Automotive Digital Marketing

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We all know that virtually everyone researches cars online as part of their buying process. The internet provides a wealth of information. From manufacturer websites, internet classifieds like, portal websites like Edmunds, and dealer websites.

Dealer websites have the ability to provide a wealth of information. Below is some of the information that can be displayed on new car inventory on a dealership's website.

  • MSRP
  • Invoice Price
  • Dealer discounted price
  • Incentives (Finance rates, rebates, lease rates)
  • Estimated payments and payment calculator
  • Exact trim level
  • Color of the car
  • Stock Photos, including color matched stock photos
  • Dealer taken photos of vehicle in stock
  • Dealer taken video of vehicle in stock
  • Stock commercial type videos about the vehicle
  • 360 degree spins
  • Standard equipment descriptions
  • Technical specifications
  • Optional equipment and dealer accessories installed on the vehicle
  • Similar vehicles in stock that may be used or new
  • Vehicle reviews

My question is, is there a point where too much information is too much? Sometimes I hear people say that they don't want to list everything because the customer won't have a reason to call. But I think they are forgetting something. Internet shoppers are usually looking for information and may go to multiple dealer websites until they find the information they are looking for.

Is more information always better than less? How much is too much?

What do you guys think?

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I agree with "...go to multiple dealer websites until they find the(y) information they are looking for." Information is readily available through search engines... so the more you can give them within a dealers site the less they need to leave. Organization of this data into clean easy to find / sort / digest pages is a winner in my book.
Hey Matt,

The reason that people go to the Internet to shop for a vehicle is to get information to make a buying decision without having to visit a dealership. Sometimes they turn to the World Wide Web vs. their local car row to avoid being pressured by a self serving car salesperson -- real or imagined -- or perhaps to save gas and time before they jump into the real world where they may be pressured into making a premature and spontaneous buying decision based on emotion and limited information. Frankly, as one car guy to another, they are right! (Can you say "spot delivery!")

The search engines' job -- like Google -- is to provide relevant information to their online customers to help them narrow down their list of vehicles of interest and answer related questions like trade-in value, payment options and the many items that you so wisely listed. Once those questions are addressed, they need to help their online shoppers to find an auto dealer that can provide a vehicle that best satisfies those terms and conditions; in that order -- vehicle first and dealer second. My point is that when Google first directs their customers to the most "relevant" source for their desired information, their job one is not necessarily limited to a particular dealership. Of equal importance is the reality that today's car shoppers are much better educated than yesterday's and they know what questions they need to ask before they can make a buying decision. For better or worse, auto dealers can't put that horse back in the barn!

Hang in there , I am about to actually answer your question!

The "adversarial" relationship that governed old world selling processes originated in the real world and they survived briefly on the virtual one on the Internet, but -- today and tomorrow -- not so much! Once dealer's realized -- or more correctly -- once customers told the dealers that they no longer controlled the access to the information that they needed to purchase a vehicle the dealers tried to "control" the information on the Internet; how is that working out for them!

Automotive advertising agencies first assumed that S.E.O. and S.E.M. was a way to put Google on the auto dealer's side of the Internet Super Highway. If they placed the right search words, meta tags, URL names -- and the various manipulations of the Google search alogorithms that we have all memorized as fast as they change them -- then they could manipulate the search results to place them as the most "relevant" source for the information and earn themselves a position on the short list. That certainly has value, but since customers are prioritizing finding a vehicle before a dealer and/or to answer related questions before they "open negotiations" on a particular vehicle at a particular auto dealer, then auto dealers are positioning themselves mid-sales cycle and they may be a day late and a dollar short for a large portion of today's and tomorrow's shoppers/buyers.

Now to answer your question - sorry that it took so long but I wanted to build a foundation for my answer. YES - the more information the better -- as long as it is relevant -- however, once at the auto dealer's site the more accurate priority is "transparency!" More time on page, and more page visits used to be considered a good thing but today, once again -- not so much! The easier and faster the online car shopper can find the specific information that they need to make a buying decision the better! Site designs are being simplified with more intuitive user interface and dedicated landing pages or linked micro sites to allow customers to limit the amount of "clicks" or wasted exposure to information that may be relavant to the dealer but not necessarily to the customer; at that time in their shopping cycle at least.

Once the shopper actually ventures onto an online showroom of course the plan is to keep them there by providing direct or linked access to anything that they need to move themselves further down the sales/buying funnel. The dealer may see these information resources as a "conversion tool" or a "lead generator" but if they lose track of the truth -- that the customer is still in charge -- they risk losing them with the click of a mouse. Sorry, but throwing their trade-in keys onto the roof won't work in your virtual showrooms!

The solution is to listen and learn from your customers before you presume to sell them anything! Human nature has survived on the World Wide Web and relationship based selling still has a strong influence on consumers. Today's online shoppers are being directed by Google and the other search engines to social networking sites because the marketplace is a conversation and people are social animals. Auto dealers who want to attract customers with a message that they are the best source for information that serves the customer's interest vs. their own are better served to have their customers make that case for them.

