3/14/2011-An intriguing new unit market share comparison

Let’s take a large metro area. Say 1 million or so residents. Let’s say it’s in the South, where the key part of the retail season kicks off in a pleasantly warm period (March) and then subsides when the humidity really kicks in (June).
Let’s take that metro area and then do a little theorizing: If you take a dealership that possesses the largest on-road market share in that area, would they, in turn, also have the most online success?
In other words, would their web presence — in this case referring specifically to the amount of visitors and unique visitors they draw monthly — mirror their showroom floor success?
I theorized: Heck yeah it should.
We’re in the digital age, so why wouldn’t one lead to the other?
And in fact it did in a couple of real-life studies I did using data provided by dealerships and data that is available online at no cost.
As I outline these studies, you’ll notice I’m not specifying either the market location in the South or the specific dealerships that I worked with. Market share data obviously is highly confidential information and thus the reason for the anonymity. But more importantly, the “who” of the study is not nearly as crucial as the wake-up call that this exercise should produce.
As one of the dealers who was involved in the exercise noted upon finding out the results, “We are getting our electronic butts kicked!”
And then some!
Oh, one other important point before I get into more specifics: This exercise is something you can do for your dealership’s own area in mere minutes. At no cost.
A closer look
This all started with Robert Basha of Auction 123, an industry inventory management and data collection company, informing dealers during a V-Twin Expo seminar that they could see how their competition was faring online. Basha provided information on a couple of websites that dealers could use to gauge how they were doing vs. their area competitors in some key online benchmarks, like unique visitors per month.
I chose to use the free tools available at Compete.com, which I had a member of our e-team check to see if the data Compete.com portrayed is indicative of what we’ve seen on some our sites. And in fact their data and our data were pretty close.
So then I called upon a dealer who is in a highly competitive area in the South and asked for the names of four of his on-road competitors, including three metric shops and a fourth dealership, a Harley store.
Then I did a little online searching, retrieved all five dealership websites — the dealer’s website and the four competitors — and inputted them into Compete.com to find out what the online landscape looked like.
The results were, well, shocking.
First off, one of the dealer’s metric competitors did not have a website, or at least one that I could easily find on a Google search. Ouch.
Secondly, of the total number of unique visitors to the four dealer websites for the key retail sales period (March-June 2010), more than 60 percent of them went to the Harley store.
In fact, 63 percent of them did. Wow.
And if you really start to think about that, it gets worse.
See, that total number of unique visitors had to include a certain number of ATV, UTV and PWC shoppers, in other words non-Harley consumers. So what do you think the percentage of unique visitors would look like if we could somehow separate just the on-road motorcycle shoppers in that group?
Calling it an “electronic butt-kicking” may not be sufficiently characterizing the online discrepancy going on here.
But back to the question at hand: Does online domination happen to coincide with market share leadership? In this huge Southern metro, absolutely. The Harley franchise is No. 1 in the on-road motorcycle market share and tops for unique web visitors and total web visitors per month for the area.
What’s surprising is the No. 2 market share dealership happens to be a low-performing dealer in terms of their online presence. In terms of both unique visitors and total visitors during that crucial market period, it’s the worst of the three metric stores in its area.
Which makes you wonder: If they could turn that around and become a real online presence, wouldn’t they be in a better position to take over the leadership spot on their showroom floor?
Hard to argue against that point.
By the way, those of you residing in smaller markets and thus perhaps a little less convinced that a similar situation is happening in your area: Think again.
We looked at a small Southern market as well and the results were very similar, in regard to the clear online leader also being the clear market share leader.
Spend the few minutes it takes to identify where your dealership sits in terms of its online presence. The wonderful thing about this data is its free, easily accessible and dates back to last year. So take a peak at how you performed last spring and summer — not to mention the same of your competitors — and then sit down with your staff and your online providers to figure out how the spring of 2011 can be different.
The electronic butt-kicking can’t go on.
Updated
We’re about to release info on Profit Xcelerator, our annual dealership education conference & expo. Go to www.powersportsbusiness.com/profitx/ for all the info on the event that attracted nearly 300 industry members last year.
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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