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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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A Better Website Experience Has Little to Do With Cars

Take a minute right now to browse your website’s home page. Just open a new browser window on your phone or your computer, check it out, then come back. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

What did you see? Did anything catch your attention? There’s probably a slider at the top, scrolling through your current offers. You have a sharp-looking logo up in the corner, maybe a bunch of your top-of-the-line inventory flashing across the screen.

If this sounds what you just saw on your website, you’re missing the mark completely. The Car Buyer of the Future study by Autotrader gives you a glimpse into what customers value most in their dealership of choice. If they’ve come to your website, that says you at least have a shot at being their car dealer, but you’ll have to get their attention.

What Customers DON’T Want

What a customer doesn’t want on your website is to be ‘sold’ on something. The typical sales advertising tactics are old hat and have no place on your site. We’re talking about the “$77 per week” ad or the “9,999 plus $3,000 down, PDI, Freight, dealer fees, and sales tax” banner. That’s not helping anyone!

Actually, your website is hardly about the vehicles at all, except for your in-stock inventory. Better, more accurate and complete information is on the manufacturer’s site. Unless you’re doing something special with the vehicle listing on your website, it shouldn’t be the focus.

It’s not the time to close the customer, and unless you’re selling cars online, the vehicles aren’t the most important part of your site.

What Customers Want in an Online Experience

What your customers respond to most when they visit your website is a unique experience. This can’t be stated strongly enough:

Your vehicle inventory isn’t special! The only unique offering you have is YOU.

Anyone with the same franchise as you can get the same vehicles as you, if they don’t already have them. Your customer experience is what you should give your customers a taste of online, not just the cars and trucks you sell.

Please don’t get the message mixed up – the vehicles are important to have listed, just not as important as your team members and the environment.

How You Can Tweak Your Website

What you see when you first view a website, before you scroll down at all, is known as ‘above the fold’. It’s a term from physical ads where there is a literal fold in the paper. It should always contain the most important message you want to convey; a briefing of what your store is all about.

  • Make your staff a feature. If you have a slider across the top of your screen, include brief profiles of your sales and service staff. These are the people who make your dealership the success that it is.
  • Give your customers a glimpse into your store. Photos of your showroom and your service drive make it less foreign, helping a customer decide to walk through your door physically.
  • Be transparent with pricing. Forget about the ‘sticker price PLUS’ and instead, show all-inclusive pricing. At minimum, show a pricing breakdown with the total price displayed somewhere.
  • For your vehicle listing pages (VLPs), be current! Don’t keep old listings up online and put new arrivals online immediately. Anyone shopping for a car doesn’t want to hear that the vehicle they’re inquiring about has already sold – that’s a turnoff.

Want to Make Your Website Truly Individual?

If you’re serious about being different in your website presentation than everyone else, get personal. Add a brief video of the president or GM explaining why their store benefits the shopper. Add video clips of friendly interactions such as a salesperson greeting a customer at the door with a handshake. Include a 360-degree showroom view and service drive view.

Give customers a reason to feel that they know you. It’s the personal connection that’s going to set you apart from the other dealers around you who all focus on price, not personality, as their selling point.

Brandin Wilkinson

A lot of great points in here Jason.  I'm forwarding your blog to our team. 

Tori Zinger

This article is packed FULL of good insight, Jason -- thanks for posting this. I agree that today's shopper wants an EXPERIENCE. Anyone can buy a car from any brand for reasonable price and quality. Your experience is what differentiates you in today's marketplace.

Chris K Leslie

Totally agree. great article. 

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