When was the last time you really looked at your website? Have you ever visited your competitors’ websites? Pull up any website today, and you’ll probably see a little more than just an inventory listing and online brochure. Over the last few years, dealers have significantly improved their websites with the online shopper in mind, adding online credit applications, trade-in evaluation tools, payment calculators, and more. However, the proverbial phrase “build it and they will come” does not necessarily apply online. There’s quite a bit more that needs to go into your digital presence to turn website visitors into viable customers.
The Cox Automotive Car Buying Journey research revealed consumer satisfaction with the car buying process declined in 2022 for the second straight year. According to Isabelle Helms, vice president of Research and Market Intelligence at Cox Automotive, “while buying a vehicle is a complicated transaction, it does not have to be frustrating for the consumer. With the right digital tools and systems in place, car buying can be a highly satisfying activity, and as efficient and streamlined as consumers want it to be.”
“While buying a vehicle is a complicated transaction, it does not have to be frustrating for the consumer.”
Bingo! That’s the key. The right digital tools and systems can make the difference between a sale – or a frustrated customer who vows never to purchase a vehicle from your dealership. How do you know whether your dealership has the right digital content?
Put on your customer’s shoes and see! Evaluate your website from the mind of a consumer. Go through the process of researching a vehicle, estimating a monthly payment, submitting a finance application, and reaching out to your sales team through the website. Email the dealership or try the chat feature yourself and then check your CRM to see what actually happens with those inquiries. Taking an unbiased view of the customer’s experience can give you actionable insights that turn into revenue.
Digital Messages and Tools
Not sure where to begin? Here is a simple checklist of digital content and tools that successful websites utilize:
- Prominent WHY BUY HERE messaging throughout the site – does the site actually communicate why the visitor should buy from YOU and not the competition?
- Content describing your online sales process – how long it takes, what is required, etc.
- Financing, trade-in and lease return education
- Expanded F&I product information – product descriptions, pricing, digital brochures, etc.
- EV education – there isn’t a more talked-about vehicle on the road today
- Service FAQs
- Recall information – sure, a customer can get this from the OEM, but why not be a source of helpful information to nurture that customer relationship?
- Easy-to-find contact information with staff emails and phone numbers – can a customer reach you easily?
- Career Opportunities
- Information about community involvement – according to the Harris Poll, a global consulting and market research firm, Millennials are more likely than previous generations to take a company’s social responsibility into account when making purchase decisions.
In addition to providing online answers to almost any customer question, it’s also important to ensure your website functions correctly across computers, tablets, and smartphones. Navigate your website on your phone.
- Is it easy to use?
- Can you view the images and read the content?
- Do all the forms and tools still work properly?
Take a regular look at the analytics for your website to see where your traffic is coming from. You may be shocked to learn that most people on your site are not using a desktop computer to access it.
- What is your most visited page or section of the site?
- Where are users dropping off, and how can you re-market to them?
When you think of your website as an online storefront, suddenly knowing the customer’s journey through the website gives you a lot of actionable insights with which to work.
Digital Video Use
If you attended NADA this year, you might have noticed the emphasis on using videos. Dealers were encouraged to use videos wherever they feasibly could, on their websites, on social media, and even in their communication with customers.
The main message was that if you are committed to online sales, you must also have a strong video presence. But what does that mean? At EFG, we recommend dealers take a methodical approach to video, starting with an assessment. Pull up your website once again and put a check mark next to every video category you see below:
- Introduction with WHY BUY/SERVICE HERE message (from owner, general manager, sales manager, service manager) – these videos can be placed on the home page, service landing page, and even at the top of the inventory search pages.
- Inventory walkaround videos – most manufacturers provide stock walkaround videos for you to use and they can easily be implemented into any OEM site, but videos from real staff members a customer will recognize if they reach the dealership lot – even better!
- Trade-in FAQs – These videos can live on a resource page of your site. You can also link to that page from your inventory pages to provide an easier customer experience by answering their questions as (or where) they come up in their online shopping experience.
- Vehicle service FAQs – We recommend placing these on the service landing page to help give customers even more reasons to return to your dealership for ongoing service.
- Online purchase FAQs – If you have implemented an online purchase process, you might consider placing these next to or below any banner promoting your online purchase program so that customers can view the video before starting the process.
- Customer testimonials – We recommend placing these all over the website as part of your WHY BUY HERE messaging.
Once these basic videos are complete, they have exponential opportunities for digital use – on social media, YouTube, and even in customer emails through your CRM. After you have a good grasp on video basics, you can turn your attention to more advanced videos, like virtual test drives. Additionally, as your team becomes more comfortable using videos in their communications, you can work with them to create stock communication videos for use through your CRM, like:
- Appointment Confirmation/Missed Appointment video from the salesperson
- Thank You/Congratulations video from the salesperson
- Happy Birthday/Anniversary from the salesperson
While jumping into videos may seem daunting, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to ease your way, including OEM video assets, online video creation tools, and those handy smartphones with built-in cameras. Not every video needs to be good enough to air on TV. Some just need to be good enough for a simple email or text message.
Digital Customer Engagement
Lastly, a website stock full of the latest tools, but with no monitoring for online inquiries will fail every time next to a simple website with ongoing monitoring. We’ve all been in that frustrating situation where we have one specific question that we can’t find the answer to, and we just need a real person to provide the answer. When evaluating your website and filling out all those online forms, pay attention to your team’s response to those digital/online inquiries.
- How quickly is the inquiry handed off to a salesperson?
- How long does it take for the salesperson to reach out to the customer?
- Does the salesperson have access to the actual inquiry to research the customer’s questions prior to reaching out?
- Does the salesperson set time expectations with the customer on when they will get back with them with answers to their questions?
- Does the salesperson ask for the customer’s preferred method of communication and then actually honor that person’s stated preference (email, text, or phone)?
- How many emails/text messages/salespeople does it take for a customer’s question to be answered?
- Is your sales team prepared to answer questions about financing or protection products?
- How well versed is your salesperson in answering questions regarding electric vehicles?
- Are questions fully answered with an open-ended closing that prompts further engagement?
- If your website uses an artificial intelligence auto response tool, are the algorithms current? (e., does the right message get to the right person, at the right time?)
While the customer may never set foot in your dealership, the level of engagement can still make the difference between a sale or a lost opportunity.
At EFG Companies, our proven team of experts guide clients through these critical evaluations along with the training, tools and resources needed to get the most out of your digital platform. At EFG Companies, we’re more than an F&I provider, we’re your business partner with years of expertise in the retail automotive industry. Contact us today to learn more about how our team can help you achieve your winning strategy.