and budget in mind.  The easier it is to access information about your stock on a smartphone, the more likely you will get leads and walk-ins. People’s attention spans these days are short! If someone is searching for a specific vehicle on a website that isn't mobilized  it is harder to see and access and the consumer is likely to just give up and move on to another dealer’s website that is mobile and easily accessible.

Functionality that your Mobile Website needs

1.       Good search options
The more search criteria on mobile websites, the better, i.e. Body style, make & model, price, mileage, transmission cc-rating etc.

2.       Vehicle Features and Description
Easy access to your vehicle’s features and your description and information about the vehicle is vital.
3.       How to find you
Address details, contact details and a map are key for mobile websites, so your buyers can easily find you!
4.       Easy dealer contact
The ability to find your phone number or contact you by email is important. Another valuable feature is automatic dialing  when a person can click on the salesperson’s number and have the phone ring it automatically making your dealership easily accessible.
We began to build mobile websites for our clients last year, and we have found a huge increase in leads and enquiries coming directly from dealer’s mobile websites
Mobilising your website will make it easier for customers to search your stock, find your yard and make contact.  
If you have a dealer website – you should have that website made ‘mobile’. People also generally prefer mobile websites to Apps, as mobile websites are easier to find – if someone clicks on your website URL on a mobile phone and you are mobile optimized, the mobile site will load automatically. 

The good news is that it is not too difficult to optimize your website for mobile.  Many local businesses provide mobile website builds, so ensure you don’t get left behind.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Get your stock moving with Video

Selling cars isn’t easy, and the internet has made it challenging for dealers to distinguish themselves. From a buyer’s perspective, another dealership is just a click away. Dealers need a way to immediately capture the customer’s attention and differentiate themselves from their competition, online video is one of these ways.

No other marketing medium creates emotional attachment like video can. Whether you’re selling a house, car or a widget, video helps you merchandise at a whole new level.

In October, Trade Me Motors will be implementing a new video technology called AutoReel. This automatically creates a simple video presentation for participating dealers’ cars for sale on Trade Me Motors. AutoReel stitches together the photos of the vehicle, and adds an automated audio voice-over created from over 2,500 pre-recorded phrases. We think it is going to be a great way for dealers to stand out from the crowd.

The process is all automated, so the good news is that dealers don’t need to do any additional work to create the AutoReel presentations and have them bolted onto their Trade Me listings. Check out a Demo of this product here.

"Watching video content on computers has become just as common as watching video content on television among online consumers" 
Dazzz Wiltshire, Trade Me 

According to Nielsen’s global survey of multi-screen media usage, watching video content on computers has become just as common as watching video content on television among online consumers. More than 80 percent of Internet respondents in 56 countries reported watching video content at home on a computer (84%) or on TV (83%) at least once a month. By contrast, in 2010, more online consumers reported watching video content on TV (90%) than on a computer (86%) in a month-long period.

Back home in New Zealand, Nielsen also tells us that over 73% of Trade Me’s audience use YouTube, justifying that online video is just as popular here as well. As video consumption becomes part of everyday life, it should be no surprise that consumers prefer the use of video in product evaluation and selection, and that includes when shopping for a used car.

So why video, and what makes a product like AutoReel so special compared to a well-constructed static car listing?

Different - It sets you apart from other dealerships and means your listings will potentially appeal to a larger audience. Not all your visitors prefer to receive content using text alone, and AutoReel means they will now have the option to watch, listen and read at the same time.

Videos are "sticky" AutoReel is a way to make information more interesting. Video engages visitors’ senses more than text, and is likely to attract more vehicle viewings encouraging visitors to look longer at your listings. This helps build long-term relationships with your visitors which can lead to more sales.

The use of video online is exploding – and if a picture speaks 1000 words, then video must be worth a million.  Can you afford not to be involved?

Please contact us here for more. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Keeping up and being found is the goal

The internet shows little mercy and respect for business, even those businesses that only overlap the web don’t remain immune.  While Yahoo is still a large internet player it is in the shadow of Google and there is much expectation on Marissa Mayer as Yahoo’s new CEO to address the imbalance.  No matter how large or how successful you are currently, unless you are following the trends and technology you quickly fall off the pace and into history.  Even large and very successful companies like Nokia and RIM (Blackberry) who have ruled the mobile world are struggling to survive as the internet and mobile domains have merged. So great is the drive from consumers around internet usability, the old benchmarks of what made a fantastic mobile phone have been consigned to the past. Keeping up is the goal as with internet selling we rely on many components to successfully come together to make it work.  There can be more to it than a newspaper and eyeballs environment.

