BIG DATA: Are We Using it All Wrong?

By David Metter

Big data is a buzzword that’s been floating around the auto industry for some time now. Every dealership’s DMS is filled with opportunities. Through segmentation, data and equity mining, combined with a little bit of common sense, dealerships can target customers with relevant messaging and see great conversion rates. But what about reaching those people that aren’t your customers, or that aren’t in your database?

The typical answer has been to leverage other sources of data. Think of Facebook. It probably has the single largest repository of consumer information in the world. I’d be willing to bet that the depth of knowledge on any given Facebook user – demographics, behaviors and interests – would put any FBI file to shame. Smart marketers leverage this incredibly large database to market to individuals in their PMA with a high likelihood of purchasing a vehicle in the near future.  

But, what if everything we’ve been doing with demographic targeting has been wrong? 

According to a new blog article by Google, while demographic targeting has its uses, “marketers who try to reach their audiences solely on demographics risk missing more than 70 percent of potential mobile shoppers.” The blog goes on to explain that a customer’s identity is less important than a customer’s intent. The blog offered an example of how many may think that the largest demographic for video game users would be males, ages 18-34. However, if you were a video game (or related) company using demographic data alone to target customers, you’d be missing out on the 69 percent of searchers that aren’t in that group. It was certainly surprising to read that 56 percent of sporting good searchers on mobile were female; 45 percent of home improvement searchers on mobile were women; and 68 percent of skin and body care influencers in the past six months were men.

Essentially, the blog states that consumers aren’t necessarily doing the searching/shopping for themselves. For example, in the baby products category, 40 percent of purchasers live in households without children. Yet, who would think to target homes without children for baby products?

Google advises that businesses research their categories through Google Trends and adjust any marketing strategies accordingly. Identify relevant search terms and ensure that when a consumer searches for information on those terms, your business is present. According to Google’s research, “51 percent of smartphone users have purchased from a company/brand other than the one they intended to, because the information provided was useful.”

Targeting based on intent works well because typically, mobile searchers are very close to the point of purchase -- if not already in the process of purchasing. These are super low funnel consumers. For all you know, they are researching a vehicle, or gathering information, while at the dealership next door, or across the street.

While it is certainly in Google’s best interest to provide this message, it makes complete sense. That doesn’t mean you ignore demographic data in your marketing. It simply means that to take your marketing to the next level, consider incorporating intent-based marketing in the mix. This will help to ensure that you reach the customers you know about, but also the ones you don’t. 

Four Simple Steps to Increase Website Conversion

By David Metter

Dealerships are constantly working to increase their website conversion – and for good reason. Organic conversions typically see the highest closing rates. However, I frequently encounter dealerships that wonder why they aren’t getting higher conversion rates, despite adding the latest gizmo or widget. Conversion rate optimization is tricky. Thankfully, there are some simple things that can be done to increase the chances your visitors convert.

1.     Mobile – Today’s car buyers use their smartphones to gather information. The lack of a mobile-optimized website will unquestionably decrease your conversion rates. With the huge increase in Internet searches via mobile devices, if your site isn’t mobile enabled, it’s as if you are hiding your dealership from the majority of today’s online shoppers. I’m sure you would never fail to have good signage for your physical showroom. Well, the same can be said for your online presence. Make sure that you provide a great experience across all devices for your customers. That alone will help to increase conversions.

2.     Simple Navigation – How many times have you visited a website, searched for information, and became frustrated because you couldn’t find it? What do you do when that happens? I bet you leave and look elsewhere. The harder it is for a customer to find the information they are looking for on your website, the more likely they will leave. Think of your home page as the beginning of a path. Most visitors came to your site with a destination in mind. Make it easy for them to find that information.

3.     KISS – I’m sure that you’ve all heard the phrase, “Keep it simple, stupid.” This absolutely applies to conversion rate optimization. Far too many dealers overwhelm their website visitors with multiple conversion methods on every page of their site. Things like chat windows floating all over the screen, pop-ups appearing with each new page view, or forms all over the place. Examine each page of your website and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Ask yourself this simple question: “If I was on THIS page of my website, WHY would I be here?” The better you can answer that question, the more you’ll understand the motivation of the customer, and provide a better conversion method that is attractive to the customer. Stop inundating customers with multiple conversion paths on every page of your website. Keep it simple and make sure the path you want the customer to take is very clear.

