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Steal the Secrets of the Best Dealership Websites

When it comes to your dealership’s website, brainstorming, stats, insights, and analysis are all awesome tools for gaining knowledge, but sometimes what you really want is just a damn good example to inspire you. Well, this post is chock-full of some of the best examples of dealership websites in the business. Fair warning, we couldn’t resist just a bit of analysis — but only because these daring dealerships deserve a little explanation.

 

Make an Awesome First Impression With All-Around Stellar Design

Good design can be hard to define, but generally, you know it when you see it (or use it). Good design makes the user comfortable and sets up their online experience to be a good one. This first impression is the foundation of your relationship with the customer, and you have to get it right.

Excellent dealership website design prioritizes neat, clean website layout and distraction-free experiences. Immediately eye-catching navigation tools and CTAs in familiar locations help guide the customer to their next car shopping step.

Choice-paralysis, colloquially known as “being spoiled for choice,” happens when the user is presented with so many options it actually becomes harder to make a decision. The best dealership websites seek to minimize frustration and help shoppers get where they want to go so quickly and easily they hardly have to think about it.

For a truly stand-out first impression, look no further than I-10 Auto Mall:

Highlights of I-10 Auto Mall:

  • A bright, inviting color scheme that instantly directs the eye to key shopper goals.
  • A ‘Hello Bar’ highlighting the dealership’s ultra-convenient location.
  • Everything you need to find ANY vehicle — from everything in inventory to a specific VIN, all above the fold. 

That’s what we call a good first impression.

 

Practice the Principles of Perfect Pricing

Ability to shop by price is one of the most commonly cited advantages of shopping for a vehicle online. Successful dealerships recognize this, and look to provide their shoppers with the information they want. The best dealership websites adhere to the principles of perfect pricing: transparency, accuracy, and clarity.

Good online pricing is first and foremost, transparent. Transparent pricing for dealerships means clearly presenting the MSRP, as well as any savings, incentives, and deals that might apply. All this should come together into a price shippers know they’ll be able to take to the dealership. That’s where the accuracy comes in. The third element of perfect pricing online is clarity. Not only does the end price have to be clearly and immediately distinguishable, it should also be clear how that price was reached.

See how it’s done by Keystone Chevrolet of Sand Springs, OK:

The call-to-action (CTA) that you use for your pricing is also incredibly important — after all, they can determine whether that shopper converts. Luckily, there’s Keystone and I-10 to lend us stellar examples of their (very different) CTA strategies.

I-10 Auto Mall (yes, they are deserving of two mentions) nail it with a simple, professional CTA that immediately attracts, but doesn’t demand. This is the kind of CTA that consistently generated conversions.

Sometimes, however multiple CTAs can be done with radical success. Keystone Chevrolet have four CTAs on their SRPs and VDPs. The trick to this: Each CTA offers the shopper a helpful next step in their shopping process and lets them have more control over the next action than a single CTA does. These multiple CTAs also help Keystone Chevy immediately understand the intent of each website lead.

 

Facilitate Free-Text Search

Car shoppers go about research in different ways, and when it comes to your site, they’ll likely search for cars differently as well. Up to 30% of shoppers on ecommerce sites will use the site search tool — and these are generally highly motivated shoppers who know exactly what they are looking for.

Users want search. The best dealership websites deliver that — and they do it with panache and dedication to customer experience.

Even so, not all search bars are created equal.

  • Truly free text
  • Suggestive search
  • Magnifying glass
  • Search CTA
  • Doesn’t delete search (slight modifications to a search are incredibly common, and it’s a point of friction to make users type the search back in)

Here’s Bill Fick Ford, from Huntsville, TX. Their free-text search is presented front and center, just like shoppers are used to from their hours of research on Google (or a similar search engine), and naturally, meets all the specifications for a fully functional and useful search bar — with an added benefit of including voice recognition for those who don’t feel like typing.

 

Encourage Incredibly Easy Navigation

Though it is perpetually overlooked for “sexier” elements of website design, navigation can actually make or break a website. Simple and intuitive navigation helps users make their way around your site — limiting frustration and making it easy for shoppers to go about their business.

Good navigation is consistent, clear, and immediately accessible. The best dealership websites take this a step further by supporting solid navigation with exceptional design and creative navigation options.

West Covina CDJR, in West Covina, CA takes these rules to heart, with one of the neatest navigation menus out there — backed up by exceptional chunking — design that separates sections into easily-digestible and distinguishable segments.

 

Clear and sophisticated “chunks” break up content and help users navigate a dealership’s website.

 

Provide Pricing and Finance Calculators

The best dealership websites aren’t focused on selling a car to the shopper, but built to actually help the shopper find the car they want. A key element of this mission are helpful tools like pricing and finance calculators — like these, offered by Stockton Hyundai, in Stockton, CA.   

These nifty tools are a price-conscious shopper’s best friend. They allow the user quickly evaluate vehicles based on their financial situation and determine the best fit without having to involve the dealership or even change site. Pricing calculators like this help keep shoppers on your site, provide them with the tools they need, and build a solid and trustworthy relationship.

