TAMPA, Fla. -- Justin Brun co-founded Dynamic Beacon, a digital marketing and consulting agency for auto dealerships. He also is director of marketing and e-commerce for Acton Toyota of Littleton, Mass., near Boston.
Brun, 29, says many dealerships still lack satisfying experiences for shoppers who use smartphones. And many dealership websites aren't Google friendly. The search giant last month said it would begin penalizing dealerships without mobile-friendly websites by giving those stores lower rankings on consumer searches.
Brun spoke to Staff Reporter David Barkholz on April 21 on the sidelines of the Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition here.
Q: Is the industry up to speed on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website and digital presence?
A: The industry recognizes the importance. There are plenty of vendors that already offer a fully responsive platform [that adjusts content to fit visitors' screens] and provide a great user experience.
Are dealerships ready?
The average dealer doesn't recognize the importance of mobile -- yet. If you were to ask the average dealer how much traffic on his website is attributable to a mobile device, they likely would not know. If you went a step further and asked them which device -- whether Apple or Android or Windows -- they certainly wouldn't know. So they are not likely to be designing landing pages, inventory pages, home pages or calls to action [buttons] that are mobile friendly and providing a great user experience.
So they are not customizing their sites for mobile?
Most dealerships purchase their websites, set it up and forget it. Too often you go to a dealership website and you don't see service coupons. They are not promoting their fixed-operations departments. So they are treating fixed ops like the back end instead of the backbone of the dealership. They are not merchandizing their new-vehicle promotions or leveraging the OEMs' promotions.
Is Google on the right track requiring businesses to have mobile-friendly sites to get in front of shoppers during searches?
It's a great idea. All of us have smartphones. We are carrying around a computer in our pockets each and every day. The convenience of pulling out a phone and performing a search definitely outweighs going to your desktop or laptop, starting the computer up and having to open a browser to do that search. Convenience today is everything to everyone. We're going to have to evolve as dealerships.
How else should dealerships cater to mobile shoppers?
Outside of the website, it is important to focus on how well your emails render within specific smartphone, desktop and laptop devices. There are tools out there that provide software to help you see how well your emails render on any device. Keep in mind, too, that emails can look great but if you are linking from the email to a special [Web] page then you need to mobile-optimize that special page.
How can dealerships be sure they get the most from their internal marketing efforts?
Dealers, first and foremost, should visit their own websites. Thumb through the service coupons, the new-car specials -- really experience that website as if they were the consumer. They should go as far as to submit a lead and see what sort of emails are being sent back to them. I think it would be frightening to many to see what kind of correspondence is being sent on their behalf to the consumer.
Oftentimes, we forget as we are elbow-deep in these sites that we are consumers. Try to experience it and see if this really is what I'm trying to say to my customer.
What will they find is wrong with their sites?
If they compare their sites to the competition, they are not likely to find what makes their sites unique. In a congested market like Boston, where Acton Toyota and Dynamic Beacon reside, you'll see the flavor is the same from site to site. There's no individuality.
We all want a good story. We want to know some history about the store beyond "become part of our family" or "come on down." They lack personality.
So how can they be spruced up?
Come up with a unique business proposition. What makes you unique in your marketplace? For Acton Toyota, it's providing a simple, honest and guaranteed purchase experience.
It's actually writing out a very short pledge and accompanying it with customer testimonials and other graphics. And make sure it is present throughout the site and also in the dealership. That way, the customer sees a 360-degree marketing approach.