4.     Contact Information – The single best conversion method for any dealership’s website is contact information. The majority of the visitors to your website are seeking this. Yet many times this information is the hardest to find. Make sure that your contact information, address and phone numbers, as well as your dealership’s hours of operation for both sales and service are prominently displayed at the top of your home page. Don’t make customers scroll to the bottom. Or, even worse, have to navigate their way to an “About Us” page to find this information.

Optimizing your website for conversion translates to simply providing a great customer experience. Reduce the noise and friction from your customers’ browsing experience and lead them down the path towards the information they seek. Once they arrive, give them a single, relevant and compelling reason to convert - and you’ll be surprised by how many do just that. 

5 Digital Trends Sticking Around for 2016

By David Metter

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to examine trends in digital marketing and predict what dealers should be prepared to consider and focus on in the upcoming year. 2015 has seen so much innovation and change, there’s no doubt 2016 will see even more. However, which trends in 2015 will stick around for the year to come? 

Experts say these five are here to stay:

1.    Mobile – It wasn’t that long ago that marketers thought of mobile as a secondary access point for consumers. However, in 2015 mobile usage overtook desktop computers for accessing Internet information, and that trend is certain to continue. Consumers want information on demand, and increasingly they are out and about and not tethered to their computer. Mobile is much more convenient for today’s on-the-go consumer. Businesses will be forced to shift their focus and provide an excellent mobile experience in order to remain relevant. Those that do not will find customers seeking and finding that information from their competition and ultimately lose business.  

2.    Apps – Not only is the mobile experience itself becoming more important, we’re also seeing an increase in the importance of apps. When using smartphones, consumers spend upwards of 85% of that time within apps. Apps offer multiple marketing advantages including location-based marketing, push notifications, loyalty program integration, as well as dynamic and personalized offers and coupons. In addition, with its mobile-friendly algorithm change in April, Google introduced app indexing. If you’re not familiar with app indexing, in a nutshell it means that Google is now indexing content within apps and integrating that content into organic search results. This will become increasingly important for businesses’ SEO efforts.

3.    Personalization – Businesses will continue to migrate away from mass messages and better utilize their customer data to send more relevant and personalized messages. Segmentation, cookies, and retargeting, mixed with the massive amounts of consumer information now available, allows marketers to further refine messages. By doing so, businesses will see increased response rates and conversions as customers start receiving relevant messages at more opportune times.

4.    Content – Businesses are starting to realize that content is the new advertising. Pressure is being applied from all directions – search, social and consumers – and they all demand unique and relevant content as the price of admission. If you want to be noticed, it is important to understand that consumers respond much better to content that solves a problem, tells a story, or answers a question. By producing this content, you will be rewarded by increased web traffic through consumer search, and also by higher page rankings from search engines.  

5.    Video – If there’s any form of content that is exponentially exploding, it's video. Every platform in existence is making a push for video content and rewards businesses that produce it. With the new explosion and popularity of live streaming apps such as Periscope, Blab and Meerkat, along with live-streaming to all users that Facebook is rolling out, businesses who find innovative ways to integrate live streaming into their digital marketing efforts will see increased exposure and engagement.

While significant, these are just a few of the countless ways digital marketing is changing. Chances are that 2016 will see more innovative ways for businesses to market to and interact with customers. Paying attention to and adopting these five trends will certainly help your business gain a competitive advantage and position it for digital marketing success in 2016.

Google Auto Says Mobile is the Place to Be

By David Metter

In a study published this month by Google’s Automotive division titled, “The 5 Auto Shopping Moments Every Brand Must Own,” it’s crystal clear that dealers need to have a strong mobile strategy in order to stay in the game.

The study breaks the car buying experience down into five moments. Three of them are dominated by consumers using mobile devices to gain information. This information is key to what they buy and where they buy it.