User behaviour on the web is rapidly changing brought about by evolving access methods and devices.  It is also not the world of the young any more with recent statistics showing more people over the age of 35 access the web than under.  Generally with age comes wealth, mobility, smartphones and tablets.  Following these users and their habits is now becoming a fulltime job and art, but so important to being successful online.  For dealers using Trade Me, the cost and time invested to ensure the maximum reach and exposure for vehicle listings just happens, what is not seen is the huge amount of work going on in the background.  The iPhone application emerged in November 2010 and in February this year both an Android and Touch site were launched. With this suite of three applications there is not a common mobile or tablet device that does not have access to an optimised Trade Me user experience.  It is not enough now to just be on the web you need to be device optimised.

This year has also seen the growth of the home eco system and Apple is the master of this. Without knowing it, one Apple device within a house becomes two, iTunes becomes the content provider of choice all served through an Apple TV; if your home does not already look like this your child’s classroom might.   Apple is not alone with Microsoft pitching the Xbox as a media centre and Sony the Playstation.  The concept of the second screen is alive and growing, as sitting in that cold spare bedroom or home office loses its appeal; life on the internet is now a tablet on the couch in front of TV. We are all winners as our customers move from looking at the web once or twice a day to an environment where they practically live on it.  An interesting exercise is to look at our own household internet usage, I would be surprised if you have not found it doubling each year.

With users being more internet savvy, being found and keeping customers engaged becomes the next challenge and as I outlined above they generally won’t hang around on content that is not optimised for the device they are using, hence why Trade Me has three standalone mobile applications.  If you have website, optimising it for mobile use is imperative as people who are shopping on their mobiles have different needs and expectations than those who are shopping online on their laptop or PC.  They need easier to read pages and for pages to appear quickly, they are searching for specific items therefore the information accessed on their mobile needs to be easily searched and accessed.  If your dealership does not have a mobile website, you are missing out on potential leads and sales.

More time online does not necessary mean more time looking at the same content.  As users become more knowledgeable and their search skills become more honed this leads to the fragmentation of content.  Once upon a time, Facebook was the be all and end all of social media and you would have thought no one could compete, however as users gain experience they are now moving to more niche sites for dedicated content or functionality.  People are choosing the application Path, for a more secure closed user group social network and sites like Instagram and Pinterest for more visual imaged based networking, and even sites like Spotify are starting to compete with Apple’s iTunes.  Like these sites, Trade Me holds a huge amount of user/dealer generated content and it is important that each time someone returns they are presented with new interesting vehicles.  Holding a mix of classified and auction listings ensures the user is always presented with something new and dynamically changing; if the content is not fresh the customers will not keep returning as they have choice.

Keeping up and being found is the goal, leverage where you can by partnering with providers that enhance both your fixed and mobile web presence. The longer and more often your customers are online the more dynamic and engaging your content needs to be to standout.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Playing by the Rules

