For Web-savvy buyers, it's all about the videos
Published in Automotive News, March 19, 2012
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Dealer Shaun Del Grande is tapping the power of YouTube to reach Web-savvy auto shoppers in Silicon Valley.
More than 1,000 videos shot and edited in-house are posted on his Del Grande Dealer Group's YouTube pages, with hundreds more on the way. Since the group began posting on YouTube in late 2009, the videos have received more than 926,000 views.
The group's 11 dealerships are in the heart of Silicon Valley, about a half-hour drive from the headquarters of tech giants Google and Facebook.
Each dealership has its own YouTube channel, or a page on YouTube for a specific user, such as an auto dealership.
That means each of the group's dealerships gets a YouTube page with customized graphics, Del Grande Dealer Group logos and links that direct users to a dealership's main Web site.
The videos provide interesting content for shoppers -- and drive traffic to dealership Web sites. High YouTube activity gives a Web site a higher score with Google and can ensure a dealership appears on the critical first page of Google search results. The group's umbrella YouTube channel is youtube.com/user/dgdgtv.
The YouTube channels feature many testimonials from customers. Del Grande, 46, president of the group, said the testimonials highlight the group's commitment to customer satisfaction.
On the dealership channel pages, salespeople and managers have their own channels with videos shot in-house that often show the employees highlighting design elements or equipment on vehicles. Demonstrations of vehicle features, such as how to connect a smartphone to a car's Bluetooth hands-free system, are popular.
The goal of the videos is to introduce the group and its employees to customers before those customers visit the showroom, said Sean Williams, a videographer with Del Grande.
"Allowing people to see all the information visually before they walk into the dealership is huge," Williams said.
Williams, 26, oversees a team of three other 20-somethings who shoot, edit, post and manage the group's online video and social media content. Team members manage the YouTube project and the Del Grande Dealer Group's growing network on Facebook and Twitter.
They work from what's known inside the dealership group's main offices as the E-Cave. It's a small room filled with widescreen monitors, powerful computers, high-tech cameras and other equipment essential to producing high-quality, professional videos.
Del Grande declined to discuss the cost of producing the videos, but said he has reduced traditional advertising and marketing outlays to fund the in-house digital operation.
About half of the group's ad budget pays for print ads and TV and radio spots that are eligible for co-op funding from manufacturers, he said. Roughly 25 percent of the budget pays for search engine marketing and third-party Internet leads.
The remaining quarter of the budget pays for the work produced inside the E-Cave.
"You're really paying for people instead of leads," Del Grande said. "It goes to personnel instead of media, but they create the media."
From 40 to 60 percent of each dealership's monthly sales originate from the Internet, depending on the month and the dealership, Del Grande said. The group gets about 4,000 Internet leads per month with a closing rate of 10 to 15 percent, he said.
Each dealership's Web site gets an average of 5,000 to 10,000 unique visitors per month, depending on the month and the brand, he said.
Del Grande's group has grown along with its online presence.
The group sold 9,176 new vehicles in 2011, up from 4,753 vehicles in 2010 and 3,077 in 2009.
Del Grande, a Bay Area native, played varsity soccer at UCLA, where he received his bachelor' degree in economics in 1988. In 1996, he joined his father, Kevan, when the company owned just one Mazda dealership.
"We're partners, and we've got a great relationship," Shaun Del Grande said. "He lets me run the business but he's there to help and support. I couldn't have done any of this without him, and he couldn't have done any of this without me."
The group's 11 Bay Area dealerships sell Mazda, Subaru, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Kia, Fiat, Nissan, Buick, GMC and Coda vehicles. Three dealerships, which sell Fiat, Mazda and Coda electrics, opened this year.
Along with the new stores, Del Grande credits the e-commerce department as a major driver of sales growth.
"Could I quantify the ROI of our video or our social media? Absolutely not, but you know what, I'm comfortable with that," Del Grande said.
"Our mentality is that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's an investment."
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