Article

Make Your Website a Destination

May 2012, Auto Dealer Monthly - WebXclusive

by Joseph Clementi - Also by this author


Your dealership website should be a destination and not a pass-through page. The metrics for evaluating e-commerce are used to determine the conversion rates. Is the website facilitating visitors to take action? That action can be in multiple formats from an email lead for a new/used vehicle, to a parts request or a service appointment. The most common measurements are the number of initiated contacts (emails, phone calls, visits, form submissions) compared to the total number of unique visitors.

In website analytics there are three essential online metrics:

1. Search engine results page views (SERPs)

2. Vehicle detail page views (VDPs)

3. VDP as a percent of SERP (your conversion rates)

SERP is equivalent to your drive-by traffic. VDP equates to your showroom up.  Proper display of your online product creates interest. That interest converts into vehicle detail page views, and that page view creates the opportunity for a sale. The guide for conversion rates of SERPs to VDPs should be at or near three percent.

There are three essential elements of website management for every dealer to monitor and manage that will help with your VDP conversion rate.

The first element is creating an effective website.
Effective websites keep the customer engaged on the website and cause actions of interest. The website design, functionality and ease of interaction are essential for keeping the customer engaged. The dealerships display area should be a gallery description of the products and services you offer. Thumbnail photos create interest in pricing. The product display should have a stellar, differentiating story line.

The second element is driving traffic to your website.
There are multiple ways to drive traffic to their virtual dealership. Two essential traffic drivers are search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO).

Search engines utilize spiders and crawlers to follow links throughout the Web. There are several factors that determine how high a site will appear on organic search engine results:

• Relevancy

• Popularity

• Number of linked sites plus the strength of those linked sites

• Organization of the site. (How simple is it for the spiders and crawlers to read?)

• Frequency of change in content.

A dealer can check their relevancy by using simple search tools. Visit Google.com and search your URL. That search will indicate if your website is readable and able to be indexed so that Google can “see” your site.

Your search checks should also include your city, and vehicles that you sell to truly evaluate your indexing results.

Pay-per-click is where a dealer pays a pre-determined amount of money to advertise their dealership online. Paid advertising is another way of increasing the visibility of your website.

The third element is effectively engaging leads.
The skills of the person (or persons) handling the leads being generated by the dealership website should be outstanding. If a dealer is to maximize VDPs, there must be a dedicated staff to respond to leads quickly, efficiently, and professionally. The lead response time for any lead generated from the website is crucial.  A service appointment request, for example, may need to be responded to the moment the request is made. It is essential to engage the lead immediately. A well-defined, clear process is essential for e-commerce success. Dealers who perform in the top 20 percent in e-commerce have developed processes for every form of lead submission. The ROI tends to be significantly higher in instances where defined processes exist compared to dealers whose plan is unrefined.

In the end, the customer visits a dealership website for one primary reason. The customer wants to determine if they should do business with that dealership. The dealer has very little time to separate themselves from the competition. An effective e-commerce plan for your website must include the following elements: articulate a clear business philosophy, leverage your location, feature accolades and awards, establish the expertise of your management team and staff, mention your community involvement, and display your merchandise. All this has to be accomplished in a website that is simple in design and layout, using minimal flash.

Vol. 9, Issue 3

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