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6 Tips for Delivering Dealership-Quality CX Online

As The Online Shifts in Consumer Habits Continue, It's Time To Optimize Your Digital Dealership

Buying a vehicle ranks high on the list of life’s biggest purchases, and it comes with a host of established rituals. You dream about a new vehicle for months—sometimes years. You research your options, consult with friends and family, shop around, visit dealerships, talk to sales reps and test drive your options until you finally figure out what you like. Considering that familiar process, it’s no wonder the average customer might, at one time, have shied away from making such a substantial purchase entirely online.

If you own a dealership, you know that’s simply no longer the case. As the world moves away from traditional brick-and-mortar shopping due to factors like the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing shifts in consumer habits, car dealerships are no exception. Many experienced shoppers are not only researching major purchases online, they’re completing the sale digitally too.

Today, 62% of consumers say they’re more likely to complete steps of the automotive purchase process online due to COVID-19. And, based on a recent study, two-thirds of shoppers are more likely to buy their vehicle 100% online.

How can dealerships win?

These shifts leave dealerships with the relatively new challenge of providing a digital shopping experience for customers who demand speed, competitive pricing and delivery to their doorstep in 24 hour or less. (Thanks, Amazon Prime.) As the pandemic accelerates online demand, how can you be sure your dealership is offering the same level of customer excellence digitally as you do in person?

Here are six key tips to ensuring your digital journey meets the high expectations of today’s customers and gives them the tools they need to complete their vehicle purchase fully online.

Be searchable

Think back to when you were planning your dealership location. You probably put lots of time, thought and research into selecting the ideal site. You considered factors like foot traffic, zoning, highway proximity, opportunities to expand and more. The same strategic planning applies when you’re mapping the customer journey to find you online.

Considering that Google holds 92% of market share and is used by 84% of people three times a day or more, it’s easy to see why your dealership and vehicles need to be easy to find on the search engine.

To capitalize on the visibility Google affords, evaluate your search ranking and search engine optimization (SEO). At a bare minimum, your website should appear on the first page of Google when a customer or prospect is searching it by name. Ideally, you occupy the top spot. You also want to be top-of-mind when customers are comparing brands or searching for vehicles by keyword. To achieve this, you need a more advanced SEO strategy.

Be responsive

In the first quarter of 2020, mobile devices accounted for 56% of organic search engine visits. Clearly, if you want to maximize online sales, you need to make sure your website shows up ready – whenever and wherever customers want to reach you, whether on their phone, tablet or other device. Throughout the research and purchase process, customers are likely to switch between different devices, so it’s essential that the experience be consistent and easy, no matter what device they’re using.

The best way to ensure this is through a mobile responsive website. This approach allows you to build in useful actions, such as a click-to-call button rather than a static phone number. Features like this may seem minor, but they can drastically improve the customer experience, minimize UX-related distractions and keep their eyes on the prize: your product.

Be fast

The days of waiting patiently for a dial-up connection are long gone. As more and more of our lives shift online, we’ve come to expect a lightning-fast experience. To be sure, in-person customers don’t like waiting either – in lines, for help or for products. But when it comes to waiting online, customers simply won’t tolerate it because they don’t have to.

When a website’s page load time is 7 seconds, 32.3% of visitors bounce compared to just 9.6% when load time is 2 seconds.

If your website isn’t fast enough, customers can easily hop to the next search result and their experience with your dealership ends before it even begins.

Not only do you lose people right out of the gate with slow page load times, but you also impact the number of pages your customers view within your website.

Customers visit an average of 5.6 pages more when your website’s load time is 2 seconds compared to 8 seconds.

The longer your consumers spend on your website navigating and educating themselves, the higher the likelihood of a sales conversion.

Be user-friendly

Nothing drives customers away from your website faster than an unpleasant user experience (UX). If what they need is hard to find, requires too many clicks or displays poorly on their device, they’ll quickly drop off. That’s why accessibility and ease-of-use aren’t just UX design buzzwords. They’re key to sales conversions. Think of it in terms of in-person shopping. When you’re planning your sales floor, you strategically place your products and marketing materials to attract customer attention. The same is true online. When customers browse your website, every piece of content needs to be well thought-through and deliberate.

On top of that, all the information customers need to access should be easy to read, easy to navigate and easy to digest. With just seconds to keep their interest before they bounce, the last thing you want customers to experience is confusion or frustration.

If your mobile site is difficult to navigate, there’s a 61% chance they’ll leave.

Take time to plan the flow of the digital browsing experience for your customers, just as you do when planning how they’ll move through your physical space. Map the shortest, most logical path to get them where they need to be – in front of your product.

Be personalized

Although your customers aren’t visiting you face-to-face in a showroom, they’re still considering making a major purchase and they want to feel as personally valued as they would in your dealership. While it may be a self-service experience, you can still build in tailored elements for each customer. And you can provide tools and resources that deliver the same information a salesperson would, minus the hand-holding.

One easy way to achieve this is to offer an online profile option and incentivize customers to take advantage by signing up. Creating a profile is a win-win because it gives you access to customer data, while allowing shoppers to benefit from a more customized experience that can include things like a wish list, previously built “dream car” or vehicle recommendations based on past browsing. Having their profile information also opens the door to additional touchpoints, including newsletters, surveys, promotions and personalized communications.

Be data-driven

All of these tips are great, but the only way to know whether you’re hitting the mark for your customers is by measuring your success. Make sure you have a strategy for collecting your site visitors’ feedback so you can make measured decisions and drive improvement in your digital customer journey. Here are a few ways:

  • In-the moment feedback – Engaging with your customers through website intercept surveys is a great way to learn how a wide variety of users are interacting with your website in real time.
  • Clickstream data – You can tie website intercept surveys to clickstream data to make sense of bounce rates, shopping patterns and information gaps. This data can explain why your conversion funnel is stalled and help you improve the experience.
  • Post-visit questionnairesSurveying customers after they use your website is a valuable way to evaluate why the sale didn’t convert. You need to have customer profiles in order to implement this approach.

Once you have website feedback, review it with your team and act on it. If a customer complained a toilet was broken during a dealership visit, you would fix it right away. The same level of urgency applies to broken user paths, slow-loading web pages and broken product tools within your website. Just as you would carefully review your in-dealership CX results on a frequent basis, make sure you carve out time to listen to your website feedback.

Optimize your digital dealership

By addressing these six elements of your website – searchability, responsiveness, speed, usability, personalization and feedback – you can make sure your dealership is delivering the same level of quality online that customers expect from an in-person visit. With an optimized digital experience, they’ll have everything they need to complete their research and purchase fully online – making your website your most profitable investment for COVID-19 and beyond.


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