Sizzlin’ Summer sales season the right time for a perfect pitch

Are you ready for another Sizzlin’ Summer?

Although sales have fallen a little short of last year’s record pace so far in 2017, the months from late spring through the end of summer typically are among the strongest of the year.

“To be sure, the overall industry remains in decent shape with sales at a near-record pace following two consecutive full-year highs in 2016 and 2015,” reported USA Today, following automakers’ announcements earlier this month of March sales of 1.56 million.

Even a plateau in volume means strong selling opportunity for franchise dealerships.

IL-BLOG_70404-12 (Sizzlin' Summer III Logo)_300x300Santander Consumer USA (SC) is positioned to help dealers plan for the big months ahead with tools and programs meant to strengthen relationships that help build businesses.

The Dealer Extranet, the Rehash Tool, which allows dealers to rework their own deals 24/7, our Dealer Advocacy program, S-Guard, a revamped RoadLoans program, and a direct-mail program have the potential to generate powerful results.

Many of these SC tools and programs will be featured in our upcoming baseball-themed email campaign “Sizzlin’ Summer III,” which should arrive in your inbox approximately every three weeks beginning April 19 with “The First Pitch” and running through Sept. 13 and the “Postgame Show.”

But the linchpin to building successful relationships still is SC’s dedicated team of area sales managers and inside sales managers who cover all 50 states and serve as a Dynamic Resource to dealers.

Most of the top-performing dealerships suggest building relationships with SC buyer and ASM; using all available programs “because this will lead to higher sales” for your dealership, and sending a wide range of credit scores because SC funds deals across the credit spectrum.

“The ASMs are always available and willing to help, and the buyers work to help close deals,” said one dealer. “And Santander gives fast approvals. This is key when trying to work a deal with a customer.”

To get to know SC better see How your ASM can help you make more deals with Santander, then contact your ASM or our sales department to see for yourself.

Because Sizzlin’ Summer is fast approaching.

Paying attention to your dealership’s online reputation matters

Would you buy a car from … you?

That was a question posed in a recent article in Dealer Solutions Magazine. How you ultimately answer it could tell you a lot about the state of your dealership.

“A lot of attention has been paid over the past several years to the processes inside the dealership for buying a car,” wrote Chris Walsh, an expert in market strategy, competitive analysis and sales process.

“Yet, the customer experience outside the dealership is equally important, especially since the vast majority of consumers start their car-buying journey online … Delivering a poor experience online means you’ll likely never get to see those shoppers in your store.”

033017 IL Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)The article suggests looking at your business from the outside-in – the same way your customers would. And that means you start by looking for a brand or model that you sell.

We tried it with an actual dealership – pretending to be a general manager pretending to be a customer.

To begin with, we Googled a favorite make and model in three adjacent communities, and our dealership came up second in the results after four paid ads, and still on the first screen. Then we searched for our dealership simply by brand and city with our sample dealership coming up first after two paid ads. Not a bad start we figured, but, of course, there’s more to it than that.

Next our general manager’s attention was captured by ratings stars of DealerRater.com, Cars.com, Yelp and Facebook just below and still on the first page of the search results. That proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword, although the outcome generally was favorable.

Our dealership ratings ranged from highs on DealerRater, 4.6 stars out of five from 491 reviews, and Cars.com, 4.6 stars, 619 reviews, to a low on Yelp at 2.6 stars from 143 reviews, with our average rating for 1,427 reviews across the four websites 4.3 stars. Still, we noted that we would go back to take a look at positive and negative results to see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. But be careful about how you handle negative reviews, though – you don’t want to make matters worse.

Then our general manager checked out results for two of our nearby competitors, one of which scored better across all four websites, averaging 4.8 stars from 7,303 reviews, with the second scoring better on one website (Cars.com) but worse on the other three, averaging 4.0 stars from 1,706 reviews.

While online reviews aren’t the only online performance metric to consider, the results certainly are a red flag if our general manager is going to maximize his dealership’s sales.

“Be honest, if you were the customer, from which dealership would you buy?” asked Dealer Solutions.

Next: How easy is your website to use compared to your competitors?

Service excellence, communication separate ‘best’ brands from the rest – J.D. Power

Lexus and Buick.

Brands that you wouldn’t necessarily think have much in common.

But one thing Lexus and Buick do share is J.D. Power recognition for highest customer satisfaction among luxury and mainstream brands, respectively, which could help steer savvy dealerships to greater success.

Customer service made a big difference for Buick in J.D. Power survey.

Customer service made a big difference for Buick in J.D. Power survey.

