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5 Tips for Automotive Dealership Web Design

1) How important are the visuals? Should I focus more on images or sales copy?

To answer this question, you must first decide who your “ideal” customer is and figure out what they’re searching for. Most automotive sites have both sales copy and photos available, however, most dealerships focus on filters and capturing the customer’s information. This is likely because your average customer has shopped around a bit before deciding to purchase from your dealership. The average car buyer spends 59% of their time online researching. (Autotrader)

If you capture their contact information, this allows you to re-market to them long after they’ve left your website. I purchased a car from a lot that consistently marketed to me after 3 years on their email list. Now my family has purchased 3 cars from the same dealership.

The downside of modern shopping habits is that it takes much longer to earn a consumer’s trust. We’re not as gullible, and we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and propaganda attempting to distract us from what we intend to purchase.

However, the good thing about modern shoppers is they’re lazy. If you can provide all the stats, features, even reviews on vehicles – you’re more likely to get the sale. Modern consumers are so lazy their entire family will buy from you once you’ve earned their trust. Initially, you may spend $100k on marketing and customer acquisition, but you may make over $1M from direct purchases by the target consumer, referrals, reviews, press, etc.

2) How many “Call to Actions” is too many? I don’t want to oversell our vehicles…

You’ll see that emotional triggers are used across most platforms that sell large assets (cars, homes, boats, etc). In the consumer’s mind, the stronger emotional connection they feel with your brand, the more they’re willing to spend.

Focus on hitting pain points, and use big, bright photos and videos. Your call-to-actions should say things like “don’t miss out,” “come see us,” “take a ride,” etc… remember, this is a long sales process. After the customer has visited your website, you’ll still have to sell them while they shop around, then re-sell them in person, allow them to test-drive the vehicle, get approved for financing, agree to the terms, and drive off the lot.

Online car shoppers research car prices (71%), then find actual cars listed for sale (68%), compare different models they’re interested in (64%), find out what their current trade-in would be worth (63%), and then locate and contact a dealer (46%). (Autotrader)

3) How much should I “sell” the buyer without overselling?

Someone who is shopping for a new car is primarily looking for appearance, utility, safety, and reliability. In that order.

The look of a new car is generally more important than the safety. And the utility is more important than reliability. Whether the customer is a new mom looking for something to keep her baby safe, or into adventure sports and looking for something they can take off-roading in rain, snow, and desert conditions – they’ll first want the car to fit their image, and secondly want it to perform.

Other things to consider are brand popularity, customizability, and flexibility. Some buyers don’t intend to customize the vehicle and they aren’t keen on overly flashy upgrades, others want a vehicle that’s top notch.

My Best Suggestion

Consider branding your dealership for a specific niche, ie. “top dealership for businessmen” or “#1 dealership for commercial vehicles.”

Are you selling used vehicles? Are you selling luxury vehicles? Do you specialize in consumer safety?

Depending on where you’re located, figure out which industries have the most profit potential for you, and market to their needs very specifically. This will allow your website and branding to do most of the sales process for you.

Brand websites are slightly different than dealership sites. One is focused on awareness and reputation, while the other is focused on increasing sales. One is about longevity while the other is about moving inventory as quickly as possible.

Take a look at these three brand websites:
http://www.peugeot.com/en
https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/index
https://www.toyota.com/

Now take a look at these dealership websites:
http://www.hondaofaventura.com/
https://www.drivechicago.com/
http://www.brickellluxurymotors.com/

To determine how much “selling” you’ll have to do, find out what point your customer is ready to buy, and meet them in the sweet spot. Offering an incentive like free floor rugs may not be necessary for buyers above a certain income level, but you may have to do much more work on the front-end, convincing them to take a look at other options outside their original selection.

4) Is it better to list pricing on the site or make the customer call for pricing?

It depends on your target customer. If your customer’s primary concern is price, list them right away. They’re probably looking for a used car, in decent condition, with financing options, and a small downpayment.

If your target customer is looking for a luxury vehicle, even if they’re a surgeon or someone with substantial purchasing power, listing the price right away will offend them.

You also must be strategic with how you’re listing your prices. Don’t list a vehicle at $24,000 if you want to appeal to the budget-friendly consumer. Listing $24,999 or $23.7k is much more effective. Test out a few different options over the course of a few months to find the sweet spot.

5) Should I focus our website on having a lot of content or having a few really good pieces of information? I don’t want it to overwhelm the customer…

Always quality over quantity. Focus on writing copy that sells. Use emotional triggers, maybe even pay someone to go over the copy on your website with a fine-toothed comb. Don’t waste any space with nonsense fluff. That’s a cardinal sin in auto sales because consumers already expect to be ripped off, especially if you sell used cars.

The amount of content you’ll need on the site really depends on your overall brand strategy. if you have a ton of competitors, it’s time to differentiate yourself. Pick a specific target client, or sell a unique product alongside your vehicle that adds to customer experience (fresh baked cookies, or steak dinner to celebrate the purchase).

If you want to be perceived as a Mercedes dealership, you’re going to have to prioritize differently than used Toyota dealers. Small things make the biggest difference in this cutthroat industry. Don’t think about spending a ton of money right away because obscurity is a problem you’re going to solve over time.

Month by month, adding content to your site and getting press will improve your overall brand reach and reputation.

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