To be a successful agent, it is important that everyone at your dealerships understands the importance of making a good first impression. The porters line up all the vehicles in a straight row and make sure there is no garbage or debris on the lot. Many of your dealerships probably also hire a third party to come out to power wash the inventory several times a week. Additionally, they spend thousands of dollars on eye-catching signage and designing beautiful customer waiting areas. Lastly, you and your dealerships invest a lot in making sure that their staff is trained to assist with all of the customer’s needs.
But what about VFI? Well, more importantly, what is VFI?
VFI, or “virtual first impression,” is the customer’s first impression of your dealership online. The average car buyer spends 12.5 hours shopping for a vehicle online and will visit an average of 9.3 sites before visiting a dealership. These numbers show that the bulk of the customer’s time during their vehicle buying process is spent online.
There is no doubt that your dealers need to make sure that their websites give the customer a positive first impression. There are several key components to make sure you have a strong VFI.
- The website needs to be customer-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Vehicle description pages (VDPs) must include photos of the actual vehicles. Make sure they are consistent across the inventory and avoid too many cars in the background. Do not include stock photos.
- Have clearly marked specials.
- Spend extra time on the “About Us” section. Include nice photos of the dealership and staff. Even share videos of customer testimonials or biographies of the team.
The above components are easy to implement and will go a long way toward making a good VFI for customers.
Once your website is exactly how you want it, someone needs to be dedicated to keeping this information current, correct and fresh. You also need to be aware of how your website is viewed on a mobile device, i.e. tablets and smartphones. Sixty percent of car buyers use their mobile device as their primary or exclusive internet source. When you are working with a web development company to create your website, make sure it is developed to be responsive for those mobile devices. No matter how the customer is viewing a dealer website, they should have the same type of experience — customer-friendly, easy-to-navigate, and filled with quality information.
Social Media VFI
Social media is another component of VFI. Do you have a Facebook page? If so, who manages it and what are they posting?
The key to successfully using social media is to remember that this is a platform to share information, and not a platform for a hard sell. Instead, post what your dealership is doing in the community. Post manufacturer news, giveaways, customer testimonials and events.
Videos are a great way to gain followers. Since they play automatically on the Facebook news feed, the click rate is very high when compared with photos or text. Also, be diligent in responding to customer posts. Customers appreciate you personally responding to them. If it is a negative post, your response may even help mitigate the whole situation and keep them as a repeat customer. Lastly, responding to customer posts encourages interaction, expands your reach on social media, and eventually assists in increasing your business. Use these same guidelines for other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
Search engines and online reviews are two more components of VFI. Most dealerships hire an ad agency to assist them with search engine optimization (SEO). The key to SEO is to continually track the effectiveness and test various options till you reach where you want to be.
What comes up when you search your dealership’s make of vehicle(s) and cities in Google? Where does their dealership place on the page? The end goal is to get your dealerships as high up on the page as possible. There is no exact formula for SEO, but there are many resources you can use to educate yourself on it. Online reviews (with the dealership’s name stated) will also help with organic searches.
The most important aspect of online reviews is responding to them, good and bad. The vast majority (88%) of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. There is no better way to diffuse a negative review than to have a manger respond with a sincere apology, letting them know that is not how the dealership does business, and that they will look into a solution. Unanswered negative reviews make you and your dealer look apathetic and the customer feel unimportant.
While the physical first impression of a dealership is important, VFI holds even more weight. The internet has forever changed the way customers purchase vehicles. With 83% of customers doing their vehicle research online, your clients are now competing with every dealer in their city, state and country, instead of just the dealership down the street.
Make sure you know what kind of VFI your dealers’ websites give their customers. It can be a game-changer!