Next generation inventory based search portals -- like -- accept an auto dealer's inventory for free with the ability to link their individual vehicles using their vBack application to Ask-A-Friend or Tell-A-Friend about the vehicle -- and the dealer -- that they are considering. Since Google has already admitted that they are prioitizing real time social media, and we already know that more vehicles on a site open better relevancy to more online car shoppers, then the way to attract more online customers to visit your dealership as the place to go to get all of their questions answered will be the message that is carried along with your individual vehicles listed on this communal consumer-centric site; which is what the customers are looking for to begin developing their shortlist of dealers to do business with!

Similar customer friendly applications that distribute the information on your site which have the SECONDARY value of functioning as a conversin tool or lead generator are also key differentiators that quickly build branding value for your virtual showroom and enhance your online reputation as the place to go to get their questions answered vs. being sold something. One example of a next generation application is GetAutoAppraise , which is an appraisal tool that provides credible third party trade-in values sourced through NADA with integrated inventory information that allows the customer to review the entire transaction more efficiently. The form includes vehicle, price and payment information to and from both parties to the transaction in one easy tool. Video platforms, like SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot that convert pictures to video with human voice that are interactive to provide relevant information to the customer from within the video as well as direct links through their vShock application that opens a dedicated micro site with similar vehicles chosen from the dealer's inventory usng algorithms and business rules custom designed by the dealer to improve the customers vehicle selection is another example of a customer friendly information delivery system that will improve transparency for the customer once they find your dealership.

The point is -- to answer your question -- the more information that you provide to your customers on your website in the most relevant and transparent manner the better. However, you need to get them there first and since information is a key differentiator between you and your online competition -- or according to Google and your customers, it should be - then the information alone won't make it!

Phew -- sorry that it took so long but, hey --what are friends for if not to share best practices and experience on ADM!
YES to include all of your examples, but in such a way as to not interfere with people who don't ask those specific questions.

People who want/need that information will either find it on your site or leave you to find it elswhere -- possibly never to return!

The key is to not clutter the site with facts that might obstruct the transparency for the majority while still catering to the minority. Visitors must feel confident that they can easily find any information they want/need without diluting the relevancy that they expected when they entered the search words or phrase that directed them to your site.

I know that seems contradictory, but the solution lies in the applications on the site that deliver the details and the UI that makes their detailed inquiries intuitive once they are on your virtual showroom. Solutions like customer interaction programs that help consumers navigate within your site and/or "conversion tools" that deliver information in a customer friendly format are examples of tools that fit that requirement.

Wait a minute -- look who I am talking to. Vinsolutions is one of the most comprehensive and intuitive interactive platforms of linked solutions that there is so I think I am preaching to the choir!

The answers to which specific data points each dealer will ideally display will be somewhat unique to each dealership based on a variety of dealer-specific criteria... For example, a Luxury make dealership may want to cater to their clients with different data displayed than a Ford, Chevy or Dodge dealership. Likewise, depending upon the marketing strategy of a dealership and their own unique "Branding" in the local area, the data being displayed and how it is served up may ideally be different from other dealers with a more or less competitive strategy.

I was working with a certain Domestic brand dealer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland a few years ago and asked the GM "What is your store known for? Why would somebody go out of their way to do business with you?" His response was "We're known as the Whore on the Shore because we cheap-sell everything..." This resulted in a VERY aggressive approach to how we displayed MSRP, Dealer Invoice, Incentives and the discounted "E-Price" which required that they log in with a valid email address, name and confirmation by clicking on the link sent to their email... It works well for them to this day, plus their Internet Sales Specialists get alerts sent to their Blackberries every time a customer logs into their inventory app to see the cars and their "E-Prices".

Now compare that type of "Price Tease" model, such as what Anderson Honda in Palo Alto, CA uses, shown here:

With a luxury brand dealer's "User Experience" strategy for their primary website such as seen at Schumacher European's site:

What you have is different dealers revealing, and featuring a focus on different data points... Stories and messaging. Each one showcasing something different based on their unique definition of Automotive Digital Marketing strategy that will deliver their customer perception of who they want to be... and sometimes, who they really are!

The key from a dealer website supplier's perspective in seeking to better serve their clients, is to offer systems that are configurable and flexible enough to set up consumer facing inventory displays that present the dealer's products in a way that meets their ADM Strategic requirements from both a technical and aesthetic perspective.

Personally, I believe that some brands, primarily domestic, have so many incentives, "Either/Or" combinations of low APR and Cash Back, combined with Dealer Cash, stair-step programs and special incentives for everything from Military and recent college graduates to members of the US Ski Association and the Quarterhorse Owners Association... That a Horseowner who jst graduated from a ROTC University and is getting shipped to iraq, who is married to a woman currently in a 3 year lease will qualfy for an incomprehensible bundle of incentives... It is actually a disservice to quote a rice without determining which incentives each individual may qualify for, and then which ones they might select depending on their own situation with financing, how long they keep their cars, etc. The complexity of their OEM "Contest and Incentives" matrix almost requires a personal consultation before an actual price and APR can accurately be provided to the car buyer.


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