This article was published in the November/December 2011 edition of “Affaires Automobiles” magazine (french version of Canadian Auto Dealer).
If most dealer websites sell more or less the same thing, if they continuously offer the same kind of promotions and if they generally have tools designed to get the visitor to contact a salesperson one way or another, what kind of online strategy should you adopt to distinguish yourself? An original and dazzling design?
Because the Internet has so many advantages, like the capacity to update every last pixel to keep up with the latest trends, you can allow yourself to go nuts when you design your website. Your mission is to stand out from your competitors, and that’s usually when you’ll try to be creative. An excellent initiative. Now, how do you go about it?
“Inspire Confidence” is your mantra
Although everything is virtual, Internet users have the same expectations and questions when they visit your site as they would have in your dealership. You’ve carefully considered the impact and the image you’ll project from the moment a visitor arrives in your parking lot, with a huge sign, well maintained facilities and numerous vehicles on display. The front door is easily accessible and the demo models are sparkling and visible from outside. Looking through your glass doors, everything suggests that someone is there to welcome the visitor. Even before they set foot inside, visitors sincerely hope to meet a team that will give them the courage and the reason to proceed with the second biggest investment of their lives. You’ve done everything possible to be up to the task. So why would your site be any different?
Step 1: Setting reference points
When visitors land on your home page, they try to find reference points that they know and are comforting to them. Often, the first thing they try to locate is the links. If the links aren’t obvious because, for instance, they’re not all the same colour, a warning goes off in their heads. They have to try and make sense of something that doesn’t seem logical. You had a few seconds to communicate the added value of your services, and the visitors weren’t able to grasp it because they quickly became distracted.
If you still want to try something that’s never been done before, imagine yourself behind the wheel of a car and ask yourself this: Is it a good idea to present a new concept in highway signage when you have between 3 and 5 seconds to interpret it?
Step 2: Accompany the user every step of the way
Why does your site bury visitors in an avalanche of information on the very first page? They’ve already got an idea of what you’re offering, because they’ve already gathered some information. That’s right, users today are much savvier than they used to be. They don’t just wait for you to point them to the products for sale and the cash register where they can pay for them.
At your dealership, visitors are taken firmly in hand. Online visitors can leave whenever they want, from any page, and they don’t need to politely wait for you to finish your sentence. The high bounce rates prove this. You may have had them drooling on your home page, but you forgot about them somewhere along the way. You had great products, but they left anyways.
You lost your slim chance of convincing them because you concentrated solely on your home page.
When you welcome visitors to your dealership or your web site, you impress them by gently guiding them, not by overwhelming them. That’s the added value that your competitors won’t be able to replicate so easily.
Rince and repeat
Even though you spent time and energy designing a futuristic, extravagantly coloured glass of water, a simple container is enough when you’re thirsty. If you attempt to reinvent the wheel, pray that your competitors are more hapless than you and you’re the only other available result on the face of the Earth. If you want to be different, emphasize the user experience.