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May 22 2017

You could have the most friendly receptionists, the smoothest sales team, the most impressive showroom, and even the best F&I department in town, but none of that matters if no one is there to experience it.    

The average vehicle shopper only visits 1-2 dealerships before making a purchase. The fact of the matter is that most of the vehicle research and buying process is done online today.

It’s important that you are getting yourself in front of shoppers during their online research and creating a memorable experience that meets their needs and earns a trip to your showroom.

In this article, we’ve highlighted six ways in which your dealership can stay competitive in an increasingly digital world and win over consumers with a premium website experience.

1. Create engaging content optimized for search

The average research timeline for a new car purchase can span months, as mentioned in a think with Google article. Consumers are turning to search engines for answers during all stages of the online shopping process.

The mindset of many dealers is to optimize their website for bottom-of-the-funnel visitors who are ready to make a purchase. While this is a great practice, there is tremendous value in creating content that will put your dealership in front of your potential customers right out of the gate.

Think of what questions your ideal prospects will be searching and create content to answer these questions. For example, a popular search query might be, “What is the most spacious and fuel-efficient vehicle on the market?” Write a blog or create an offer, such as a white paper or eBook, that answers this specific question while showcasing your brand(s).

2. Equip users with intuitive and engaging vehicle research tools

You’ve worked hard and spent your marketing dollars to generate traffic to your website through a number of advertising channels, shoppers have expressed interest in your brand, but a substantial portion of them (as many as 70% - Cox study) are unsure of their next vehicle.

Rather than forcing site traffic to blindly dive right into your inventory, offer them recommendations based on their needs.

Software such as PerfectFit® Vehicle Shopper, an attribute-based search engine, allow users to weigh the importance of certain vehicle features/criteria and will return the best matching vehicles based on their selections.

Additionally, consumers can research each model in depth and identify available features and specs for each trim.


Once your site visitors have narrowed down vehicle models of interest, allow these candidates to compare models and trims across or within brands. Vehicle comparison is a necessity for the majority of today’s vehicle shoppers.

Offering a vehicle comparison tool is an effective way of keeping these prospects on your dealer site and off 3rd party research sites where you could potentially pay for them to come back, or worse, lose them to your competitors.

3. Let your prospects build their perfect vehicle

After diving into model details and comparing the various trim options each model has to offer, your shoppers have a pretty solid idea of what vehicle they are looking for. Enable these engaged prospects to build their perfect vehicle with an intuitive configuration tool and then submit a lead.

Not only would your dealership capture these leads, but would inform your marketing and sales teams of the drivers behind purchase for these ideal candidates.

4. Offer pricing and vehicle valuation tools

Carmax-Payment-Calculator.jpgGoogle revealed five micro-moments that most vehicles shoppers research at some point in the process. Two of these five moments are related to pricing, can-I-afford-it and am-I-getting-a-deal. Your dealership can win both micro-moments by offering pricing and vehicle valuation tools right on your website.

Many dealers are already offering payment calculators and vehicle valuation tools, such as KBB, NADA Guides, or Black Book, right on their VDPs and sometimes SRPs. If your site is not offering either of these tools, they are a worthwhile investment that will help build the trust of your dealership and improve the user experience.

5. Provide authentic reviews

Reviews are a major part of the online shopping and purchasing decision in any industry, especially in the auto industry where purchasing a vehicle is a much more involved process and dealerships have not had the greatest reputation.

According to Vendasta, 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision, and 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.

If you want to win over your potential customers, it’s essential that you offer authentic reviews for both your dealership and for the vehicles you sell.

What about negative reviews?

Sometimes negative reviews aren’t a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the company Reevoo has found bad reviews to be good. In one of their eBooks, they state that “Customers spend more than five times as long on site when they interact with bad reviews, trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 85% more often.”

If your dealership has 5-star reviews across the board, your prospects will be suspicious of their authenticity. It’s impossible to please everyone, so it’s not worth pretending. Offer real reviews!

6. Provide digital retailing solutions

A hot topic in the auto industry right now is digital retailing. Consumers expect to be empowered with tools that allow them to complete much, if not all, of the purchasing process online before even setting foot in your dealership.

In an ideal world, buyers should be able to complete all steps of the buying process online and be presented with the option of vehicle delivery or in-store pickup. For those that would like to test drive at the dealership and work with real people for certain purchasing steps, your sales team should be able to pick up where the buyer left off online and make the in-store experience short and sweet.

If your dealership does not support digital retailing, there’s a good chance you will be left behind. And If you are concerned that digital retailing will take away from your physical dealership, read this article explaining why dealerships are still an essential part of the car buying process.

Additionally, check out some of the digital retailing solutions available to you, such as Roadster’s “Express Storefront” and Drive Motor’s dealer solutions, or create a unique experience of your own.


Your digital storefront plays a significant role in the success of your dealership. Offer a great user experience with valuable content to help consumers make an informed decision on their next vehicle and reap the benefits of more foot traffic to your physical dealership or online sales as a result.

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