Personalization is certainly trending in the automotive web space now and promises to continue to be a hot topic in 2017 as well. As the online retail giants, such as Amazon and Target, continue to implement and perfect personalization strategies and functionality, it’s only natural that dealers want to get in on the action. While the industry isn’t quite ready to go full “big brother” and have fully artificially intelligent websites, there are some things you can do to start offering familiar experiences and functionalities to customers on your websites.

Allow Your Customers to Personalize Their Own Experience First
Instead of diving in head first and trying to offer a 100 percent dynamic experience, it’s worth it to understand that there is no way to predict what content every shopper wants to see and how they want to see it, especially if they’ve never been on your website before. Therefore, it’s imperative that you give consumers the ability to personalize their own experiences. Of course, the simplest way to do this is to offer a very easy-to-use navigation and website search functionality. You may want to include more advanced search functionalities such as “shop by feature” or “shop by payment.” You don’t have to stop with what they want to see; you can also let your customers choose how they see the info. An example would be to make list or grid views selectable on your inventory search pages.

Remember the Little Things
There are a lot of gimmicky ways to introduce personalization to a website, such as a custom message if they visit from a competitors’ website. While flashy, it offers little to no value for the customer. Instead, add functionality that makes their experience simpler. A great example of this is the recently viewed and saved vehicle module. Make these modules smart. Cookies help them both during their visit and when they come back.

Make It Subtle
The goal with personalization is to make visitors more efficient on your store/website. DealerSocket’s CrossFire tool helps achieve this goal by giving you the data to tailor your messaging based on a user’s online behavior. It is imperative to keep your messaging relevant and timely. Without the insight provided by CrossFire, you run the risk of crossing a line from being helpful to delivering content that is off-key or worse yet, creepy. This is particularly true for phone campaigns.

Keep It Secure
As user and online personalization become the norm and get more sophisticated, it’s important that users are comfortable supplying you with the data you need to provide such experiences. Use the information responsibly. Openly discussing a customer’s browsing behavior is a little too creepy. Additionally, as we add more personal/transactional elements to our dealerships sites, such as digital retailing, it’s important that the data itself is secure. The only way to do that is to encrypt your site data via SSL. In simple terms, your site should show a lock in the navigation bar and include “https” in the address. Users are becoming more aware of this technology and require it before supplying you with more data.

The personalization movement is a powerful one that opens a lot of doors for dealerships. It’s easy to get excited by the possibilities and go too far quickly. This can do more harm than good. Remember the main objective of personalization: to make your site easier to use and simplify the experience. Begin by allowing your customers to personalize their experience. From there, you can take small steps to help them use your site more efficiently. Eventually, you can use data about their behavior to improve your marketing in subtle ways. Lastly, make sure you are responsible with your customer’s data by keeping it secure. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.