A potential car buyer or service customer reaches your dealership’s homepage. That’s the first step in acquiring new business in automotive retail today. The Cox Automotive 2019 Car Buyer Journey Study reports that car buyers spend, on average, 13 hours and 55 minutes researching online before making their purchasing decision. That time is split between the desktop and mobile devices, with 77 percent using a desktop to shop and 59 percent using their smartphone.

Shoppers spend so much time online shopping, but where they’re shopping is heavily dependent on the website experience. If a website is streamlined and responsive with valuable information, the shopper will stay longer. But if your website is clunky or unusually slow, it’s all but guaranteed you’ve lost them. 

How Patient are Online Car Shoppers?

For mobile website shoppers, Think With Google reports that 53 percent will not stay on your site if it takes more than three seconds to load. If a page increases to 10 seconds load time, bounce rates skyrocket 123 percent. The bad news is that the benchmark time for mobile pages to load is about 15 seconds.

Desktop users are even less patient due to high-speed internet as today’s standard. The bottom line is that shoppers expect fast websites. 

Web Design is Your First Impression

Sweor indicates that it takes online shoppers 1/20th of a second to “form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they’ll stay or leave.” When your dealer’s website loads on their desktop of mobile device, it better be appealing.

websiteEven more damning is that 57 percent of shoppers won’t recommend a retailer whose website is poorly designed. Without even giving your dealership a chance, your website can cost you referrals. 

Content is King

Once a potential customer arrives on your website and stays, it becomes all about earning their time online. You’ve heard the phrase, “content is king”, and it’s true. Shoppers must be able to find your current inventory, accurate hours of operation, full staff listing on your “About the Team” page, and anything else they could want. That includes service, parts, accessories, collision repair, and of course, engaging vehicle descriptions.

If your site is out of date – for example, you’ve left a 2018 model year advertisement posted months into 2019 – you immediately lose credibility. Can a shopper trust your dealership with their new vehicle purchase if the dealer can’t keep their website current?

The same goes for service specials and parts, but particularly vehicle inventory. Every vehicle listed online should be current inventory. Any request you receive on a vehicle you’ve already rolled is perceived as a bait-and-switch, or simply lazy. There’s almost no chance that customer will visit your dealership. 

How to Improve your Website User Experience

There’s no quick fix for a slow, poorly designed website but it’s absolutely worth the investment. You can’t afford not to do it. 

To improve website speed: 

  • Reduce image sizes. It takes a lot of data to load pictures especially. Keep your website’s images small enough that they’ll load yet detailed enough to be of value to the customer. Medium-sized images like 640×480 are fine, and in JPEG or PNG format. 
  • Keep headers, menus and footers small but easy to navigate. Menus can be especially slow if they contain an image. 
  • Don’t place videos on landing pages. 

To improve your website design: 

  • Hire a professional. While most manufacturers have specific requirements for web design, it’s up to the dealer to fill in the content. Unless you have an in-house web design specialist, you should be assigning your web design to a firm that can keep your content relevant, timely, and working perfectly. 

To keep your content fresh: 

  • Have a mix of sales, service, and local information posted to your blog or news section on a consistent basis. This is where you build value for your website users as well as increase your online authority in search engines. 
  • Maintain an overall visual theme. From one page to the next, your content should appear consistent. 
  • Post information that readers can find value in, no purchase required. Show them how to change an air filter or how to set up and use Bluetooth, for example. 
  • Use CTAs. A call to action compels the reader to contact your dealership, which is the ultimate purpose for your website. Give clear methods to reach the appropriate department for their inquiry.

Whether on a mobile device or desktop, the website experience has to be on point. It’s a job that’s never done and will require resources continually, even just a couple of hours per week. The rewards for a well-performing website, though, are exponential.

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