Max Zanan’s mission is to improve automotive retail, one dealership at a time. He is an entrepreneur, a #1 ranked sales manager, best-selling author, and consultant to dealerships across the nation. MAX staff caught up with Zanan to talk about his new book, The Art and Science of Running a Car Dealership. He describes his new book as the guide he wished he’d had when he first became the general manager of a Mitsubishi dealership in New York.
Zanan was kind enough to share two very valuable check lists from the book. So grab a pencil and a piece of paper and take advantage of his insights on what matters on your website from a customer perspective. By the time you’ve finished both checklists, you’ll have a much better understanding of how your dealership website stacks up in comparison to your competition and delivers for your prospective buyers.
Initial Internet Walkaround
Research shows that about 86% of customers who visit your showroom or service department first went to your website. I think the real number is close to 99%. As a result, you need to look at the dealership’s web presence as a customer. Remember, first impressions are everything.
Don’t assume that if you can use it, anyone can. Visit your site and pretend you are looking for a car. Go to your competitors’ sites. Go to other businesses. See what they are doing. Pick up any ideas you can to improve the experience for your customers and to identify any potential snags.
Below is a checklist that should help you:
- Google the name of your dealership.
- How many Google reviews does the dealership have? The more reviews the better. Consumers trust reviews more so than referrals. How many stars? Anything below 4.9 star rating is a failure.
- How many Yelp reviews does the dealership have? How many stars?
- Keep going down the list, how are you represented on Cars.com, Autotrader.com, CarGurus.com, DealerRater, etc.
- Read reviews to understand what the customers’ concerns are and see if the concerns are being answered.
- See if customer complaints are aimed at sales, F&I or the service department.
- When you look at the 1st page of Google, see if the star ratings are below 4.5. If so, a lot of customers will keep looking for a dealership with higher reviews.
- Does the dealership website look generic? If so, then you will find it harder to stand out from the competition. OEMs have facility upgrade requirements that could cost millions of dollars. It’s a lot less expensive to upgrade a website. In reality, most dealerships’ websites need to be upgraded on a regular basis to improve digital retail.
- Are the forms simple and easy to use? Regardless of the request, such as scheduling a test drive or booking a service appointment, the forms should have limited options. That saves time and increases the chances the customer will follow through.
- Is there a clear “why buy from us” message? Is it on the home page? Is there a video recorded by the dealer principal? There is nothing more powerful than the business owner explaining to existing and potential customers why this dealership is different.
- Are there customers’ reviews right on the dealership website?
- Are sale prices clearly displayed? If you see MSRP or ask customers to call for a price or claim prices are “too low to show,” you have a lot of work to do.
- Is there a dealership YouTube channel?
- Is there a dealership Facebook page?
- Is there an Instagram dealership page?
- Is there a LinkedIn dealership page?
- How frequently social media pages are updated?
- Do these pages have compelling content and customer engagements?
- How much of a deal can a customer do online?
- Is there a Better Business accreditation right on the website?
- Is there information about F&I products, terms, and coverage? Are there sample contracts for the customers to review?
- Is there a trade-in appraisal tool?
- Can a customer go online and schedule a test drive?
- Can a customer buy parts online?
- Can a customer schedule a service appointment online?
- Are service loaners available? If so, how can a customer request one?
- What are the business hours? Is the service department open late, on weekends or 24 hours?
- Does the service department offer home pick-up and drop-off service?
- Does the dealership offer home delivery?
- What is the radius for free home delivery of a new vehicle?
- Does the dealership offer a return policy?
A Great Website Can Be a Gamechanger
E-commerce is part of our everyday life. As a result, consumers have certain expectations when they visit your dealership’s website. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate, informative and, most importantly, transactional. This is the time to make a real investment into your website instead of wasting millions of dollars on facility upgrades.
- Any website design should be clear of distractions with eye-catching navigation tools. Customers presented with too many options have problems making decisions. You want to reduce frustration and ease passage to wherever your customer wants to go on your site. The less thinking, the better.
- Provide an on-line calculator. Customers will want to know the exact cost of a car and monthly payments. Anything you can do to facilitate the process increases the likelihood of a sale.
- Be sure you include multiple ways to reach the same destination. In a study of auto dealer websites, 76 percent of participants rated as the most important aspect “the website makes it easy to find what I want.”
- Don’t hesitate to let the website reflect the personality of our dealership. If you are trying to be hip, then your website should reflect that approach. That’s true if you want to be sophisticated, humorous or any other option. The approach should connect to your audience, as outlined in your business plan.
- Limit the forms. No one wants to fill out paperwork inside the dealership. Give a customer a chance to do most of it at home rather than spend excessive time in the dealership.
- Use visuals. We all prefer to see something for ourselves. Show off your cars. Include videos and still pictures. The videos don’t have to be ads. They can show everyday people unloading a car, driving over rough terrain or whatever aspect you want to highlight. Throw in a few cute cats and dogs, and you have something to attract customers and hold their attention.
- Link your website to social media sites. Make it easy for a customer to send an image of a new car to friends and family.
- Be sure your website images reflect the dealership. Walk people through the front door. Have the receptionist greet them via the video. Introduce various departments. When customers do come to the showroom, the familiarity will make them feel more comfortable.
The more your website resembles Amazon’s the better. Most of us use Amazon daily, and we are trained to look for reviews, a smooth checkout process, and home delivery. No need to reinvent the wheel. If you can’t beat them, imitate them.
Max Zanan is a seasoned automotive industry expert with 20 years of experience in sales, F&I and dealership consulting. After working his way up the ranks at a New York City Volkswagen dealership, Zanan then became the General Manager of a Long Island Mitsubishi dealership, which subsequently placed #1 in sales for Mitsubishis in the United States. Following his stint at Mitsubishi, Zanan went on to become the Platform President at a New York City auto group, where he oversaw three dealerships. From there, Zanan started Total Dealer Compliance to enhance sales and promote best practices with automotive dealers across the United States. As the Founder of Total Dealer Compliance Zanan utilizes all of the skills he picked up over the years in order to cohesively mentor dealerships on how to increase revenue and profitability. Zanan is a thought leader and frequently quoted in trade publications such as Automotive News, Fixed Ops Journal, and Auto Dealer Today.