Power’s U.S. Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study measures shoppers’ thoughts about service at franchised dealers or independent service facilities for maintenance or repair work on owned or leased vehicles ranging from one to five years old.

The survey provides insight for automakers and dealerships on customer-service issues affecting loyalty.

“The quality of work – doing the job right the first time – can noticeably affect customer satisfaction and loyalty,” said Chris Sutton, vice president, U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power.

The vast majority (94 percent) of customers who take their vehicles in for service indicate that their dealer fixed the problem the first time. But among the 6 percent of customers indicating the service work was not completed right on the first visit, satisfaction drops more than 22 percent compared to those whose work was completed right on the first visit.

But what happens while getting to that satisfaction number also is important:

  • “Proactive communication with the customer, especially while the car is being serviced, is one element that has a direct influence on loyalty,” according to Sutton.
  • The study shows that among customers who are contacted by phone, 55 percent said they “definitely will” return for paid service, but that loyalty factor jumps to 67 percent when customers receive text message updates, according to J.D. Power.
  • And that preference is significantly higher among Gen Y and Gen X’ers (41 percent) compared to Baby Boomers (25 percent) and Pre-Boomers (10 percent).

“It’s not surprising to see the preference for receiving updates through text messages continue to rise, but only 3 percent of customers indicate they receive text message updates,” Sutton said. “Correcting that disconnect by adding more text message capability should be a priority with a service operation.”

Feedback on factors that go into customer satisfaction provide dealers insight into what currently influences overall satisfaction most and which other areas could use improvement: Service advisers scored 835 points on the J.D. Power 1,000-point scale, followed by service initiation (832), vehicle pickup (810), service quality (809) and the service facility itself (794).

Despite leading its category, Buick ranked just ninth among the top-10 brands scored by J.D. Power and its 1,000-point scale, with the remainder of the top brands falling in the luxury category.

However, Buick was the only manufacturer that received a perfect score (25/25) from owners and lessees for above criteria comprising an overall customer satisfaction score. Among all manufacturers, MINI received the second-highest overall customer satisfaction score (24/25), while Lexus scored highest (22/25) among luxury brands and third-highest satisfaction overall.

Among manufacturers, General Motors scored strongest with four brands in the top five of their respective categories – Cadillac, fifth among luxury brands, and Buick, first; GMC, third, and Chevrolet, fourth, among mainstream brands, according to J.D. Power.

The 2017 CSI Study is based on responses from more than 70,000 owners and lessees of 2012 to 2016 model-year vehicles between October and December 2016.

You can dig deeper into the brand-by-brand results at the J.D. Power website.

“Quality of automotive service continues to show significant improvement and is driving an increase in overall customer satisfaction,” according to J.D. Power.

It’s clearly something dealerships should have in mind before, during and after the sale.

We’ve made you a list, so check it twice to boost used-car sales

We know you read the first four parts of our series.

Or went to CarStory to get your own copy of the white paper on which it is based.

But just in case you didn’t, we’ll share a checklist from How to convert used car shoppers to buyers that hits the high points of the series (for details, you still will have to go back and read parts 1-4).

The checklist is divided into four parts – pricing, value, attention and merchandising.

RELATED: The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5), The most important three-letter word when selling used cars (Part 2), And now the most important number when selling used cars (Part 3), Calls to action: When Words matter most for your sales funnel (Part 4)

Here’s the checklist from the CarStory white paper and where you can find details in our series:

Pricing

  • Understand where each vehicle falls in the market and make sure you’re highlighting the points consumers value most (Part 1).
  • Always end prices with a 99 or 999 (Part 3).

Value

  • Never miss an opportunity to highlight “must have” features (Part 2).
  • Always include seller comments and remember to highlight reconditioning details (white paper).
  • Provide consumers as much of the information they need, otherwise they will leave your site or your lot and find it somewhere else (Part 2).

Attention

  • Always include the right images, but only nine to 10 at most for your marketplace partners. You should absolutely include all images directly on your website (Part 3).
  • Update your calls to action to include a strong verb-plus-direct-object construction (Part 4).
  • Don’t overwhelm the user with too many CTAs – focus on the ones that will move buyers through the process (Part 4).

Merchandising

  • Focus your merchandising efforts on the [top five] areas that matter most to consumers (Part 1):
  • Vehicle condition
  • Accident history
  • Service history
  • Listing price
  • Value

“Dealers can do a lot to improve the way they communicate to consumers with better information, pricing and merchandising,” says CarStory. “By doing so you will help consumers move through the sales process more efficiently, help your inventory stand apart and, ultimately, drive more sales.”