Two of the increasingly hot topics discussed this year are around the listing order displayed within Trade Me Motors and the usage of keywords. I am personally a big fan of internet neutrality and all it means for internet service providers and consumer access, however even in the big wide web world there still is the requirement for a few rules. If you have some free time Google J C Penney and Samsonite,  look for articles around the manipulation of search results. What we see on the web is dictated by the search engine we use for a number of reasons. The web is huge and so full of content that without the search engines indexing algorithms and a basic knowledge from your PC about your search behaviour you would never get relevant results along with some much targeted advertising. 
Companies like Google draw a strong distinction between those practices and techniques that are set to deceive search results commonly called ‘black-hat’ services and ‘white-hat’ approaches that are offered by legitimate SEM consultants. Everybody wants a more prominent web presence, but this has to be achieved within a set of rules and boundaries. Without this, consumers of the web will lack any relevant return on their search results. In the J. C. Penney case organic search results, those that are not ranked and displayed due to advertising payment were manipulated by the termination of hundreds of web sites links to the J. C. Penney website along with the wide spread use of keywords. The end result was J. C. Penny ranking higher is search results for Samsonite than the Samsonite companies own web site. Google took direct action against J. C. Penney and dropped their average search results from appearing in the first 1 or 2 down to a ranking around 52. Now that must have hurt.
Marketplaces are also open to the same practices and are generally policed in the same way search engines patrol the web. The goal is to always keep the consumer happy and coming back time and time again. For a site like Trade Me Motors there are a number of reasons why consumers keep returning. There is a feeling of immediacy and urgency around the auctions, and the classified listings content should be new and fresh. This is even more important now with mobile devices penetration growing giving customers ubiquitous anytime anywhere access. With each returning visit you never want to disappoint.
Keywords are a very efficient way of improving the quality of your Trade Me listings and being found within the keyword searches. The thing to remember about Trade Me Motors is that the keyword search is used both for keywords, and models. For any word or words entered into this field, the complete content of the listings are searched for results. This is hugely powerful.  There are broadly four types of keywords that you should consider when writing comments for vehicles. First, what features does this vehicle have and second, what benefits are standouts like safety, fuel economy, manual and a great first car etc? Third, make sure you include any common miss-spellings or miss-formatting of the model. An common example is including CX7 within the text for a Mazda CX-7. Lastly, list any selling point you have available from your dealership, like free nationwide delivery. A good clue as to what keywords are being used within the search field is to start typing then and you will see the most popular search terms automatically display. This is the ‘white-hat’ approach to keyword usage, and is all fine. What is tightly controlled by Trade Me is the  ’black-hat’ , predatory approach with the use of competitor makes and models keywords to gain an advantage within the search results and attract more people to that listing using lists of various car models. There is nothing worse than trying to search for a make and model and having the returned list containing unwanted results due to the incorrect use of or predatory targeting of keywords. This does not keep consumers engaged viewing your stock.   
On Trade Me, the listing order or ‘sort order’ as it is sometimes called is based on a calculation that contains a number of variables. Two of which is the date listed and the number of views a listing has generated. Above these there are two paid positions available at the top of all searches, the first being the Super Feature with the large post card images and the second being the yellow boxed Feature Listings.  Going back to my previous point that customers keep returning due to the listings always appearing fresh and new, this sort order is very important. The age old question of refreshing stock on the site reduces this experience with the returning of old listing to the top of the sort order.  If all dealers engaged in this practice, thousands of listing per day would re-appear at the top of the sort order and the newer listings would be quickly lost. At this point, nobody wins. Customers are also like train-spotters and quickly become dissatisfied with dealers whose vehicles keep returning to their watch lists. They also notice vehicles that have been sitting on Trade Me for long periods of time, that suddenly appear with a fresh date at the top of their searches –this can cause suspicion, and mistrust of that dealer.
So even though the internet is the largest non-owned entity in the world and for most part it is unregulated, the nature of it means that it does impose some of its own self-regulation. For the same reasons these guidelines are also in place for trading market places to ensure the best possible experience for the users - unless you happen to be a German living in a Coatesville mansion. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Automation doesn’t beat the human touch

