Designing For Sales: How Emotional Design Helps Dealers Sell More

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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We’ve already covered that good website design is beyond important, but in this post we’re going to talk about a very specific aspect of modern website design called Emotional Design.

So first off, what the heck is Emotional Design?

Emotional Design a process in which the designer uses design components such as color, spacing, and imagery to evoke specific emotions in the user. Basically, Emotional Design is all about making the user feel good about where they’re shopping.

So why is Emotional Design relevant for dealerships?

Because emotion is an enormous part of the car-buying process. To most people, whether they acknowledge it or not, cars are an expression of their identity. And on top of that, cars also cost a lot of money. So as you can imagine, there are lots of emotions involved in the process of buying a car.

No matter how rational a decision is, if a car shopper doesn’t feel good about it too, that’s a lost sale. So keep reading. This is important.


How Exactly is Design Emotional?

Design evokes emotion. It’s why a pile of garbage looks like… well… garbage (unless you’re REALLY into modern art) and the Sistine Chapel takes people’s breath away. And when design is good, people feel good about everything else.

Don Norman, author of Emotional Design and prophet of good design, puts this principle very simply: “Pleasant things work better.”

That makes sense. When things are beautiful or fun or calming or just pleasant, we like using them. Good Emotional Design begins with a base of emotions the designer wants to inspire. The designer then uses color, imagery and other design elements to form an emotional relationship with the user.

So at this point you may be thinking: “That’s great. Now how does this help me sell more cars?” To answer, consider the following perspective.


Think of Your Website Like One of Your Salesmen

A car shopper walks onto a dealership lot. They’re a young professional who’s just come into some money, and they’re excited that they can finally trade in their old beater for a nice, luxury car. They’re also a bit nervous, as they’ve never spent so much money on one thing in their entire life, and they don’t want to be taken advantage of.

When they arrive in the showroom, they see that it’s neat and well-ordered, and they’re instantly greeted by a well-dressed salesman who politely invites them to them to look around, no pressure. The salesman engages the shopper in friendly conversation, asks them what brought them out to the dealership, and in doing so establishes trust and puts the shopper at ease.

From there, the salesman can easily uncover the shoppers wants, needs, desires, and fears, and the sale can progress smoothly on the shopper’s terms.

If instead, the salesman had pounced on the shopper and immediately started “selling” him, that would’ve put the shopper on the defensive, amplified his nervousness, and established an adversarial relationship between the shopper and the seller.

The example here demonstrates one simple truth: it’s much easier to sell a car to someone if they feel good about where they’re shopping. Since most of the shopping process happens online, shouldn’t a dealership’s website do exactly this?


Emotional Design Makes Online Shoppers Feel Good About Your Dealership

On the lot, it’s evident that emotion plays an important role in sales. That’s why sales training and good hiring matters. Online, this is accomplished through Emotional Design.

So how exactly does it work? Well, we could spend hours talking about how Emotional Design creates that subconscious “good feeling,” but here are just a few key bullets:

  1. Clean, spacious design is used to build trust & credibility (clutter is both distracting and untrustworthy)
  2. Testimonials and high-quality images of happy people and beautiful cars are used to reinforce the excitement and thrill of car-buying
  3. Call-to-actions are used tastefully, and are framed in a friendly rather than aggressive way
  4. Navigation is neat and orderly, mirroring the organization of a well-ordered showroom

These elements and others are carefully implemented to achieve the same emotional satisfaction and connection that good salespeople create in the showroom.



Some call Emotional Design an element of “persuasive design,” but that seems a little manipulative. Emotional design doesn’t aim to manipulate, it isn’t conveying anything that isn’t true. Emotional design connects the shopper to business and product, emphasizing the types of emotions that shoppers, people on the verge of making a big decision, want to feel. Whether on the lot or online, shoppers are seeking a feeling, and emotional design gives it to them.

Take a look at your dealership’s website. Do you think it’s conveying the emotions that shoppers want to feel when shopping for a car?