What’s new for dealership websites? People who build them say “rich media,” meaning assorted enhancements.

“Sites are beginning to get more rich today. Before long dealership sites will be giving the OEM sites a run for their money,” says Gabriel Krajicek president of Dealerskins, a Nashville-based company that builds dealership websites.

Advanced imaging and video capabilities are starting to find their way onto dealership websites. BZResults.com has a remote-controlled device that can take a 360- degree view of a vehicle’s interior.

Instead of having to click on several different pictures to see various parts, customers will be able to drag the mouse and view the interior as if they were inside the car.

The technology is already common on hotel websites and should be prevalent on dealership sites in the next year.

Another enhancement is the development of point-and-roll technology – a vast improvement over the point-and-click method used today. Imagine a photo of a vehicle with a list of potential colors along side the picture. As the mouse scrolls over the colors in the list, the vehicle changes to the corresponding color. No clicks needed.

Sophisticated features such as this, are showing up on dealer websites.

The Cerritos Infiniti website, www.cerritosinfiniti.com, built by Dealerskins, is oneexample.

Another is the Koons Automotive Group website, www.koons.com, powered by Izmo Cars, which has videos built into its vehicle library, in addition to point-and-roll technology.

Intriguing stuff, but how does it help to convert website traffic into leads and ultimately into buyers?

For starters, website design companies are starting to package these technology enhancements into their e-mail tools, in addition to the websites.

Sales managers can design e-mail campaigns and auto responder e-mails that are model-specific. The e-mails can include the vehicle image and window stickers.

“The people who are doing this are doing it moderately well,” says Krajicek. But he says current technology is much more robust.

Dealerships can take all of the above technology and package it into their e-mails today,” he says. “It’s like having a micro-site within the e-mail.”

An auto responder e-mail automatically pulls up information about a vehicle for which the prospective buyer has sent a lead and place it in the e-mail response – this includes all of the reviews, media-rich photos, videos and anything else an Internet manager includes.

But dealers shouldn’t stop there, Krajicek advises. The e-mail should have calls to action directing the shopper back to the website. The calls to action can be vehicle-specific, such as providing the shopper with an opportunity to complete a financing application or trade- in appraisal information. All this can be done before the Internet department sees the lead.

Another development is the growing popularity of dealership websites that have their own auctions. It’s something BZResults.com is working on, says co-owner Sean Wolfington.

Websites allow dealerships to place as much information about the vehicle as they deem necessary. They’re not as constrained by space limitations as they are in print classifieds, Wolfington notes.

Having more information can help increase sales on the auction site. “Not all used cars are the same,” he says. “But dealers forget to inform their customers of that.”

The website is a great place to differentiate those vehicles, he says.

Matthew Belk, Hendrick Automotive Group’s e-business director, is building an online auction micro-site on the Hendrick website. But Belk is taking it one step further. He’s going to start running Hendrick-branded auctions on eBay Motors.

“We’re starting to experiment with that,” he says.

cbanks@primediabusiness.com