Stacey Coopes, CEO of FordDirect in Dearborn, a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and its franchise dealers, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the importance of digital advertising and establishing an online presence.
1. DDN: Tell us about the new digital advertising platform.
SC: It’s like a one-stop shop that helps dealers better understand how to use the different digital tools that are in the marketplace. It gives them easy tools so they can (reach) customers who are on the different search engines, like Google, by buying traffic for their local area. It also gives them an opportunity to participate in social advertising on Facebook or buying mobile advertising and participate in mobile search.
2. DDN: How important is the mobile aspect?
SC: A survey we did back in January showed how powerful advertising is for dealers. And it told us 40 percent of customers do research on their mobile devices before coming to the stores, so putting the dealer where the customer is shopping is critical.
3. DDN: FordDirect also provides dealers with websites. What are the most popular features on those sites?
SC: Customers really like the build-in price (feature), which allows them to configure a car and select all of the options and features they would like. It shows them the pricing and whether or not that vehicle is in inventory at a dealership. That tends to be the feature that gets the most traffic, but some of the tools that allow customers to communicate real-time when they’re on the website (like dealer chat) has been really popular as well.
4. DDN: What approach have you tried that didn’t work?
SC: (FordDirect) was first established to sell cars online. That was in 2000, and at the time, consumers weren’t really ready to engage in the full online process. So we transitioned to become a provider of digital services, like dealer websites, where consumers were ready. We’re always testing different tools to make that process more seamless. Some things we find customers and dealers are ready for and other things are just better kept at the dealership, like test drives and things where customers want to feel the car and get inside of it.
5. DDN: How has FordDirect grown in dealerships?
SC: We’re seeing an explosion … for digital support at the dealership level, so we’ve been staffing up so we have people who can go into the dealerships and explain the different digital trends and help customize our products and services to support them. We grew 30 percent from 2012 to 2013, and now have 110 employees. … When dealers adopt digital in their stores, such as using iPads on the showroom floor to help customers look at the inventory, they help build that trust (with a customer). It shows they’re technically on the leading edge.