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recent article from consulting giant Deloitte has added new importance to the role of retailer websites in the average consumer’s vehicle purchase journey. According to the results of its 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Studybrand and dealer websites have more impact on new car-buying decisions than all other sources of information—including third-party sites, social media, and other influencers—outside of relatives and acquaintances.

The article also states that a full half of US customers don’t shop other dealers once they’ve made an initial visit to a showroom, with close to a third of buyers making a purchase that same day. So it’s easy to assume retailers would pull out all the stops to make sure their sites catch and hold the attention of prospective buyers, ultimately driving more sales.

Instead, the reverse is often true: in the Deloitte study, over half of those surveyed said both the manufacturer and retailer websites they visited just met their expectations. In other words, for the majority of vehicle shoppers, most site interactions were run-of-the-mill, unremarkable occurrences that weren’t differentiated in any way from their counterparts. To make matters worse, some websites are so confusing that they actually end up frustrating customers and pushing them to go elsewhere for help. Since the average consumer often connects to hundreds of digital touchpoints prior to purchasing, a standout website can literally mean the difference between capturing a customer or simply being one of countless forgettable steps in the research process.

While multiple details obviously factor into a site’s overall functionality and user-friendliness, applying some basic principles to your online presence is always key. Ironically, these common-sense principles often are the most overlooked by retailers in all industries. Here are three good general rules of thumb that can keep visitors to your website engaged and coming back.

  1. It’s not about you

Industry resource AutoSuccess recently reminded readers that the highest priority of business websites is the people who visit them, rather than pushing the products or services the retailer is showcasing. Capturing the attention of prospective buyers and then retaining it long enough to drive business is the premier role of every site. So meeting the needs and desires of each visitor is absolutely paramount—create your site for them, not yourself.

Think with Google echoes that idea, noting that “people seek out content that resonates personally or that meets their needs in the moment.” Conversely, with the countless resources currently available, those seekers aren’t going to waste their time and attention on material that doesn’t speak to their immediate needs. That means regardless of your tastes and preferences, or the amount or type of content you’d like on your website at any given time, it’s much more profitable to shift your focus to what your shoppers want. For that reason, savvy retailers will regularly check their sites for features that are potentially off-putting to visitors and spin it in their favor to avoid costing immediate sales and long-term customers.

  1. Keep it clutter-free—and error-free

Speaking of things that are off-putting and costly: according to a March 2019 report from Website Planet, not only will companies whose sites contain spelling and grammar mistakes lose almost twice as many potential customers as businesses with error-free pages, but visitors will actually spend 8% less time looking at the websites in general. As if that weren’t enough, those companies are then deemed less trustworthy by Google and penalized with a lower position in search engine results pages. But it makes sense: studies also show that the majority of consumers won’t even do business with companies where grammatical errors are allowed. Customers assume that if those obvious details are overlooked or ignored, other details perhaps less noticeable will be as well—and the company’s brand and credibility suffer significantly as a result.

Likewise, any site elements that distract, confuse, or otherwise impede readability can drive visitors to a competitor’s page. Annoying pop-ups, excessive copy, even outdated or unnecessary designs interfere with the primary reason people click on a specific website to begin with—which means they’ll move on to another. Instead, join retailers like the Asbury Automotive Group who provide a clean, user-friendly site encouraging visitors to stay and offer a clear, simple path to the information they want.

  1. Have the right info right at hand

For the majority of consumers, that information is most commonly the vehicle price, dealer info, comparison of models, and trade-in value on their current vehicle—all of which can be offered on your site through a variety of channels. Since the trade plays such a critical role in most purchase decisions, including a fast, easy-to-use trade-in tool can be invaluable in keeping web traffic from redirecting to third-party sites. In short, the more resources shoppers find through you, the less reason they have to go elsewhere. Which is why smart retailers will also ensure their sites are mobile-responsive and ensure easy navigation on any medium, as most visitors now connect via mobile devices.

Looking at your website through the eyes of prospective customers can be a real eye-opener. Instead of thinking of your website primarily as a tool for selling, turn it into an indispensable research resource for your customers. They’ll get the answers they’re looking for—and in return, are more likely to visit your dealership in person for the vehicles or service they’re looking for as well.

Graham Annett
VP of Marketing

Return to Sales

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