"Oldtimer" brings his dealership into the new-age web world When it comes to the Internet, Ed Rufo of James Corlew Chevrolet - Cadillac - Oldsmobile in Clarksville, TN, has acted like anything but the "oldtimer" he claims to be.
Mr Rufo, the dealership's general manager, saw the value two years ago of getting in on what he calls "the wave of the future." He began to transform himself into an Internet junkie by reading everything he could get his hands on concerning the new technology. He persuaded the dealership to jump aboard the Internet wave. He chose Automark to design and build the website.
The web site has been up and running for a year. It's the first and only Clarksville area dealership with a fully functional website, say Mr. Rufo and Josh Wenzel, the store's Internet sales manager. (A quick web search seems to confirm that.)
The web site, www.jamescorlew.com, has the four components that are emerging as essential qualities of web success - simple navigation, relevant information, quick response time and advertising.
It's laid out nicely with nine categories at the top of the home page. It is also easy to navigate. With one or two clicks of the mouse, customers can find almost any information they need, from new and used vehicle information (including pictures of the vehicles) to financing possibilities. Mr. Rufo says that the dealership is diligent about keeping the vehicle information up to date.
The "weekly special" category includes coupons customers can download, and information about monthly and year-end specials. For those customers who like to know the people with whom they are dealing, the web site also provides short biographies with pictures of each of the dealership managers.
Mr. Wenzel believes responding quickly to customer e-mails is necessary if the dealership is to bring the customers in. Automated e-mail within minutes responds to every customer e-mail inquiry. E-mails are personally responded to within the day. A two-way paging system tied in to the web site allows Mr. Wenzel to respond to e-mails, even while traveling.
When the web site was launched, Mr. Rufo made sure an aggressive advertising campaign was in place to bring visitors to the site. A billboard prominently displaying the web site address was placed along one of Clarksville's main drags; banners were purchased on the official Clarksville web site and on local television web sites, and the address was placed everywhere the dealership name appears.
The dealership also makes use of several referral sites. James Corlew's complete new- and used-vehicle inventory is at Vehix.com. The new-vehicle inventory is on gmbuypow-er.com, used-inventory on autotrader.com.
This aggressiveness has brought an average of 100 hits a day, with visitors browsing an average of seven minutes. In September, the dealership received 50 e-mails from site visitors, and sold vehicles to 11 of them.
On average, the referral sites and web site generate 50 leads per month, with 12 of those leading to sales.
The dealership is intent on staying ahead of the competition by aggressively seeking new ways to increase web site traffic. One innovative method is a planned portal page from where visitors can access the web site through any of four website addresses - chevyamerica.com; cadillacamerica.com; oldsam-erica.com; and jamescorlew.com.
Mr. Rufo and Mr. Wenzel say the Internet right now is mostly an effective advertising tool. But they are trying to position their dealership for the time they believe the Internet will become a powerful sales device.