Beside the payment calculators are likely SRPs and pages for these shoppers to check out next — an added touch that makes shoppers feel valued and understood.

 

Get Serious About Specials

Specials are difficult to get right online. A bad specials page can look like a coupon page straight out of a direct mailer, but even most don’t do the deal justice.

Ideal specials pages should be clear and immediately communicate the essential details as well as the important criteria, like qualifying vehicles and expiration date. The best dealership websites offer this, and allow for shoppers to sort, track, and find specials as easily as they would find a vehicle.

Here’s a stand-out example from Tim Dahle Ford, in Spanish Fork, UT:

 

For High Conversion Rate, Go With Friction-Free Forms

When it comes to forms, it’s all about creating a frictionless experience. If your goal is conversions, then the best is to eliminate and reduce every frustration in your forms.

The best dealership websites have simple, single-step forms that are incredibly easy to fill in. From start to submission, submitting a contact request, scheduling a test drive, or booking a service appointment, should be both entirely intuitive and almost effortless. Limiting the number of fields to fill in and offering multiple selection buttons save the customer time and increase their likelihood of actually submitting the lead.

Fair Oaks Ford of Naperville, IL is one of the dealerships utilizing these dealership website best practices for their forms. Their delightful online form makes it a breeze to schedule a service appointment — both on desktop and mobile (a lifesaver for users who want to avoid a phone call, but still need to schedule an appointment on the go).

Fair Oaks rounds out their form with an easy reminder that doesn’t require re-inputting the method of contact — and an assurance of information privacy (increasingly important these days).

 

Employ Extraordinary Vehicle Merchandising

Vehicle merchandising isn’t easy. The major challenge of merchandising your inventory online is helping vehicles stand out from one another and showcasing what distinguishes them. Enter Jerry Damson Ford from Arab, AL, champions of online vehicle merchandising:

Their exceptional VDPs are clean and professional, with all the details a shopper could want. On top of this, their VDPs also feature dozens of photos (usually close to or exceeding 100) and a video, to give shoppers every single view of the car.


Jerry Damson Ford has one of the best dealership websites, particularly when it comes to vehicle merchandising, because they understand the role of the VDP — and a dealership website in general, is to provide as close to an experience of the real thing as possible.

 

Harness the Power of Social Proof Though Reviews and Testimonials

Shoppers look for reviews and testimonials to help them at every step in the car buying process — not least to make sure they are picking the right dealership. Reviews can also be particularly effective for attracting shoppers from outside your immediate community. After all, 72% of car buyers and 63% of service customers would drive 20-60 miles for a dealership with good reviews.

Showcasing recent reviews can help shoppers determine that you are worth the drive. Towne Ford in Redwood City, CA is a shining example of a dealership that knows the power of reviews. Here are the highlighted reviews on their homepage:

Towne Ford produces awesome customer review videos that are short, sweet, and honestly really convincing. They’ve harnessed the power of excellent website design and authenticity to deliver great testimonials for their dealership.

The more smiles the better in a video testimonial!

Showcasing reviews is awesome, but it’s just as important to make sure you are getting more reviews. Every happy customer who goes away without reviewing the dealership is lost positive word of mouth. Ed Butts Ford in La Puente, CA goes above and beyond to manage their online reputation. Their review page lets shoppers chose their experience, then steers them in the right direction.

If you click excellent:

If you click poor:

 

Show Your Dedication to Shopper Education

Once, it was the dealership that had all the power. Now, armed with the internet and mobile device that can always access it, the customer is in control.

The means that dealership websites have the opportunity to embrace this shift and their role as curators and facilitators. The best automotive websites incorporate this into everything they do, but an extra step taken to share information and knowledge is what distinguishes standout dealers.

Santa Margarita Toyota of Santa Margarita, CA takes shopper education seriously by offering some of their most helpful and common searches shopping tools and highlighting them on a section of their homepage below the fold. It’s the perfect section for the curious shopper who doesn’t have an exact goal, but it works equally well for any shopper browsing a dealership site trying to get a feeling for the dealer.

Don’t Hide Your Dealership’s Personality

The best dealership websites leave a good impression, not just of the customer experience, but also of the dealership’s personality. Every dealership has its own culture and personality — whether it’s ultra-professional or wonderfully quirky — and shoppers expect their in-store experience to match up with what they saw online. That means while the core functionality of your site should be rock-solid, the best dealership sites should showcase personality as well.

The rock stars of dealership personality: Galpin Motors in Los Angeles, CA

Their homepage video showcases their lots, vehicles, and services like the Horseless Carriage restaurant and an on-site Starbucks.

Every search result page has a reminder of why it’s the best decision to shop with Galpin.

Everything about a Galpin site not only reinforces the Galpin brand, but showcases their commitment to the customer.

Galpin has one of the best dealership websites out there when it comes to expressing who they are as a business. Feeling like your dealership’s online impression is less memorable than it should be? Take a page from the book (or website) of Galpin.

 

There you have it — some of the best dealership websites in the game and the best practices that they employ to keep dominating in an era of shifting customer expectations.

Does your dealership belong on this list? Are you curious about the tricks of these sites and want to know more? Get in touch with us at marketing@jazel.com. We’d love to hear from you!