Common Items Car Buyers Expect on Car Dealership Websites

Car DealerCustomers used to hop from dealership to dealership looking at cars, asking questions, and getting vehicle info. Now, thanks to the internet, customers hop from dealership website to dealership website, doing their research online, often only visiting the dealership's brick and mortar store for that final step - the test drive. Everything a car buyer needs and wants to know about a car, from photos and price to specifications and financing information is available on a dealership website - or so it should be - if the dealer wants to draw customers onto his lot. The question becomes: Are you giving your potential customers what they want and need in your dealership website in a way that will result in a sale?

The list of what car buyers want in a dealership website is not long, but crucial to making those sales. A car dealer website needs/must be:

1. Engaging/User Friendly – Once customers land on your website, you have roughly 10 seconds to capture their attention. If you don't capture their attention within those first 10 seconds, they leave. Cars dealership websites by their very nature don't have high entertainment value, which means you need to do everything you can to make the user experience pleasant and easy. You must achieve the right balance of appealing design, easy navigation, and great/informative content. If you give customers something to complain about, or make their experience difficult, confusing or in any way frustrating, you will lose them.

2. Spectacular Photos/Content - Spectacular photos, ones that make any car look like a million dollars, will attract and keep a customer's attention. After all, buying a car is a huge investment. Your customer wants to feel as if he's getting the best car out there and the photos you use constitute the ultimate visual pitch. On a similar note, engaging text that is realistic and lets the customer know what there is about a particular vehicle that makes it stand out from the rest can be key. This is in addition to providing the vehicle's specs, which should always be available on your dealership website for those who want the nitty-gritty details. Not all customers know the difference between a V6 and a V8, so you want to have content that ‘speaks' to both your car aficionados and your buyers who just want the right car without knowing what makes it run.

3. Inventory Searches –At a minimum, a car dealership should have an inventory search that allows customers to choose by new vs. pre-owned vs. certified pre-owned, model, make, color, year, and price. Some car dealerships allow further search capabilities of their inventory by features such as drivetrain and engine type. The ability to ask and receive online quotes, calculate financing, arrange a test-drive and chat with dealership personnel allows a customer to find out what he needs as he conducts his research, but these are all secondary to the customer's need to find the right car quickly and easily on a dealer's website.

4. Side-by-Side Vehicle Comparison - It's not uncommon for a customer to debate between two or more cars, and flipping back and forth between separate screens to compare car features is annoying, not to mention a waste of time. Today's customers are used to instant gratification through slick features and apps and as a result tend not to tolerate websites that frustrate them (i.e. slow to load, hard to navigate, etc.). The ability to pull up two or more cars for a side-by-side comparison makes the user experience helpful in a way that just may give you an edge over your competitor.

5. Social Media Share buttons – Friends and family often play a huge, if not subtle role in a buyer's purchase decision of major ticket items such as a car. Buyers want the ability to email or post a vehicle's picture and information to social media to show their potential purchase to friends/family. They want their family and friends' opinions, and they want to feel their excitement. If customers don't have the ability to share a car's photo/information on their favorite media channels, they may move to a site that provides that functionality.

6. Internet deals/specials/coupons - Customers can't shop online without being bombarded by coupon or promo codes, not to mention special deals. As a result, customers expect to find deals/codes and promotions when they're read to buy, especially when the item is as expensive as a car. If you don't have a section that says Internet Deals or Specials, customers may pass you over for a site that does, even before they've selected a car! We're not saying you have to give away cars in these deals, but the psychological advantage of having such a section makes users feel as if they may be able to get a better price or some advantage they wouldn't get elsewhere. Whether you end up rotating coupons, tying them to purchase or service agreements or just offering the occasional oil change at a discount is a separate strategy all together, but the key here is to HAVE an internet specials/discount section as part of your car dealership website.

7. Schedule Test Drive/Place Car on Hold - There's perhaps nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time researching the perfect car and then finally finding it only to have it bought out from under you because you didn't get to the lot in time to test drive it. Allowing a customer to not only schedule a test drive from your car dealer website, but also place a hold on a specific car until he can test drive it is a feature that shows the customer you care about him enough to work with him on his terms and his schedule.

8. Optimization for Smartphones/Tablets - You should optimize your website for smart phones and tablets because 90% of customers flip back and forth between PCs, smart phones, and tablets. If your website isn't optimized for smart phones and tablets, you have essentially destroyed the otherwise easy user experience for your customers. And you know what happens one your customers become frustrated… they move on to another car dealership website. Providing a seamless and user-friendly transition for customers who land on your website helps ensure you will keep those customers, regardless of which device(s) they use to access your site during the course of a day, week or month.

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