This checklist and our series should help you get and stay on track.

 

030717 IL The first commandment of turning used-car shoppers into buyers_IMAGE_6

The survey says: Tell us what you think of the Santander dealer experience

We’re listening.

One of the most powerful phrases there is in a business relationship.

Especially when you can expect it to get results.

Such is the intention behind Santander Consumer USA’s “Rate Your Experience” survey, which will arrive in most dealerships’ email inboxes shortly. It will give you the opportunity to tell us what you think about our programs, dealer advocacy and communications efforts.

040317 IL The survey says Tell us what you think of the Santander dealer experienceThe survey, in the form of a quick-and-easy, multiple-choice ballot, also will allow you to tell us what you feel needs improvement most and your overall satisfaction with us.

“We want to get a feel for how we’re doing – areas important to dealers and their feelings about Santander,” said Rush Giffin, vice president of dealer experience. “This survey will give us an opportunity to find out directly from dealers what they are thinking.”

“It is important to us that our many affiliates have an excellent dealer experience,” he added.

While informal feedback from many dealers has been positive, we think you probably can help us find ways Santander can improve the dealer experience.

And your survey responses will help us do that sooner rather than later.

As one Tennessee dealer said recently when we introduced our “Dynamic Backend” allowance program: “I am pleased that Santander takes an interest in continually improving both my ease to do business and willingness to listen to new ideas and get them applied.”

If you don’t want to wait for your email (or missed it), you can Take Survey Now by following the link.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)

How was your tax season?

If it went well, chances are you planned ahead and were ready for it.

And now it’s time to … move on.

A few weeks from now we likely will be looking at another strong sales month, so it’s an opportunity to maintain the pace – or catch up if tax season wasn’t all you had hoped.

Last May, in fact, was the third best sales month of the year, trailing only December and March.

It was the fifth consecutive year that May was among the top three sales months, bridging the gap between tax season and strong summer sales seasons. It’s a good month to set a tone that should continue through August if you’re ready for it.

“In the U.S., car and light truck sales totaled an annualized 17.5 million units in February, in line with the previous month’s performance and the 2016 total,” according to Scotiabank. “Retail activity continues to move higher even as fleet volumes have weakened. Automakers will ramp up production to record highs in the second quarter alongside favorable industry fundamentals.”

March sales results will be announced April 4 and could give a clearer picture of where 2017 is headed.

Positioned to help

Meanwhile, Santander Consumer USA (SC) is positioned to help dealers plan for the big months ahead with tools and programs meant to strengthen relationships that help build businesses.

The Dealer Extranet, the Rehash Tool, which allows dealers to rework their own deals 24/7, our Dynamic Backend program, a Dealer Advocacy program, S-Guard, a revamped RoadLoans program, and a direct-mail program have the potential to generate powerful results.

But the linchpin to building successful relationships is SC’s dedicated team of area sales managers and inside sales managers who cover all 50 states and serve as a Dynamic Resource to dealers.

Building relationships

Most of the top-performing dealerships suggest building relationships with SC buyer and ASM; using all available programs “because this will lead to higher sales” for your dealership, and sending a wide range of credit scores because SC funds deals across the credit spectrum.

“The ASMs are always available and willing to help, and the buyers work to help close deals,” said one dealer. “And Santander gives fast approvals. This is key when trying to work a deal with a customer.”

“My mission is to help my dealer base grow their businesses,” said one SC sales team member. “I want those dealers to see me as an invaluable partner in their dealerships … not just another rep.”

To get to know SC better see How your ASM can help you make more deals with Santander, then contact your ASM or our sales department to see for yourself.

Because now the question is, do you have your dealership ready for the May-hem to come?

Calls to action: When words matter most for your sales funnel

Words matter.

Especially when you’re asking someone to take action on your website that keeps them engaged (increasing your chances to convert them into a customer).

“The first step towards acquiring a new customer [is] getting them to raise their hand and take an action,” says CarStory in its white paper, How to convert used car shoppers to buyers, based on a recent used-car-shopper survey. “Providing the right call to action (CTA) is yet another way you can convert a shopper to a buyer by winning their attention and their clicks.”

CarStory, a company that provides independent reports about vehicles and features in specific markets, even compared specific CTA words and phrases to see which words generated bigger responses.

The calls to action to which shoppers are most likely to respond by category, according to CarStory?

