The Birth of SurgeMetrix – Big Journeys Begin with Small Steps

A New Beginning… of Sorts

I view starting a new company as similar to childbirth. While some might argue (like my wife) that childbirth is a risky metaphor for starting a new company, I see it differently. Childbirth, and the steps and family building that follow, take passion, commitment, hard work, pain, and a whole lot of love.  Doesn’t building a company require similar things?

I have two children and I have had three companies: one non-profit, a for profit I sold 14 years ago, and now this new company called SurgeMetrix.

Although SurgeMetrix opened its digital doors on March 1st of this year, its story has deep roots in the automotive digital space with its ancestor, XIGroup.

Looking Back

I owned and ran XIGroup from 2000-2005. The company provided digital apps for auto dealers, from a CMS and a coupons tool to internet lead and inventory management. We had customers from all over the US, but had an especially strong base on the East Coast. The company was known for its reliable products and excellent customer support.

I sold XI in 2005 to Dominion Dealer Solutions (DDS). Many years passed with me consulting and then being hired by DDS in late 2011 to unify the software teams they purchased around shared best practices and standards.

I succeeded in my work and by 2017 my teams ran well, the software was stable, and usability was improving by the day. I was done. I had created a well-oiled machine and asked to leave in early 2018 to try something new.

By the summer of 2018, I had incorporated a new software company and was working hard to “baby step” it towards success.  I thought I had left my old work behind, but was surprised when in the late summer of 2018 a DDS VP approached me to see if I would be interested in acquiring Dominion Web.

A Smart Choice… or Is It?

When Dominion approached me, I had to think seriously about whether to take over their Web offering. When I started with XIGroup, web sites were a new concept. Dealers were focused on their newspaper and radio ads, not web sites.

Flash forward to today and web sites are a common part of doing business for auto dealers. There are tons of website providers. Most OEMs have established rigid rules for how sites should work, what they should show, and who gets to build them.

I had to think about whether it made sense for me to enter the fray. Dominion Web was not a big player, had no more OEM relationships, but it did have a web platform that, according to Toyota, consistently performed well above average for lead generation. Was that a good enough place to start?

I did my homework and I concluded the following:

  1. Many dealer websites perform poorly from Google’s perspective. Their mobile versions are often slow to load and thus cost dealers money because of high bounce rates.
  2. Many dealer websites are overloaded with distractions and shiny objects that run contrary to lead generation best practices.
  3. Many dealer websites talk about what the OEM wants, but minimize the local brand. Back in the day, when I ran XIGroup in Baltimore, if I wanted a Toyota, I thought “Jerry’s Toyota” (my apologies to the other Baltimore Toyota dealers). But now, it seems that the dealer’s brand is being consumed by the OEM’s. I don’t think that’s right.  They are both important.
  4. Dominion Web was a software platform on which I could build a new offering. It was a risk, but it had a good bloodline.
  5. I missed working with dealers. I enjoyed our successes when dealers were doing well and I loved when my team solved their problems when they were not.

Decisions…

So, after a lot of research, I bought Dominion Web and decided to:

  1. Hand pick a small team to be hyper-focused on one goal: helping dealers sell online
  2. Improve site speed, especially for mobile, as step one
  3. Work with our customers to solve their problems free of charge whenever possible
  4. Redesign our platform so that it was much faster, simpler, and easier to use
  5. Target dealers who recognize the value of fast and easy to use web sites
  6. Work with my team to develop new laser-focused apps that were very easy to use, help fill the service bay, and keep training time low and manageable

Where are we now? The company is three-and-a-half months old. Over that time, we’ve solved a ton of customer issues, improved our platform, and our first new app has been prototyped, run by a range of dealers with glowing reviews, and is expected out in July.

Crawl, Walk, Run

We started with a crawl, got walking, and are now running hard. In short, we’re rapidly improving this SurgeMetrix every day. We still have a lot of work to do, but know these three things:

  1. If you want a company that will be deeply dedicated to your dealership’s success, we’re it. We get that the OEM is important, but your dealer brand is too.
  2. Our responsive platform is rapidly improving and we’ll give you a mobile site that will maximize your leads with a low bounce rate.
  3. If you need help, whether you are a customer of ours or not, we will help you. We love customer support!

