Archive for June, 2003

Let’s walk together in our customers’ shoes.

Saturday, June 7th, 2003

There is no question the Internet has evolved into the most cost effective way to communicate, research, and advertise. The World Wide Web is by many standards, still in its ‘infant stage’. Every day there are advances made in networking, programming, browser software, delivery methods; all factors that increase the Internet’s performance and potential. Because the Internet is young, we often hear when calling on retail storeowners, “How can the Internet help me?” We felt it might be helpful to walk through just how a shopper might ‘surf’ when he or she is in that car buying spirit.

Imagine you or your significant other just totaled the family vehicle. In this nightmare, no one got hurt, thankfully, but you are not the car dealer anymore, you have become the car shopper. If you are a loyal shopper, you might get online and go directly to the website of the dealership from which you purchased the last vehicle. No matter what hour of the day or night, you can get a complete list of photos and prices to everything that favorite dealer of yours has in stock.

It was pretty late by the time you got done towing the wreck away and getting setup with a rental, so picking up the phone will have to wait until tomorrow. If you know what you are looking for but do not see one listed, you might fill out a Vehicle Locator form. This describes in detail to the dealer exactly what you are looking for. When the dealership opens in the morning, your e-mail will be waiting for them.

You still have an hour before going to bed, so you might not end your search, yet. Next, you might go to a Search Engine. These are sites that map out the Internet for you. In the search box, you would type, “used car” for instance. When you click the Search button at Yahoo! you would get 4,780,000 different possible websites for you to visit that pertain to used cars. As you look over the list, you find links that bring you to appraisal guide sites like NADA and Kelley Blue Book. You bookmark these sites so that you can come back to them after you find what you are looking for. You see other links to sites like Edmunds.com and Carfax.com. The first site can tell you things to look for (or look out for!) when shopping for a pre-owned vehicle. The latter can give you a glimpse of a particular vehicle’s past before you put any money down on it.

Before you go further, you would want to narrow your search. You type in “used car for sale” to give you an idea of what is available. This leads you to large sites that are well known nationally. While these might give you many possibilities, you start to think it would be nice to find more choices closer to home. Your final search is “used cars in Virginia”. Now you get links to sites like www.ShopAutosOnline.net that have complete Inventory listings to many of the dealers in Virginia and links to their sites. After searching for the car you want, you might find two or three other dealerships to call on tomorrow.

It’s been a long day, so you shut the computer off and retire to the Lazy Boy. You turn on the TV and just barely catch a commercial that flashed a photo of exactly what you have been looking for. You only got the tail end of the commercial and you were not able to grab a pen and paper in time. But, you were able to remember the website address at the end of the ad and you immediately jump out of your chair and reboot the computer! You verify they have the car or truck you want. You see they can help arrange your financing, so you decide to fill out the secure online credit application. When that dealership opens tomorrow, they will be able to go to work immediately to obtain the loan you are going to need.

The last thing you do is print a map and directions provided by the dealer’s site. You check the hours of operation and jot down the phone number. This dream has a happy ending, because when you finally crawl into bed, you realize you have virtually walked the lot of dozens of car lots without getting out of your chair. You have reduced the time it was going to take to find a replacement vehicle by days and you have done the research necessary to make you feel comfortable about your decision. What you (and the dealer you are going to visit tomorrow) don’t know is that you have already made the decision to buy the car! Your husband or wife is going to be so happy with you!

When building your site for the first time and when updating it, you should keep in mind this scenario happens all the time. Be sure you have a professional Internet presence and incorporate it into all your other forms of advertising. If you don’t, the dealer down the road might wake up to a full e-mail box!