Dealer Sites: How to Avoid the Las Vegas Light Show

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Dealers, your website is a very important marketing tool. It has a lot of work to do, and with a very viable customer – far into the sales journey. It is important that your website provide the potential customer with the information they are seeking – from vehicle information to dealer differentiation and reputation. What it should not, and cannot do, is chase the customer off, by being the digital equivalent to lot flags and blow up purple gorillas. Simple and intuitive. As one of my mentors said, “if it’s like a Las Vegas light show, you’ve done something wrong.”

Recently we worked with a client who requested some research that led to reviewing approximately 100 dealership websites around a metro area. There are a plethora of companies out there that are responsible for the sites that we saw, from, to DealerOn; Vin Solutions to Cobalt; Ford Direct to Naked Lime. Most all of them had the essentials – searchable new and used inventory – from the navigation bar, service and parts pages, multiple contact methods from text to chat to email to phone. (Does anyone actually email a dealership anymore?) Too few we saw had up-to-date marketing tools like aggregation of dealer reviews and dealer differentiation video. It was about 50/50 on dealers that showcased their social media sites, mostly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with a few pioneers out there pulling in Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Although sadly, most of the dealers linking to the latter three social sites had accounts, but weren’t actually using them. Another story for another day. And there is a whole conversation about the importance of social media links on your dealer site – does it push away potential customers by getting them lost in Facebook? Isn’t it more important to push people from your social media personas TO your website? Imagine our surprise at the number of social media sites that don’t even include links back to the dealers’ sites!

Please note: no dealers will be shamed in this blog – we like our jobs!

Dealer Sites & the Auto Shopper

Statistics show us that only 16% of shoppers from 18-54 actually claim that a dealership’s website is the most influential site they visit during their journey. A surprisingly low number, but it is still nearly 1 out of every 5 people that buy from you do so, because of something your website showed them that you could do for them. Therefore, while it isn’t the most important digital tool in the journey, it continues to be a ‘must have,’ and a ‘must do correctly’ tool. When was the last time, as a dealer, you put on the shoes of a customer, and used your website as you hope they do? I recommend you do that today, and see what you feel.

So we’ve landed on the homepage GREAT. What do we see? What should we see? As we know, most clients land on the homepage coming from an external site, or advertising message. So they have made a conscious decision to visit your digital showroom as part of their qualification process. Depending where they came from, they are looking for additional vehicle information or information that will differentiate your dealership from others that sell the same or similar vehicles. True for traffic that has come from or AutoTrader or Yelp or Dealer Rater. Possibly slightly different, if they came from an ad message advertising a particular special or rebate or time sensitive offer. Focusing on only those 3 reasons to visit your site – how easy or how hard is it to do that from your homepage? Did your customer have to scroll in order to find any of those things? Scrolling = bad. How busy were your home page images? How intrusive were your popups? The chat now box, the text us message, the lower my payments box, the value my trade check in…wow there can be a lot going on. Let’s just say, if 5 things pop up at me when I land on your site, I am running for the hills. I can’t be bothered to look for what I came for. Your homepage does NOT have to do all that – it should be easy and intuitive to find that information, but much of that depends on what site drove your potential customer there. If it was AutoTrader or another inventory listing site, they are not likely looking for a contact method when they arrive – if they wanted to contact you they would likely do it where they just were, None of those sites make it hard to get in touch. If you are looking for a reason to chose this dealership to buy the vehicle you’ve narrowed down, you want to see how this dealer is different – If I came from a review site, I have seen the reviews on that site – I still may want to see other reviews from other sites, so an aggregation of reviews would be nice. Where are you managing those reviews? Cars, Dealer Rater, Yelp, Facebook, Google, and Edmunds etc. – show me all of them. Having an aggregation of reviews on your site, that is easy to find is important – don’t hid it under the “About Us” tab – (just, for the love of all that is good, don’t add another flashing popup!).

What if the shopper wants some differentiation that is beyond the review? What on your site is going to influence that shopper to visit your store? Let’s face it, no one likes buying a vehicle – in fact most people hate it. A dealer told me a few weeks ago that in a survey of 4000 people, when asked if they liked the process of buying a vehicle 11 people said yes. So people don’t like the buying process. What do they like? The owning process. Firstly what message can you give your potential customer, and existing customers for that matter, that they will enjoy owning their vehicle more because they bought it from you? Why is your service department better? Your parts department? Your customer lounge? What services do you offer your customer that will make them enjoy their vehicle more? Free details for life? Service incentives? ‘How to’ tips on getting the most our of their ‘infotainment’ systems? We know that some of the key drivers in vehicle differentiation content, especially to Millennials, (another plug for writing your vehicle ‘seller’s notes’ with content that is what your audience is looking for) are the electronic bells and whistles – the Bluetooth audio, the navigation systems, the Apple Play etc. Doesn’t it stand to reason that being comfortable with how these features work would be a great addition to the information on your site? Is the dealer delivery going to cover everything? Is anyone actually paying attention to the dealer delivery speech? I just spent 2 hours in F&I, and I want to take my shiny new car home…I am not listening.

And how do you show them that message, to ensure that they learn and understand, on their pace and timeline? Another popup, or a .pdf to download is certainly not the answer. Video is. Well produced, scripted dealer differentiation video will improve your search engine visibility, time spent on site, pages consumed, not to mention the most important thing – customer satisfaction. Some automotive website development companies, like are creating sections of your website for just that – non-expiring, dealer differentiation video content – the next major key in dealership marketing.

Again, the purpose of this article was not to diminish the value of any dealer’s site or point fingers or make fun. It was simply to remind everyone – your website continues to be a major customer influencer in their journey – very often before you get to make your in-person first impression. A website strategy is key to winning in that process. Knowing from where your visitors are coming, and why, makes what you greet them with on every page of your site extremely important. Don’t take UpShift Digital’s word for it – listen to Google Analytics and your customers! They will tell you what matters.

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