Email or call us at 954.508,6454 if you want a demo, need a question or two answered, or just want a little help. We’re here for you.

The Need for Speed – Why Your Mobile Site Must be Fast

The speed of your dealership’s website can have a huge impact on its profitability. Load times hold are important for desktops, but even more so for mobile sites. Fifty-three percent of mobile internet users immediately vacate web pages when load times exceed three seconds, according to Google’s DoubleClick division. Think about it. Half your visitors… poof. Gone!  

Why It Matters

Many potential customers will shop for cars elsewhere if you have a slow website. This behavior doesn’t merely reduce web traffic; lost sales opportunities could really affect your bottom line.

For example, DrivingSales.com users report that most automotive websites produce around 20 leads per 1,000 hits. If your site takes four seconds to load and you lose 53 percent of visitors, the same traffic only yields about nine or 10 prospects. That’s lost money to you.

The Effect on Sales

Lead conversion rates vary; they often range from 10 to 25 percent, according to AutoNews. If one-fifth of your leads turn into sales, a fast website might sell 30 more cars to every 15,000 visitors. Kelley Blue Book reports that drivers pay $37,577 for the average new auto. 30 x $27,577… you do the math.

Want an example? Google reports that parts and accessory retailer AutoAnything achieved greater success when it cut load times. The company’s sales increased by about one-eighth. Would you like to increase your sales by one-eight?

Search Visibility

If your pages take a long time to load, potential buyers might not even find them. Google automatically prioritizes faster websites in its search results. It also rewards them by indexing new pages more frequently. To measure your site’s performance and see how Google evaluates it, use the search engine’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Mobile vs. Desktop

Smartphone, tablet, desktop and notebook users all care about load times. However, Lifewire reports that mobile devices often connect to the internet at significantly lower speeds. Users tend to notice a bigger difference in large cities. This disparity makes it even more crucial to optimize the performance of a dealership’s mobile website.

Numerous Americans still prefer to shop for cars on home computers, but portable internet devices continue to gain popularity. Fifty-six percent of drivers use mobile electronics to find automotive information, according to J.D. Power. Furthermore, many motorists turn to smartphones as they visit car lots and test-drive vehicles.

Get a Competitive Edge

Although we’ve offered compelling reasons why you must develop a fast mobile site, the truth is that most dealers are unlikely to do anything if general trends are any indication. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, a survey showed that 79% of small business owners don’t intend to reduce website load times. Are you one of those people?

The bottom line is that you’ll benefit from happier visitors, more search traffic, more sales and lower costs if you fully optimize your mobile site. SurgeMetrix can help you achieve these goals. Unlike many of our competitors, we’ll ensure that your responsive website performs well on PageSpeed Insights and loads rapidly on a variety of devices. Call us at 954.507.6454 or send us a message. We want you to succeed.

WOW! The One Emotional Response That Your Apps Must Evoke

Do you want users to merely accept your app or to fall in love with it?

App developers have priorities that range from making money to making great apps to making users stick around. One goal, though, makes all three possible – making apps that users love.

Today’s crowded app marketplace is crammed with millions of apps so you need to do the right things to get noticed.

In such a saturated selling environment, it’s more important than ever to make an app that is remembered, not dropped because it’s bland, forgettable, or because it performs poorly.

When you design to impress and wow your users, you will have the leverage to achieve all of your goals…but there are two common pitfalls that you can make when you try to stand out from the crowd.

If you can avoid these, and focus on what really impresses users, then you’ll be able to create something that is memorable and lovable.

2 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Wow Users

We know that our app needs to stand out and create a powerful and positive emotional reaction.  Before we look at what we must do, let’s look at what we shouldn’t.

Here are a couple of common mistakes that product creators can make when trying to impress users.

Mistake #1: Trying to Please Everyone

Don’t try to please everyone.  Do that, says design expert Don Norman, and you risk turning out like Microsoft. “You end up with a bland product that everybody will accept but nobody truly loves.”  (Sorry Microsoft.)

Bland isn’t an option … at least, for those of us without Microsoft’s market share.  Apps that leave no impression are forgotten and those that aren’t usable are uninstalled.  If you are a startup, then being forgotten spells death.

Creating products that users truly love means taking certain risks.  Contrasting Apple’s designs with Microsoft’s, Norman said that great design “will really convert people, but it will also put off other people.  So you have to be willing to offend people.”

