Automotive Internet Sales and Google’s ZMOT for Car Dealerships
By now, nearly everyone has heard of ZMOT and how it might possibly be relevant for the automotive industry. In case you haven’t, ZMOT stands for “Zero Moment of Truth,” a concept developed by Google. It states that today, decisions on brand selection are happening before a consumer arrives at a store to make a purchasing decision. This also applies to how consumers shop for a car. This might not sound like anything new; we have all heard from NADA, JD Power & Associates, Cobalt, Autotrader and the OEMs that almost everyone goes online before they step into the dealership. Personally, I’ve been immersed in Automotive Internet Sales for more than 13 years. So, the fact that people are going online first isn’t a huge revelation — it is what it is. However, what has evolved is what is happening and why. People are finding out about a product or business (whether they know the URL or not). To be specific, more than 72 percent of all transactions start online, from one-dollar transactions to jet engines. The first place people go to is search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), or they may something on TV, radio, see something on a billboard or in a newspaper, magazine or hear about a product from a friend. In any event, they wind up on search engines relatively quickly. People believe that they will get the “real deal” on what they are looking for. “If it is on Google, it must be real,” they think. So, the consumer will do the initial research on the product or service online. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are accessing the Internet from a home computer or laptop. They can be accessing the information through their mobile device like an iPhone or Android. The next logical step for the prospect is to validate that information even further. Prospects can (and do) go to a myriad of review sites such as Google Places, Dealer Online Reputation, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Edmunds Dealer Reviews and Cars.com Reviews, just to name a few. The consumer wants to make sure that they do not waste their time with bad choices. They have access to too much information for them to have to deal with headaches. Take for example a couple choosing where to go eat out for their once a week “date night.” If you only had one time a week you were going out with your spouse because you have three kids, a puppy, a career, etc., try to imagine how someone will feel when they are spending $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 or more. That is why 80 percent of consumers say that peer reviews influence their buying decisions. An automotive purchase is usually the second most expensive thing the average human being will ever buy in their lifetime, next to a home. But there is another variable: social media. Consumers will also go to their social networks and ask their “friends and followers” thoughts, opinions on products or services before they ever go to the store or the dealership.
I am going to focus on online reputation for the rest of this article, and the next article I will dive deeper into the other parts of automotive ZMOT strategy.
Dealerships need to make it mandatory to collect client reviews and testimonials from both sales and service. It is not enough to simply “suggest” to your team to try to get a review or testimonial. You need to make it part of the standard operating procedure. You might want to create incentives for your team, for example:
• Whoever gets the most reviews wins a reward (gift card or cash, etc.)
• Whoever gets the most video testimonials wins a reward
You can create a mini-survey (maybe three to four questions) at delivery (mandatory). For example:
1. How would you rate your experience at the dealership from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest)?
2. Did I (sales consultant) exceed your expectations? If so, how?
3. What did you like (or appreciate) the most in this experience in purchasing this vehicle?
4. Would you recommend me and this dealership to everyone / anyone?
You should then have at the bottom of the survey a legal disclaimer (have an attorney draw up a simple disclaimer) that says that they (the customer) give you full permission to post (or use) this (review/testimonial) anyway and anywhere you want. By doing this, you can repost or repurpose all of these reviews to all of the relevant reputation sites like:
• Google places
• Merchant circle
• Edmunds reviews
• City Search
• Yellow Pages
• A review blog you’ve created yourself
It is TRUE that some review sites are IP Address specific and do NOT allow a client to post a review at the dealership, Here is the reality... there are a LOT of ways around that.
*** Please understand what I am saying here... I am NOT advocating using fake reviews or irrelevant reviews. I am saying ONLY to use REAL reviews that REAL clients give you and give you permission to use.
Try to image if every salesperson and service writer made 100-percent attempts to collect testimonials both in text as well as video, and you posted (syndicated) them to all of the relevant places online. In a short matter of time, you will be able to dominate the search engines with a ton of positive reviews.
I want to show you a quick example of a highline dealership that has bad online reputation. I happen to think they are an awesome store (and they are not a client). I serviced my brand-new vehicle there and I was so impressed with their service that I felt bad for their bad online reputation. On my own, as simply a customer, I shot a quick positive video review and posted it to YouTube and did the proper video optimization. Now, when you Google them, my video shows up prominently on the first page of Google (just Google “Cherry Hill Porsche”). That is just me as a client — can you image if this dealership did what I did? Their online reputation will turn around very quickly!
Here is another screen shot:
If you have any questions about this article, Google’s concept of “Zero Moment of Truth” / automotive ZMOT or how you can better equip your dealership (or individual sales consultant) to dominate with a positive online reputation, please feel free to call or e-mail me.
Sean V. Bradley is the founder and CEO of Dealer Synergy, a nationally recognized training and consulting company in the automotive industry. He can be contacted at 856-264-0564, or by e-mail at Sean@dealersynergy.com.