JB: Are you confident all your staff understand the purpose and can deliver the results required by it?
NM: We’re not the sort of company that tries to write very tight, detailed job descriptions for every role. We keep it more generic than that and flexibility is a key characteristic of what we’re looking for. We have defined values, we have a programme internally to address customers for life and we package our purpose a little more around the customers, not just the shareholders, to ensure we provide a fantastic experience for the customers. The result of this should be driving shareholder value.
JB: Have you got acquisitions in the pipeline?
AB: Nothing is at a stage I can talk about. But if you look at the acquisitions we’ve made in the past two or three years, they should inform people’s expectation of what we’ll do in the future. So, premium brands in affluent, large conurbations. But we will hit some natural buffers in perhaps five years or more in how we can grow.
JB: You said recently that leads generated by your website have gone up 12% this year. Some of these are down to a strong new car market, but how are you ensuring your online business is as strong as it can be?
NM: The first thing we’ve got is a very strong web platform provider in GForces. Our site is on a very robust platform that can handle masses of traffic. Part of the reason that we’ve outperformed the market this year is that we’ve released, as the year’s gone on, more functionality.
There’s a more common standard in the group now. We didn’t dictate what was needed. We’ve talked about it as a team and decided there should be a best practice, so we removed certain barriers, such as development budgets, that have prevented that from happening and pushed through with functionality improvements so things like independent reviews, finance calculators and part-exchange evaluations were introduced as standard across the divisions.
Lookers is also moving this month to an upgraded platform, which is responsive, plus it has features such as Reevoo customer reviews, What Car? car reviews, 360-degree, gyroscopic views of car interiors and new and used car videos.
Most importantly for brand-hopping consumers, you’re not made to search by brand, but can define a search by a number of different criteria, for example, ‘all diesel SUVs that can do 50mpg and will cost me less than £500 per month’.
JB: What will this change deliver performance-wise?
NM: It will improve conversion rates. Our site has about half-a-million unique visitors a month. Users are likely to stay on it for longer and enquire in some way.
JB: Do you know what the visit-to-enquiry ratio is?
NM: No, but it’s strong. What’s crucial is what we do with an enquiry. This year, every division has got a business development centre, a team who do nothing but answer inbound enquiries, whether they come through live chat or email or by phone.