We recently caught up with a dealer client to discuss his marketing plans for the second half of 2022. Among other things, we suggested maybe it was time to consider a new website.
He baulked at the idea of investing in a new site, saying that his “did the job” as far as giving his dealership an online presence, and delivering information about vehicles to customers.
What he was failing to realise however was that websites have moved past this, and are now far more dynamic,and transactional than they were when his was built three years ago. We pointed out to him that by having a “set and forget” attitude toward his website, he was being left behind his competitors, and missing out on a huge opportunity to drive digital enquiries and sales into all departments of his dealership.
Dealers need to realise that customers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to buying online – something that was accelerated during the peak of the pandemic. They are looking for websites that deliver what they want, when they want it, and are keen to undertake as much of the purchasing process as possible online, from the comfort of their couch or home-office.
Surveys show that pre-COVID, only 32% of customers were willing to buy a car on the internet.
Today however, a huge 61% of customers said they’d happily purchase a car online.*
For this reason, we have put together a few recommendations for how dealers can update their websites to bring them in line with the modern customers’ expectations with regard to design, functionality and features.
Online Vehicle Sales
The first priority for a dealer should be the introduction of online vehicle sales functionality on their website. Over the last 12 months, many of our clients have added “Hold Car Now” or “Reserve” buttons to their inventory listings in order to secure deals online. This allows customers to start the purchase of a vehicle online by putting down a fully refundable credit card deposit to hold a car.
Giving people that initial control and ability to commence the sales process at home presents dealers with an opportunity to reach the modern customer who is well versed in shopping online, and the instant gratification that comes with it.
Another consideration for dealers is the addition of an online store to their website. Such pages can be utilised for the sale of vehicle accessories, parts, or even brand merchandise. Establishing an online store sets a dealership apart from its competitors, as this is a fairly new concept in the auto industry.
Most importantly though, eCommerce – be it selling individual products or an entire vehicle online– presents dealers with a means of transacting that never has to close down, regardless of any future restrictions or lockdowns that may be imposed.
Stock locators have evolved significantly over the last few years, with the key aim of modern versions being to promote engagement and conversion. Developments have included the aforementioned addition of online sales functionality, along with a range of transactional tools. These include “Credit Score Lookups”, “Finance Applications” and “Trade-in Valuation”, all of which give customers the opportuntity to start the purchasing process online before entering the dealership.
Website coding techniques used in the development of sites built in more recent years, along with the use of Google Tag Manager now give website providers the ability to deliver more accurate and detailed data on customer behavior both while on your website and before landing there. This allows businesses to collect all-important first-party data on their customers and prospects. Older websites, built several years ago, are incapable of delivering such important insights.
Some providers also offer access to attribution platforms as part of their web-maintenance packages. These dashboards deliver a clear overview of all website analytics and campaign activity in one place, providing invaluable insights for future marketing planning.
…And as for our client, thankfully he was eventually able to recognise where his website was lacking. He has since gone on to launch a new, fully integrated eCommerce website for his dealership, and is thrilled with the level of inquiry it is generating across all areas of his business.