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OPINION – Why it’s vital to dress up your Web site

March 13, 2006
Filed under Columns

INDIANAPOLIS —­ Like the tiger-print leather get-up? Borrowin’ it from LBZ’s Mike Russell.
Comes off slick with that overhead lighting placed at just the right angle and that neon glow ball workin’ its voodoo magic, right?
And how about that huge plasma TV kickin’ out some high-flyin’ motocross footage. That’s new this year. Nice, huh?
But enough about my Indy booth … what’s that? The blonde in the corner signing posters? Don’t concern yourself; we have more pressing concerns to talk about.
You see, your dealership Web site … Whoo! Concentrate now. She’ll be there later. Promise.
Now, as I was saying, your Web site is honestly more important than you think.
Consider these two pretty incredible facts:

  • 75-90 percent of the public is doing research online about noncommodity products they’re looking to buy, according to eMarketer.com;
  • If a customer then enters your store with the knowledge they’ve gained online, it’s likely they’ll spend more time buying additional products.
    Why’s that? Well, shoppers have a mental alarm clock, if you will, that tells them how long they have to shop at a particular store. If all their time is taken looking for the product they were originally interested in, then it’s less likely they’ll buy something else. But if your Web site can educate them, then more of their time will be spent browsing and possibly buying other products.
    That mental alarm concept was brought up by 50 Below Marketing Manager Jason McConnell at a seminar here at Dealer Expo.
    Now, I’m not going to stand here … actually, do you mind if I sit? My feet are killing me. You’re too kind. As I was saying, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that 50 Below or any other online company is better than the other. That’s not my point. This is: The online opportunities for you dealers are really something.
    What’s that? The blonde’s name? I’m not sure, and you’re missing the point.
    You see, you probably spent a considerable sum of money setting up your Web site a year or two ago and now it sits idle. That’s not good.
    Well sure, I understand you have other things to do than sit down and try to figure out the computer. Heh, I’m not the most computer-literate guy myself. But consider this: you can actually save time for your staff if you put more time into the Web site. That’s something else McConnell mentioned.
    See, if you spend the time to put educational information on your Web site, then the consumer can get most of their questions answered online. Then they won’t suck up your sales staff’s time by asking a bunch of very basic questions. So all the consumer does is come in your store and checks the product out for himself. You know, just to look at it and touch it. And then, bam! He buys it. Just like that. And who knows what else because his mental shopping alarm clock is still running.
    What’s that? Your feet are hurting now? Well, please, take my seat. Because, look here, there’s one other important thing to consider regarding your online site.
    You have to work harder at getting your online address in the minds of your consumers. And this guy McConnell provided some tips that I thought made perfect sense.
    First, always put your online address wherever your phone number and mailing address is. That means on any kind of business literature, from sales receipts to letterhead. Also, make sure your sales staff is constantly reminding your customers about your Web site. Say a customer calls an hour before closing and wants to know how late you’re open. Well, your salesperson better end the conversation by saying, “Of course, you can go to our dealership.com whenever you want.”
    Of course you don’t want them saying that if your Web site has not been updated with your latest promotions and pictures of the new vehicles in your showroom.
    Now I know what you’re thinking. Doing all this isn’t exactly free and the discounter down the street or in the next town isn’t exactly opening up the revenue floodgates. But this is a way for you to branch out your business into areas that your usual advertising approaches may not reach.
    And the cross-promotional opportunities! Just think, before a consumer leaves your store with a new product, you have the sales person hand them a receipt. But it’s not your typical stuff-it-in-the-bag receipt that gets tossed the moment the person gets home. That’s because the back of the receipt has a promotion to your Web site.
    And look, before you go, remember this. When you leave Indy, you’ll get home and prop up your feet and see a news report on TV that says Internet sales still make up less than 10 percent of the total U.S. retail sales. And that’s true.
    But that number is climbing at a surprising rate. And more importantly, your online presence provides a chance for you to become something totally new in consumers’ eyes. You’re not just a guy out for a buck anymore. You’re now an educational resource center that just happens to have the product they’re looking for and, by the way, is located only a few minutes away. psb

    Send your thoughts and comments to Editor Neil Pascale at npascale@ehlertpublishing.com.

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