RELATED: The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5), The most important three-letter word when selling used cars (Part 2), And now the most important number when selling used cars (Part 3)

They are “Check price” (about 36 percent of shoppers survey), “More information” (about 27 percent), “Contact the dealer” (about 14 percent) and “Schedule a test drive” (10 percent). Some CTAs that didn’t fare as well: “Check availability,” “Make an offer,” “Save/add to wish list” and “Request financing.”

But even knowing the right categories for your CTAs doesn’t mean your work is done.

“In the price category, the CTA ‘Check price’ outperformed every other option by three to 10 times,” CarStory said, with about 46 percent of respondents saying that would move them to action. Fails included “Is this a good deal,” “Get an e-quote,” “Free price check,” “Get an awesome deal” and others.

“If you are using anything but “Check price,” now would be a good time to update your website.”

In other CTA categories, similar action wording did best with prospective customers:

More information: “View details” was scored 31 percent better than “Vehicle details,” even more over “See more details,” “Get information” or “Request more information.”

Contact the dealer: “Email dealer” generated a greater response than “Call dealer” or “Contact dealer.” Added CarStory: “It is interesting to note that consumers flagged ‘email dealer’ … when, in fact, most sites don’t allow you to send an email, but rather have you submit a lead form.”

Scheduling a test drive: “Schedule a test drive” outscored “I want to test drive” or, simply, “Test drive.”

Or, as CarStory says: “Calls to action – they are not all created equally.”

NEXT: We’ve made you a list, so check it twice to boost your used-car sales

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Get a look at shoppers, competition at DFW, other auto shows

Imagine a new-car showroom jammed with eager shoppers.

That’s pretty much what you get this weekend at the DFW Auto Show in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, TX, but on a grand scale.

The DFW event holds a special spot on the calendar between Chicago and New York auto shows. While not as big as those events, it serves the purpose for those who attend, whether they are your prospective customers researching their next purchase or people in the industry who want to keep up to speed with products offered by the competition.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia at last year’s DFW Auto Show.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia at last year’s DFW Auto Show.

“Where else can you find more than 650 trucks, SUVs, sedans, sports cars and energy-efficient vehicles representing nearly all major manufacturers, all in one easily walkable venue?” asked Don Herring Jr., auto show chairman in a press release heralding the event.

“It’s like a giant showroom; look under a hood, pop a trunk and check out the legroom of hundreds of new vehicles in just a few short hours.”

The DFW show runs March 22-26, concurrrent with the Atlanta International Auto Show held at the Georgia World Congress Center and the same weekend as the Greater New Orleans International Auto Show and Austin Auto Show, which are among the last on the calendar.

Auto shows are scheduled in Denver, Houston, Birmingham and Tulsa two weeks later, and the New York International Auto Show is just a week after at the Javits Center in New York City.

“Auto shows have been around for almost 120 years, and they continue to be one of the most effective ways to reach consumers who are in the market for new vehicles,” Herring said.

Here are some of the highlights of the DFW show:

2018 MODELS

Look for the all-new Kia Stinger at the DFW Auto Show.

Look for the all-new Kia Stinger at the DFW Auto Show.

Chevrolet Equinox; Ford EcoSport, Expedition, F-150 and Mustang; GMC Terrain; Honda Odyssey; Kia Stinger; Lexus LC 500; Mercedes-Benz GLA 250; MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid, and Toyota C-HR, Camry XSE, 4Runner Expedition Overland and NASCAR Camry.

2017 MODELS
(all-new or redesigned)

Nissan’s Pathfinder is on the roster among 2017 models.

Nissan’s Pathfinder is on the roster among 2017 models.

Alfa Romeo Giulia; Cadillac XT5; Chevrolet Bolt EV; Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid; Ford Raptor; Genesis G80 and G90; Honda Civic Hatchback, CR-V and Ridgeline; Hyundai Ioniq HEV; Infiniti QX30 and Q60 Coupe; Jaguar F-Pace and XE; Jeep Compass Limited; Kia Niro; Mazda CX-5 and MX-5 RF; MINI Countryman; Mitsubishi Mirage; Nissan Pathfinder, Rogue and Light Duty Titan; Porsche Panamera 4S; and Subaru Impreza.

HIGH-END LUXURY MODELS

The Aston Martin DB11 will be featured in Dallas.

The Aston Martin DB11 will be featured in Dallas.

Vehicles from Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati, McLaren and Rolls-Royce, with the spotlight on the all-new 2017 Aston Martin DB11, Bentley Bentayga and Maserati Levante.

For hands-on research, there is the Ride & Drive event comprising 15 manufacturers and more than 75 vehicles to test drive through the streets of downtown Dallas.

