Some dealers, auctions and other businesses are still playing catch up when it comes to digital marketing, but the early adopters are now reaping the rewards of being ahead of the game.
Doug MacIver Jr., is inventory and Internet manager at RideTime, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, dealership. He says that as an early adopter of digital marketing and related tools, his dealership has seen a much higher return on investment than late adopters.
For example, the dealership, which focuses on digital advertising and marketing opportunities in the digital space, started using YouTube’s Video Pre-Roll over a year ago, “before most dealers in my market would have even heard about it,” said MacIver.
Now, he says the dealership — which had just fewer than 40 million impressions online in 2012 — has tried several different videos and has “nearly perfected it”
“So let’s say another dealer in my market starts with video pre-roll today. Chances are that by the time he figures it out, we will already be onto the next thing. It’s a never-ending cycle, and we try our best to do/try things that other won’t,” he explained during an interview with AuSM Canada this past summer.
In other words, it pays to be ahead of the game.
The other benefit of “getting in early” is often the price.
“New companies or technologies will sign up new customer below its value to build a customer base. Anyone who signs up down the road pays full retail, which cuts into ROI. At the end of the day it’s all about being in front of the customers as much as possible,” MacIver said.
An ‘Addiction’ to Technology Pays Off
Opening under the name of CanadaWide Vehicle Finance LTD in 2007, RideTime evolved into the dealership it is today with guidance from MacIver’s father, Doug MacIver, Sr. — a business man “addicted to technology” and “known as an early adopted in the automotive business.”
In fact, Brad Title, founder of Gabagoo, chat provider for RideTime, said that MacIver’s father was “one of the first guys he sold Internet leads to in the '90s.”
“So with CanadaWide, as always, my dad was constantly looking for any new technology that could help him sell more cars,” MacIver said.
Back in 2008, the dealership already had multiple domain names and sites, and the main website had always been ridetime.ca.
In January 2012, the company changed their stores signs to read RideTime, “in order to strengthen our brand,” MacIver said. Now RideTime touts two locations in Winnipeg.
From Hockey to Cars
It seems, a love of technology runs in the family.
In 2010, MacIver retired from professional hockey and moved back to Winnipeg to join the family business.
“When I originally came back to join the family business, I had no clue what I was going to do. Selling wasn’t something that really interested me,” he said. “After several different conversations with my dad I was assigned the role of ‘figuring out the Internet.’”
Settling into the position, MacIver took a certificate program from the University of Toronto in Web marketing and e-commerce, attended weekly webinars and conferences to sharpen his digital skills.
Now, the dealership partners with Potratz Partners Advertising to “make sure we stay on the cutting edge going forward,” MacIver said.
Interestingly, in February of last year, the company made the switch to 100 percent digital advertising, but decided the market wasn’t quite on the same page yet.
“We heavily invested in a new website, SEO, chat and focused on retargeting/behavioral marketing, and social and video pre-roll. We found that we were probably too far ahead of the curve, and in November, we added traditional TV and radio advertising back in the mix,” MacIver said.
Social Media And Chat: The Connection Tools
MacIver explained that on top of digital advertising avenues, social media has proved to be another powerful way to connect with customers.
Commenting on the dealership’s social media use, he said, “We want to give our brand the ability to connect on a personal level with our customer base. That connection then allows us to get our brand in front of their friends and family members.”
One way the store works towards these connections is to utilize its two YouTube channels.
The dealership was just shy of 300,000 views and 160 subscribers between the two accounts this past summer, which MacIver says has “allowed us to reach many more people.”
“It hasn’t been my experience that we receive many comments on our videos, but we do field calls on a regular basis from people who found us on YouTube and want more information about something,” MacIver said.
He even stressed that “yes, the dealership is selling cars from YouTube!”
The dealership also uses the Gabagoo fully managed chat solution to connect with their customers.
“As far as I know, most dealers in Canada are not using chat, but we have seen remarkable success from it. It is definitely something I am happy with, and we have been using it for a few years now,” MacIver said. “Every store is different, and it may take some time for you to find the right solution/provider for your store. After tinkering with it for some time now, we are really starting to knock it out of the park.”
Digital Tools for Success
MacIver explained to AuSM Canada that digital marketing allows the dealership to prepare for the future, and the stores are seeing more and more direct sales from these efforts.
Last year, the store was awarded the Elite ($15- million in sales) Dealer Award from TD Auto Finance, as well as the Bronze ($2.6 million in sales) Award from Scotia Dealer Advantage.
“Our ability to adapt on the fly, with the forever-changing environment we find ourselves in, allows us to play with, and sometimes beat, many of the big boys,” he added.
MacIver explained that with a small staff, technology allows the store to boost production.
And he outlined just a few ways the dealership turns to technology in its day-to-day processes.
RideTime uses a customer relationship management tool from Car-Research, which MacIver says “allows us the ability to follow up with all of our customers in a timely, efficient manner.”
Also, the dealership uses an iPhone app from cDemo to merchandise inventory. Through this app, the employees can take pictures and videos with their cell phone and upload them to the Web, all from the parking lot of a dealership.
The company also uses the Cardone on Demand virtual training program to help further dealership staff education.
“It’s a Web-based, self-paced training program which has allowed us to free up more time so my brother and I aren’t having to spend as much time training the staff ourselves,” MacIver said.
Lastly, RideTime uses vAuto to price and appraise their entire inventory.
“It has been extremely beneficial in so many areas, but just like anything, you have to completely commit to it to realize its full potential,” MacIver added.
Though many see digital marketing as just another dealership expense, possible not worth the investment, MacIver says adopting digital is a process that involves necessary risk.
“I assume most who read this article will look at everything we are spending and ask themselves if we are nuts. The truth is that we probably are, but we have a burning desire to be the best we can be, and sometimes that involves risk,” MacIver said. “We know consumers are spending long hours researching vehicles online; our goal is to soak up as much of the time as we can.”
Sarah Rubenoff can be reached at. Continue the conversation with AuSM Canada on LinkedIn and Twitter.