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Making Your Website All That It Can Be

July 07, 2017

Ask any salesperson at a dealership today about the growing importance of online research and communication in the vehicle-buying process. More and more, potential car buyers are using the Internet to research their choices, including their choice of an auto dealership.

A dealership’s website is a key part of customers’ online shopping and buying experience. Is your website up to par?

What you need to know

Here are four questions to ask when your team is evaluating your website:

1. Does your website enable buyers to narrow down vehicle choices before they visit your showroom? Buyers who shopped for a new or used car online last year said they spent 59% of their time online, according to a 2016 Autotrader.com study. So, the more you can do to help customers zero in on the right vehicle using your website, the faster and smoother their shopping experience might be once they arrive at your store.

Focus, in particular, on your online product presentation. Make it easy for customers to browse your entire vehicle inventory online using whatever criteria they choose: used vs. new, price, make, model, mileage and so on. Include plenty of high-quality vehicle photos and even videos to enable customers to take a “virtual test drive” of the car or truck they’re interested in.

2. Do you encourage vehicle trade-ins? To boost profitability, try to get your customers thinking trade-in before they set foot on your dealership’s property. For example, create a “Trade-in” page on your website that includes an explanation of the benefits of trading in at the dealership vs. selling a vehicle to a private party.

Also explain how your trade-in process works. And work with your website designer to create an online trade evaluation tool that customers can use to get an idea of the approximate value of a trade-in.

3. Does your site include plenty of quality content? Content is of the utmost importance in the online marketing world. So include plenty of resources on your site designed to help educate and inform customers, rather than just sell to them. Adding fresh new content to your site on a regular basis also can help improve your search engine optimization results.

Articles, e-books and videos on buying and maintaining vehicles are some of the most helpful types of content found on dealership websites today. (But make sure you have the rights to use the content.) Some dealers prefer to outsource content creation to an agency that specializes in this instead of trying to create and manage it themselves.

4. Are all your digital marketing activities integrated on your website? Many dealerships use a wide range of digital marketing tools such as e-newsletters, social media marketing and online videos. Your website should centralize and organize all of these different marketing initiatives.

For example, make sure there are prominent links on your home page to your social media platforms, such as your dealership’s Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages and your YouTube channel. Also include a sign-up box for your e-newsletter, if you have one, and consider adding a live chat option so customers can communicate virtually with a customer service rep.

Advancing toward fully digital

The trend toward online car shopping continues to grow. In the Autotrader.com study, car buyers indicated that they’d like to see a big change in the way deals are negotiated. Of those who liked the idea of online deal building, 56% wanted the ability to start the negotiation on their own terms — preferably online. And 45% wanted to remain anonymous until they lock in the deal structure.

All of this points to the necessity of making your website as compatible and attractive as possible for car buying. 

© 2017