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Lisandra Ramos

Lisandra Ramos Marketing

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Use Covert Operations on Your Dealership's Website to Increase Conversion

Agent, you’ve been recruited on a mission to activate your dealership’s website and convert more browsers into buyers. There are three immediate tasks you must complete in order to do so. There’s no time to waste.

1. The Bait

When your dealership’s website opens on a browser, what is the first thing customers see? They SHOULD be seeing the answers to these three questions right off the bat:

  • Where am I?

  • What can I do here?

  • Why should I do it?

The answers to the first two questions, “where am I?” and “what can I do here?” should be blatantly obvious -- they’re usually at the top of the screen (logo and navigation toolbar).  

The answer to question number three is a bit more elusive. And it’s also the most important answer because this is your bait, Agent. You’re telling shoppers why they should stay on your site and buy from YOU.

Your “why buy” statement will be the initial motivator your browsers will have to navigate your site. It could be anything from financing options to bilingual employees -- it all depends on who you’re trying to infiltrate.

Strategic placement will make a big difference in whether your online shoppers will receive the message or not. Try putting your “why buy” statement front and center so your shoppers can instantly locate it.

Examine Acton Toyota of Littleton's homepage. Can you guess what their “why buy” statement is, Agent? “Simple. Honest. Guaranteed.” They also have others on their scrolling banner like low financing, service deals, and college grad specials. And it’s all in the first place customers look: the homepage.

2. Imagery Intelligence

When I say Imagery Intelligence, I’m not talking about the kind that requires any kind of aerial photography and/or use of satellites. Instead, this operation involves your graphics -- more specifically, the space around your graphics.

AKA: The white space. In order to effectively convert browsers to buyers, you need to be debriefed on what this “white space” can do, and why you need to tread carefully with it, Agent.

White space can either be active or passive -- the first being completely strategic and the latter being the result of a poor design (and the end of a website as we know it). We always want this element to be ACTIVE. Active white space will:

  • Provide structure: White space can ultimately help your shoppers navigate your content by guiding their eyes.

  • Highlight CTA buttons: Bigger isn’t always better. Giving your CTA button a fair amount of whitespace will make it pop in a not-so-gaudy way.

  • Create a balance: If your website has too little white space, it will appear cluttered and harder to navigate. If the page has too much white space, it will look incomplete. Doing it just right is crucial.

  • Impress your shoppers: Think Apple products. White space adds elegance and finesse to a page just as much as great solid layouts and color schemes.

3. Clandestine Support

The main reason many online shoppers don’t fill out a contact form on your website is because they don’t want you spamming their email or blowing up their phone. Online shoppers want to remain anonymous.

So how can you assist them and get your lead, without completely blowing anyone’s cover? The most covert way of all: behaviorally targeted live chat.

If we asked for a show of hands on who finds pop-ups annoying, odds are more than half would raise BOTH hands. But -- if strategically placed -- chat invites targeting more serious browsers offer them the opportunity to effectively do research, engage, and/or even purchase.

Customizing chat invites based on data from your shopper’s click path and the number of visits to your site is a stealthy way to not only help your shoppers, but also nurture them through the sales funnel. Not to mention, the behavioral targeting will dispel customers’ frustrations with pop-ups because they’ll be more relevant to what the shopper is looking for.

In a nutshell, we’re talking espionage, but for a good purpose.

DISCLAIMER: Behavioral targeting alone will not get the job done. You’ll also need the right agents in on this mission.

A 007-esque live chat team won’t just prompt customers for contact information -- they’ll provide quality assistance that will ultimately make shoppers WANT to give out their information. That means starting engaging conversations with your shoppers that will bring you more business and a better reputation to your dealership.

Alex Lau
I'm sorry, are you saying is a good example of a user-tested / usable automotive retail homepage? If so, I greatly disagree, Any decent UX (User Experience) / ID (Instructional Design) / HCI (Human Computer Interaction) person would greatly differ with that statement. I'm unsure what you mean...? User Experience (UX) involves a person's behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User Experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency. User Experience may be considered subjective in nature to the degree that it is about individual perception and thought with respect to the system. User Experience is dynamic as it is constantly modified over time due to changing usage circumstances and changes to individual systems as well as the wider usage context in which they can be found. Instructional Design (also called Instructional Systems Design (ISD)) is the practice of creating "instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing." The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some "intervention" to assist in the transition. More broadly: Human–computer interaction (HCI) involves the study, planning, design and uses of the interaction between people (users) and computers. It is often regarded as the intersection of computer science, behavioral sciences, design, media studies, and several other fields of study. Send that site over to and ask them what they think of it. NN/g conducts groundbreaking research, evaluates user interfaces, and reports real findings – not what's popular or expected. Create better experiences for real people and improve the bottom line for your business. What does 'Covert Operations' mean...? This is no secret.
Lisandra Ramos
Hi Alexander! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I think you misunderstood my intention - I chose this dealership website as an example because their promise (their "why buy" statement) is clear to the user -- something of value to the customer, a promise that sets the dealer apart. Sometimes a shopper buys from a dealer specifically because of their promise. For another good reference of what I'm talking about in regard to "why buy" statements and how they can influence a shopper's decision, check out this interview from Cobalt with Subaru of Puyallup: Also, the term "covert operations" was more of a play on the theme of the blog and the idea that customers often don't consciously pay attention to these elements on a dealership's website which do affect their shopping behavior. Essentially - using these 3 things on a dealership's website (a good and defined "why buy statement", an effective layout with appropriate white space to ensure a positive and helpful user experience, and targeted chat invitations to send the right message at the right time in order to start a conversation to help shoppers get the information they need) can increase a shopper's interest in the dealership's offerings and help persuade them to buy.
Alex Lau
The example you've used is a bad one for a number of reasons, partly because it's being hosted by and the freedom they give to dealers is silly. Someone at that dealership decided to get cute and in a bad way. Any UX person worth his weight in salt, would utterly DESTROY that home page and messaging and start new. Then again, they might be limited by, who knows. I was when working for a dealership, similar with Cobalt. I'd like to see some hard facts on how "Why Buy" converts for dealers. We use it too, but frankly, the metrics show nothing in terms of conversions.
Lisandra Ramos
My main reason for using them as an example was for the purpose of showing a clear unique value proposition -- sorry if it wasn't clear in the post. I'm also not sure I understand -- are you saying you'd make the same numbers if you got rid of the UVPs on your website? If so, how would you promote what sets you apart from the dealership across the street? Here's a post on testing the UVPs on your website that I found helpful:
Alex Lau
OK, we are talking about two different things, but there is overlap, sorry. Branding and messaging is one thing; usability is another, but at times they feed off of each other, especially if your message requires custom functionality, etc. BTW, Smart Insights, you and I are now friends. I live and die by this Digital Marketing Strategy @ Hands down, the best I've found.

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