According to Google, the five auto shopping moments every brand must own are:

1.     Which car is best?

2.     Is it right for me?

3.     Can I afford it?

4.     Where should I buy it?

5.     Am I getting a deal?

Once the consumer reaches the, “can I afford it?” moment, they turn to their smartphones. “Search interest for MSRP and list prices is at its highest level ever, growing 25% in the past year, driven in large part by mobile, which accounts for 70% of these searches,” the study stated. From that moment on, consumers rely on their phones for everything from researching dealers, “one in three located or called a dealer on their mobile device,” to inventory searches, which are, “growing more than four times faster than overall auto search interest,” and dealer contact information, “search interest in dealer phone numbers is up over 78% in the past year, the majority on mobile.” In addition, searches for dealership reviews spike on mobile devices during weekends. In fact, car shopping activity increases and 56% of those searches are from mobile devices.

Once customers move into the “am I getting a deal?” moment they again rely on their phones. Now, they increasingly do that right from dealership lots. In fact, there is an increase of 46% in mobile search from dealer locations. The majority of searches are transaction-oriented, the top actions being pricing and trade-in evaluations. This is known as “showrooming.”

Google’s advice to dealers and manufacturers boils down to three things: be there, be useful and be quick. It’s hard to believe that there are dealers that don’t understand the importance of being there. Where there are perhaps more issues is in the area of being useful. Dealers would be wise to do more to make pricing and trade evaluation tools more accessible from mobile devices, as third parties are increasingly doing. Which leads us to the largest pain point in the dealer to consumer mobile experience - being quick. If a consumer turns to their smartphone for information, they’re not scrolling through multiple pages of Google results to find their answer. If your dealership doesn’t rank high in search results, you better cross your fingers and hope it’s not a competitor’s website that ranks above you with a better offer.

Develop a strategy of consumer containment and conquest. If you are transparent and provide all of the information on your website, consumers will find it less necessary to stray. Offer consumers easy access to information. Include the pricing tools they need and they’ll be less likely to leave and buy elsewhere. Use your competitor’s weak points to conquest their customers right off their lots and onto yours due to an excellent mobile presence and by providing easy access to information.

A Primer on Beacons and How Dealers Can Benefit From Them

By David Metter

As we head into 2016, one of the most exciting new technologies that some dealers are experimenting with are beacons. Beacons are small, inexpensive hardware devices that can be attached to a wall in the showroom or placed around a dealership's lot. Using Bluetooth technology, the beacon detects nearby smartphone devices and can send customers push notifications with a welcome message, mobile coupons, or promotional information. 

Beacons are already in use at several large retailers, such as Target, Macy's and Simon Mall Properties. Currently, beacons can only communicate with customers' smartphones via an app. For smaller retailers including auto dealers, this has presented a barrier to adoption because most stores don't have their own branded apps. However, the ability to tie beacon technology to Apple Wallet and Google Wallet changes this dynamic. If a consumer saves a dealership's event, loyalty card, or offer to their Wallet app, the dealership can use beacons to activate the app and send updated and relevant offers.

It's important to understand the difference between beacon marketing and location-based mobile marketing. Location-based marketing allows dealers to set up a "geofence" or perimeter size of their choice around their dealership. When smartphones with location services enabled cross the perimeter boundary, ads are displayed and messages can be sent to that consumer. Beacons are only used to target in-store customers.

One type of beacon technology is Visual Light Communications (VLC), a system that turns LED lights into beacons that can pinpoint consumer location with extreme accuracy. Any dealership that has indoor and outdoor LED lighting can implement VLC.

ByteLight is one brand of VLC that uses existing lighting infrastructure and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with smartphones. As a customer moves through the showroom or across a lot, LEDs emit flickering light patterns undetectable to the human eye but visible to the customers' smartphone cameras or BLE sensors.

While a beacon device can tell you the area or aisle a customer is located, VLC is so exact it can tell you the exact product or vehicle the customer is standing next to. This allows you to send hyper-targeted messaging to every customer.

Another advantage of VLC technology compared to other types of beacons is that they draw their power from the lighting grid so they don't need batteries, which standalone beacon hardware devices require.

In retail automotive, a few early adopters are already experimenting with beacons on their lots. Although some retailers are a little apprehensive about the perception that the technology may be intrusive, it won't be long before this type of targeted messaging becomes the "new normal" for mobile users.

