Smith Brothers gets a slick new website with the help of CM

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A lot is changing at used truck dealer Smith Brothers. The firm has new owners, new offices on the way, and (with CM’s help) a slick new website.

“The website wasn’t doing what we needed it to do,” explains Steve Smith, director at Smith Brothers, who is sitting in a temporary building next to the company’s new of­fices, currently under construction.

As well as a need for new premises, the firm’s expansion had highlighted the pressing need for a better website (these days, when it comes to selling used trucks, having a good website is a pretty fundamental requirement).

With new owner William Stobart of WS Transportation and Allan Wilson Jenkinson of AW Jenkinson, who acquired Widnes-based Smith Brothers in 2018, keen to invest in the business (now based in Warrington), redeveloping the website seemed like a logical step – and a good opportunity to focus on a neglected area of the operation.

Smith says the old website was proving to be quite inefficient, and the process for uploading details of the stock was cumbersome. It was also looking rather dated.

Up-to-date focus

“In terms of the company’s development, changing the website came about because we were looking for a way to bring us into the 21st century,” he explains. “We needed to update it and become more focused on service and equipment. It definitely needed more details and more pictures, allowing people to see the stock a lot better. In truth, the old website looked dreadful.”

Aware of the problems facing one of its longest standing customers, Road Transport Media (RTM – publisher of Commercial Motor) sat down with Smith Brothers to find a way to use its expertise in the online classified market to help make advertising the dealer’s stock easier and more efficient. The result has been the joint development of a new Smith Brothers website. It is more modern and easier to navigate and is intrinsically linked into the heart of commercialmotor.com classifieds as well.

“One of the things about this website development was that the RTM people listened to what I wanted. People often try to impose their vision on you, rather than listening to what you want and need and then making suggestions around that. The RTM approach means you are not starting from scratch, explaining what a 6x2 tractor unit is: RTM will realise if you are missing something where other website providers wouldn’t.”

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Bespoke Design

Although the site design is unique to Smith Brothers and tailored to its needs, it is based on a series of RTM-produced templates. These have been created to deliver stand-alone websites that also feed seamlessly on to commercialmotor.com, which has the largest number of listed sale items of any used commercial vehicle website in the UK. That means Smith Brothers got a bespoke website with which to upload and advertise its stock; in addition it can simultaneously post its items on the commercialmotor.com classified section. On top of that, Smith Brothers can also upload material to the Auto Trader website.

“RTM has a real understanding of the marketplace and what the website needs to do in our industry,” Smith says. “Every sector is different, but with RTM the unique point is that they see the industry from every angle, as well as taking the client’s wishes and suggestions into account. They are also open and honest about what will and won’t work. The website has changed the presentation of our stock on commercialmotor.com, the presentation of the main picture and the pictures beneath it. It is also linking directly to the DVLA and giving the description of the vehicle straight away. It saves time and gives more information.

“More and more people are buying off the website. Ours has always been a business where people have to come and kick tyres, but now we have a website that is visual and factual and more people are buying off it. A lot still come to see the vehicles, because they are buying an expensive bit of equipment, but there are more and more buying in the virtual world and the website has enabled us to do a walk-around video for them – that’s the way forward. The quality of the website and the expertise involved in getting it to where we wanted it to be is a real testament to RTM’s understanding of the process. There has been two-way communication throughout, and the result is something that is really fit for purpose.”

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Reaping the benefits

Smith says that the old website had a very cumbersome way of updating the stock, but the company found that a lot of their enquiries were coming from commercialmotor.com anyway. It therefore made sense to improve the quality of the listings that would appear on the CM classified pages, as well as updating the company’s own website.

“I love it,” exclaims Smith after recounting that he used to spend many long hours uploading details of trucks for sale on to the old website. “It’s dead easy and far better than it used to be. I really like the facility for more pictures. We have 70 to 80 trucks in stock, but can get whatever is needed on the website now – and do it quickly, too. There’s a real ease of operation now in uploading the stock and working with the site. No disrespect to them (or to me), but there are a lot of older people in the industry in long-established businesses that would really benefit from RTM’s expertise. It would give them such an opportunity to have a website where they don’t have to start from scratch, especially if they don’t have any idea of what they will need. All the hard work is done for you, and the maintenance and the back-up for it is superb. That makes it so easy to use.”

