Volume 14, Issue 5 - September/October 2012

Optimal Results
Auto Glass Technicians are Focusing on “Mobile” Devices
by Megan Headley

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.

Getting Ahead
Is it important to have a website optimized for mobile devices today? “It certainly depends on where the current traffic is coming from and what that customer profile is,” says Josh Rosenfeld, marketing associate for JN Philips Auto Glass in Woburn, Mass. “In our case, we do find that customers who are searching for JN Phillips Auto Glass are doing so on their mobile devices in increasingly higher numbers.”

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
When Dvorak set out to optimize his mobile site, he included only the bare minimum on his landing page. There’s no need to expand the size of the text to make it visible on a tiny screen; there’s no side-to-side scrolling or tilting of the device. His site includes a brief description promising fast service, immediately followed by a coupon offer for Facebook followers. After the coupon, Dvorak’s site features a button allowing visitors to contact the company for a quote, a bulleted list of highlights of the company’s experience, operating hours and a phone number. Short, sweet and to the point.

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
Rosenfeld points out that, despite his company’s simplistic mobile landing page, there is lots going on behind the scenes. “We track various metrics such as ‘visits,’ and which pages were visited. We also can break down the numbers to what type of device was used,” he explains.

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
Speaking of what’s working, Sacks points to another area where good intentions may be missing the mark.

“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?
There are actually three components to mobile marketing, according to Brian Sacks, president of Trackable Response in Owing Mills, Md. The components are: mobile websites (see page 28), mobile applications (or apps) and text messaging. As Sacks points out, “They’re all a little bit different.”

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
For automotive glass fabricators, SwarfBuster is the new universal mobile app that allows all mobile devices to connect easily to the grinding/polishing coolant supplier’s website. Users can either download the app directly from Android’s “Play Store” or easily place a bookmark on their Apple devices via the company’s homepage. The goal for this company is to allow those who need them to reach them anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Omega Glass Gives Repair Techs Its EDI App
The windshield repair industry professionals who created the new Omega Glass app set out to check off all of the items on their software management wish list. The result is a new app able to run an auto glass repair business from start to finish from any mobile device. The EDI app invoicing software for rock chip repair includes a full-featured EDI, time clock, electronic signature capture and an advanced management dashboard.

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
The new Sika product finder from Sika Corp. is now available in the Apple Store. The app has been designed for both iPhones and iPads. To download, access the iTunes/App store on a mobile device and search for the “Sika Product Finder.” The application is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Further information, like Product or Material Safety Data Sheets, can be accessed as well.

Safelite Introduces Apps
Safelite AutoGlass has launched apps for both iPhone and Android smartphones. The apps allow customers to assess damage and schedule an appointment, and cover four types of damage: chipped windshield, cracked windshield, broken sidelite and broken backlite. They also help customers assess the damage and find out what work needs to be done to fix the glass. The customer can find a Safelite AutoGlass location by entering a city name or zip code, or the app will use their current location and automatically provide the details of the nearest Safelite facility.

Insta Etch Simplifies Etch Process
The Insta etch2000 series of glass stencil printer systems was designed to make it easy to permanently etch auto glass while in the field—and now designing a custom mark to any glass from a Droid or Blackberry is simplified through the company’s line of apps.

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
GlasPacLX from GTS has been upgraded to offer a new level of flexibility: LX-Mobile for Android. This app for tablets or smartphones automates technician processes and eliminates inefficiencies in the automotive replacement industry.

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
Ready to “go mobile” all over again? Brian Sacks, president of Trackable Response in Owing Mills, Md., says that there eight key components of a site that has been optimized effectively for mobile devices.
1. It must load quickly; people are not going to wait.
2. It must be able to be seen without scrolling or zooming.
3. It must never be a shrunken version of your current site.
4. It must have only the most important information on it that the person searching it needs.
5. It must allow visitors to get in touch with you with one click.
6. It must allow visitors to get driving directions directly on their phone.
7. It must be easy to navigate. 8. It must have a m. domain … or maybe a .mobi address. “There’s some debate on this,” Sacks says. “Google has come out and said that they prefer that you have an m. domain, which would be your mobile site. They’ve also said they prefer you have a .mobi address—so they don’t know what they’re talking about.” Talk to your designer about ways to satisfy Google’s requirements as several options are available.

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