Bill Marsh Auto selects SilkRoad's Web-cam technology to provide online shoppers with an in-person experience.
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During the depth of the dot-com collapse Bill Marsh Auto, northern Michigan's largest auto dealer, was in the midst of rebuilding its Web site. The dealership had thousands of customers within the Traverse City, MI, area, but looked to its Web site as a way to easily reach even more potential customers. Yet according to marketing director Dean Rose, the company site at the time was ostensibly a Yellow Page ad. "We didn't even list our inventory," he says. A chance encounter at a sports event, however, introduced him to a solution that would eventually accelerate its Web-based car sales nearly six-fold.
"I was at a hockey game at the University of Michigan and I was sitting under what appeared to be a camera," Rose says. "I was extremely curious, so when I got home I went on to the University of Michigan's Web site and found where you could find that camera." The camera, SilkRoad TrueLook, was allowing online spectators to not only view but also control the images of the game they saw. "I was [watching] the hockey players, and thought this could really be used for something, so I gave them a call," he says.
The dealership implemented the IP-based camera management platform in 2000, which enables Bill Marsh Auto customers to do virtually anything associated with the car shopping experience, except to test drive the cars. Potential customers can view the actual showroom, zoom in on cars that they like for more detail, and actually see the no-haggle prices of cars marked on the windshields. By taking this "one price" or no price-negotiating approach, Rose says, "we found that our ability to sell cars online became much greater, because now [customers are] seeing the price." In fact, using the LIVEcard feature, customers can save and email pictures of cars they like along with a text message to the sales team. Equipped with the LIVEcard email addresses, Bill Marsh can also craft targeted marketing campaigns aimed at potential customers.
According to Rose, the technology has shifted the company's mindset. "When we first started...just to get [salespeople] to answer their emails five or six years ago was very difficult to do. They'd rather see the tire kickers out on the lot, because they feel that they're here--'I can go sell them a car,' " he says. "Now we [find] that people walk into the dealership with pictures printed out of the car they want. That makes it a little bit more easy to sell."
Since implementing SilkRoad TrueLook Bill Marsh's Web-based sales have jumped from about seven cars per month to more than 40 cars per month. Its reach has expanded from northern Michigan to as far as Florida and New Mexico, and even to overseas military personnel. Traffic to the company's Web site has also seen an uptick: More than 65 percent of its customers have visited the Web site before coming in, and about 60 percent of those have used the camera. "That's a huge number, especially when the average age of our customer is 51 years old," Rose says.
According to Rose, SilkRoad allows the dealership to provide customers with a level of comfort. "Helping them know that we're around, helping them know that the car they want is there, knowing that they can drive two hours in the snow and not have the car sold from under them when they get here--that's a huge, huge thing."
By deploying SilkRoad TrueLook, Bill Marsh Auto has
increased Web-based sales from about seven cars per month to more than 40;
seen that more than 65 percent of its customers that come to its dealership have already visited the site;
seen that more than 60 percent of its customers have been to the site to look at the camera;
broadened its customer base while increasing traffic to the site.
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