Special Report

e-Dealer 100

In putting together the Ward's e-Dealer 100 coverage, we find that some of the Internet directors like to push the envelope in their use of technology. It is easy to be wowed into thinking something may be the “next big thing.”

We try, though, to refrain from advising our readers to follow suit on many of these initiatives. Many of them are nice to have, but not must-have features. Besides, dealers on the e-100 list typically have financial resources and the personnel that let them experiment without taking a huge hit if the initiative fails.

Nevertheless, video is one area you might want to investigate. There are dealers reporting intriguing results from their use of video.

For our cover story this month, we write about Acton Toyota, 41st on this year's Ward's e-Dealer 100.

The dealership decided to play with some video applications on its web site. Acton put together a set of three videos that walk the customer through the process of buying a car online at the dealership. They dubbed them “Getting Started,” “The First Visit” and “The Big Day.” You can view them at www.actontoyota.com by clicking on the Smart Shoppers Tool Kit box on the left.

The videos total about nine minutes and include comments from various Acton's Internet sales people and several customers who talk about their experience.

“The point is to let the customer sell the dealership for us,” General Manager Mike Hills says.

Acton truly is a dealership known for its strong customer satisfaction and the videos help it to sell that benefit of buying a vehicle from there.

While the store is not able to measure yet how many people have purchased a car because of the videos, he results still are impressive. From January 1 to February 28 of this year the videos totaled 2,528 viewings.

Meanwhile, several dealerships owned by the Hendrick Automotive Group are also experimenting with videos.

A director at one of the California stores was talking to a potential customer on the phone that was worried about the tires on an Infiniti G35. The director asked for his e-mail address, grabbed a $200 digital camera and ran out to the lot and proceeded to do a quick walk around of the vehicle on video, pointing out the tires and other features. And he referred to the customer by name.

Within 15 minutes, the video was uploaded to Google video and e-mailed to the customer.

The customer was so impressed he brought his entire family in to the dealership and bought the G35.

Since then, the director has sold six more vehicles by sending personal videos to potential customers. He picks his spots carefully, but he is seven for seven.

The videos are not professional looking, but that might be part of the charm. Other Hendrick Internet sales people are following suit and using simple tools such as their cell phones to shoot the videos.

The beauty is that you send video directly to a shopper's cell phone.

Uploading to Google is simple. It's just a matter of connecting the cable and clicking on the area. Google handles all of the sizing and compression automatically.

This might be one experiment that is simple to do, and yet, wow your customers.