After visiting dealership websites as both a consumer and a reporter covering the industry, I've become convinced that some dealers never actually use their websites.
It makes some sense that people running businesses that sell cars and trucks would not have to shop their own websites when they need new vehicles for themselves. When dealers want a personal vehicle, they know how to get what they want and where to find it.
The trouble is, some dealers may never see their websites from the consumer's point of view. If they did, they must certainly overlook some of the things I've found annoying, such as pop-up windows asking to chat with me while obstructing other options I'm trying to click on.
And I'm not the only one who thinks that, for shoppers, these kinds of things are bugs, not features. Shane Marcum, vice president of Dealer Specialties, a division of Dominion Dealer Solutions, a company that provides inventory management and marketing services, told attendees at the Used Car Week convention last week in Las Vegas that, as people increasingly shop online, the website has essentially become a new front door to the dealership.
"When a consumer lands there, they don't want to be bombarded with things like '$500 off' and 'appraise your trade' and all those pieces," Marcum said. "And that's direct feedback we've received from consumers that say, 'When I get hit and all this stuff starts popping up, I'm just ready to move on.' "
I'm with them.
So what should dealers do? "Keep your meet-and-greet clean" on the Web, Marcum advises, just as you would in the physical realm.
"Think about how can I give our consumers that I spend as much money [on] as I do to land on these websites, the cleanest, friendliest, most proper greeting that I can," he said.
The website improvement process does not end there. For customers who keep browsing, vehicle inventory should be easily accessible. Full transparency on vehicle condition is key. That way, when customers do show up at the store, there won't be any unwanted surprises.
The fewer barriers that pop up, both in the digital and physical world, the happier shoppers will be.