Having launched the website in February this year, Smith Brothers has started to see the benefit, with more enquiries now coming in via this route. “One of the things I am really enjoying is that I have had a number of enquiries from our own website,” Smith says. “The click-to-enquire link has been getting 10 times what we are used to.”

It’s not just the company’s own site that has benefited, either. In the months since launch, Smith Brothers has received more than double the amount of enquiries overall, compared with the same period in the previous year.

“We could have had it built by anyone, but RTM’s understanding of the industry is key,” Smith concludes. “That and the expertise built up through many years in the business is definitely the most important thing for me.”

Here’s one I prepared earlier

Smith Brothers isn’t the only trader that has opted to have RTM build it a bespoke website. A host of other well-known used truck dealers have launched websites through the service, including Dollar Industries, GC Rickards, NWES Trailer Rentals and Power Engineering. Each chose its own design from RTM’s range of custom-templated options and then tailored the site to its exact needs.

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Ready for an upgrade?

So you want RTM to build you a website? This is what you will need…

First, you will need to sit down with one of RTM’s sales team, who will find out what branding you would like for your site and the types of stock you sell. Any other services, such as exporting or servicing and maintenance, can also be incorporated into the brief. A draft website will then be created so that you can view a fully working version of your new site. This helps you to better understand the layout and functionality. RTM will show you how to upload your stock and give you advice on what images will work best. Any changes or necessary tweaks are then made. Next comes the technical part, where domains need to point to servers, but RTM is on call throughout the process. Finally, all the current listed stock is transferred to the site and goes live. You are now up and running with a brand-new website. Once it is fully operational, RTM will set up any desired social media channels and create feeds for them so that your stock is even more visible.

  • For enquiries please contact Cheryl Rooke on 07780 432 492 or cheryl.rooke@roadtransport.com.

Renault Trucks expects EV growth in 2020

Renault Trucks electric prospects

Renault sees a big future for its full electric range which includes the Master ZE and Range D trucks up to 26 tonnes. It predicts that by 2025 10% of Renault’s overall sales will be full electric but expects the UK to outperform this percentage. Its electric range is opening doors to new customers wanting to go electric such as parcels giant DPD about “root and branch” changes to distribution models to fully exploit electric vehicles.

But like most other OEMs, the company believes there is plenty of mileage to be had improving the fuel efficiency of diesel engines. A Step D T480 demo has delivered a 10% fuel saving over the previous version for one customer and the company said diesel will be its “core product for the next 20 or 30 years”.

Used truck sales also had a good year with 1,200 units returning from the first owner being sold either direct, through the dealers or for export. One in three of used sales were to customers who had never bought Renault before and Leech said most were upgrading rather than expanding their fleets to enable them to operate within clean air zones. Renault offers an official kit to lower the emissions standard of used vehicles and so make them suitable for export to countries with lower fuel quality.

Although truck sales in the second half of 2019 have been significantly lower than the first half, Renault Trucks expects this year to finish on 47,000 units, 9% ahead of 2018. Speaking to journalists last week, commercial director James Charnock said Brexit had “distorted” the UK market, with two large pre-buys in the first half of 2019, but November sales were 14% up year on year.

Renault expects the market in 2020 to be smaller though Charnock said next year would also “be influenced by politics”, as the next UK government continues to wrestle with Brexit.

Renault’s new management team led by MD Carlos Rodrigues has been in place for just over a year and he said it had been a good 12-months. Renault is outperforming the market, with sales up 18% year on year last month and it will finish the year with a “slight increase” in market share.

“Of the seven major truck brands, three have increased share this year and we are one of those three,” said Charnock. “There is increasing confidence in our products and excellent back up from our dealers.”

Renault has had success targeting specific market sectors including municipal this year and has grown its customer base. “Our growth is a result of us talking to more customers,” said Charnock. “We have made several conquests this year and when we get a new customer we are very good at keeping them. We still have to tackle the [legacy] Renault brand image though.”

While the Range T tractor unit has been well received in the market, inconsistent dealer support across the UK has long been Renault’s Achilles’ heel and Renault is tackling the problem by ranking all dealerships on a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) to highlight the weak performers.

“This has been a real success for customers because we now have a consistent level of service across the business,” said aftersales director Derek Leech. “It has surpassed our expectations and we have seen a 300% increase [in performance] in some dealers.”