For auto dealers, there are three primary applications for beacon technology:

1) Improve Customer Service: Beacons can detect when a new customer arrives at the dealership, even if they don't come directly into the showroom. If a customer is walking around the lot, the beacon alerts the sales team inside the dealership and displays the customer's location. A salesperson can then be dispatched to that location to help the customer.

2) Track Customers: Beacons can aid in the gathering of big data that will help dealers better understand consumer behavior. When customers arrive on your lot, where do they go first? How do they move around the showroom or lot? Is there a difference between the movements of customers who purchase a car and those who leave without purchasing? In the latter case, if a customer's behavior pattern indicates they're getting ready to leave without purchasing, the dealership could send a sales manager or a push notification with an attractive incentive to stay.

3) Hyper-Targeted Messaging: Imagine a customer who is walking through the lot, then stops to look at a particular vehicle. Suddenly the pricing and monthly payment information for that exact vehicle pops up on their phone. Or, a special interest rate or cash-back offer that is available for that model and that customer based on their credit score and other factors is displayed. The ability to do this already exists. For auto dealers, it's just a matter of time before the mobile customer expects this type of personalized promotion, at which time adoption will become mainstream.

Beacon technology has the potential to completely transform the auto purchasing process. But before running out to implement it, consider where you are in your entire mobile marketing strategy. It's a good idea to master the basics before trying out the latest and greatest technology.

Mobile basics to be mastered first include: What is the user experience for your mobile website and mobile landing pages? Have you created successful mobile ad and texting campaigns? Do you have a good understanding of mobile metrics? Once you get the basics down, then it makes sense to start experimenting with beacons to see how they can improve your customers’ experience.

Not in My Backyard! How to Protect Your Turf With a Geofence

By David Metter

Most of the time the goal of a dealership's advertising is to reach car shoppers and convince them to visit your store. But what about the customers who are already in your dealership? You're probably thinking there's no need to advertise to them. If they're in your showroom, there's a pretty good chance you can close them. And you're right - unless one of your competitors makes them an offer they can't refuse, while the customer is standing right in front of you.

By now you've probably heard of geofencing as a mobile marketing strategy that can be used to lure customers out of a competitor's dealership and into your dealership. It works like this: Jane walks into Smith Chevrolet and immediately gets a push notification (or text, or email, or sees a banner ad) on her smartphone.

The notification informs Jane that Brown Chevrolet down the street has a lease special on a car she's interested in for only $159/month. Jane sees the special and is excited because that price is well below her monthly car payment budget of $200. She decides to go to Brown Chevrolet to check it out. After all, she can always come back to Smith Chevrolet later.

But of course, we know that once Jane leaves Smith Chevrolet, "later" is highly likely to turn into never.

How can you prevent this from happening? The simplest way is to create your own geofencing strategy so that when Jane arrives on your lot, she gets a push notification (or text, or email, or sees a banner ad) from your dealership.

Now, instead of seeing information about your competitor's lease special, Jane sees an offer for a $25 gift card if she takes a test drive right now at your dealership. She thinks, “Wow, how awesome is that?" Or, you send Jane a push notification of your own, informing her about a lease special or a free service maintenance contract with a purchase.

You may not get a lot of click-throughs or actions on these notifications and ads; more likely the customer will mention the offer to a salesperson. But you are making sure that when a customer is using a mobile app or browsing with their mobile device in your dealership, that your dealership brand is going to be there - and more importantly, that your competition is not going to be there.

How much is it worth to you to keep a customer in your showroom, actively engaged with a salesperson? You can bet your competitor is offering a compelling incentive along with a call-to-action. When you're protecting your turf, your ad messaging should be just as aggressive.

It's a good idea to thank your customers and let them know you appreciate their business. As a token of your appreciation, offer a gift card, freebie with purchase, or show competitive pricing information.

This strategy accomplishes two things: it prevents similar offers being shown to the customer from other dealerships, and reinforces in the customer's mind that they have made the right choice in coming to your dealership. Everybody likes to feel appreciated.

This type of geofencing strategy is also very economical. The perimeter around your store doesn't have to be large to be effective; in fact, smaller is better. Messages and ads are typically paid on a cost per thousand basis, so for a small monthly budget you can protect your turf and send your competition a message they'll hear loud and clear - they won't be poaching customers in your backyard!

