Dealer Internet FAQ

Dealers submitted numerous questions from e-commerce to social networking and nearly everything in between. To answer those questions, there are five powersports Web experts to lend their insights.
For more online questions, see the May 24th issue of Powersports Business.

What percentage of a site’s homepage should be dedicated to each dept./profit center?
50 Below’s John Schuldt: The content of a dealer’s homepage should be driven by their Web site’s analytics. During the springtime, consumers are looking at new/used motorcycles and ATVs so the content should be focused on getting consumers to those sections of the site.
Throughout the year, there are various national merchandising events (back-to-school, holiday shopping, etc.) that should also be coordinated on the Web site. Holiday shopping is about ‘gifts under $50’ so make sure the Web site can present those products in one click.
Typically, the springtime will deliver about 40 percent of the site’s traffic to the vehicle sections. During December, about 60 percent is to the PG&A e-commerce section. Always display a dealer’s phone number, contact info and search bar on every page.
The real estate of a Web site homepage isn’t limited, but the design can be a real personal thing to dealers. It’s important to listen to the dealers and convey their wishes into their site while also knowing what the best practices are for optimizing space and content. If a dealer prides their business on the parts they carry and their reputation is the service they provide, then those will clearly be prominent on the homepage.
There are also OEM factors with advertising co-op requirements, which must be maintained.

ARI’s Brad Smith: Homepage allocation should reflect the goals of the online store. Some dealerships place more emphasis on selling units and service than accessories, while others are almost entirely dedicated to PG&A sales. The homepage content strategy should reflect the unique approach of each dealership. As a general rule, we suggest allocating approximately 60 percent of the homepage to PG&A since those items are available for sale through the Web site cart and are usually the primary revenue source of a dealer Web site. Half of that space should be allocated to OEM part promotions while the other half is allocated for aftermarket PG&A. The remaining 40 percent of the homepage should be dedicated to new and used unit promotions, as well as the dealership’s service capabilities/promotions to encourage store visits.

Is it smart to replicate the feel of an already established Web site for your own? Meaning, copying the navigation and structure, but not the look?
PSN’s Dave Valentine: Borrowing from the navigation and structural layout of established Web sites may be a good way to create a strong foundation for a new Web site. By taking cues from established, successful Web sites, a site designer is indirectly leveraging the results of usability testing that has already been done. The ultimate goal of looking at established Web sites is to determine the easiest and most effective way of helping your visitors navigate your own company Web site. If a dealer’s Web site’s navigation and structure is inspired by other high-traffic Web sites, odds are that the site visitor will have an easier time getting to where he or she wants to go.
Of course, simply leveraging industry best practices for laying out a site will not guarantee a dealer success. It is equally important to create a unique look and feel that adequately represents the dealer’s brand, staff, products and customers. A dealer should realize that the navigation is only as good as what is behind it. Having the greatest navigation on the Internet is useless if the content on the site does not connect with the target audience.

Should we consider a local website design company, or just use one of the few industry sources?
Southbay Motorsports’ Jason Truxal: There are a few industry Web sites for some companies that are done via local or independent Web site design companies that don’t relate to the industry. The issue with these sites, however, is that hardly any offer shopping alone. They are a storefront, displaying their vehicles, products and information on the site, but aside that, it’s only a looking glass. It’s unfortunate, but attempting to add all the items within your store would take the exact full-time dedicated staff companies already are doing for us. With that said, I would recommend selecting one of the few available over a local company. On the positive, they can perform a lot of work that needs to be done for you, and nearly automate the site to work on its own, as well as leaving you with updated catalogs and a functioning showroom. On the negative, it’s difficult to get them to cater to your needs, typically being shot down with “that’s not possible.” A simple feature could take months to consider approval, and without such “knick-knack” features, all sites feel the same from these providers, leaving it to the company to make themselves stand out.

Perry Performance Group’s Connie Perry: We have tried both. We created our own store, and we were constantly disappointed with trying to tweak the canned program. We also did not have access to the weight/dimensions of all available parts to set shipping costs. The OEM won’t provide that. Re-downloading the price costs and retail was a weekly chore I hated. It took me at least three hours to filter and upload the info I wanted to use.
We recently found a marketing specialist who is also a PWC enthusiast. He was our liaison with ARI to ensure we understood all options. He even helped us to decide which of the industry vendors best fit our purposes regarding prices and control. Losing control of certain online store areas is the biggest drawback, but it seems to be the most efficient route to maintaining an online store.
That’s working for us even though we still need to contact the vendor and show them what the manufacturer provides doesn’t always translate to what we need loaded on the site. The manufacturers do not release certain vital information on their products, especially for shipping info, so you’re almost forced to use an industry source connected to the manufacturer to properly price your stock and have shipping calculated for you. I don’t like relying on the manufacturer to upload current pricing to the vendor and have it finally be uploaded to us.
Price changes are constant so you are destined to take a loss. Some of the vendors I interviewed could not tell me how often current pricing was going to be loaded on our site. And that was the main factor that kept me from using them vs. my own store.

What types of things should we consider when negotiating with a Web site vendor?
Perry Performance Group’s Connie Perry: I asked for a delay in starting my billing cycle, since I had a few glitches that needed to be worked out once we went live.

Southbay Motorsports’ Jason Truxal: The most important thing to consider during negotiation is whether or not they can fulfill your needs and at what cost. If you are looking for a showroom only, one vendor may be cheaper than another. However, if you are looking for a complete package of showrooms, used vehicles, catalog shopping, etc, one vendor’s features may be better than another, but also more expensive. The one thing to consider is that you may be a company trying to save money, but the consumer is a client not looking to waste time. If those extra features of easy shopping and convenience cost you some pretty pennies, there’s no reason to ignore them if you’re looking to give a positive experience to your customers. Working with a cheaper vendor with fewer features will not yield the same results as a vendor with robust features. In the instance one does acquire a cheaper vendor, the staff required to attempt to easy usability will end up costing more to the company.

What ways are you connecting with your customers other than phones, direct mail, and email?
Perry Performance Group’s Connie Perry: No. 1 is our Web site and fostering relationships with the users. Even though we are in the electronic age, it’ll always come down to creating a trusting relationship with the customers.

Southbay Motorsports’ Jason Truxal: Ultimately we decided to eliminate direct mail altogether as it has become more a nuisance than a promotion to customers as they sort through junk mail physically. The same can be said about e-mail, but a catchy mailer subject line may just acquire the attention much more quickly than a flyer stuck between six others. We focus on specifically communicating with our customers through social media and e-newsletters, also known as mass mailers. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Yelp, and more are only a starting point for social networking with customers, but most of your customers will definitely own an account on at least one of these networks, allowing you to reach them outside the traditional means. E-mail based mailers are done typically on a monthly basis to promote upcoming events and sales, though it’s not our primary means of interacting with customers.

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