It is quality over quantity for e-commerce director Aaron Hudson who saw Internet leads drop but sales rise.
He works for the 8-store Anderson Automotive Group in Raleigh, NC. Its Fred Anderson Toyota in Raleigh, No.24 on the WardsAuto e-Dealer 100 with Internet sales of 2,834 units.
“The Internet and the systems we have connected to the Internet drive so much of our day-to-day business,” he tells WardsAuto.
He talks about that, his job and what the store does to rank in the upper 25 percentile.
WardsAuto: What are your responsibilities?
Hudson: E-commerce blends business knowledge with a technology background and savvy, not necessarily to the systems-administrator level, but someone who has worked with technology and can use that technology to help the business.
I’m responsible for digital marketing, which includes everything from our websites to digital advertising to pay-per-click display to our relationships with all of our third-party vendors to customer-relationship management and our new dealer-management system.
WardsAuto: How does the new DMS help you become a better e-dealer?
Hudson: More than anything, it showed how far the things we do online reach into all areas of the business.
Before taking on this project, we had third-party service schedulers online that would get pushed over to our DMS. We moved to where our service schedulers are actually integrated into the DMS, so that it’s all one piece. We can make changes on the fly, we can set the times and capacities for different jobs in our shops and display that info in real time online. It gives us accurate data that we can trace back to the transactional level.
WardsAuto: Have you come across the “next big thing” or are you using the same tools but in a smarter way?
Hudson: We try not to jump on the latest gimmick. We try to be masterful with the basics. We’re always open to looking at new products and trying new things, but the majority of our marketing and advertising spend goes to driving people to our website. We changed all of our websites to a responsive platform that provides the same content to any device screen size.
Month by month, the majority of our traffic is coming from mobile and tablet devices. There’s no way we could keep up with fitting every possible screen size out there, so responsive was the way to go.
WardsAuto: How does your cost-per-sale for an Internet customer compare to the past?
Hudson: We can attribute costs more accurately when we are spending in a digital form. One thing we’ve found after changing some of our strategies is that our lead counts have actually gone down.
From 2014 to 2015 we had about an 11% drop in our total Internet lead volume, but we actually sold about 35% more. It’s enabled us to spend less money. When a store is getting overwhelmed with more leads than it can handle, it typically will have a lower closing ratio.
It’s sort of finding that sweet spot where they can pay attention to the leads and our (business development center) agents can have confidence that this is an interested customer that’s not going to be a waste of their time.
WardsAuto: What caused that drop in leads?
Hudson: We changed our website and we changed the company that does our search-engine marketing. We went back to a more straightforward vendor.
It wasn’t the latest and greatest thing, but they had several people who were certified with Google had constructed well-designed campaigns for us that we are constantly testing and refining. We have fewer leads coming in but have really found that the quality of those leads has gone up.
WardsAuto: What’s your monthly e-commerce spend?
Hudson: Across the group, we’re close to $325,000 per month. At Fred Anderson Toyota we spend about $105,000 per month. The majority of our advertising at this store has turned to digital.
WardsAuto: Break down how your Internet employees are deployed.
Hudson: We’re not a full Internet store or a full BDC store. We have a hybrid operation with an Internet manager and a handful of BDC agents.
We try to get all of our sales personnel and sales managers integrated into the Internet process. We may have 200 people coming through the showroom door, 100 people on the phone, and there may have 500 Internet leads, so we need to have the majority of our staff to where they have the ability to communicate effectively and help these people.
In the 21st century, your sales guys don’t have to be Internet whizzes, but they need to be able to effectively communicate via email and text.