Secrets of the Best Car Dealership Websites

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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Your car dealership website often creates the first impression of your relationship with customers, and you have to get it right. The best auto dealer website can be hard to define, but generally, you know it when you see it or use it. Good website design makes the user comfortable and sets up their dealership experience to be a good one. 

Make an Awesome First Impression 

Auto dealership website design should prioritize clean website layout and a distraction-free experience. Eye-catching navigation tools and CTAs in familiar locations help guide the customer to their next car shopping step.

Choice-paralysis happens when the website user is presented with so many options it actually becomes harder to make a decision. The best car dealer 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.

Here’s an example auto mall dealer website:

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 shoppers with the information they want. Auto dealer websites should adhere to the principles of perfect pricing: transparency, accuracy, and clarity.

Good online pricing is first and foremost, transparent. Transparent pricing for car 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.

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.

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, and auto dealer websites with the best experience 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)

Encourage Incredibly Easy Navigation

Though it is perpetually overlooked for “sexier” elements of auto dealer 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 web design and creative navigation options.

Clear and sophisticated “chunks” break up content and help users navigate car dealer websites.

Provide Pricing and Finance Calculators

The best car 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.

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. Auto dealer websites should allow for shoppers to sort, track, and find specials as easily as they would find a vehicle.

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 auto dealer 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 submitting a form.

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 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. 

Show Your Dedication to Shopper Education

Once, it was the car 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 car 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.

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

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 car dealership belong on this list? Get in touch with us at marketing@jazel.com. We’d love to hear from you!