You need to know what’s wrong

December 17, 2009

What would happen at a dealership if a particular used car had many interested shoppers and multiple demo rides but still didn’t sell? The obvious answer is that someone would go out and carefully inspect the vehicle to determine what the heck was wrong with it. Perhaps it smelled like smoke, needed a wheel alignment or a tune up. There would likely be something that isn’t right about the vehicle and, most likely, if it was corrected, the vehicle would sell.


Now, what would happen if a particular vehicle got a lot of online shoppers looking at it, clicking through many times for complete details and photos, yet no one was taking the next step – to print the page, a map to the dealership, or clicking to request additional information from the dealership? Would there be something likely wrong with how the vehicle is displayed on-line? Again, the obvious answer is yes, most likely. 


The difference between these two scenarios, however, is that it’s highly unlikely that anyone at the dealership is actually aware of how much attention any given vehicle is attracting on the Internet. Unlike your physical display, your virtual display and their associated shoppers are largely “out of the view” of dealership personnel.


To be sure, every dealer has many vehicles that come up frequently in vehicle searches, get clicked on repeatedly for details and yet draw few, if any, customers willing to “take it to the next step.” I think that this phenomenon occurs all too often and goes unaddressed because no one at the dealership is evaluating their virtual lot in the same way that they evaluate their physical lot.


This is particularly disturbing because most major third party sites provide dealers with the ability to view the number of searches and detail views for each of their vehicles. Moreover, they also report the number of times that a shopper has “gone to the next level” to indicate purchase intent like printing the page, printing a map, or clicking to request more information. There are also inventory management tools that also report this activity.


I think it is imperative that every dealership begin to routinely access and track this relevant merchandising information to determine why certain vehicles get a lot of attention, but very little action. This can be easily done by sorting vehicles using the tools referenced above, high to low based on the number of detail page views. Highlight the vehicles that get a lot of detail page views but little or no page prints, map prints, and/or email requests for additional information. This is all measureable information that is critical to know in order to act upon. For example, perhaps the photos are poor or non-existent. Similarly, the description may be missing or fail to highlight what makes the vehicle unique. Taking corrective action quickly will certainly result in increased traffic and sales. Make no mistake – it is a given that if you take the time to evaluate and act on “what’s wrong” you’ll improve your online merchandising results.

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