In the current competitive auto market, having an online presence is a must. Before they even set foot in your door, chances are the majority of your customers will have checked you out online. Websites and social media function as extensions of your dealerships. They are virtual showrooms where customers can view your newest models, meet your team and get to know your dealership’s culture.

However, not all online presences are created equal. Though almost anyone today can create a site or put up a dealership Facebook page, if not executed properly, these online tools can cost you customers. It’s vital, therefore, to be able to evaluate your online customer experience so you can ensure their digital interactions are ones that motivate them to take the next step: coming over for an in-person transaction.

This is where mapping comes in. Mapping is a process that allows you to gauge which aspects of your online strategy are working and which need to be done away with pronto! It does this by using customer feedback to create a visual representation of what your clients experience when interacting with your online platforms.

To start, you’ll need to map your customer’s journey. This refers to the steps it takes from them discovering you to them engaging directly with you. To do this, look at all of your dealership’s online touchpoints –  points that bring contact between you and your customers. These might be online ads, web descriptions, blog posts, etc. You’ll also want to think of the ways customers physically access your online tools: are the majority using cell phones or computers to look at information.

Once you’ve identified touchpoints, have customers volunteer to provide feedback about their experiences engaging in your online information from the various starting points all the way through navigating the platform itself. This can be done through surveys, informal questions when they’re chatting with you at the dealership or through a focus group. It can also be through reading reviews left for you either on your website or on review websites that feature your dealership.

If possible, give customers providing feedback a list of tasks you want opinions about. For example, your site might offer price calculators, comparison options, as well as a chat window where potential buyers can interact with your sales team. Ask the customers if they’ve used these features. Then have them report any frustrations –also known as ‘pain points’– they might have experienced while using the features.

Soliciting customers to give this feedback might be uncomfortable, in which case, you can gather similar data through role-playing. Put yourself and team in the mental shoes of a customer and attempt to navigate your dealership’s online presence. As you do so, keep up a running monologue of questions: Was it easy to get to? Are pictures clear on phone screens? Can customers easily find important information like sales? Is your home page full of grating imagery?

Once you’ve collected your data either from customer surveys or role-playing, you’ll map it out. This can be done using an online mapping tool, or on an old-school whiteboard. Make a web or a table that shows the path(s) it takes for customers to reach specific objectives on your site. Then identify which points presented ‘pain’ for your customers. These are the areas you’re going to want to focus on. Brainstorm on how to make them more easily navigable for future users. Then, go about fixing the trouble spots. Additionally, if you find that your map is crowded with many points of interaction, consider ways to reduce steps and cut away excesses that distract from the customer experience.

Mapping does take a little time and requires a good amount of data gathering. But this visual way of looking at your customer experience is a worthwhile investment as the changes mapping helps you make will ultimately improve your online customer experience, which in turn will bring more people in to take a look at what your dealership has to offer.

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