Today, more consumers are researching cars online before ever stepping onto a dealer’s lot, significantly cutting down on the time spent at dealerships.

In a recent Accenture survey of 10,000 automotive consumers, 62% said they researched their vehicle purchase online before contacting a dealer, while only 7% said they did not use the Internet.

As websites become the primary method consumers use to evaluate dealership inventory, an excellent site design is no longer a luxury. It is essential.

The creation of a great dealership web presence begins with an honest discussion:

  • How does your site compare with the competition?
  • Can users effectively engage with the content?
  • Are there enticing visuals?
  • Overall, what is being done well, and what could be done differently?

Here’s how to improve website design and content.

Ensure Site Is Design-Responsive

A responsive-design architecture makes a dealership website look great, regardless of the device (mobile, tablet, desktop).

This year, Google modified its algorithm to penalize sites that do not have responsive designs, because searches from mobile devices now exceed 50% of all search traffic. As a result, the importance of a responsive-design website is increasing every day.

Be Visual

Yes, the shopper undoubtedly will want to read about the condition of the vehicle, specs and mileage, but a lack of quality and range of photos will quickly turn away web buyers.

To get shoppers offline and on your lot, make sure the Internet sales and marketing team is trained in photography. Good photos bring in the educated and savvy web consumers who show up ready to buy. Bad photos will send them to your competitors.

And don’t be afraid to use videos. Some customers actually prefer video as their means of digesting content, plus videos can help with search engine optimization.

Create Call-to-Action on Every Page

Customers aren’t as likely to become buyers if there is no online call-to-action.

If a consumer has to spend too much time figuring out how to make contact with your team or purchase services, they may move on to the next dealer.

Add Links

Hyperlinking to other external pages builds credibility. Linking to other websites also makes it more likely others will link to your site, which improves SEO.

Make It Personal

Chemistry always has been a critical part of the dealership customer experience. For today’s digital customer, who often decides which vehicle they want to buy before they visit a dealership, this process of building chemistry needs to begin on the web.

Introductions can be made online through staff bios and pictures. Let your staff show off their personality and tell web visitors their story – what makes them unique, what their quirky traits are and how they got into the business. This gives the dealership a face and provides customers with a reason to work with your salespeople rather than a competitor’s.

Stand Out

Today, nearly every auto dealer realizes digital is the future and is working to build excellent websites to take vehicle sales and service to the next level. Cookie-cutter responsive design templates no longer are good enough to stand out from the crowd.

The key benefits of digital marketing are measurement and flexibility, so dealers can shift their strategy quickly. So, when you plan your digital marketing strategy, don’t be afraid to try something new to stand out.

John Paul Strong is owner of marketing firm Strong Automotive Merchandising.