Every year that we put together the Ward's e-Dealer 100, we could write the same headlines, and even many of the same stories.
Related document: 2009 Ward's E-Dealer 100
Due to incorrect information for some of the dealerships on the original Ward’s e-Dealer 100 ranking, we have published a new list with corrected data. The new ranking can be downloaded by clicking the link above. We apologize for any inconvenience to our readers.
Despite an unbelievable downturn in 2008, dealerships on the Ward's ranking, continue to make the Web central to their businesses. The Internet accounts for a whopping 28% of all the vehicle sales for dealers on the Ward's ranking.
That's not necessarily incremental business, but it reflects a change in where customers are going to get information about their vehicle purchase.
Dealers year after year attribute their success to the basics: processes that lead to quick response time, holding managers and sales people accountable for follow up and measuring the return on Internet initiatives.
Recently, another trait has become important: a willingness to experiment with new tools and applications. Dealers willing to play with new technology often are positioned well to steal share from dealers oblivious to new trends.
This year is no different. The Internet is becoming more important to dealers as they cut newspaper and TV ads, moving more marketing money to digital ads.
It's becoming a virtual world now, and people are doing nearly everything online. Tools for getting in front of potential customers are more advanced.
Numerous dealers are jumping on the social media bandwagon, creating Facebook pages and joining the Twitter craze.
Whether social media will help to sell more cars or is a fad that won't last remains to be seen, but some dealers say it's a way to build a relationship with customers and build a brand online.
Justin Norwood, Internet manager for Classic Chevrolet in Texas, ranked 39th on the list, recently got on Facebook to connect with his friends. But they all know what he does and that he is the guy to go to buy a car. He's sold some cars because of reconnecting with people on the social network.
Norwood thinks it might be a good tool for sales people to generate sales but he questions whether a dealership needs a Facebook account.
Display advertising on the Web quickly is becoming a hot trend. It's been mostly used by tier one auto makers) and tier two advertisers (regional ad associations) but now display advertising is finding its way down to the local dealer level. Savvy dealers are using it to market with a laser-like approach.
Essentially, display advertising is a banner ad across the top of a Web page, a skyscraper ad along the side or an ad within the body of the page. What makes display advertising different today than before is the ability for advertisers to serve up messages that target Internet surfers by geographic location, demographic information and online behavior.
It's an important tool as studies show more people are skipping the commercials in TV shows using their TiVo device. “It helps dealers get in front of people who are harder to reach today,” Greg Meyer, vice president of product development for the Cobalt Group, says.
In the next few months, most of the website companies will have rolled out applications that let customers view dealership information on their mobile devices. Some dealerships already are far ahead with their mobile strategies
A lot of this is in the trial stages as dealers and vendors try to determine what works.
There are dealers who are figuring it out and developing processes around these new applications to increase their market share.
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