borders going out of business

Do you ever go to the store to buy “stuff’?”  I mean stuff you don’t put on or in your body? Stuff like books, electronics, or any thing else you know well enough just from looking at a series of pictures?  OK then, how much stuff do you buy on Amazon? Lots, Right?

Most of us do. And, we enjoy browsing through product reviews, especially when we can identify reviewers who seem to have the same decision criteria as we do. And most of us make buying decisions based on those reviews.

In other words, we seek out what matters to us.

We don’t need to try on “stuff” like we do with clothing. We don’t need to test drive it. We don’t need to ask a retail person for an opinion either. We browse relevant testimonials and feedback and then make decisions based on them. Simple and straightforward. Borders just got replaced by Amazon. We know that now.

The local service industry is not impacted like this. Is it?

Local businesses offer services we can’t get on the internet. You can’t deflate your vehicle, put it on an USB stick and upload it to a shops’ business website hoping to download it once the repair or service is finished. Not even in ‘Back to the future’ was this possible. So, there’s nothing on the horizon we should be worried about. No problem with going out of business anytime soon because of the internet.

At first glance that sounds about 100% correct. But, there are lessons from Borders to be learned. Let’s take a look at the regular behavior of motorists. Where do they get their education? Who is ready to answer all their questions about their vehicle needs?  The answer used to be, “from your service advisor over the phone.”  Todays’ answer is more likely to be “from Google.” Or at least, the websites delivered by the results of their search. I am not talking about the keywords indicating that the motorist is clearly searching for your business like “auto repair”, “brake repair”, etc. I mean searches for parts and educational queries like “check engine light.” By the way, do you know how you can distinguish whether the search is for a local business or a website? The search results when deemed by google to be for a local business shows the 3,  5,  or 7 pack like the one of the left.  Search results not deemed to be a local business search do not like the one on the right.

TopFuel search results

Research and Education Happen Online

I was blown away during a Town Hall Meeting at SEMA two years ago when Google shared with us that the number of searches for parts and educational information is about 30 times higher than searches for local auto repair businesses. Thirty times! These can’t be just Do-it-yourselfers and shops looking for more cost effective parts. This number includes your existing and prospective customers, who educate themselves. They are looking for a second opinion while their vehicle is in the shop. They want to know whether the price you quote them makes sense. They are trying to educate themselves on the best course of action for the symptom they experience with their car. It is so much more convenient than waiting until your shop opens so that they can ask the service advisor.  Take a look at the trends in search volume on Google over the last few years for search words like “Check Engine Light” and “Timing belt” compared with “Auto Repair”. Mind boggling, don’t you think?

search term comparison


So, what does this mean to you? You get less phone calls with educational questions. You get opinionated visitors, who know already what to do. And worse, they think they know how much it ought to be. And the worst of all, they drop the part on the counter that they want you to use. You spend more time re-educating the customer. And since everything is true on the internet, they just think you are trying to pull a fast one on them. It doesn’t need to be this way.

Don’t Keep Your Expertise to Yourself

So, let me tell you how I think we can turn this all around. We decided to introduce a next generation of websites that can take all those part and educational searches into account. This latest website design called TopFuel allows shops to educate existing and prospective customers on the internet AND on the phone or at the counter. Shops will capture these parts and educational searches too and not let them go fall into unchartered territory. It seemed like a good idea. And boy did it work. Our first implementation used all the digital inspection educational information and published it on the website in a way which gives each topic its’ own landing page. The shop’s collected reviews REALLY put a shine on each page as well.  Take a look at an example. Which website would you click on based on the search results for brake fluid?

brake pad and fluid allen tx

More people think exactly like you. Our customers who switched to TopFuel saw website impressions increase by 400% in the first 4 weeks.  And the number of website hits went up by 300%. That is not a typo.

And this is just the beginning. Imagine prospective customers come to your website, enter their vehicle type and odometer and get educated by your service advisor and by existing customers, who drive the same vehicle type? Remember, it has to matter to your visitors.

Stay tuned. I will update you on the newest educational engagement once it is released. Can’t wait until then? Then start with TopFuel now and just add the next update once it is released. A 300% increase in interested visitors should matter to you already.