There’s no doubt consumer buying habits are changing dramatically with more and more people shopping for goods and services on the Internet. So it behooves all dealers to not only have a website but to make darned sure that it’s a really good one with a high Google ranking.
Gone are the days when it was good enough for a dealer to simply have a website. Once people visit your website, they must be able to effortlessly navigate around the site. Statistics indicate if the site is not user-friendly, running properly all the time, and easy to navigate, visitors will delete the site and never return. Surveys have shown that websites have 30 seconds to capture a prospective buyer’s attention.
Designing a website that is attractive, easy-to-navigate, and informative is no longer an option for dealers—it’s a basic requirement. Maintaining one that has real-time information is imperative. Here are a few examples of dealers who are capitalizing on their websites to boost sales.
Greg Warner and his brother, Gerry, operate Warner’s Dock in New Richmond, Wis. The family-owned dealership has been around for more than 50 years, and the brothers have been actively involved in it for more than 25 years. Warner’s Dock has been in the Web business for more than 22 years and sees it as a distinct competitive advantage allowing them to stay one step ahead of the competition. When the Internet first started becoming popular in the late 1990s, Warner’s Dock had already created its own website using Microsoft Word and has been upgrading it ever since.
Goals for today’s website
Today, Warner’s Dock uses its website to produce significant sales results. As the dealership’s second showroom, it achieves the following benefits:
- Generates 50 to 60 percent of the dealer’s business. This is what the website is doing now and what the dealer expects it to achieve in 2009 and beyond.
- Achieves a very high ranking on Google search. Over the years Warner’s Dock has achieved this high rating, leading to increased sales. Search engine optimization is a key to people visiting your website.
- Increases used boat sales. Warner’s Dock shows all of its boats, along with the price of each, on the website, and this has increased its used boat sales.
- Controls inventory. The dealer’s salespersons list all boating inventory on the website. It adds “Sold” or “Sale Pending” to the boat on a daily basis. Once the sale is completed and the boat delivered, then the salesperson removes the boat from the website.
One of the unique icons you’ll find on the Warner’s Dock website is:
Garage sales. Under this icon, visitors will find overstock or leftover items that Warner’s Dock has for sale. Under this icon are items such as windshields, bimini tops, radios, antennas, and so forth. Because many of Warner’s Dock’s customers are handy and like to repair boats, Warner’s offers them an opportunity to buy needed equipment, but offers no guarantees.
Maintaining and updating the website
Greg said that an in-house team maintains and updates the website. The team consists of Greg and Gerry, who oversee the overall site to make sure it’s operating properly, while his sales manager and his sales team update the inventory.
How often is the website updated? Greg said that the website is updated on an hourly basis, although customers only see daily updates. As boats are being brought in with trade-ins and others are sold, the inventory is constantly changing. Being up-to-date by the hour on its website helps Warner Docks control its entire inventory (see www.warnersdock.com).
Russo Marine is a third-generation family-owned and operated dealer in Bedford, Mass., that handles Sea Ray and Boston Whaler boat lines in the Boston market. Larry Russo, a second generation dealer, said that nearly half of his yearly revenues, 47 percent to be exact, come from having a first-class website with a very high Google ranking.
Russo Marine attracts visitors to its website by using high resolution, four color digital images of its new and pre-owned boating inventory. It invites customers to peruse the site, using clearly marked icons and headlines that point visitors to additional information.
Russo Marine’s website is easy to navigate and visitors can find anything they need to know about boats and the boating lifestyles on the site, including:
- New and pre-owned inventory
- New and pre-owned boat specials
- Trade-in evaluations
- Boat-buying tips
- Customer testimonials.
Russo Marine uses the website to sell all of its inventory and keeps its listings up-to-date on a daily basis. It also entices boaters with information about upcoming events and special promotions where boaters can find some extraordinary deals.
Russo said the website was created by one of his own employees. “We had a very tech savvy employee create our website: www.russomarine.com. And now we have our media agency maintaining it for us. Our sales manager works with the media agency to update the inventory, and I communicate with the agency to keep the rest of the site updated.”
Make it the best website possible
Having a website is important but getting people to YOUR website is even more important. According to Nielsen Co.’s December 2008 rankings, the top search engines are:
- Google (62.9 percent)
- Yahoo (16.8 percent)
Getting listed with Google and receiving a high ranking with them can bring a lot of business to your dealership. To improve your website’s ranking,
- Visit Google’s Webmaster Guidelines at google.com/support/webmasters.
- For help with Yahoo!, go to help.yahoo.com, click search, and under Help Topic, click Search Ranking.
Not every dealer like Warner’s Dock and Russo Marine has skilled in-house staff and/or creative expertise to make the website a “destination spot ” for prospective and existing customers. But every dealer can employ professional website design companies to help them.
The benefits are real
Having a first class website that is easy to navigate and often updated can be one of the most effective sales tools for dealers. Moreover, those dealers that don’t update and use the Internet will fall hopelessly behind their competitors.