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2017 is shaping up to be another great year for the automotive industry. With NADA forecasting annual car sales to remain above 17 million, dealerships across the country are looking for any opportunity to gain a leg up on their competition and capture a larger piece of the automotive sales pie.
Now that 74% of the car shopping process takes place online, many dealerships are beginning to turn to a new form of dealership website to set their dealership apart from the crowd and drive sales. Customer-Centric dealership websites – or websites that are designed to delight car shoppers with a best-in-class customer experience – offer dealers the opportunity to build trust with their online audiences, and ultimately attract more loyal customers into their stores.
Here are five ways Customer-Centric Websites make your dealership money:
It’s often said that looks aren’t everything, but when it comes to websites, attractiveness and good design can have a major impact on your dealership’s bottom line.
The success of your website starts with the first impression. Here’s what Google has to say on the subject:
“A website’s first impression is known to be a crucial moment for capturing the user’s interest. Within a fraction of time, people build a first visceral “gut feeling” that helps them decide whether they are going to stay at this place or continue surfing to other sites.”
To paraphrase, Google is saying that if your website isn’t attractive, many shoppers will simply leave without giving your dealership a chance. On the other hand, an attractive website will immediately grab the user’s attention, pull them in, and encourage them to explore, which could make the difference between whether they buy from you or your competitor across town.
First impressions are crucial, but design goes beyond simply making a website attractive. A Customer-Centric Dealership Website must trigger the right emotions.
Car-buying is a highly emotional process. As one of the biggest purchases a shopper might make in their entire life, buying a car can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.
A good Customer-Centric Dealership Website facilitates and amplifies the emotions that compel shoppers to buy, such as excitement, attraction, and joy. It can also alleviate or eliminate frustration, anger, and anxiety, which inhibit the car-buying process.
“The user experiences usability first and pays later.” –Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D.
This quote by Jakob Nielsen – a Ph.D. and visionary user experience (UX) designer – illustrates an important point: good website usability is crucial to a healthy bottom line. In fact, Forrester research estimates that 50% of potential sales from a website are lost when visitors can’t find the necessary information on the product they are looking for. They also found that roughly 40% of visitors do not return to a site when their first visit results in a negative experience.
Taken together, these factors could equate to annual car sale losses in the millions for an average dealership. With the stakes so high, it’s essential that a dealership website be functional, intuitive, and easy-to-use on any device.
So how exactly does a Customer-Centric Dealership Website accomplish this?
Here are the three pillars of dealership website usability:
1. Accessibility to inventory: minimize time, effort, and clicks to search, sort, and filter inventory.
2. Ease of browsing: keep shoppers shopping until they find all the information they need (features, options, price, incentives).
3. Mobile-friendly design: shopping should be easy anywhere – at home, on-the-go, on your competitor’s lot.
According to Cohn and Wolfe – a major PR agency – 91% of consumers find honesty and trust to be the most important behavior for a business to display.
Given that three quarters of the car shopping process is happening online, it’s crucial that your website establishes trust with shoppers.
Though both the appearance and usability are important for establishing trust, the content of a website is unquestionably one of the most important elements. A good Customer-Centric Dealership Website contains content that adheres to certain guidelines and best-practices. For example:
1. Vehicles in inventory should use actual photos of the vehicles, and there must be a lot of the; especially for used.
2. The website should avoid intrusive elements like pop-ups, fly-overs, or flashing images which may annoy shoppers
3. Key information should be displayed in an easily-accessible and digestible format
4. Website content should include testimonials, reviews, and other ‘trust seals’
According to DrivingSales, 61% of dealership website shoppers never fill out a contact form or make a phone call before visiting the dealership.
Sacrificing the Customer Experience to chase conversion rates could alienate the biggest part of your potential customer-base.
Using the same methodology employed by Amazon, Edmunds, and Kelly Blue Book, Customer-Centric Dealership Websites are measured and optimized on the following metrics.
Customer Experience Metrics
1. Trust: How trustworthy/credible customers felt the site was
2. Usability: How easy-to-use they felt the site was
3. Appearance: How attractive they thought the site looked
4. Loyalty: How likely they are to return to the site
5. Net Promoter Score: How likely they are to recommend the site to a friend, family member, or fellow shopper.
Forrester predicts that the customer experience will continue to be a major factor in driving revenue growth. With most of the car shopping process happening online, Customer-Centric websites offer dealerships the opportunity to gain a major advantage over their competitors. As the marketplace gets increasingly crowded and competitive, this advantage could be the difference between another record-setting year, or a year of lost share and disappointment. Which path will your dealership take?