Mistake #2: Being Grabby Instead of Impressive

The second common mistake that developers make is trying to “grab” users’ attention instead of impress them…there is a difference.

Obnoxious graphics, for instance, visually shout at users to pull them in.  Banner blindness is the result.  This syndrome is old news and is responsible for annoying millions of users and giving rise to ad blockers.

The Nielsen/Norman Group identified other “grabby” behavior in recent years.  The exit popup, for example, shows up when users are attempting to close a tab.  Instead of impressing users and wowing them, though, it has the opposite effect.

For me, and for many other people, it is just plain irritating.

This type of behavior, claims the Nielsen/Norman Group, will only “chip away at the presentation of a professional, confident website” and “damage users’ perceptions of credibility.”

Conclusion: Impress, Don’t Be Grabby or Bland

Even more recent research by the Nielsen/Norman Group showed that site aesthetics can positively impact users’ perceptions of a site – so much so that they are “are more tolerant of minor usability issues.”

The above study brings up several important points around usability and user testing, but the relevant takeaway here is that aesthetics impress.

In short, elegance over extravagance.

You have a choice.  You can be a grabby, desperate yes man that blends blandly into the crowded app marketplace, or you can floor your users with an elegantly designed product that they love, remember, and promote.

It’s the (User) Experience Stupid!

What makes a product succeed in the marketplace?

Opinions vary – some say that design drives success. Others say it’s the data. And others say that feature-rich products perform best.

For a long time, this “features first” mindset has separated vendors and auto dealers from the needs of the consumer (or automotive consumer in my field).  And, today, with the advent of analytics, big data risks reducing the user experience into numbers.

Some companies see the user experience as the very force that drives a product’s performance.

Others claim you can’t measure the ROI of the user experience.  However, clever product developers, however, know that:

When you look at the evidence, you’ll see why it’s stupid to ignore the user.

The Smart View: A Better Experience Improves ROI

Putting the experience first is smart for four reasons:

  • Customers get what they want out of a product, so they stay happier
  • Happier customers stay loyal for longer
  • Loyal customers spend more money
  • You save money during product development and after launch

Case in point: according to Giorgios Zacharia, CTO of the wildly successful travel company KAYAK, the user experience trumps all else.

KAYAK isn’t the only smart product developer out there.

Digital technology has impacted practically every commercial industry, forcing old habits to die hard and opening opportunities for innovators.  Look at the auto industry…  According to the Wall Street Journal, US car shoppers spend an average of 11 hours online and 3.5 hours offline. Since people spend more time doing online research, auto dealers have to consider the role that digital products play in the sales funnel.

Plenty of research proves that the experience-centric product makes more money and more sense.

So it’s not surprising that their analytics center around the user experience.

Namely, KAYAK’s usability tests want to know “how fast they can find what they’re looking for, and then of course how much money we can make. And at the end of the day, we chose the best user experience that has the highest monetization for our partners and for us.”

KAYAK isn’t the only smart product developer out there.

Plenty of research proves that the experience-centric product makes more money and more sense.

According to Dr. Susan Weinschenk, up to 50% of a programmer’s time during software development is spent doing avoidable rework. Wasted time, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Experience Dynamics, an award-winning UX consulting firm, compiled a number of other statistics that starkly demonstrate the ROI of UX.

For instance:

  • 70% of projects fail due to lack of user acceptance
  • User involvement during UX development can decrease work time by 33-50%, helping teams focus on what the users actually want
  • One website, after it was optimized for mobile, saw a 30% increase in sales and a 70% increase in the quantity of products sold

In other words, the more you focus on the people who will actually be using your product, the bigger and better your bottom line will be.

Be a Really Smart: Put Your Users in the Driver’s Seat

Usability authority Jakob Nielsen says that it’s 100 times cheaper to fix a design before launch, because, whether you like it or not, “your design will be tested by users — your only choice is whether to run the test yourself before launch.”

Does that mean you should only perform pre-launch testing?  Not at all. In two separate studies, he found that redesigning a product for usability increased KPIs by up to 135%.

At the end of the day, we all want a product that blows our customers and our competition out of the water. To ensure acceptance and success, put your users in the driver’s seat.

After all, your users are your biggest investors, so it pays to let them run the show!