Mobile Customers Actually Prefer When Businesses Get a Little “Pushy”


By David Metter

The multiple ways businesses can communicate with customers are constantly expanding - from telephone, to e-mail, to text messaging. With today’s technology, communication methods continue to evolve at unprecedented speeds. As smartphones have gotten smarter, the rise in the development of apps has introduced yet another way to communicate: push messaging. In fact, according to Openmind Networks’ CEO Alex Duncan, push messages represent an opportunity for mobile network providers to the tune of $10.9 billion. The reason? Consumers respond to push notifications at a higher rate than any other type of B2C communication, and they also prefer them. According to the study, 55 percent of consumers stated that they responded to push notifications versus 10-20 percent that responded to text messages, and 3.2 percent to e-mail. In addition, 23 percent ranked push notifications as their preferred mode of mobile communications for brands and organizations. See more information about the study here.

However, just as in any unprompted communication with a consumer, the message needs to be relevant and deliver value. Today’s phones are tracking everything customers do - from their heartbeat and health activities, to the places they visit - and our phones don’t forget! Have you ever been near a business you frequently visit and received a push message with an offer or prompt to stop in? The food industry does an excellent job of this. Walk past a Starbucks and chances are, at the very least, your phone will have your Starbucks card on its home screen in anticipation that you will be needing it soon.

Dealerships can take advantage of this exact same technology. Mobile network operators know where their customers are at all times. The fact that it is now being reported as a multi-billion dollar opportunity suggests that direct to consumer push messaging through mobile operators is on the horizon.

If over half of consumers respond to relevant push messaging, imagine the possibilities of having the ability to push out messages to consumers that are at your dealership. Or, better yet, on a competitor’s lot. With all other forms of communication, a dealership requires some piece of information - a phone number or e-mail address. With push messages - especially if done in cooperation with mobile network operators - dealerships don’t have to have any consumer information whatsoever. They can simply geo-fence their dealership (or a specified area) and push a message directly to THAT consumer’s phone - the one standing on their lot, or shopping across the road, at the competition. Rather than blasting messages via e-mail or text messaging, or attempting to guess when a consumer is in-market, push messages allow you to send messages to people that are confirmed as being in market - and better yet, that are actively shopping for a vehicle at that very moment!

Smartphone mobile apps have taken communication and information sharing to a whole new level. The ability to push messages and relevant offers to consumers who actually prefer to receive communications in that very manner, and will respond to them, is marketing gold. Don’t end up being the dealership whose customers are receiving push messages from your competitors. 

Join The Dark Side of Mobile

by David Metter

More than fifty percent of car shoppers are viewing dealership websites with their mobile devices, so having a mobile marketing strategy to connect with them is not only recommended, but critical for future survival. The benefits of "going mobile" are many and well documented, including the ability to make relevant offers to a specific target market, and the ability to identify and communicate with customers that are geo-physically close to your location.

Yet there is a dark side to mobile technology that auto dealers can't ignore. When customers are in your showroom and using their mobile devices, chances are they aren't checking email. Chances are, they're checking prices and offers at other dealerships. In fact, 62 percent of customers who use smartphones on your lot will visit another dealership within 24 hours.

This phenomenon -- called "showrooming" -- is on the rise, helped out by apps that allow car shoppers to scan a barcode or VIN and instantly see:

·      How much other car shoppers in the same area paid for the same make and model

·      How much your competition is charging for the same vehicle

When I talk about showrooming to dealers, I am reminded of a similar time back in the early days of the Internet. During that time, some dealers immediately realized the Internet was the future of car-shopping and raced to be early adopters, posting online ads and posting photos of inventory on their websites. Other dealers staunchly opposed the idea of all that transparency; their attitude was "in order to view my inventory, the customer has to come to my store."

In retrospect, this attitude seems pretty silly, but it was very real at the time. Today I often get a similar reaction from dealers when I tell them the best way to deal with showrooming is not to fight it, but to embrace it. Best Buy is one big-box retailer that initially tried to fight showrooming by blocking cell phone and wifi signals in its stores. The attempt failed dismally and eventually, Best Buy embraced showrooming by offering to price-match its competition and boosting its ecommerce presence. This strategy has worked.

