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Last year I reviewed 35 popular automotive website platforms and published the results in the first ever Automotive Search Marketing Architecture (ASMA) study.   Of the 35  platforms reviewed, nine companies were recognized for excellence based on criteria that I set for the study.


We are now finalizing the applications for the 2010 ASMA Awards that will be presented in the fall.  I would like ADM member feedback on some of the criteria you would like to see in the comparison grids this year.


We will review about 40+ website providers this year and part of the study will be a chart that compares the base feature set of their website and add on modules the vendor offers.   This year we will include line items for mobile sites, mobile apps, Facebook apps, CRM, market pricing tools, etc.


As we compare and contrast the 40+ car dealer website platforms, what type of side by side data and comparisons would you like to see?  This is a big undertaking to create the report so your feedback will help make the report more meaningful to automotive professionals.


Please share your feedback here...I would appreciate your thoughts.


Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing

Tags: 2010, asma, awards, car, dealer, websites

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Brian, I have been studying dealer website visitor tracking metrics for over 10 years and have noticed consumer page visit and time spent on different sections patterns evolve.  For example, ten years ago the new vehicle inventory was the top dealer website section, by unique visitors. But during the past 3 years I have seen the Used Vehicle Inventiry section surge ahead to become the most visited section.  Lately, as we segment traffic by referring source, we see that the most visited section by consumers coming from social media links is the Hours and Diections page. Also, the top most visited sections outside of inventory has been consistent for at least ten years.  It is the Specials Section. Which begs the question; Why have we not seen more emphasis on automatically generated vehicle, accessory and Service specials based on a set of time and inventory based rules that the dealer can modify in the site's CMS admin section?
Here are a few:

Internet Browser Compatibility.
Unique URL Pages.
Ability of dealer to update / add unique content.
Effective (ease of use / understanding) Analytics.

Good Selling, DTG

Dealer websites should reflect the evolution of the Internet to accomodate human nature -- which has remained the only constant. Ralph's reply evidences the shift from new vehicle inventories as the primary destination for online shoppers to pre-owned inventories since they represent a unique vehicle which is best reviewed at the source -- the posting dealer -- while new vehicles are more universal with multiple online resources to access for information.

More relevantly to answering your post, it is important to note that the primary source for information on purchasing or servicing a vehicle for online shoppers has shifted to social networking sites where the conversations are ongoing before, during and after the buying/service cycle for consumers who now have real world experiences of their friends to source for a decision vs. filtering through a series of self serving auto dealer's sales pitches.

My point is that the sites that best accomodate information that has value to the customer vs. the dealer and that are "social media" friendly will be the most relevant and transparent to the consumer resulting in the highest number of unique visitors and improved conversion rates. Of equal value is the fact that this type of consumer centric feature/benefit functionality on a site is also valued by the serach engines when ranking the site for page positioning which further enhances the viral nature of the exposure that the site can generate for the dealer.

Other consumer friendly feature functions to deliver information like interactive videos vs. pictures and customer interaction platforms that allow instant access for support to answer specific questions -- such as a comprehensive chat program linked to the DMS to accomodate online transactions -- provide an online virtual shpowroom experience that will be enjoyable and shared amongst friends; again accomodating social media plays a role!

The dealer's website is no longer the ultimate destination for information as consumers go to the web to find a vehicle vs. a dealer. However, auto dealers still need to reserve an address on the Internet SuperHighway. A well designed website that integrates into other online resources -- such as social media and relevant consumer based resource portals -- as well as with the real world processes at the hosting brick and mortar facilities will still earn a place on the customers short list to purchase and/or service their vehicle.

The websites of the future must address the customer's needs vs. the dealers by earning the dealership friends who will share their experience vs. attempting to make a sale at the risk of coming off like a "car salesman." After all, what are friends for!

PS: The title of "car salesman" is something to be proud of if the word "professional" precedes it! To be a true professional one must study his/her field and provide a service that is valued by his/her customers to justify their fees. The Internet can provide an excellent tool for a professional car salesperson who is willing to help his/her customer navigate through it.


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