By Debbie Kirlew
Franchised dealers and manufacturers are investing heavily in digital marketing and the industry’s suppliers have seen their businesses grow significantly as a result.
AM approached well-known digital agencies in the sector to discover how their businesses have gathered pace over the past 12-18-months.
Bluesky Interactive has launched about 70 new websites, two thirds of them for new clients.
Two of the new contract wins included Kia Motors UK, its first manufacturer client, and North East dealer group JCT600. Overall, Bluesky Interactive has experienced a 6% increase in market share and estimates it works with almost a quarter of the marketplace.
Lauren Cooke, Bluesky Interactive marketing manager, said: “We now represent over 700 dealer locations, and working with our sister company, MB Advertising, we support marketing activity across more than 1,000 showrooms.”
For Kia, it developed a fully responsive used vehicle locator which had to be easy-to-use and customer-focused. Bluesky said it has doubled conversion rates since launch.
For JCT600, it developed a website that showcases new and used cars among extensive content and integrated offers and uses keyword-based search.
Cooke said dealer relationships were key to the business’s growth: “It’s no longer enough to have a supplier that has the technical credentials to do the job, and nothing more. Instead, dealers are aware that they are entering into a long-term partnership with a supplier.”
Other reasons included Bluesky’s technology and working with a partner who innovates and is willing to develop bespoke products and projects.
She said ‘upfront, transparent and understandable’ pricing was also a must.
Cooke said the business provided added value for its clients including training, generating relevant blog posts and webcasts and offering training workshops to help them maximise their online presence.
Autotorq has signed three manufacturer networks in the past 18 months: Lamborghini (a global account for its used car web programme); Infiniti (official used car web pages, initially for European dealers and extending to Asia) and Mitsubishi (UK used car web programme).
Between them, they have added almost 200 UK franchised dealers to the Autotorq platform. Autotorq expects to announce another manufacturer brand for dealer websites and is involved in four other pitches for brand-new accounts.
Autotorq has continued to grow its activity for existing clients, delivering a mix of official used car web pages and dealer websites for Bentley Motors, Volvo, Citroën and Chevrolet Europe.
Managing director Paul Gordon said: “In the case of one client, we were able to build a national used car locator in under six weeks to replace the outgoing supplier.
“Value for money, price transparency and avoiding unexpected costs after the contract is signed play a vital role in our selection; as well as our long-term financial stability, fully audited accounts and multi-sector retail expertise gained from our background coming from within a larger, award-winning digital agency.”
Autotorq believes a focal element of its selection is its global expertise, which includes delivering web projects in more than 60 countries and 30 languages.
Autoweb Design has added Suzuki to its client list over the past 18 months, developing a used car locator for the brand that has helped the agency grow its client base by 49.6%. It has also grown business from its existing clients, with 70.3% of its customers taking additional services.
Peter Fairfield, director, said: “We are chosen by our clients because we deliver bespoke, all-in-one digital marketing solutions for all of their needs.
“The majority of our business comes from word-of-mouth, with an increasing number of our clients recommending us to their peers. Our contract for SsangYong’s website, for example, was earned through word-of-mouth referrals.”
Autoweb Design claims to be the only top three automotive digital marketing company to have its entire operation under one roof and with all work carried out in the UK, which Fairfield believes enhances its service delivery, offering greater efficiency and a more cohesive approach.
“We are seeing the digital element of the automotive retail market driven by solutions that deliver both trackable and tangible results” Tim Smith, GForces
GForces has signed contracts with franchised dealers including Sytner Group, Dick Lovett, Williams Group, Farmer & Carlisle, and Allen Ford over the past year-and-a-half. Over the past 12 months, the agency has completed more than 125 retailer website projects for new and existing customers, and currently has more than 60 additional projects in development.
Group strategy director Tim Smith said: “Our success in the past 12-18 months has been down to the roll-out of the new NetDirector Auto V10 web platform and its responsive design element, which enhances the experience of users accessing our sites on tablets and smartphones. This was also a timely response to Google’s mobile search update earlier in 2015.”
GForces said it has made advances in content management on the V10 platform to enable dealers and manufacturer networks to add and alter the content on their sites, providing a far greater return on investment due to the reduction in staff hours required to maintain their digital dealerships.
“We are seeing the digital element of the automotive retail market driven by solutions that deliver both trackable and tangible results with an increasing onus on linking online success to offline business,” said Smith.
With a 70% increase in the number of new dealers using its eCRM and social media services, Marketing Delivery has signed a number of new clients including Ridgeway, Sandown, Greenoaks, Skurrays, SMC, WIlmoths and North West Audi.
Managing director Jeremy Evans said: “Part of the reason is the realisation that ‘built-in’ CRM modules in DMS and showroom systems simply aren’t up to the standard expected by customers – for example, email messages and webforms simply have to be mobile-responsive to get the best engagement – and do not provide the necessary statistical data for useful analysis to take place.
“We increasingly work with other third-party system providers to make sure data is joined up to allow us to carry out our targeting which delivers the best results, in terms of pure marketing metrics like open and click through rates, and in measurable sales and service conversions.
“Behind the clever technology lay real people with extensive motor industry backgrounds gained at dealer, manufacturer and support agency levels. This ‘real life’ experience is welcomed by new clients as we are able to offer advice on processes, training requirements and provide feedback on current activities.”
Denison Automotive, Manheim Retail Services, Spidersnet and 21st Century Internet were also contacted but were unable to provide input before AM went to press.