Auto dealers can also make showrooming work for them instead of against them.  

If they jump in now, they'll be similar to those trend-setters in the early days of the Internet who were well prepared as more consumers went down that path.

Here are a few steps that dealers can take to help them conquer the dark side of showrooming:

Ensure Your Entire Online Shopping Experience is Responsive.

Most dealers trust their website vendors to make their dealership website responsive. But sometimes extensions and other third-party add-ons can render in a way that disrupts the flow or function of a mobile page. The only way to know for sure what a customer's experience will be is to use your own mobile device to do everything a customer does, including: inventory search, getting a trade-in price, calculating payments, filling out a lead form and using online chat.

Ideally this process will be done on more than one mobile device. In fact, it may be a good idea to hold a sales meeting and lead the entire sales team through this process on their mobile devices. At the end of the meeting, all glitches should be identified and as a bonus, the salespeople will have a greater understanding of how half their customers are interacting with the dealership.

Check Out the Competition.

Now use your mobile devices to check out the car-shopping experience on your main competitors' websites. Note both their shortcomings and their strong points, and compare it to your own mobile car-shopping experience. Is there anything you think works that you'd like to add to your website? The goal is to offer the best mobile online shopping experience in town.

I would have an app for existing customers - and I would use it as a service application and for customer retention. I fly Delta and I use their app all the time - I use Spotify. A car-buying app - I am not going to use that every single day. Am I going to use it as a conquest car-buying application - I love apps for the right reasons. I have a strong opinion on executing on mobile apps.

Communicate With Mobile Customers.

Car shoppers using mobile devices rarely fill out lead forms, but they will chat and they will text. So learn to communicate with them using their preferred methods. Using a reliable vendor for these services is highly preferred over letting your salespeople send personal, informal texts. In general, if you want to own your messaging, keep it consistent and stay in compliance, a vendor is a better choice.

Draw Customers to Your Showroom.

Once you are in communication with your mobile customers, give them a reason to visit your dealership. Remember, these car shoppers are performing low-funnel activities like viewing inventory and researching pricing, so your messaging should be low-funnel too.

Avoid high-level messaging stating how great your dealership is or why you should shop there. Low-funnel messaging gives car shoppers a specific reason to visit your dealership today, and provides the answers and information those shoppers are looking for, such as:

1.    Maps. Display your address and a map, and clickable directions from your customers' current location.

2.    Offers. Give away a free visor or a gift-card just for coming in to take a test drive. 

3.    Incentives. Display special lease prices, cash-back bonuses and other offers. Offers can be customized to an individual's browsing history.

4.    Pricing. Car shoppers want to know pricing and one way or another, they'll find it eventually. Why not be the dealership that gives it to them?

A very wise Jedi-trainer once said, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering."

Showrooming may be the dark side of mobile but if Yoda's words are right, auto dealers who fear it may suffer from its ill effects; while those who embrace showrooming will learn to master it, and prosper.

# # #

About the Author:

David brings a wealth of automotive knowledge and experience to AutoHook powered by Urban Science, both from a dealer and service provider perspective.  As President of AutoHook, David leads strategy, product, sales, and marketing for the industry leading provider.  As the co-architect of the product suite, he works with OEMs, agencies, vendor partners, and dealers to increase lead conversion, showroom visits, sales attribution, and brand Loyalty & Conquest rate.       

Prior to starting AutoHook, David served more than six years as Chief Marketing Officer for MileOne Automotive, a large, privately held automotive dealership group. At MileOne, he built an industry-leading marketing organization, leveraging technology and the internet to increase market share, while dramatically decreasing advertising spend per vehicle sold.  David previously headed sales for Autobase for nearly 5 years, where he helped grow the company from a small start-up to the leading automotive CRM software vendor.  He began his career on showroom floor.  As an early adopter of technology, he built a prospecting and follow-up system that helped him rise to become one of the top Chrysler salesmen in the country and moved his way up, eventually to General Manager of a dealership. 

David is regarded as one of the foremost experts in the automotive marketing and e-commerce space and is a frequent speaker at industry events including Digital Dealer, the Global Automotive Conference, NADA, 20 Groups, and JD Powers Automotive Internet Roundtable. 

