From Digital Dealer Magazine May 2008
by : Peter Batten
Your online store is just as important as your showroom, and the reason why is clear: 70 percent of new vehicle buyers use the Internet to vehicle shop, as do 61 percent of used vehicle buyers (2007 J.D. Power and Associates New Autoshopper.com & Used Autoshopper.com studies). But, as you may have noticed, simply having a web site will not increase your traffic, leads, or sales. In fact, a flaccid web site can do more harm than good as potential customers quickly ascertain that they will not find the information they want and leave your site in favor of a big portal or automaker site. But it does not have to be that way. You can make your dealership web site a best-in-class consumer destination with the features and tools that give your customers the comprehensive content, intuitive navigation, and breadth of information found on leading portals and manufacturer sites. That’s right: your site can be as impressive as any automotive site out there. And you can do it all with a minimum of development time.
Lifestyle search capabilities
With a lifestyle search, a consumer can search for vehicles that match their needs without having to know any esoteric vehicle information. For example, a customer can search by body style, like SUV, coupe, or convertible, instead of having to start searching by make and model. Many consumers do not know what exact trim they want; they just know they need an SUV because they carry cargo on slippery roads, or a compact because they want to save on gas bills. Lifestyle searches are intuitive for consumers, allowing them to find the vehicle they want with the least amount of hassle and frustration.
Powerful comparison features
A J.D. Powers and Associates study focusing on best practices on manufacturer web sites found that consumers loved powerful comparison tools that allowed them to compare multiple vehicles at one time (2006 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation StudySM – J.D. Powers and Associates). They found that side-by-side and advantage-based comparisons are especially useful because shoppers can quickly scan the results and even print out results for future consideration. There are several companies who can equip your web site with a robust comparison tool in record time.
Vehicle images and videos
The same J.D. Powers and Associates study cited above found that consumers gravitate to vehicle images and videos, which put them immediately in the virtual driver’s seat. Videos are especially valuable for demonstrating functionality and versatility of a vehicle including: acceleration, cornering, stopping, and much more. Color changes and interior shots are invaluable for helping the consumer to experience the vehicle and for generating excitement and the desire to buy. Consider including a comprehensive equipment listing for each of your vehicles alongside a detailed photo that consumers can click to view different angles, interior shots, colors, and live-action video. Build-A-Car tool tied to your inventory
The advantages of a Build-A-Car tool on your web site have been well documented. Give consumers the opportunity to design the car of their dreams and they will stay on your site longer, return again and again, and convert into a valid prospect at a higher rate. Bump this tool up to the next level by integrating it with your inventory so customers can see what you have available.
Online credit applications
You want prospects to become buyers. An additional feature to help you meet this goal is the online credit application. By including a secure link to a credit application that a customer can immediately complete, you are saving that customer time and hassle and also converting a lead into a viable prospect. Use the credit application as a virtual shopping cart to close qualified buyers in record time.