Convert Website Traffic to People on Your Dealership Floor

More than 97% of consumers start their car buying experience online. This means automotive dealerships need to do everything they can to steer online potential buyers into their showroom. Studies show that customers spend about 2.25 hours on dealer websites before they actually go to the dealership to purchase a vehicle. One of the best website tools a dealer has for converting web visitors to people on the dealership floor is an online credit application.

A credit application is a win-win for both the customer and the dealership. The customers benefit from saving valuable time and receiving faster approvals. Dealers benefit from the self-service application because it:

  • Increases and provides higher quality leads
  • Shortens the buying process
  • Fosters customer satisfaction

On average, less than 46 percent of online borrowers complete their credit application. The easier you can make the finance process, the more likely they will complete it. These four best-in-class techniques for online applications will significantly increase your completion average, which means more qualified leads. More leads mean more deals.

Keep the form simple.

It’s really tempting to ask potential customers for related information. When you have their attention, why not get all the information you can? This is the wrong approach. Asking for too much information or unrelated information works against you. Consumers get wary and tend to abandon the form. Only ask for the information you absolutely need to have for the initial approval. You will have a chance to ask for additional information later.

Include inline error handling.

Web analytics reveal that forms with unclear directions are one of the biggest reasons consumers abandon the application. Today’s technology can guide customers’ entries. If a customer accidentally enters the wrong kind of information or misses entering information, a good application will highlight the actual field they need to fix before they submit the application. Real-time entry validation helps people complete your credit application faster with less effort, fewer errors, and more satisfaction. (See illustration.)

Inline error technology displays red flags before a customer goes to the next section.

Inline error technology displays red flags before a customer goes to the next section.

Add contextual FAQs.

It’s pretty standard to include a list of potential questions with the answers (FAQ) on a website. However, if people have to navigate away from your credit application to find information on another page or in another section, you take the risk that they will not return to complete the form. To avoid sending people elsewhere for answers, link the answers right in the form near the related steps in the process. For example, where the name and address are entered, you might have a link that says: “What if my mailing address is a P.O. Box?” On the page where income is entered, you may have a link that says: “Should I include my total annual household income or only individual income?”

Promote the application in relevant places.

Providing the right information at the right time is critical to motivating a potential customer. Using prominent calls to action, integrate the credit application with your inventory. For example, in the product details about a vehicle, include attention-grabbing buttons or links that say, “Apply for Credit Now” or “Get Pre-Approved.”

Consumers are demanding a higher level of convenience. The good news for dealers is that automating labor intensive processes like the credit application can significantly cut costs and close more deals.

Renee Triemstra, vice president of strategy and customer experience for ChannelNet, has shaped and launched many successful digital marketing programs for Fortune 500s across multiple industries (including automotive, home improvement and retail). She is an expert in web solutions, reengineering business processes and creating customer communications that sell products and retain customer relationships.

Renee Triemstra


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