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How to improve your digital footprint

19 July 2021

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Dealers who hadn’t embraced the digital boom fell behind in lockdown. After months of having the world at their fingertips, consumers have got used to buying online – and this trend isn’t going away. Dealers need to offer an accessible and up-to-date digital forecourt, utilise software and tools, and engage their customers through every stage of the car-buying process. 

Seán Kemple, Managing Director of Close Brothers Motor Finance, offers his top tips to improve your digital footprint. 

Be available: One of the biggest cultural shifts in the world has been led by the move to digital – and the phenomenon of being ‘always-on’. Many customers won’t want, or aren’t able, to think about buying a car during the normal 9-5. For those who are looking for advice, quotes, or to follow through with a purchase on evenings or weekends, use your website to highlight how they can contact you – whether that’s a web chat function, a contact form, or an email address which has a clear ‘out of office’ and details when they can expect a response.

Let them judge a book by its cover: In the fast-paced digital world, it’s vital that you catch people’s eye. Make your website attractive and easy to use. Ensure your stock has excellent photos and accompanying videos where possible – which might mean setting up a ‘car photobooth’ on your forecourt, using a good camera, and making sure there’s good lighting and scenery. 

You’re an expert – let them see that: Consumers do a huge amount of online research, often starting with price and then spiralling into finance options, extras, mileage, and supply alternatives. They’re also increasingly aware of the value they can get for their money, rather than just thinking about price alone. Although there are many sources for this level of detail, they still rely on the advice of dealers to decipher it all – just virtually. Dealers need to highlight the knowledge they have on the website and social channels now more than ever. Have a section on your website for tips, FAQs, guides and advice. 

Social media is key: More and more people are turning to social media to engage with businesses – of all sizes. Having a social presence can help to get more eyes on your forecourt. But, if you’re using it, you need to do it properly – think about which channels are likely to work in your area. If you go with Facebook, you need to join the right groups, post frequently, and talk about more than just your stock – highlight the services and tools you can offer. If you choose Instagram, it’s all about the imagery – beautiful photos and attention-grabbing captions are key. It’s also worth considering the different profiles of your buyers. If you’re targeting younger consumers, then platforms like Instagram are great, but if you’re selling executive cars, then you may be better off pushing them through LinkedIn to reach a professional network. 

Be willing to pay to play: The most effective advertising hitting customers in their leisure zones – and for almost everyone, is via their social media. Facebook is especially good at letting you advertise to precise geographical areas and target specific audiences with certain stock – and if that leads to a surge in leads, you’ll quickly start to see the value for money.

Embrace reviews: Reviews are important – the good and even the bad. It’s the first step to giving your customers the chance to share feedback, and to build their trust in your brand. Feedback can be shared directly with you via a webform or an email address if you have one, and publicly via social media or review websites and forums. While the thought of reviews, particularly the public ones, might fill you with concern, they can be incredibly powerful – especially when they are positive. But on the off chance that you get a negative review, reply in a measured, courteous way and do your utmost to rectify the issue as soon as possible.

Open up your toolbox: Reaching people is important, but your website also needs to offer tools which guide your customers through every stage of the car buying journey. Our dealers, for example, use the Showroom proposal platform, which works in tandem with a dealer’s website. It helps their customers to choose the perfect vehicle and the finance option most suited to them. Through the platform, dealers can use ‘Remote Quote & Apply’ to email vehicle quotes directly, which are then stored and visible in the customer area. Customers can make any adjustments to the terms, including the duration, deposit, and mileage via a calculator tool. Customers can also complete an online finance application form from home and submit it to the dealer. This empowers customers, allowing them to do things in their own time and at their own pace. 

Don’t get Covid-complacent: Even with the vaccine offering some much-needed optimism, many customers are still likely going to be worried about the risks of coming to the forecourt. For those who want to buy in-person (or need to come in to sign the paperwork), it’s vital that you use your website to signpost the Covid-19 safety processes you’ve put in place. Many pandemic-proofing elements are worth keeping too – whether that’s stock videos or online booking for test drives, these tools make buying a car from you more accessible to a wider pool of people.  

Put the effort in: You can use your online footprint – whether through a website or social media channels – to reach a huge amount of people that wouldn’t have otherwise visited a dealership. That makes it a worthwhile use of time and resources – so whether it’s carving time out of your day, or training up a member of staff and giving them hours in their week to manage social channels, make the investment, and soon. 

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