Archive for December, 2011

Tips For Handling Virtual Inventory

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The secret to getting the most from the Internet is to get found early and often. Your website should be registered with search engines and other directories and your inventory should be found on as many classified websites as possible. Think back five years ago and remember what the classified section of the newspaper looked like. Today, one of the largest newspapers in Virginia has only one page of vehicles listed for sale and most cars listed belong to one of two dealerships. It used to be if you wanted to sell a car you called the classifieds. This is still true; however, it is the virtual classified sites that people turn to today.

Newspapers were successful because they answered the question, “What is available out there?” Today, all car buyers still have that same question they just found better ways to answer it. Classified websites vary in size, cost, region and type of clientele but they all have a website where car buyers can search thousands of listings, sort them in various ways, get complete vehicle despcriptions and get links to selling dealerships’ websites. They are prefered over newspapers because A) more people have Internet access than do those who have the paper delivered, B) websites allow them to narrow their search results and sort them and C) the Internet allows for a search of a larger area than a typical newspaper will cover.

It is important to look at the different types of online classified sites. The first type is the National kind. The two largest such advertisers are Auto Trader and Cars.com. Both are valuable sources of traffic for many of our website owners. Both can be rather pricey.

For this reason, just as many dealerships find proven results with smaller, regional classified sites. VIADA’s www.VAUsedCarDealers.com (VUCD) is one. Only VIADA members can advertise on this site and it reaches thousands of Virginia car buyers every month. Another similar classified site is www.MotorcadeOnline.com. This website belongs to an actual print publication and provides additional online exposure to it’s magazine advertisers. A car dealer in the Roanoke Valley can put a few car listings in the print publication and also have their entire inventory list with multiple photos and complete descriptions displayed on their website. Each listing has a direct link to the selling dealership’s website and contact information.

The last kind of classified websites is the free kind. Free is often worth what you paid for it. There are many online places to list cars for sale but many of them are like auctions with plenty of sellers but zero buyers. There are a few free classified sites on which dealerships should be represented. Oodle.com is one of them. These free classified sites will often list more than just cars and this website has proven to be a success for clients of ours in several industries. Another successful, well known free classified site is Craigslist.org and one similar to this site is backpage.com.

I have been asked, “Which one(s) should my dealership advertise with?” The answer is all of them if you can! The only two things that will stop you are time and money. The paid advertisers are many and the cost can add up. Besides the expense, though, there is also the time it takes to get your listings on all of these sites. Fortunately, there are just as many solutions for managing listings at multiple online advertisers as there are advertisers! One such solution is VUCD. When a VIADA member has their listings on this website they are automatically sent to all free and paid online advertisers to which we feed data. This makes your inventory available to hundreds of other websites without having to do any additional work.

Some dealerships use their F&I software to upload their inventory data to the web. Sometimes, the list of free advertisers these software providers feed data to is small or non-existent because they often give this service away with their software package. Because it is free it is hard for them to focus on it. One company that does a good job of sending data out to all online advertisers who will take it is www.Comsoft.com. Like many others, there is an additional fee for this service but it goes back to a return on investment is often better than free.

JTZ Enterprise has a window sticker solution for dealerships that do not have an F&I program or that prefer a professional maroney label in their vehicles. Once you print the sticker you are one click from uploading your entire inventory to VUCD along with your website and all other online advertisers.

One last method of managing online inventory might be to hire a company to do it for you. Everyone has heard of Dealer Specialties. Others might ask for help from their website provider. You have to be careful here, though, as some of them will restrict to whom they will send your data. We have had a one such provider tell a VIADA member, for instance, that they would not send data to VUCD because they considered the hosting company of that site to be a competitor of theirs. This is the same as telling a dealership they can not advertise with others unless this one provider approves the advertiser. Isn’t it the dealership’s data? If so, shouldn’t they be allowed to choose who they advertise with? Dealerships should not let their vendors handcuff them like this.

If you are looking to get more Internet exposure, try on a new advertiser. Having a website is great, but finding ways to get more traffic to it will only increase your online sales.