A website and some nice organic listings will not be enough anymore. What is most important is that the customer finds access to information about your dealership easily. From the homepage of a dealership website, shoppers should be invited in and welcomed. Simple navigation toolbars must lead the customers down the path to information enlightenment. Moreover, dealerships should take into consideration what their customers are looking for on their site opposed to simply what they want to sell the customers. A homepage that looks like an advertisement in a paper is a put off to internet customers that are only on your site to accomplish an objective. Steering them away from information they seek with the use of pop-ups and big flashing pictures of an in-stock pre-owned special will only get people turning away from the site. A clean, inviting homepage is a priority.
How do you find out what your customers are looking for when surfing your site? Ask them while they are in your store. Majority of sold customers have taken a peek at your website. Before they enter the business office, politely ask them what attracted them to your website and what they were hoping to find on it. A brief survey can assist dealers in determining some basic “best practices” for website design.
How else can a dealership be approachable online? Make sure pictures/videos or your showroom, location, and most importantly, staff is prominently posted. At my former dealership, the positive responses we’d received from in-store customer that looked online were endless. So many of these customers mentioned our detailed Staff page that was filled with family photos and personal information, it put customers at ease with the sales crew they’d be working alongside. Considering we always amped up the individuals in our dealership, the immediate rapport building available through this was significant. You’d often hear a customer walk in and ask for someone they had never met or talked to by name simply because they shared a mutual hobby learned from this portion of the website.
When customers find they share common interests with their salesperson or dealership, just like inside the showroom, it leads to a more personal relationship. The very same goes for customers that choose dealers through word of mouth. If a dealer is spoken highly of by someone’s peer, they feel much more open to approach the dealership. Dealers can make themselves more approachable online through the use of customer testimonials (video or written) by having a page dedicated to it on their own website as well as contributing and monitoring these reputation management sites such as DealerRater, CarFolks, Yelp, or Judy’s Book.
Much like these sites above, there are a plethora of social media sites available to dealers that allow them to leave their own site and travel out into the world wide web, approaching customers on their own turf. Dealership competition is taking advanced steps to reaching potential customers (and previously sold clientele) in different networking arenas such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Blog Forums, etc. Consumers feel fairly protected in these social networking platforms so it is rare for them to feel as if they are being “sold to” in this virtual world (above and beyond the never-ending pleas to join Mafia Wars or the like :). To approach these customers in these landscapes allows you to become a part of their trusted online community and develop a relationship based on the use of the very sites.
As you can see, there are many avenues that customers drive down when looking for a dealership. A dealership can represent themselves as approachable by building virtual roads on these platforms. This allows the customer to find the information they desire at their own convenience, on their own terms, in the security of their own homes, and choose the dealer that has positioned themselves as the most “Open For Business”.