Archive for November, 2012

Is Small the New Big?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

We have all heard the saying “Bigger is Better”. Big cars, big steering wheels and big ideas have powered car dealers for decades. But when the automotive industry meets today’s tochnology, you realize things are getting smaller. It is important to stay up on advancements that become available to the car buying public.

Apple recently announced a new product called the Ipad Mini. It is a smaller version of the Ipad (real creative naming, I know). The Ipad was created as the smaller version of a Macintosh computer. See the trend? Now, it is important to note Steve Jobs thought the Ipad Mini was a terrible idea and shelved it before he passed away. Today’s Apple execs revived the project, though, after seeing the success of other similar devices like the Kindle. While it remains to be seen how popular this new product will be, it is important to reflect on how your clients use this technology and how that use can intersect with you and your dealership.

Everyone has a smart phone or a friend with one. A smart phone is one that will allow for Internet browsing on the phone’s screen. If you have a website the first thing you should do is check out that site on one of these devices. If you do not have one, find a friend or family member who does and ask them to go to your site. These phones come with data plans so you will not be running up their phone bill.

When viewing your site you want to be sure the average consumer is able to navigate to the key parts of your site. Inventory listings, vehicle details on a specific listing and map and directions are the important pages for mobile site viewers. Also, make sure your phone number is readily available. Does the site fit the device and can the text be easily read? Sometimes you might notice a missing image or flash file. That is because not all cell phones see the Internet the same way your office computer does. Flash is a type of image programming that can not be seen on any Iphone. Also, some devices will skip downloading large image files. If the content of these files is important to the navigation of your site then you need to do something.

If you find your website is not phone–friendly, there are two things you can do. The first would be to work with your website provider to make your website compatible with these devices. Flash files can be replaced with other video file types or still images. Large image files can be optimized and saved as more compact versions. Sometimes, though, these changes will dramatically effect the conversion rates of your primary website or distract from the content of your site. If that is the case, the other solution would be to set up a secondary, mobile website for your dealership.

A mobile site is a mini version of your regular website. It will contain no flash or large files. It will have more buttons and less forms. It should still have the same branding as the other website, only condensed. A person car shopping on their phone has to be more likely to call or drive in so your mobile site should definitely have your number and address easy for them to find. Often times it is a good idea to have a separate domain for this mobile site and they even have their own extension. Instead of .com or .net they are known as .mobi. Once the site is designed you will then want to go back to your main website’s provider and ask them to add a forwarder. This is simple code that will check to see if each visitor of your .com site is on a mobile device and if so, will redirect them to your .mobi site automatically.

Both solutions have advantages. Making your existing site phone-friendly allows you to have one website for all viewers. This is less maintenance and expnse to you. The .mobi solution allows you to extend your brand and tailer an advertising campaign to a very specific audience.

Studies say as much almost eight percent of all surfing is done on a mobile device. It is predicted mobile device users will outnumber surfers on computers in three years. One thing to keep in mind is the type of product you sell. Consumers want to view your site on a regular computer more frequently because they want to see the vehicle. Pictures and complete descriptions are always going to be important to the consumer and there just is not enough room in those small devices. Our website customers in industries like lodging and dining see a higher percentage of mobile phone surfers than do car dealers, according to website counters.

A new feature just launched at VIADA’s website, www.VAUsedCarDealers.com is aimed to attract more of these tech savy consumers. If you preform a search at this site and click on a car you will see an invite for shoppers to “Text ABCDEF to 41411 to have this car sent to your phone”. When the consumer does this you will get a lead emailed to you containing the surfer’s phone number and the car they inquired about. They, in return will get an address to click on to have the vehicle information and images dispalyed on their phone. You and your staff can then follow up on that lead by texting or calling them.

Technology is always changing. Even though you may not own the most up to date gadget doesn’t mean your customer doesn’t own one. It is important to see your advertising through your customers’ eyes and adjust as needed. If you can’t find a friend with a smart phone to see your website, call me. I will be glad to help.