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Using Customer-Centric Websites to Boost Sales

Forward-thinking dealers will utilize improved technologies to turn website visits into increased sales. BY DENNIS GALBRAITH AND GINO CIPPERONI

Dealers hear a great deal about new technology, but the issue that is of paramount importance is moving customers closer to the sale. More of those customers than ever before are visiting dealer websites, and savvy dealers are making bold new moves to capitalize on a higher percentage of site visitors than ever before. The changes involve innovation in content, design, technology and even a key move back to an older way of doing business.


Vehicle configurators have been popular with many shoppers since the early days of automotive Internet. Nearly every manufacturer has provided shoppers a method of configuring their preferred vehicle since at least 2000. What dealers lacked was their own configurator on their own site with no risk of losing the shopper to competing dealers. Today, some dealers actually have configurators on their sites that are superior to their manufacturer’s configurator in meeting customer needs.


Payment calculators existed on dealer sites for many years with no improvement to usability. The shopper was required to know what interest rate they qualify for. Clearly, very few do when they arrive at the store, no less while they are on the dealer’s site. Today, dealers are beginning to add payment calculators based on the shopper’s credit score and the dealer’s actual lending tables. With CreditMiner integration, dealers can know the shopper’s exact credit score without asking for their Social Security number. Both the shopper and the dealer know exactly what terms and interest rate the shopper qualifies for, as well as the resulting payment.

Easily Shared Information

Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) have relied heavily on photos, videos and seller’s notes to meet the information needs of shoppers. But savvy dealers are thinking beyond the information needs of the site visitor themselves. Most vehicles are not purchased by a single individual, and the site visitor is very likely to be the more committed of the decision makers. To sell more vehicles, dealers provide much more information than ever before and do so in a manner making it easy for one shopper to share the information with the other. Downloadable brochures and owner’s manuals are a case in point, but many dealers also show the awards and accolades attributed to the vehicle, the NHTSA crash test ratings, and EPA green scores. Virtually no dealers provided this information a few years ago. Now the practice is becoming increasingly common among leading dealers. Features and specifications are no longer simply listed on the dealer’s site, but categorized using tabs and titling for ease of navigation shoppers never enjoyed before. As the amount of information increases, navigation on dealer sites becomes more important than ever.

Preferred Language of Customers

All of this is lost if the site is not presented in the preferred language of the shopper. For example, the number of Spanish speaking shoppers continues to grow each year. Translation technology exists, but is imperfect at best. Studies have been performed to see how natural Spanish speakers react to basic translation of a website (i.e. the kind many dealers have now). There were a few key findings worth pointing out.

  • It has been shown that direct translation can polarize some members of a community as it results in an inauthentic voice. With simple translation tools, the voice of the site changes to something that sounds broken and incoherent to a native speaker. This is viewed as off-putting and actually does more harm than good.
  • When we look at the data, acculturated Hispanics tend to prefer Spanish advertising, labeling and signage for informative reasons, but also because they feel respected (57 percent) by companies that demonstrate appreciation of their heritage and culture through Spanish advertising and dedicated Spanish websites. They exhibit greater loyalty to these brands (53 percent). More surprisingly, Hispanic adults who are English dominant and consume media in advertising, also tend to perceive companies that market and advertise in Spanish positively; not for their utilitarian benefits, but for deeper emotional implications such as “respect of my heritage” (29 percent) and “appreciation for my culture” (26 percent). Simply using Google Translate tells these users that you want to offer them a good experience, but don’t want to put in the time and effort to do it right.

Having a Spanish site built from the ground up to reach out to this large and affluent demographic allows you to communicate to this group in a way that your competitors aren’t. This gives you a huge leg up in your marketplace, not just now, but years from now as you begin to develop a solid reputation amongst the Hispanic community in your area. If we look at the data, we see that Hispanic searchers who communicate exclusively in Spanish tend to share more promotional and high-equity content than those who prefer to communicate in English, and even more still than general population influencers. This means that building a Hispanic following today has a very good chance of growing into a very strong referral network as years go on.

The bottom line here is, as we look to the future, more and more businesses will have full Spanish sites. Getting to the party early gives dealers a chance to dominate this growing market and make it difficult for competitors to catch up once they finally get on board.

A superior website opens up additional opportunities for driving traffic to the site. With higher percentage of shoppers to the site converting to store contacts, a plethora of digital advertising options begin to not only make sense, but also offer superior return on investment to leads acquisition, third-party listings and traditional advertising.

With a Spanish language site, there are a number of reasons to invest in Spanish Paid Search. Spanish language paid search offers a huge opportunity to reach users who are only searching in Spanish, but do it in a way that is extremely cost effective. If we look at the data, we see that, on average, dealers’ average cost per click for a Spanish language search campaign is between 100 to 200 percent lower than the CPC of an English paid search campaign. This means that dealers can effectively reach this audience with a much smaller budget, while still maintaining a high rate of return.

Not only does Spanish language paid search cost less than English paid search, but it also allows you to be first to market in an area often overlooked by traditional marketing. Traditional media sources – especially radio, magazines and newspapers – see higher levels of consumption in Spanish than digital media, but Spanish speakers are also very active online. This gap is likely due to a deficiency in the availability of Spanish-language digital media, which may lead consumers who prefer Spanish to engage with English media first. Offering reliable Spanish-language resources may be a good way to reach some under-served Hispanic communities.

As it has always been, great marketing starts with a focus on shoppers and meeting their information needs. Technology has not, and will not, change that. Technology works best for the marketer when it improves shopping for the customer. Leading dealers recognize that many shoppers want to explore vehicles with a configurator, don’t know their financial options and need expanded information to persuade their partner. As fundamental as any other marketing element, shoppers want to shop in their preferred language.

Pull quotes:

What dealers lacked was their own configurator on their own site with no risk of losing the shopper to competing dealers.

Having a Spanish site built from the ground up to reach out to this large and affluent demographic allows you to communicate to this group in a way that your competitors aren’t.


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