The online experience – have you given it some thought?

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This article was published in the August/September 2011 edition of “Affaires Automobiles” magazine (french version of Canadian Auto Dealer).

 

The Internet is a network opening out onto the world, and which establishes us in a direct relationship with the entire planet. Growth in the number of websites has continued unabated over the years, expanding from 10 million in 2000 to 312 million in 2011. The sheer quantity of available information is considerable. The number of online visitors is also increasing daily, and in fact online shopping has become an established and powerful reality. In addition to informing us, the Web 2.0 allows us to communicate, exchange, share and express ourselves. The corporate website is no longer sufficient in itself; online consumers navigate on forums, blogs and social networks in order to evaluate their options and their choices. Bombarded with instantly-available information, consumers have no time to lose. It is crucial that you grab their attention, but equally important that you answer the questions they’re asking. Otherwise, and unfortunately for you, your competitor is only a click away; on the Web, proximity is no less real for being virtual.

 

Referencing alone is not enough

Faced with this mass of information, how do you stand out? Being properly referenced is not enough! Even if your site ranks at the top of search results and you generate a lot of traffic, this does not mean you will be able to convert those visitors. To generate a lead, other factors come into play, including the quality of your site – a factor that is also quantifiable, even while it appears to be largely intangible. Ergonomics, built on the twin foundations of utility and usability, must be mastered. This is the process commonly known as the online experience. Ergonomics is an art unto itself, and when successful renders navigation as intuitive as possible and facilitates access to the information or product being sought. Obviously, this can vary depending on the individual person or circumstance. The question then is how to design a site that pleases everyone. Have you ever asked yourself if your website meets the needs of your visitors, whether the young student with a new driver’s licence or the sports car enthusiast and new father who needs to change to a sedan?

 

Serving customers as well online as at the dealership

Do you serve your customers equally well in-dealership and online? Are the investments you’ve made in physically renovating your dealership comparable to what you’re investing in the redesign of your website? How about the courteous and attentive service you’ve bred at the dealership – is it repeated online? In short, is your online service effective, efficient and satisfactory? Gaining the attention of online visitors is critical. Content must be relevant and adapted to your visitors’ needs. Once the offer has been identified and the content assimilated, you have 10 seconds to motivate the customer to take action, for example by contacting you for a price quote or to schedule a visit at the dealership. This cannot be left to improvisation; there are proven good practices, as well as solid methodologies. Research is essential to better understand the behaviour of your online visitors. A number of tools exist for this purpose, but it requires time and expertise. Assumptions and intuitions can be confounded by online usability surveys, comparison tests and even navigation analyses such are click zones and page scroll zones.

 

Converting an online visitor

The quantity of information available online, as well as the perpetual evolution of the Internet universe, obliges us to maximize our efforts. The online visitor is more impatient than ever, and wants to make his choices quickly. If treated properly, an online question can easily lead to a purchase in-store. But the key to success lies in a proper response. The most complex challenge is being able to adapt your reply to different consumer types and situations. Do you dispose of effective tools for responding to online requests? Call on experts who can guide and advise you.

 

Cosima Marcos

Communication Marketing Specialist