Are You Ready For Web 2.0?

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tim Madel - Also by this author

Everyone knows they need to have a fantastic, effective dealership Web site to be competitive in today’s tough automotive retail market. The best dealer Web sites are visually stunning, have numerous calls to action, make it easy for users to find inventory and provide visitors with all the necessary information to start the buying process.

This style of Web site design reflects the founding principles of the Internet during its initial growth and early adoption stages. A publisher had access to information consumers wanted, so a Web site was created to host that information. Then, they tried to lure visitors through Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to their Web sites to consume the information offered. This is how most sites worked for years and how dealer sites work today.

Over the past few years, a steady, inexorable shift from the publisher/reader model has occurred. The new model is known as Web 2.0, a term coined by industry guru Tim O’Reilly. It is characterized by more personalization and participation by users.

The most successful Web sites are now developed around principles involving users in the creation and sharing of content. Think about Amazon, the most successful e-commerce site on the Net. Amazon was one of the few survivors from the Internet shakeout because they differentiated themselves from their competitors. Many sites offer the same product selection as Amazon, some even at lower prices, but few offer the same amount of information about the products as Amazon. The amazing thing is the majority of the information is generated by users of the site in forms of reviews, lists and comments. This offering of information is what keeps people returning to Amazon.

Another key shift in the development and use of the Internet is the rise of personalization. Yahoo and Google users can customize homepages to include only relevant information they are interested in. Blogs allow users to easily create and maintain fresh Web sites. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds allow a browser to easily keep tabs on Web sites and have information fed to them. All of these technologies are changing the online browsing experience from that of seek and find, to a highly personalized experience where users are fed information that interests them. If you are familiar with Tivo, which records TV shows based upon your viewing preferences, Web 2.0 will work similarly. Someday users will open up Google on their browsers and not have to visit other Web sites to get information they want. Instead, it will be provided via streaming to browser windows.

The Web is becoming ubiquitous – everyone is going to use it to find their next car. Users are going to expect that every Web site they visit offer features that make the Web easier to use. Next month we’ll discuss how dealers can capitalize on Web 2.0 features to sell more cars.

Vol 3, Issue 7

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