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Have you ever discovered that you had a dead link on your website, or your inventory was inexplicitly out of date? Your stomach drops, questions buzz around your head: How long has this been down? Did anyone else notice?
Including inventory, the average dealership website is about 700–1,000 pages. At any time, one of those pages could go down and cost you and your organization money. It’s the equivalent to having the door locked to your showroom and not noticing for days. Your dealer site is a living, breathing entity, like a forest. It needs constant attention or it will start to break down, overgrow, crash and ultimately be the author of its own demise.
So to maintain this web forest you must live deep within it, making sure each tree is healthy, touching each one, maybe giving out a hug from time to time. Before you know it, it’s been months or even years since you have been outside your forest and the outside world is a strange and foreign place. This leads to bubble-ism, where you forget that what you know and what the customer knows are very different things.
One of the most important and often undervalued skills of an Internet Manager/Director/Park Ranger is the ability to step out of the automotive bubble and think like a customer. You must never forget that a customer entering your website forest for the first time doesn’t know their way around, doesn’t know where they are going, has a button they can press to eject instantly and are constantly afraid of being attacked by bears. So as the Park Ranger, you must not only ensure your forest is healthy, but that your pathways don’t lead customers into the bear’s den.
I often recommend to fellow Automotive Park Rangers to take some time out of the office to have friends and family outside the industry test their websites. Often, the results are a striking realization that you have overlooked something very simple yet crucial to the success of your e-commerce operation. Watching someone not being able to find your inventory in the first 30 seconds can be a frustrating experience.
Surprisingly, even though I am always advised this is a terrific idea, no one ever actually follows through. Success lies deep within executions, but we always seem to be too busy to execute anything. So instead of fighting human nature, I have found two alternatives for those who are “too busy” to get the ball rolling on User Experience Testing.
I can’t remember how I even stumbled onto this site, and until it delivered I was extremely skeptical that it would follow through. Three days later (as warned beforehand) the results came back to my surprise and excitement. Peek, is a service where they will provide a 5-minute website review from a random individual for FREE. Yes, free. Why is Peek free?
According to the website, “We believe the web would be a better place if websites were built with the input of the people using them. Out of this belief, the UserTesting research platform was born. Peek is free because we think the best way to spark your interest in this platform is to let you see the magic of usability testing in action.”
This is partially true; the real reason is once you get the first 5 minutes, you will be so enamored you will want more thorough and targeted testing. Not a bad idea, but the free version is a great place to start. You can see the Peek results for DrivingSales.com here: (http://peek.usertesting.com/result/6371063851970?autoplay=true)
You don’t always need to test the full functionality of your website; sometimes it’s an advertisement, a VDP form or a new special you are running. Usability Hub works as a crowdsource platform where users can either purchase credits (starting at $20 for 100 responses) or earn them by participating in tests themselves. The community plan (free based on participation) can also be accomplished with a team. You can get your entire department to participate in tests, which you can turn around to test your own content.
Usability Hub provides you three separate tools that you can use to test your marketing material on other testers. You can test one at a time, or with hundreds of testers at once, depending on how many credits you have.
These are great free resources to take advantage of to start down the path of User Experience Testing, something that you may not think is valuable until the testing outlines a major flaw before it does any damage.
Once you get into the flow of taking tests yourself, you can earn 1 credit per minute. Before you know it you will have enough “karma” credits to test your own product. Remember, the quality of your participation will equal what you get in return.
These are just two ways that you can improve the sustainability of your forest and become a better park ranger. Remember, kids, only you can prevent forest fires.
Robert Karbaum arguably has the best name in the automotive industry. His combined experience over the past decade in E-Commerce and the automotive industry has allowed him to master the art of “AutoSpeak”; the ancient language that bridges the gap between internet geeks, the showroom floor and everything in-between. He manages the E-Commerce, Social and Digital Marketing operations at Weins Canada Inc. (formerly Don Valley North Automotive Group); a prestigious automotive group in Canada which includes the #1 volume Toyota and Lexus dealerships in the country.
Catch him on Twitter (@karbaum) or DroppinBaums.com.