Recently, I decided to buy a new smartphone online. After much research and deliberation, I chose a company. They offered far and away the best price. They had great shipping options. They had a coupon code for an even better price. But the site crashed every time I tried to place my order, and when I called customer service, they were not helpful. What should have taken 10 minutes took an hour– and I still had no new phone.

Am I going back to this site? You can bet I’m not, even though they had the best prices. I can’t get what I actually want from them– to buy the phone I want. Instead, I’m going to use a website that I can trust to actually give me not only a quality product, but also a great experience– fast, simple, and straightforward. I’m going to choose a company that makes my life easier and accomplishes my goals without taking a lot of time or causing a lot of hassle.

How my tale of woe is relevant for your dealership

It’s true that most car shoppers are not looking to actually make their next purchase online. But what they are doing is researching online–  sometimes upwards of 14 hours– to choose the one, maybe two, dealerships they’ll visit in person. And while price is obviously a factor, today’s consumers are above all looking for an experience that makes their lives easier. In fact, more than half of car shoppers say they would choose a dealership with a better experience, even at a higher price.

Just think about all the things people do online these days. Order takeout? Check. Place and pay for their Starbucks order? Check. Pay their bills? Check. Convenience is king. And if your dealership can provide it for people doing research– looking for their next purchase, figuring out their trade-in, booking an oil change, whatever they’re doing– you will beat the competition for more customers and more sales.

Here are some strategies to optimize your dealership website:

 

Strategy #1: Provide Smart, Personalized Engagement

In your showroom, salespeople can respond in real time to every customer’s interests. They answer questions, they provide guidance, they read body language, they adjust to changing needs over the course of a conversation. In short, they provide a totally personalized experience.

Too often, this is not the case on dealership websites. Messaging and conversion tools can be generic and one-size-fits-all. The problem is that we know not everyone is looking for the same thing. Some shoppers are in early stages. Some are ready to buy. Some are looking for service. Some just need your phone number. Your website should be able to respond to any of those scenarios– and not only that, but to respond to customer behavior on-site to offer them what they need before they even know they need it.

That means using the right AI tools for digital personalization. Think what you’ll be able to do:

  • Track customer interests and behavior. Today’s AI tools can track how customers found your site– from an ad, or Facebook, or maybe a search for a particular vehicle in their area. Then, they can track these customers’ on-site behavior, including how many times they’ve been there before, what they are looking at, how much time they’re spending on each page, which photos and videos they’re clicking on– basically anything they are doing.
  • Predict each customer’s next move. With this kind of data, AI tools can anticipate shoppers’ next need. So someone browsing your service page can be shown a service offer, or have the opportunity to book their repair straight from your website. Someone looking at a particular vehicle for the third time can see a special offer on that car. Someone who clicks on your address can be shown directions from their location.

This is the level of personalization your customers want: studies show that personalization can increase sales by 20%. It all starts on your website.

Strategy #2: Offer Value-Driven Lead Capture

Another way to optimize your website is to make sure all your lead capture tools are designed to provide value to your customers. What kind of value? Anything that helps them check an item off their to-do list.

Customers on dealership websites might be trying to:

  • see if you have the specific car they are looking for in stock
  • find out how much it costs
  • see if they can get a good deal
  • check their trade-in value
  • get directions to your store
  • understand the features of a new model

Just to name a few. Each one of these tasks is a chance for you to provide value. And if your lead capture tools can do that, they will capture more leads.

For example: take chat. Ostensibly, chat is there to answer questions, but how many times have you asked a customer service chat a question, only to have them not know the answer, or demand your contact information before answering? This is a blatant grab for personal information, and the customer who hasn’t gotten the value they seek– ie, an answer to their question– will not want to hand over their details. Or let’s say there’s a discount on a popular vehicle, but to get it, customers have to fill out an extensive form that takes more than a minute or two. The customer who knows they want this vehicle might be willing to take that time– but someone who’s still deciding will likely x out of that offer and try to find a store that’s less demanding.

Tools that provide real value are tools that will help you get more customers.

Strategy #3: Maximize Data-Rich Lead Information

If you equip your site with the tools to send data-rich leads to your CRM, your follow-up becomes far more valuable in moving your customers along the buying process. How does this work?

If a lead comes in and all you can see is the vehicle of conversion, when your salesperson calls, all they can prepare to address is that vehicle.

When a lead comes in and you can see not only the point of conversion, but also all the pages viewed prior, all the visits to the site, all the time spend where before deciding– then your conversation becomes richer and more productive.

That is, a data-rich lead allows for a value-rich conversation. Just think of what a BDC or salesperson can do with comprehensive lead information when they’re making a call or greeting a customer in person. They can understand if a customer was on the fence before selecting a vehicle and address common questions. They can tell if research was extensive or surface-level, and offer guidance accordingly. They can see if a customer was browsing a particular car before starting the trade-in process. Armed with this data, salespeople can preempt questions or doubts, reassure, speak to common concerns, and, above all, move the process forward with value and without redundancy. Here too, an optimized site leads to more sales by allowing for better follow-up.

 

Experts say improved customer experience could increase auto sales by 25%. Starting that great experience online with seamless, personalized service is the best way to reach today’s customers and get more sales today.

 

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