Car dealers commonly believe that shoppers on their Web sites first look for vehicles based on price.
Wrong, says research by Cobalt, a major provider of dealer Web sites and other digital services. Shoppers first search by color, Cobalt says.
Another myth: Shoppers looking at a specific vehicle online want a pitch on the merits of a given store. Wrong again, Cobalt says. Shoppers regard a "why buy" pitch as a distraction.
Cobalt says online vehicle shopping is rife with myths, and dealers who avoid them can attract more buyers.
Enter Mini USA. Cobalt redesigned the Web sites of all 119 U.S. Mini dealerships in light of findings from the study, said Mini USA spokeswoman Nathalie Bauters.
The Web site at Prestige Mini in Ramsey, N.J, is cleaner and easier to navigate since the revamp, said Allie Lagomarsino, business development center manager for the store and a Prestige BMW dealership on the same campus.
Cobalt replaced lots of text on vehicle detail pages with informational bullet points, Lagomarsino said. When shoppers search inventory on the Web site, they are given colors before price to better define the vehicles they want to view, she said.
Jeremy Alicandri, vice president of business development for Habberstad Auto Group's two BMW stores and Mini dealership in New York City, said vehicle detail page views on the Mini store's Web site have been rising since the November redesign.
Vehicle detail pages are a crucial measure of shopper interest in a vehicle because the consumer is looking at a vehicle that the dealership has in stock.
From October to February, views of vehicle detail pages rose 26 percent and vehicle inventory searches surged 22 percent, he said.
Mini's Bauters said Cobalt redesigned the Web site of Mini dealerships simultaneously with the revamp of the brand's corporate Web site by its agency, Beam. The dealer sites use the same design cues that the main site uses, specifically a striking black background with white letters.
Beam incorporated in the main Mini site the ability to sort searches by vehicle color -- a feature that didn't exist before, Bauters said.
Lagomarsino's only gripe about the redesign is that the Web sites of all Mini stores now look so much alike. The white letters with black backgrounds make one site almost indistinguishable from another, she said.
But with a Web designer in-house, Prestige Mini is busy trying to add some design wrinkles to make its site stand out, Lagomarsino said. "We have to figure out how to separate ourselves."