Here are Three things I've come to realize as an retail ecommerce expert turned automotive marketing professional:
1. The interactive dealership body has exploded over the past 5 years.
2. Dealership website are looking all too much the same.
3. Dealerships are falling victim to the "Cookie Cutter".
If your dealership isn't leasing a web solution from Dealer.com, your likely running on a TK Carsite, eBizAuto or Dealerskin web platform. Wow....Not much room for dealer differentiation by leveraging your website is there? Like a cookie cutter, a templated solution can conform a dealer to certain parameters so that the user experience wont find distinguish one from another. Yes I'm only speaking figuratively here folks.
Content and functionally-rich turnkey web solutions that can integrate with all major DMS’s are now obtainable for every small and medium size dealer. Nearly seven years ago cost of owning a highly functional, content-rich website placed a solid customer-need centric web presence far out of the reach of many dealerships. A few years back, getting a website with the level of functionality and content richness commonly prevalent today often meant incurring a high cost of ownership due to planning, custom web and graphic design, web development and ongoing associative maintenance. And like "manna from heaven," along came the turnkey, highly functional templated web solution and "poof" ..dealers worldwide were given the opportunity to be visible once more in amid an ever diminishing off-line shopping market.
Let there be light.
People aren’t walking the lot like they used to, well they do but your lot is now online. That’s where the people are and the sooner you realize it then you have removed one mental barrier to success. The facts are there. Shoppers gravitate towards highly anonymous zero-pressure, and time efficient cross channel shopping environment offered online. With expectations made by the consumer for the dealer to accommodate the online market with functional websites and transparent content, dealers are in the danger of losing their brand identity online to the cookie cutter.
The solution is this. Before getting a website, research dealership websites located in the deepest recesses of your market and differentiate yourself by being different. Templates are making us all appear the same. As the customer, you can convey an expectation to your web provider that the website they provide you offers you room for at least 51% customization capability to the website design / presentational aspect/ functional /widget aspect. Just don’t settle for the out of the box template. They’re the provider and you are the customer. For the sake of your business identity in the customer’s mind eye, do yourself a favor and differentiate yourself online and expect it to be affordable because the amount of customization nessary to meet your brand requirments shouldn't cost you thousands of dollars if done intelligently. And the first and most impactful place to start is with those website’s design elements most affecting website look and feel.