How to Win the Fight for Online Consumer Attention

Dealers need to provide the one-stop online shop today’s consumers are seeking

Back in the day, the only major interactions most consumers had with your dealership were when they talked to one of your salespeople in person. Nowadays, many those interactions are happening online: OEMs are online, data validators are online, and your dealership is online.

In the past, consumers would go straight to the dealership in order to get information. But now dealerships have taken their hands off the steering wheel, allowing consumers to interact with third-party brands.

Although this might seem fantastic from the outside looking in, the separate entities covering appraisals, vehicle history, and financing can be overwhelming. There are just so many ways to buy a car: consumers can rent, lease, buy online, buy in-store, etc.

Dealers are finally starting to understand that this separation of different vehicle-buying aspects is more likely to be hurting their dealership than helping it. Although consumers are able to complete a lot of major steps with these online tools, consumers would prefer a one-stop shop for all of their purchasing needs.

The whole industry is fighting for consumer attention, and as it stands now, online shoppers are feeling overwhelmed. With this understanding, dealerships are now attempting to come up with better ways to fully engage with consumers on their website.

So, how can your dealership accomplish this? Well, before you attempt it, there are a few things you need to acknowledge.

Put the shopping experience online

You’d be surprised by how many dealerships out there don’t provide an optimal online shopping experience to their consumers.

Sure, your entire inventory is listed, and there’s a form on there for your consumers to reach out—but is it even a shopping experience at all? When consumers shop for a car in-store, they’re doing multiple things: looking at inventory, getting their vehicle appraised, inquiring about financing, and, of course, buying a car.

I get it—most dealerships want their consumers to visit them. You want to be able to talk with customers. But because most consumers shop online, it’s in your best interest to emulate that shopping experience on your website.

Even if the final purchase doesn’t happen online, consumers should still be able to look for inventory, get a trade appraisal, get approved for financing, etc.

Website tools should talk to one another

Let’s say your website provides an adequate shopping experience. Although it’s commendable that your dealership’s site has all these tools installed, things can get really confusing.

For example, say you’ve got a consumer who just went through a trade-appraisal experience using a tool on your site. Now what?

The following part depends on your dealership’s ability to push that consumer to the next possible step. On most dealership websites, when consumers complete one experience, it’s because they went on the site with the intention of getting specific information.

If you want to push your consumers to use other tools, make your tools “talk to one another.” Going back to our appraisal tool example: Make sure that tool can send information over to another relevant tool (say, a payment calculator), so it appears as an option for the consumer later on.

Lots of dealership website tools on the market allow for integrations; for example, trade-appraisal tools that integrate with your CRM. Ask your software provider for more info.

Acknowledge the consumer

The last and, arguably, most-challenging aspect of fighting for consumer attention is simply acknowledging their existence through your website.

Take Amazon, for example. When you visit the company’s site to make a purchase, you sign up for an account, login, remain logged in, and exit.

Upon returning to the site, what happens? If I look in the upper right-hand corner, I notice a greeting (“Hello, Russ!”), and every other aspect of the landing page is customized to me. Everything I do on Amazon’s website dictates the way Amazon will converse with me.

Your dealership’s website should have a conversation with you. Based on your previous search activity, the site should be able to suggest next steps.

Software providers make it possible to show custom buttons and banners to individuals who meet specific prerequisites—and those buttons and banners will lead them to the next step in their purchasing journey.

In addition to customizing how consumers go through their purchasing journey, Amazon is also great at remembering names.

This might not seem like it’s a big deal, but how often do you get an email from a vendor (with whom you have a relationship with) about an e-guide or whitepaper, only to have to fill out a form to tell them who you are. In order to fully acknowledge a consumer’s existence, your website needs to remember who they are.

Even if you think that you’re 100% devoted to capturing online consumer attention, there are still things you can do to ensure they’re your only focus. I hope these suggestions I’ve provided will help make your site more engaging.

With more than a decade of experience in the auto industry as a dealer, Russ Chandler has seen firsthand the problems dealerships face every day. As a product marketing manager for PERQ, Russ combines his expertise with powerful technology to provide his clients with increased response and conversion on their marketing.

Russ Chandler

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Michael I May 10, 2017


    You have raised some excellent valid points. Although this article mentions auto dealers, the main take-away from this is that it is applicable to ANY business.

    Thank you Russ!



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