I was driving this week and heard an interesting commercial from a company called ShoptheLots.com. I was intrigued, so I looked them up on the Internet. In this week’s column, I will describe this interesting company, providing some detail about their operations and the features of their website.
ShoptheLots.com is an Internet-based portal that allows the user to shop for vehicles from approximately 100 dealerships in the 805 area code, with thousands of cars, trucks, and SUVs available. Their “Home” tab allows the user to quickly and easily shop by brand for everything from a Smart car to a Rolls Royce, simply by clicking on the brand logo image.
From the “Find Your Car” tab, users can use drop-down menus to search for vehicles, both for new cars, and for used and certified used vehicles. Users can search by make, model, and year, or a combination of these.
ShoptheLots.com also offers a “Parts/Service Coupon” tab where users can find valuable coupons from various dealerships for everything from oil changes and tires, to scheduled service and more. To search, users start with the make of their car, and then can select a distance they want to search within by entering their zip code. The coupons are kept fresh so the offers are valid.
The most interesting feature of this site is the “Videos” tab, which offers all kinds of videos from the dealerships for their inventory. Once the user selects the make of car they are interested in, the site navigates to the available dealerships that offer the selected brand. Then, the user can search the inventory of the dear to find cars of interest. Each car featured has an accompanying listing, with detailed descriptive information, and either pictures or videos of the car, showing multiple views, etc. This feature of the site is especially helpful with used cars, so that the user can really inspect the vehicle for any wear, damage, etc. The images of high-resolution, and really provide a lot of information about the vehicle of interest.
The user can also print the information about the vehicle, including pictures, right from this area of the site, for future reference, or to take the information with them when they go to see the vehicle in person. There is also a map feature on this page, with detailed directions to the dealership of interest, an email tab to email for more information, or to have a sales person contact them, and there is a button for coupons that may be available from the dealership as well.
I was really impressed with the company’s commercial, which is a testament to Keith’s advertising experience and expertise. The commercial hits on all of the important aspects of the business, highlighting the fact that it is focused on the 805 area (not a national company), and offers many features that make the car shopping experience much more enjoyable and effective than many of the other car shopping websites on the Internet. The local focus of the site was the single most attractive aspect of the business for me, and really got me to sit up and take notice of the commercial.
I am not a big fan of commercials in general, and use my DVR box to tape just about everything on television so I can just fast-forward through the commercials. I usually change the radio station as soon as commercials air, but this one really caught my attention immediately, and kept it throughout the entire commercial. It probably helped that I have been looking for a new car lately, so I was perhaps a bit more interested than the average person might be. But, the concept of the website is compelling, and I feel that many people will want to use this site in the local market.
One of the nicest features of this site in particular, and of online shopping in general, is that you can look at many different vehicles in a very short amount of time, from the privacy and safety of your home. As you can imagine, to drive from dealership to dealership to look at cars, especially if you do not know exactly which one you want, can be drudgery and can take forever. Using ShoptheLots.com, you can search multiple dealerships for multiple brands, in only a few minutes. Once you narrow down your choices considerably, you can then go to the dealership, should you wish to test drive a vehicle. If you know exactly what kind of vehicle you want, you can negotiate your deal, fill-out your application for a loan (if you are borrowing), fill-out a lease agreement (if you are leasing), arrange payment, and finalize the entire transaction, right from home, over your computer and telephone.
As I wrote last week, more and more businesses are finding innovative ways to use the Internet to drive sales. Many businesses like ShoptheLots.com are offering ways for traditional brick and mortar businesses to link their operations and sales functions with online shoppers. This is a win-win situation—it allows the shopper more options and convenience throughout the shopping experience, and provides a conduit to direct shoppers to businesses that may not have the expertise to effectively use the Internet to drive business.
I am very excited to see new, local Internet-based businesses linking with other businesses to increase the revenues of both companies, thereby helping our local economy. I also like the local focus because it provides an avenue through which local consumers can conveniently shop with local businesses, keeping the dollars that we spend here in our own community; our own economy. This not only helps local businesses and local governments through increased taxes, but also helps local employment.
I hope to see more examples of local businesses finding unique ways to partner to create additional opportunities to prosper, especially when there is an added benefit to local consumers, as is the case with ShoptheLots/com.