Volume 14, Issue 5 - September/October 2012
A rock bounces twice off the highway and slams right into the windshield of a sedan cruising down the road, leaving a bull’s-eye crack right in front of the frustrated driver’s viewing area. A moment later, traffic thickens and the now fuming driver slows to a crawl and then a dead stop. After a moment of angrily banging on the steering wheel, the driver reaches over, grabs his smartphone and quickly types “auto glass repair” into the small Internet search bar. A short list of local auto glass shops comes up. Which one does the driver choose? The one he can see in a glance—because the website has been optimized for his mobile device.
This is only one potential scenario that is leading approximately 40- to 50-percent of Internet searches to be made from mobile devices today, and one very big reason your auto glass shop needs to optimize its site to meet this market. Brian Sacks, president of Trackable Response in Owing Mills, Md., offers that statistic from Google as evidence of the huge role that mobile devices play in purchasing decisions today. Sacks, who provides mobile marketing solutions to the automotive and aftermarket industry, offers another bit of astounding evidence: according to Google, more than 80 percent of those searches done on mobile devices are for a local business—and more than 80 percent of those make a purchase within 24 hours. In other words, “These are buyers, not shoppers,” Sacks says.
For businesses such as auto glass repair or replacement shops, where customers have an urgent need and are likely to make a call shortly after the breakage occurs, it is particularly important today to cater to this new phenomenon.
Not a surprise, given Sacks’ numbers. What may be surprising, however, is the fact that many glass shops may be paying for help on their website placement—and getting less.
As Sacks explains, if your current website uses Flash, then it will not appear on 60 percent of all mobile devices. “Right now, Apple controls about 60 percent of the market, and [site visitors] will just come up with a blank screen since Apple doesn’t support flash,” Sacks says.
More troubling yet is that sites that haven’t been optimized for mobile devices are being placed at the bottom of Google searches, no matter how well they have been prepared for search engine optimization (SEO). “In September 2011, Google came out with a ‘Google edict,’ if you will. What they said was that if your site is not mobile optimized—and there’s some debate on what that means—then they will actually charge you more for pay per click and push you lower in the rankings,” Sacks says.
Why? “Google is all about recency and relevancy. If I’m searching for a windshield replacement company on my phone and they are not mobile optimized, then really they’re irrelevant, because I can’t see it and I can’t connect with it.” Sacks adds, “The whole world right now is very slow to adapt to mobile websites, but I see lots of shop owners and glass repair companies spending a lot of money on SEO. They’re paying companies hundreds to thousands of dollars each month to be seen on Google, and they are, in effect, paying more and not being found. And if they are being found, they’re not easy to connect to, so it really is irrelevant.”
In other words, companies that have been in business for generations will be losing business to brand new companies such as Clarity Auto Glass in Kansas City, Mo. When Kevin Dvorak opened this auto glass business this May, one of his first steps was to create a website—that was automatically optimized for mobile.
“Everybody Googles everything nowadays so it was just a no-brainer for me [to build a website],” Dvorak says. “The mobile version I didn’t even plan on, but when I made the website through Weebly [a free tool for building websites], it asked me if I wanted a mobile site as well and added it automatically.”
Landing Without Scrolling
If you’re laughing to yourself, thinking consumers online need lots of links to get a full picture of how your company beats the competition, you’re right for the web and wrong for the smartphone.
“Really a mobile website needs to be thought of differently than a [desktop] website because the consumer’s behavior is different, and that’s actually very good news,” Sacks says. “While on a website you’re trying to put as much in there as possible; on a mobile website you want to put as little in there as possible.”
As Sacks elaborates, “The behavior of a consumer on the phone is that of someone who is going to purchase, which is good news. The person who is looking online [i.e. your desktop] typically has the benefit of shopping, because it’s easy to go from place to place. However, people on smartphones typically have an urgent need and they’re looking for the first company they can connect with. So the first thing really to do is find out what their needs are.”
Can you guess what the need might be of the frustrated consumer who just wants his windshield fixed as quickly as possible? “The number one thing is ‘click to call’ or directions,” Sacks says. “Those are the really key ingredients.”
That’s virtually all the information JN Philips Auto Glass uses on its mobile site. Rosenfeld was part of the team that worked with an outside vendor to develop the company’s “m.” website in 2010. The simple site easily allows visitors to set up an appointment, locate a shop or track the status of their appointment. If the consumer needs more information, “about us” and “contact us” links are listed at the bottom of the page, but the site was designed so that no scrolling is necessary.
Just the Stats
Having good data is critical in deciding where to allocate resources. “Collect and track as much current data as possible to help make an informed decision on an investment such as this,” Rosenfeld advises other auto glass shop owners.
Sacks notes, “Really, anyone can build a mobile website.” However, it can be challenging for the layperson to add analytics that will allow them later to see from where their leads are coming, and that’s where it can be helpful to call in a professional.
