The new-car retail market has plateaued after a decade of growth. Sales and profits per vehicle are on the decline. As such, dealers need to focus their efforts on where else they can turn a profit.
One potential area is the service department. Fixed operations now drive roughly half of dealers’ gross profits, according to the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
Given that fixed operations play such a vital role, and that digital influenced nearly 80% of all parts and service sales, it stands to reason that service offerings would be highlighted and emphasized across digital channels.
Unfortunately, many dealership websites and marketing efforts still focus exclusively on promoting vehicle inventory, leaving crucial service revenue on the table.
The relative lack of a digital emphasis on fixed operations is even more significant when you consider the impact of service on long-term customer connections. Seventy four percent of customers who returned to the dealership for a service operation within 12 months of purchasing their vehicle also are likely to return to purchase their next vehicle, according to Cox Automotive’s 2018 Service Industry Study.
It’s time to bring the full dealership experience – both sales and service – to the digital storefront. So, how does a dealer promote fixed ops online? What’s the best way to bring the service department into the digital spotlight too?
As a starting point, fixed operations should be part of the overall website design. It’s crucial to make a great first impression, and, today, your website serves as that initial, and often most important, point of customer contact.
A dealership website should have a fixed-operations landing page – a dedicated section of the site with all the details about service capabilities.
Have a prominent link to that landing page from the home page. Make it easy for visitors to find more details about all the service capabilities. Even better, give customers the ability to schedule appointments online. It will make things easier for both customers and staffers.
Furthermore, take advantage of creative and useful content, including video, that engages and educates consumers about what the service department provides. That includes any specials.
Content should introduce the service staff, explain their specific expertise and illustrate how all of the components of a service center work together. This instills customer confidence and builds trust.
In building the fixed-ops side of a digital storefront, remember this isn’t a one-time occurrence. Regularly refresh content and clearly market specials, such as winterizing a vehicle or brakes for summer.
Communicate these promotions across multiple channels. Fixed ops should play a significant role as part of a broader digital strategy that includes social media and third-party sites.
In short, dealers should put the same amount of effort into their digital storefront as they do their physical showroom.
Think of it this way, if customers walk into a dealership, and see a disjointed, dirty and scattered showroom or service department, they are likely to turn around and walk out the door.
The same thing occurs online. When parts and service customers visit a website that fails to properly highlight the dealership’s service capabilities, it can ruin the possibility of securing new visitors to the service department.
Emphasize fixed-operations capabilities through digital channels to garner more business and foster long-term customer relationships.
Andy MacLeay is Dealer.com’s director-digital marketing.