A Primer on Mobile Wallets and How Dealers Can Benefit From Them

By David Metter

If you have a smartphone, chances are you have Apple Wallet (formerly Passbook) or Google Wallet. These applications are mobile wallets that store, among other things, applications like Apple Pay that enable people to purchase things with their phones. Of course, it's very unlikely that anybody is going to purchase their vehicle by swiping their mobile device. For that reason, many dealers dismiss the notion that they need to know anything about mobile wallets.

However, mobile wallets are used for a lot more than just purchasing things. A mobile wallet is the digital equivalent to the physical wallets we carry in our pockets and purses. They can be used to store many things including drivers' licenses, social security cards, payment cards, login data for websites and loyalty cards. Mobile wallets are also used to store gift cards, coupons and authentication codes for boarding passes, public transport tickets, movie and sporting event tickets, and house and car keys.

For dealerships, the "keys" to getting your brand inside of a consumer's mobile wallet include loyalty cards, mobile advertising, coupons and special offers. The good news is, once you're in there you're likely to stay there, and your digital passcode can be easily updated so you can send customers push notifications offering them new coupons and specials.

Although mobile wallet usage is not yet mainstream, familiarity and usage have doubled since 2013, according to a recent study published by market research and consulting firm Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). Fifteen percent of respondents reported using a mobile wallet in the first half of 2015 and an additional 22 percent said they're likely to use it in the coming six months. If that's true, over one-third of consumers are now using their mobile wallets, at least on occasion.

This growing usage presents significant marketing opportunities for dealerships. Mobile wallets provide the perfect post-click destination for coupons, gift cards and incentives. Here are several ways that dealerships can leverage mobile wallets to ensure that your brand stays top-of-mind with consumers:

Digital Advertising

Early in 2015, Honda promoted its nationwide Honda Dream Garage Sales Event through a mobile wallet ad campaign that invited consumers to tap a banner ad and save the event to Apple’s Passbook (now Wallet) or Google Wallet. The mobile ads ran on ESPN.com, Allrecipes.com and the Washington Times. Once consumers stored the event, Honda sent reminders to them as the event date got closer. Individual dealerships could easily replicate this strategy.  

Normal mobile ad campaigns can be forgotten soon after they are over. Mobile wallet marketing campaigns can be instantly updated to stay relevant to your customers' needs. Once your dealership has a digital passcode or "pass" into a customer's wallet, it's easy to push out reminders for a new promotion, much like Starbucks does.

Social Media and Mobile Apps

According to research firm Forrester, smartphone owners spend 80 percent of their time in five apps: Facebook, Maps, YouTube, Pandora and Gmail. For dealerships that advertise on Facebook, the growing adoption of mobile wallets will almost certainly result in higher click-through and redemption rates of Facebook ads. Here's why:

When a consumer is sitting at home or at work and surfing Facebook, they may see your dealership's coupon or offer, but may decide not to redeem it because they don't anticipate an immediate need, or they may forget about it as they continue to read their friends' updates. That consumer may remember later on, but the thought of having to go back to find and retrieve the offer or coupon is sometimes just enough of a deterrent that it doesn't happen.

When a consumer is checking Facebook with their mobile device, storing coupons and offers is a snap: just click on the ad or offer, click on a button that says "Add" and their mobile wallet stores the coupon or offer for future use. This makes it easy to store and organize a nearly endless supply of coupons and offers.

According to Vibes, a mobile wallet-marketing firm, 70 percent of consumers will save an offer to a mobile wallet when presented with the option and these offers have a 64 percent higher conversion rate over static mobile web coupons.

Location Targeting/Geo-Fencing

When a consumer stores a coupon, offer or event in their mobile wallet, your dealership has the ability to "ping" that customer when they enter a pre-defined area near your store. So if they stored information about your sales event and then drive by your dealership on the day of the event, they will receive a notification reminding them about the event. Or, if a consumer has stored a service coupon your dealership can send them a push notification reminding them about the coupon when that customer is within a one-mile radius of your store.