Before doing so, it may be helpful to take a second look at your SEO rankings. If you’re paying for a spot hidden somewhere on Google’s second or third page of results, it may be time to call in a mobile pro. “Given the fact that for many people in business right now things are challenging, it might be to their benefit to reallocate their advertising spending: get rid of what’s not working and try what it is,” Sacks says.
A Simple Way to Boost Business
“One of the big mistakes I see is lots of companies that are using ads with a QR code. They see the value of it—but have no understanding of what it is. You scan the QR and it takes people to a non-mobilized site.” That’s right—no one is going to be reading a lengthy sales pitch on a three-inch screen. If it’s connected to mobile, keep it simple.
And, as Sacks points out, more and more Internet searches will be connected to mobile devices. “Last year was the first year that more mobile devices were sold than laptops and desktops combined,” he says. He adds, “The ‘mobile web’ is being adapted a lot faster than the Internet was, so it’s likely that in the next year or two everyone [with a cellular phone] will have a smartphone. Apple is giving away free iPhone3s for two years of service.”
The great news for auto glass shops, however, is that developing a mobile-optimized site can be simple to do but can bring a big boost to business.
“I think most people are unaware of the importance of it,” Sacks says. “It’s actually one of the few places where an independent is able to compete with a Safelite. They’re not going to be able to compete in ads, radio, TV, and so forth, but here is a place they can compete.”
Do I Need an App for That?
Mobile websites are geared toward general searches from consumers. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are primarily used for customer loyalty.
“I’ve had a lot of shop owners ask ‘should I get a mobile app,’ and the answer is ‘maybe,’” Sacks says. As he explains, “No one is going into the app store and looking for windshield repair or replacement or board-up or anything.” Instead, where apps comes into play are when a relationship has already been established between the company providing a service and the consumer. By way of example, Sacks says, “If I am an auto repair shop and someone comes in with blown-out tires and a cracked windshield, it would be useful for me to have your app on my phone, instead of having to fish around for your business card.” With an app, that auto repair shop owner has simply to click a button to instantly get in touch with his preferred auto glass repair company.
“It’s really for ongoing relationships and branding, rather than for the general consumer searching,” Sacks says.
While text messaging can be a useful tool for established customers as well, Sacks is still exploring its usefulness for the auto glass industry. “In the automotive industry … we can send you a text message when your car is ready. We have a number of [auto shops] we work with, where we send out an appointment reminder with a coupon, but I’m not sure how that applies here.”
Plenty of auto glass supply companies see the value of an app. Read on for just a few examples of how your suppliers are hoping to help you with new tools.
Swarf-Busting Questions? Get the App
Omega Glass Gives Repair Techs Its EDI App
From a tablet or smartphone, a windshield repair technician can create a work order, get approval, validate vehicle information via a VIN decoder, obtain the customer’s signature, and EDI an invoice from the field. Techs can generate an invoice by filling out a simple web form. The VIN check feature automatically generates a car’s make, model, year and other data, automatically reducing many of the most common reasons for insurance rejection. From a tablet, the customer can actually sign the invoice and automatically receive a receipt in their email.
According to company representatives, the app helps simplify the process
of working with insurance companies, and includes 99 percent of insurance
companies in its database. On the backend, the software integrates with
Quickbooks or can export reports to Microsoft Excel. Already in the pipeline
for the next update are new features such as a GPS timecard to help track
techs in the field, a VIN barcode scanner and a place to upload before
and after repair photos.
Sika Product Finder App Available at Apple Store
Safelite Introduces Apps
Insta Etch Simplifies Etch Process
The mobile apps give a mobile glass technician the ability to scan, verify
and precisely mark VINs, logos and glass shop information to any glass
directly from their smartphone and Bluetooth Insta Etch printer. According
to information provided by Insta Etch, adding this etching service to
a business requires little setup or training.
An App for Automating Technicians’ Regular Processes
According to the information from the company, automotive replacement glass retailers can equip their mobile technicians with tools to manage the work order loop, preventing double data entry, an excess of paperwork and phone calls and wasting money on manual processes.
The new tool replaces inefficient paper-based processes. LX-Mobile was designed to increase same-day invoicing by speeding up the payment process with electronic signature capture and credit card processing in the field. It navigates technicians through the job to ensure all the right information (Auto Glass Safety Council requirements, billing information, VIN, etc.) is captured right the first time. Seamless, real-time integration with GlasPacLX makes order processing more effective and enables job-by-job tracking.
No more need to print a work order for technicians before they leave
for the jobsite; the mobile app lets shop owners dispatch jobs directly
from GlasPacLX Scheduler to the technician’s mobile device; users also
can notify technicians immediately of job add-ons or schedule changes
and map routes and provide directions using Google Maps.
8 Components of Mobile Optimization