Is Your Website Saying What You Want It to Say?

dealership websites

One of the things, about dealership websites, that I am constantly evaluating is how the digital experience translates to the in-store experience. The balance is precarious and oftentimes the website can feel like being simultaneously accosted by five street merchants hawking their wares. All of them immediately ask how they can help you, and then try to lure you into giving out your information.   

“You want a car? What’s your name?”  

“Service coupons over here! What’s your phone number?”  

“We want to buy your car! Just give us your email address!”  

How many times have you told your sales staff to not stand in groups and immediately pounce on a customer walking in the door? Yet, we continuously struggle to improve this experience online. Make no mistake customers are looking at those digital cues before they ever enter your dealership in the physical world. Regardless of how many digital opportunities—digital windows—you create the piece of the puzzle often missing is: Are you optimizing your website for the customer experience, and is your website saying what you want it to say?  

According to Google’s Auto Dealer Guidebook, only 26% of your traffic is going to submit a lead. That means 74% of people on your website will never leave more than an analytic trace that they were there. Hopefully, you have goal conversions set up in GA because this will tell you a lot about the behavior on your site, but even if you have all the information correctly you will never have direct contact with a majority of your website visitors. So, the question then becomes: Do you optimize to convert or do you offer the user the best experience possible? Do you increase your leads or do you win your visitors over so they are more likely to experience you in the real world?   

I am in the latter group and am an advocate for creating a positive overall online experience. I am not a believer in setting up dealership websites for lead generation for the simple reason that I want to focus on that 74% that we know is there and not clicking buttons or submitting forms. That being said here are five tips to ensure your website is ready to handle your marketing traffic in a pleasing manner.  

1. Make sure your website is responsive, mobile-friendly, and fast.   

This one should be a no-brainer. The majority of traffic going to your website is going to be on a mobile device. You have to think about your website experience from that perspective. Often, in consultative conversations, decision-makers will go straight to their desktop keyboards to visualize the topic at hand. They do not go to their phone. Most of your staff probably does the same thing. Yet, this is not how the consumer is consuming. Make sure that when you are discussing your website–either internally or with your provider, you are all looking at your website through the eyes of a consumer. Make sure you know how your website is on a mobile device.   

OF NOTE: Load time is critical. One study showed that bounce rates were as high as 32% at 7 seconds. Another way to look at this–“slower page load times can lead to a significant drop in revenue – some estimates say up to 1% loss for every 100ms delay in page load time.” (How Page Load Time Affects Bounce Rates and Page Views, 2017).  

2. Navigation menu  

The biggest struggle I see in most websites is the navigation menu. It’s quite simple, navigation should be the easiest aspect of your website. If you have more than 4 tabs on your menu bar, you have too many. Why? Because there are only 4 things customers are doing on your website—looking at inventory, investigating their sell/trade value, scheduling service, or learning about your company.  

 That’s it.   

Adding any more tabs to your navigation bar is a waste of time for you and certainly a waste of time for your customers. It should be very easy for the consumer to move between those elements–buying, sell/trade, service, who you are. Ask yourself this question: When you get a new user to your website homepage, are they able to get to where they need to with ease—how many clicks does it take? Too many secondary drop-downs and options make it difficult for a consumer to make a decision. This is referred to as interaction cost, or “the sum of efforts — mental and physical — that the users must deploy in interacting with a site in order to reach their goals” (Why Interaction Cost Matters to UX)  

Hopefully, however, you are using the digital channels that exist today to drive consumers directly to your VDP’s and are thereby bypassing the homepage, but it is important to still consider everything when designing your site.  

3. Think like Google  `

Application of the Google Model is how you win.   

The premise is simple: deliver the user the most relevant information as efficiently as possible.  

Google’s entire objective is to keep you on their search experience for as long as possible. That’s why they created the Google Business Profile (GBP) so you wouldn’t have to navigate away. Utilizing this same concept on your website will help you win big.  

Often, I use the search bar on a website and am rewarded with zero results. This is extremely frustrating. It is frustrating for your customers, as well. People will exit your website if they feel they are encumbered by their experience. How often is your website delivering a cumbersome or tedious experience to the customer? Do you know the answer to this?   

Another point of consideration is whether or not your website is easy for the crawling process. This is how Google breaks down your website for use in search results. Do you know how to verify the accuracy of Google’s data on your dealership? Do you know how to make it easy for Google to help you?   

4. How are your CTA’s  

Hick’s Law or the Hick-Hhymen Law states that the more stimuli, or choices, a user faces the longer it will take for them to make a decision.   

Here at DTVMS we are not big fans of creating websites for the purpose of generating leads, but if we are to view the website as a lead-generating tool, we are still overdoing it. Go to your website right now and tell me you don’t have more than three CTA’s. Recently we wrote an article about this very topic. We aren’t building our websites for the shopper experience we are building them as lead traps. The problem with this is when you give people too many choices—when you have too many street merchants shouting their wares—it deters customers from the exact thing you want them to do in the first place—making a choice. Instead, offer your customers one option. Just one.   


But! If you won’t be able to sleep at night thinking that someone is on your website unable to fill out a trade appraisal form at 2 am. At least create one color violating CTA. This tells consumers this button is important and the rest are afterthoughts.   

Think of it this way: You’re on market street and one person walks up to you. Are you more likely to stop and look at what they have to offer, if only for the experience? Now imagine that same street, those five hawkers are shouting at you to LOOK OVER HERE! Amongst them, however, one simply stands still and waits for you to come to him. Which person are you most likely to choose?   

This is how you need to be looking at your website.   

And by the way, don’t be afraid to experiment. You have had multiple CTA’s for how long? Now try using just one. Maybe you will get fewer leads, but more than likely those leads will be lower funnel.   

Wouldn’t you prefer fewer leads that are higher quality over more leads that waste your team’s time? Wouldn’t you prefer your team doing outbound efforts than wasting time on ineffective leads?  

OF NOTE: It is critically important that you tie your CTAs to specific goals and events in Google Analytics. Imagine sections of your website as the equivalent of rooms in your house. If someone were to come into any of those rooms your google analytics events and goals are the equivalents of knowing which drawers and closets that person rummaged through. If you don’t have these set up correctly you don’t know what customers are doing on your site. If you don’t know that, how can you make decisions to impact the bottom line?  

OF NOTE: Make sure your CTAS or at least your main one is above the fold.  

5. KISS baby KISS  

Keep It Simple Stupid.  

Your website should be simple and easy to navigate. Period.  

Simple to get the information a customer is looking for. This is about their experience, not yours.  

Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into the way your website displays. Just because that’s the way we have always done it doesn’t mean it’s the right way or the only way. Maybe that worked 5, 10, or 15 years ago, but let’s not forget customers have spent the last 2 years cooped up in their homes. Things have changed, and if you aren’t taking that time to utilize this new customer experience then you are not adapting. And we all know if you don’t adapt you die.   

Before we go, here’s your test: Get $10, $20, $30 out of your wallet and walk over to your son, daughter, niece, or nephew and pay them to look at your website. Pay them for their brutal childlike—or worse teen-like—honesty. We were talking about the overall experience of the user. Then what better way to test this? Ask them for five things you could do differently. Ask them to look at their phone and their PC.   

Having my 15-year-old and my 10-year-old going to my website on mobile and digital was well worth the $10 I had to pay them. You would be surprised at the feedback you can get from the shoppers of the future. I would highly suggest you do this.   

Herb Anderson / Charity Ann