I’ve noticed a change is dealer listings lately. Part of my job is to look at listings day in day out, and here at AutoBase & Trade Me I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty versed in what makes a good listing. The proof is in the pudding – good listings get more views, and this information is available to us and all of our clients. Lately I’ve noticed a couple of trends on listings, and they seem to originate from listings being purely automated, with no human input.  
It’s not all about you
The first trend that dealers are cramming their listings full of information about their yard, with very little about the vehicle for sale. Some Vehicle Management Systems allow you to duplicate standard text about your dealership automatically to every listing. It is definitely great to include information about your yard, such as hours, deals, finance options etc – but it should be a balance so make sure you are also adding enough information about the vehicle for sale for potential buyers to search for, and find. People are looking for specific vehicles, and when you come across a listing for a vehicle you like the look off which has little or NO information about that vehicle – it puts you off and you move on to the next. It’s simply just annoying.  For example:
Private Sellers work the system
We know that listings with about half about the car and half about the yard work well. Last year we published an article about privates vs dealers. Privates Private sellers make up 70% of used automotive sales, dealers 30%.  As we see it, there are 3 main factors that distinguish private sellers from dealers that in reality, dealers should be up to play with. Time, Motivation and Emotion. Private sellers spend the time to put blood, sweat and tears into their listings with loads of information about the vehicle for sale. They only have 1 vehicle to sell so can put everything into it.  They will think of every single benefit and feature to mention in their listing to promote their vehicle. It sounds basic, but so many dealer listings lack much of the following information that privates do so well:
·         Selling points
·         Why are they selling
·         How does the car run
·         Prior maintenance
·         Mention modifications
·         Highlight good mileage
·         Highlight special features
Private sellers also tell a story about how great the vehicle has been, how well it runs, and how well they have looked after it. This is what potential buyers want and need to know. A listing with just “Black Ute, 4 wheel drive” in the comments is not going to motivate a potential buyer to contact that yard – there are plenty better listings available at the tip of their fingers to look at.
No info – no sale
People like to use classified sites such as Trade Me because it is easy to search for exactly what they want. My friends and I tend to plug in a keyword into one of the search bars, and go from there e.g. “economical automatic Toyota”, “black Suzuki Swift” or “X5 leather interior”.  Recently I watched a friend search online for a Mazda Atenza.  He was particularly interested in a leather interior. He did a search based on price, year, transmission and KMs. The first Atenza he found was from a local dealer, but only had only 2 images (both exterior), no features and hardly any information about the vehicle, let alone any information about the interior. He grunted and clicked onto the next listing. I asked him why he didn't just contact the dealer to ask for more information about that particular vehicle - he said he couldn't be bothered when there were so many other similar vehicles with more info in his list. That dealer lost a sale and he ended up buying from private seller, who had a listing for a slightly more expensive vehicle, but it showed him everything he wanted.
Keywords Keyword Keywords
If a listing has few keywords or information about the vehicle, it won’t be picked up in some search criteria. We can’t recommend enough that the more keywords you use, the better. Keywords are searched from the top to bottom of your listing on Trade Me Motors - therefore a key word in the features list OR comments 'free flow' section will be picked up in a browser's search. All the keywords below in yellow will be picked up in search results.
Here are some interesting facts:
·         80% of searches include 1 to 3 filters
·         Almost 50% of searches include a keyword
·         49% of viewers search for a car make  
·         Around 41% of searches include a price option. 
The most popular filters used when searching Trade Me Motors are:
1. Make
2. A keyword (e.g. manual, v8, 4x4, leather interior, economical etc)
3. Body style, Price or Year

Another trick to use
Here is a trick that we know encourages people to view tour listings. Instead of just having the Model Detail, this dealer has added *REDUCED* to draw attention to the listing.
You can see for yourself how effective it is at getting attention. You get 25 characters to play with, and they all show up within the search results headline for that vehicle, e.g: ** NZ NEW **, **SPECIAL** or ** Drive Away Price **. Use this information wisely - don't say anything in the headline unless it’s true and relevant to the vehicle being advertised. 
At the end of the day, Vehicle Managements Systems are a great way to get lots of stock loaded quickly but make sure you are reading your listings that are going out, and making sure that they have enough relevant information. Jump onto your classified website and search for your own listings – are they easy to find? There is a lot of competition on the Internet, so make sure you spend a little bit of time and effort to make the best of your listings to stand out from the crowd. You might just make more sales.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The View From The Cheap Seats

When you live and breathe the internet and emerging trends each day it is easy to forget that from the outside it can seem ever-changing and confusing.  Sitting in the back row of the recent Autotalk Digital Dealer conference in Auckland and listening to the presenters and feedback from the floor, you can see why sometimes messages can appear to be a bit mixed.  However, when looking at the essence and trends presented, they were all very similar and relativity easy to understand.  Let me step through a couple as I saw them.

The internet and online selling is becoming more and more competitive and as a dealer you need to take two clear basic steps to ensure that you remain successful.

Step one is your overall web presence and for most of us this is centred on a company website.  As we all know a website alone means little without customers viewing its content.  To drive the public towards your website there are a number of options; two options which were discussed during the Digital Dealer were:

·         Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - This allows any search engine like Google to view and understand the content of your website. The better search engines understand your website the more chance you have of being found by customers searching for content, or in most cases, vehicles or company details. Don’t be scared to ask your current website host about SEO and how they have optimised your site. The answer should not sound complicated.

·         Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – This is generally “paid-for” promotion of your website through the use of Google Adwords where your website is listed as an advertisement above or beside the organic/nonpaid search results. To not waste money on SEM you really need to seek expert advice or do a lot of research. The tools available are very good but can take a while to get your head around.

Step two is leveraging a market place like Trade Me to drive customers towards your website and ultimately in the door.  Just like the broader internet, Trade Me is highly competitive but there are a number of simple tools and features that can be used to guarantee a strong presence.  To achieve a similar result as SEM gives you on the web, products like Super Features guarantee top of search presence at a fixed priced with a large format.  As per any sales cycle, from this point you need to start closing the options down for the customer. This was presented by AutoPlay in that moving the customer back to your own more controlled website with the offer of additional information or video is advantageous.  By making this a simple link you remain far more in control of the customers experience.

