When Bryan Honda of Fayetteville, N.C. decided to sell vehicles in real-time directly within the Facebook platform the dealership team wanted to see if the traffic would come — would people actually be interested?
And this Cyber Monday, when the social sales tool was beta tested, the dealership got its answer.
In the words of Rico Glover, e-commerce director at Bryan Honda, “Our theory is, you put the product out first, and then you fix it. I threw the product out there, and it broke, which is good.”
What Glover means by “broke” is the sales platform, run by Stripe.com, was so overloaded by users, it couldn’t handle the traffic.
In the first hour, Glover said roughly 500 to 600 people tried to use the Stripe.com platform. But just because the system was overloaded didn’t mean these leads went to waste.
“The good thing about it is, though, I’m a trained lead provider,” said Glover. “So I have all of those contacts in my database. By the end of the day, I had over 1,000 interactions on the product. What that did is gave me proof of sale and interest, and a working model to actually launch the Facebook program in full.”
And that might not be too hard, as software companies looking to partner with the dealership on further beta testing are now contacting the store directly in an effort to be involved.
As for those customers that tried to use the Facebook platform and were drawn to the dealership through social engagement on Cyber Monday? Many of those leads were converted, as well.
“Instead of going through the process completely online, we still connected with them and sent them information or brought them into the dealership,” Glover said.
And this social surge of customers spelled a large increase in both Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for the store.
Glover explained the dealership “went real hot and heavy” on social media for both the Black Friday holiday and Cyber Monday, using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to drive leads.
And the work paid off. This past Black Friday, the store did 29 sales, compared to 19 sales in 2014. And on Cyber Monday, the dealership sold 19 vehicles, compared to just seven during the 2014 holiday.
A ‘social focus’
So, why the focus on social media?
Glover said when he was working in auto sales about seven or eight years ago, he noticed everything was trending toward online. Think Google and growing online sales platforms.
And then another shift occurred.
“Google got expensive. If you wanted to have paid advertising on Google, it got pricey. So, I started looking at the social side of things,” Glover said.
He shared the words of one of his mentors that lead him to start doing more with social media and Facebook, in particular.
“One of my mentors said, ‘Facebook is the most accurate and intelligent survey ever created in the history of the world. It allows you to get any message in front of any person at any time anywhere in the world.’ And that has stuck with me ever since,” Glover said.
And Facebook also gives dealerships a platform to “listen” to their customers, which is key to things that come down the road such as social selling, Glover said.
“Most dealerships try to use social media and they go straight to social selling, which is really the last level when you are trying to sell anything online,” Glover said. “The first thing you have to do is listen. What Facebook does in the best way possible is they listen to what people are saying, and then you can actually target and tailor your product or service to users.”
To Glover, it’s a no-brainer decision to focus on Facebook.
“In front of you, you have a system that will tell you when someone is looking for a vehicle, when they have purchased a vehicle, when they might be looking to get another vehicle, and if you know how to do it correctly by listening, you’ll sell more vehicles,” he shared.
Glover credits Bryan Honda general manager Tim Roussel, who he called “a forward-thinking manager,” with giving him the opportunity to really dig in on the social side of things.
And it’s paying off.
“We were doing maybe 200 cars a month, and now we are in the 300-350 range some months,” Glover said.
And with social comes a focus on the demographic who uses it the most: millennials.
“According to reports, Cyber Monday was the biggest online sales day on record with $3 billion in sales, and millennials are driving a lot of that,” Glover said.
That was certainly true for Bryan Honda.
For the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online impressions for the store were dominated by the 25-35 age group, with the 35-44 age group in second place.
And as far as leads go, the No. 1 source for the holiday week was social engagement, from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
The dealership is making a concerted effort to reach these social shoppers and actually employs a social relationship management (SRM) team, whose members are taught how to talk directly to consumers through social, “because that’s where they want to be met,” says Glover.
Changing the game to serve millennials
Glover says it’s important to realize that millennials aren’t anti-social, growing up in the age of instant messaging and texts, “it’s just the fact that they talk different.”
For example, they might not want to walk through a meet and greet and 12-step sales process.
“They grew up in the Google age where they ask a question, and they want it answered first, and they want to know that you have listened to them before they go on to the sale,” Glover said.
One way Bryan Honda does this is employing what Glover calls a “sales vortex” rather than a traditional “sales funnel.”
To create this vortex, Bryan Honda pulls leads from all the social sites, as well as street teams, which Glover explained as a group of salespeople in Bryan Honda vehicles touting a logo that says, “Bryan Honda Street Team,” that go out into the community and engage potential customers.
“What a funnel does is you take people or leads, and you push them down and gravity has to work to push them from the beginning out the bottom to make a sale. A vortex works in a completely different way,” Glover said. “It works with a spinning motion and gravitates and pulls, and instead of gravity working, with the simple force of being able to relate and engage with these people, they will drop out on their own, and you will get so many more sales.”