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The First Tenet of Online Automotive Customer Experience Design - Less Is More

Ben Herd

Ben Herd’s unique expertise is in leading enterprise scale projects in web consumer experience, digital advertising, and business intelligence. His experiences include product and innovation management for the World-wide Retail Buying Experience for Amazon.com.  He is also a key founding member of Microsoft's adCenter paid search business.   Ben joined Cobalt in Feb 2013 to redesign inventory merchandising and help dealers offer the best consumer vehicle shopping experiences on the Internet.

 

When a customer first walks into your store and asks to see what vehicles you have on the lot, what’s the first thing you do?  Ask them if they need financing? Or if they know how great you are?  Ask them if they want to trade-in their vehicle right now? Distract them with your free oil change offer?  No, you take them out to the lot and show them your cars, just like they asked you to.

 

You let them tour the cars they’re interested in, walk around em’, sit in them, ask questions,  etc.  You provide careful guidance and suggestions to help get them comfortable and confident in the vehicle they want.  You’re there to make sure they’re happy with the car, satisfied with your support, and ready to begin a long-term relationship with you and your dealership.

Get Out of the Way of the Customer

 

The same approach needs to be taken when creating your online customer experience (or CX)--- get out of the way of the customer and don’t distract them from their goals.  So we launched a comprehensive study with in-market shoppers to discover exactly what kind of experience they’re looking for when searching your inventory. Our findings formed the basis of the 2014 Inventory Shopping Experience Study. More significantly, they’ve inspired the redesign of our newly launched inventory platform now in beta.

 

Among the many findings, one overarching theme stood out. Generally most customers are coming to your site to do research, evaluate a few vehicle choices, and then either call or submit a lead to your dealership.  They do NOT want to be distracted by non-essential page elements or content that are irrelevant to the goals of the page they’re exploring.

 

 

 

For instance, on your vehicle search results page, would you like your customer to easily search and scan your listings to find the vehicles they’re interested in? Or give them a page full of text about how great you are and a picture of your cat? Aren’t they searching for a C-A-R not a C-A-T?

 

Remember, they chose to go to the vehicle search results page to presumably do just that, search for a vehicle. Not to be inundated with dealership information that is completely unrelated to your inventory.

 

Consumers are busy, so overloading them with information, icons and calls to action that are not relevant to their goal forces them to think too hard and really tries their patience.  It’s important to position elements and content appropriately to make your shoppers' search experience easy and enjoyable. When designing your inventory shopping experience, provide only the content that is relevant to the context of the page and don’t add extra content that would distract the consumer from the main task. Don’t frustrate them. Enable them to be successful.

 

… provide only the content that is relevant to the context of the page and don’t add extra content that would distract the consumer from the main task.

Don't Assume How You Think Is How Your Customer Thinks

 

Too often dealers fall into the trap of making assumptions about their website experience based on their personal feelings and emotions, or on what they want to promote and advertise.  But these assumptions have little basis in actual business intelligence (data) and/or real consumer experiences.  If implemented without real world proof they can result in a complicated consumer experience that increases the risk of shopper frustration and abandonment on your site.   As hard as it is, dealers must remove their personal bias or assumptions and base their merchandising decisions on the evidence that can be found in real in-market consumer interactions with their website.

Curate Your Websites CX

 

Well thought out and clean CX has several effects on customer behavior, including an increase in website traffic, customer referrals, customer retention and most importantly, conversion and revenue.  According to Forrester Research, Razorfish, RightNow-Oracle and Monetate97% of consumers were influenced whether or not they would purchase a product or service from a brand based on their online experience.  Furthermore, 65% of consumers answered yes when asked if an online experience ever influenced their opinion about a brand or the product and services they offer.

 


Think long and hard about whether a particular message or imagery should appear on a page, and if it would distract from the ultimate goals of the customer on that page.  Isn’t your goal their goal; get them to the right car, so you can sell it and they can buy it?  Distractions do not equal connections.  Adapt your content to where the buyer is in the decision making process.

 

Don’t add extra content just because you have space.  You know the saying, I’m sure your mother or father once said it… just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Avoid the urge to overload the customer with too many page elements that cause “search fatigue” and distract them from their goals AND the action you need them to take next to reach them. When it comes to optimizing your inventory, less can indeed mean more.

 

Want to know what else consumers had to say about their inventory shopping experience? Watch our webinar as I help breakdown the specific common practices that result in decreased engagement on your VDPs and VSRs, and the steps to take to avoid them.

 

Are you unknowingly alienating shoppers and sabotaging your inventory? Find out what it takes to design a shopping experience that sells cars.

 

 

About the Author

Ben Herd's expertise is in leading enterprise scale projects in web consumer experience, digital advertising, and business intelligence. His experiences include product and innovation management for the World-wide Retail Buying Experience for Amazon.com. He is also a key founding member of Microsoft's adCenter paid search business. Ben joined Cobalt in Feb 2013 to redesign inventory merchandising and help dealers offer the best consumer vehicle shopping experiences on the Internet. When Ben is not thinking about the next great online shopping experience he likes listening to music, collecting and sampling wine and most of all enjoys spending time with his son, daughter, and wife.

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Comment by Ben Herd on March 14, 2014 at 3:46pm

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your comment.  We do not have specific data on CTA button color and size yet but we are doing more usability testing with real off the street in-market shoppers.  Generally you want your CTA to be noticeable but not obnoxious.  You want to queue the customer to action without annoying them.

We have already rolled out enhancements to the VSR & VDP to MINI dealers, others are in the works.

Thanks

Ben

Comment by Alexander Lau on March 12, 2014 at 10:38am

Too many backlinks (ADP sales pitch) to corporate company hell.

Does your downloads include usability studies and if so what sample size?

Comment by Joe Webb on March 12, 2014 at 6:11am

Excellent information. Many of these points validate those dealers who've been thinking this way, and enacting these strategies, for a long time. While you mention only having one CTA on the SRP, do you have any information as to what size, colors, placement yield maximum click-rates to the VDP?  Has Cobalt determined when they are going to make this CTA change to their website platform's SRP's?

I feel the SRP to VDP click seems to be the biggest step for the online shopper to make. Any further insight you can give that would help guide the customer down to the VDP would be appreciated.  Great study, by the way.

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