Neither of the two steps above can be run in isolation and how you balance your spend across both is a tactical decision for your business and one it would be difficult for me to be seen as unbiased on.  In essence it comes down to calculating the best value for money and if you are an AutoBase customer ask your Account Manager for a full breakdown of your listings statistics to understand what traffic your spend is driving. Your website provider should also be able to similar information.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Is your business 24-7 or 9-5?

What happens if someone contacts your yard after hours? Do you have systems in place to answer and follow up with that lead, be it an email, text message or phone call?
Texting and emailing dealers rather than picking up the phone is more common place these days.  As our GM David discussed in our previous Autofile article, more people spend after hours relaxing watching telly as well as surfing the web at the same time.  There are currently more than five million mobile phones in New Zealand – that’s more than the
entire population!

35% of mobile phones in New Zealand are Smartphones

Kiwis are using their Smartphones to surf the net. When researching vehicles if they see something that piques their interest, contact is usually a click of an email, call or text away.  Customers are after instant gratification, and the internet provides this.  

I was chatting to some dealers recently about the trend in people texting them after hours re. vehicles. The general consensus was that short one sentence texts re. a vehicle are possibly from time wasters or tire kickers, and that texting on a weekend evening was a little rude. However, one dealer said he was home watching telly on a Saturday night when he received a text from lady re. a vehicle at 9.30pm. He thought that was a little weird, but decided to reply. Long story short – that lady was on the yard the next morning and bought the vehicle. A quick survey amongst my friends aged approximately 25-35 showed that they would rather email or text a dealer than call because they think that they will be “sold to” on the phone. 
Last year a US study1 concluded that 88% of adults ages 45 years and younger prefer text message communication over a phone call or email.
Not only is texting non-confrontational but often, people are at work and can’t talk on the phone. Even at weekends you have shift workers and those who work unusual hours surfing the net but unable to pick up the phone and call a dealer.  Given that by the time a person actually makes contact with the dealer they are way down the research process and ready to test drive and buy, these emails, calls and texts are GOLD. Dealers must be open to texters.  Continuing to remain competitive in an age of increasing text-based communication means that dealers need to be accessible, as well as comfortable communicating in this way.
9-5 dealers aren’t only competing with those dealers operating ’24-7’, but also with privates. If a private seller gets a call, email or text about their vehicle for sale at any time of the day, you can bet they will reply immediately and move heaven and earth to arrange a meeting with the prospective buyer. They are motivated to sell and therefore put blood, sweat and tears into their listings and into following up on every single lead.
There is now software available to capture appointments with potential clients that can be lost be not being able to answer calls or emails after-hours, dealers are using online service scheduling software. This means that customers who don’t have to wait on hold to get someone to speak to and can immediately lock in an appointment with the dealer at a time that is available and suits them – job done.  Un-answered calls largely go to voice mail, and the customer hangs up. By offering customers the ability to schedule appointments, this avoids the potential loss of a sale - plus keep the customer happy.
To stay ahead of the game there are a few key tools to ensure that your dealership is operating 24-7:
1.       Make your website mobile
Websites are 24-7.  Stats show that by 2013, 50% of web traffic will come from mobile devices. Mobilising your website will make it easier for customers to search your stock, find the vehicles they like, and contact make contact. 

2.  Have an after-hours contacts available
More and more customers are surfing the net at weekends and after hours and when they call a mobile number, they expect a response. Make sure your website has options where customer can contact you after-hours.

3.  Treat all Leads as valuable - don’t dismiss texts or emails to Facebook or tweets.
It is worth bearing in mind that 75% of adult Internet customers use social media – you may get leads from your company Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts. Is someone from your company checking interaction with your social media websites?

4.  Have a good Lead Management  process
It’s fine having an after-hours contact, but make sure that these after-hours enquiries are being checked, and actioned, before the customer gets tired of waiting for a reply and moves on to the competition, be it another yard, or a private seller.  Website visitors need to be converted into qualified leads wherever you can.  

5.  Keep your stock up to date
Update your stock regularly, keeping information fresh.
Stay ahead of the game and embrace the technology that your customers are using. Remember:
 “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, 
you're part of the road.” 
 (Stewart Band, Creator The Whole Earth Catalog)
1.        Potratz Partners Agency
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