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Parker's forecourt focus: Log on and find out what buyers want

"It’s always interesting talking to car dealers, which was why it was so good to go along to the recent AM100 Dealer Conference.

We had a small stand there giving away copies of our latest Parker’s Price Guide, demos of the website and the chance for us to talk to you face to face. What was really interesting was that where everyone present knew about our guide, there was much less awareness of the website, which is one of the biggest in motoring.

Like it or not, the internet has changed the way we buy stuff. We might not be actually buying that many cars online (yet), but the number of people using the web to research their next car is growing.

www.parkers.co.uk attracts around 425,000 unique users every month who see seven million pages between them. These people aren’t petrolheads – most of them would never read a car magazine. They’re ordinary motorists about to buy a car, who use Parker’s intensely, for a short period of time and then don’t come back for three years when they next change their car. Multiply that figure by 12 and you get around 5m car buyers every year using Parker’s to look at car prices and reviews. That’s approximately half of the UK car-buying population using one website.

By the time they walk into your showroom, they’ve got a good idea what car they want and how much to pay for it. So, the challenge (especially in these days of block-exemption-inspired liberated trading) is to make sure that they come to your showroom and not the one down the road.

Which is where the web works so well. On the one hand it attracts huge numbers of users, but it also acts as a giant (and very efficient) filter. Place your message on exactly the right page and you’ll be seen by a relatively small number of people (in web terms), but they’re all completely focussed on exactly what you’re selling. We’ve already run highly targeted campaigns from car manufacturers as diverse as Ford, Lexus and Suzuki this year, and we think there’s an opportunity for the big dealer groups too.

Most of you guys know that already. What you might not be so aware of is how you can use the web as a free marketing tool to massively improve your customer service. Our website encourages car owners to write their own reviews – we’ve got more than 17,000 of them covering almost 800 models. One of the questions we ask is about standards of service.

Spend an hour or so going through the reviews and you learn an awful lot about what makes car buyers feel good. For instance, Jaguar dealers are rated much higher than Ford and Volvo. And the reason is... that Jaguar dealers are polite. They call you ‘Sir’, not ‘Mate’. A simple example perhaps, but there are thousands of other examples of what real car buyers think – all free.

So, please, have a look. It’s fascinating. And let us know what you think.

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