The event includes a range of pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, sedans, convertibles and energy-efficient hybrids from Acura, Buick, Chevrolet, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (including Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and RAM), Ford, GMC, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

The show is produced by the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association, a trade association comprising about 200 franchised new-car dealerships in 11 North Texas counties that represent more than $10 billion in new and used car sales annually.

And now the most important number when selling used cars

Consider nine your lucky number.

So suggests a white paper on results of a customer survey by CarStory, a company that provides independent reports about vehicles and features in specific markets.

“From our survey, we learned that most people who buy a used vehicle do so to save money, or at least to get more bang for their buck while minimizing depreciation,” says CarStory in its recent report. “Based on this, we looked at ways that dealers could price vehicles to improve consumer interest.”

And what pricing insight did the survey provide? That the number “9” is better than “0.” Seriously.

“We looked at ways that dealers could price vehicles to improve consumer interest,” says CarStory in its report, How to convert used car shoppers to buyers. “We started with an obvious question: What effect does ending a price in 9 have on consumer interest and conversion? This, of course, is the oldest trick in the book and one that is detailed in the journal of Quantitative Marketing and Economics.”

RELATED: The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5) and The most important three-letter word when selling used cars (Part 2)

“We found that dealers that end their prices in 99 convert shoppers from the search results pages to vehicle detail pages much more often,” reports CarStory. “Prices that end in 99 versus 00 showed a 16 percent lift in SRP-to-VDP conversion. Prices that end in 999 performed nine percent better than those ending in 000. … Take away: Always end your price with multiple 9s.”

But, apparently, the number nine isn’t just important in use-vehicle pricing, according to CarStory. It also comes into play in the number of photos dealerships should use to maximize impact on shoppers.

“The first best practice when it comes to images: represent the car accurately … [because] misrepresenting the car online will just lead to disappointment and frustration in person,” says CarStory. “Second best practice: Use fewer images [on non-dealer websites] that show the vehicle highlights, including the hero shot, dashboard, seating configurations and key features.”

And by fewer images, CarStory apparently means nine. Not 10. Not 20. Certainly not 30. Just 9.

“Using fewer photos may seem counterintuitive, but we looked at lead submission rates on vehicles based on the number of images the posting contained,” said the CarStory report. “We found that nine images offered optimal lead submission potential. Postings with nine images saw a 50 percent higher lead submission rate than those without any images, 56 percent higher lead submission rate than those with 20 images [and] 71 percent higher lead submission rate than those with 30 images.”

“It appears that consumers are suffering from image fatigue,” said CarStory. “We see some listings with 40 images. When you share so many images it forces the consumer to navigate the picture carousel to find the ones that best tell the vehicle’s story.”

Now, what’s your lucky number?

Next: Calls to action: When words matter most for your sales funnel

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A half-dozen ways to survey a claim and stake out tax-season bonanza

Eureka!

The tax refunds are here.

With about a month to go until the tax-filing deadline – and a couple months after the first refunds started arriving in taxpayers’ bank accounts – there’s still time to mine the mother lode.

IL-BLOG_70303-15 (031617 IL A Half-Dozen Ways to Survey a Claim and Stake Out Tax-Season Bonanza)_WP

So, this seems like a good time to take one last look at our “Tax Rush” email content and the Santander Consumer USA tools and programs we’ve highlighted: the Rehash Tool, the Dealer Extranet, and our Preselected Direct Mail, Dynamic Backend and revamped RoadLoans programs.

Of course, these tools and programs aren’t useful only during the tax-refund season, but it seems a good time to remind dealers about the help SC can provide in building your business.

The series opened with Eureka! The refunds are coming, which we presented as an informational graphic that suggested “there really is no other time of year that shoppers have an extra $3,000 +/- to put down on a new or used vehicle” – and provided a timeline and data to help dealerships prepare for the rush that represents such a significant piece of annual vehicle sales.

Other content we featured in the Tax Rush series included:

Using every tool at your disposal is especially important with vehicle sales in January and February dipping slightly year-over-record-year creating more competition for the buyers who are in the market.

But even if forecasts hold and 2017 remains at (or near) a record pace, as some analysts think, there are advantages to having multiple tools to make the most of selling opportunities.

Your Santander Consumer USA area sales manager (ASM) still can guide you through programs highlighted in our email series, but don’t let time slip past as tax-refund season nears the finish in April. A bit of extra effort at the right time can go a long way toward a successful 2017.

Maximize your chances of striking gold with prospecting help from Santander Consumer USA.