How reasonable do you think it is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a monument to a brand these days? When we were all flush with cash, it made some sense to upgrade dealership facilities to appease the manufacturer. Now, a few short years later, it not only doesn’t make sense because of financial reasons…there’s an even more compelling reason for dealers not to do it.
There was a post in the Opinion section of Automotive News last week advocating a reasonable solution to the issue of forcing dealers to renovate their store. The post said it’s time for dealers and automakers to reason together to ease the escalating tensions over factory programs that demand pricey renovations. Automakers do have a right to specify design elements that sustain, promote and develop their brand images. But many are severely lacking in promoting their brand (and their franchisee’s brand) on Social Media.
Your dealership’s “online storefront” matters more to your Social customer. It’s important to have a good-looking storefront with branding to set you apart, online or offline. For instance, I look at dealer websites and often each design offers nothing different, nothing that sets them apart, from their competitor down the road. These websites are often clinical-looking templates mandated by the factory for the dealer to use. Why do the manufacturers demand dealers stand out from the crowd in real life, but do everything in their power to homogenize the customer experience online?
The point is to set yourself apart by delivering a unique experience every time a customer contacts you. They visit your website of course, but according to a recent AutoTrader study, they’re spending most of their time on 3rd-party sites. With 75% of car shoppers using Social Media to research their next vehicle, the smart money would be spent on upgrading the design and influence on Social platforms. It’s much less costly and serves the customer where they are!
I’ve built and renovated many, many stores in my career. In every case, any increase in business was due only to an increase in square footage and more service stalls. Ask the Hummer guys how well putting millions of dollars into a new facility worked out for them. Times are changing quickly folks and customers don’t need brick and mortar monuments to the brand anymore. They want to be greeted on Social platforms where they visit and interact everyday!
This is a huge issue, this ignorance of the Social customer. Automakers have the budget, the staff and the juice to help dealers get acquainted with Social Media. They are all global brands and have at least some Social presence on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Rolling out education and training would be a great start. The automakers’ brand gets well-communicated. For the dealers, there wouldn’t be so much confusion and the Social customer would be better served.
Social Media has moved faster than the speed of light and the automakers need to wake up and get moving. Dealers are looking for real answers to Social Media, some buying products out of desperation rather than informed discrimination. As the Automotive News article said, “It’s time to put this issue to rest.” Yes, it’s time to give up the bricks and mortar memento of yesteryear and focus the budget where the customer lives: Social Media.