Loyalty Cards

This summer Apple confirmed it is bringing loyalty programs to Apple Pay, starting with retailers like Kohl's, Walgreens, JCPenney and Dunkin' Donuts. Could auto manufacturers be far behind? The ability to link a stored loyalty card to a local dealership's coupon, combined with the ability to notify customers about new offers, may create the "perfect storm" of incentives that will drive customers to your store.

Last year about this time, 2015 was being hailed as the year of the "mobile tsunami."  I predict the next wave in 2016 will be the "mobile wallet tsunami." Innovative dealerships will be experimenting with digital advertising campaigns, social media ads and loyalty card programs. The goal is to get into the consumer's mobile wallet, which in effect gives your dealership permission to continue sending that consumer offers, coupons and gift card incentives.

A word of warning: this privilege should not be abused by sending out a continuous stream of push notifications and sales messaging. Instead, the mobile wallet should be viewed as a vehicle for building a long-term relationship with the customers that literally opened their wallet to let your dealership brand in.

How to Convert More Website Visitors Into Leads

How to Convert More Website Visitors Into Leads

by David Metter

What's the best way to generate more leads from your website? Contrary to popular opinion, the answer isn't to "get more website traffic." Although a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is key to driving appropriate traffic levels to your website, unless those visitors convert into leads, that's money down the drain.

Before you spend more on search engine and digital advertising, focus on website conversion. Think about it: if you could double your website conversion rates, you could sell twice as many cars without spending another penny on advertising!

If you're thinking that website conversion is the sole responsibility of your website provider, think again! The dealership is actually responsibility for several key elements to conversion, including:

Content: People buy from businesses they like and trust. Content allows you to own your branding and showcase your strengths. Does your website content give customers a reason to like and trust you? Does it clearly state your value proposition (why buy from you?) Or does it read like many other cookie-cutter dealership websites?

Social Proof: This could be included under content, but it's so important it deserves its own category. Car shoppers want to know if you're trustworthy. The best way to do assure them you are is to litter your website with customer testimonials and plenty of quotes from (and links to) your online reviews.

Phone Ups: Believe it or not, your phone number is one of the biggest lead generation tools on your website. Make sure your website vendor includes your phone number in large font on every page. Make it stand out. Even more important, make sure your internal phone-answering process is flawless. You're paying for every phone call, so have every call answered quickly, by a human being, and don't leave callers on hold or transfer them to voice mail.

Chat: Does your chat window pop up the second a visitor lands on your website? Chat best practices include waiting a minute or two before approaching a visitor to see if they need help. Train your chat representatives to inform visitors about your latest offers, specials and incentives. They should also include URL links to other areas of your site to entice visitors to stay longer.

Lead Forms: Think of all the technology advancements that have been incorporated into dealership websites in the last ten years. Now think of your lead forms. They haven't changed much, which is why they don't perform well. Customers are conditioned to ignore them and most forms ask for too much information. To increase lead form conversion, reduce the number of field forms required to no more than three. Also be sure your lead forms answer the "What's In It For Me?" (WIIFM) question. Don't expect your website visitors to hand over their email address for free; what will you give them in return? Offering free content, a coupon or an incentive of some kind will help increase conversion rates.

Additionally, be sure your website vendor places all lead forms "above the fold" and incorporate borders, colors and other design elements to make them stand out.

Mobile Website: Last but not least, if you don't have a mobile, responsive website by now, make this your first priority! More than 50 percent of car shoppers are using their mobile devices to view dealer websites, including inventory pages. If you're not mobile, this is probably the easiest and fastest way to double your website traffic AND conversion rates.

Additional Resources for Website Conversion Include: 

 eBook: 25 Website 'Must-Haves' for Driving Traffic, Leads and Sales - Hubspot

eBook: Conversion Marketing: Convert Website Visitors Into Buyers - Bryan Heathman

eBook: Marketing Attribution: The Auto Dealer's Digital Roadmap From Awareness to Sale - AutoHook

Webinar: Tips & Tricks to Engage Customers and Turn Shoppers Into Sales - DealerOn

Webinar How to Target and Convert More Online Car Shoppers - DealerOn

Videos: Converting More Leads from your Auto Dealer Website - Dealer Playbook interview with Tim Paige of Lead Pages

Conversion Optimization Blog: http://conversionxl.com/blog/