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The Future of Trust Online - Let online trust be a part of your New Year's resolution...

Let online trust be a part of your New Year's resolution... and your success!

Trust... a concept you probably spend a lot of time pondering at the dealership, and you need to know that trust is becoming even more critical than ever to every link in your business chain, from brand credibility to each car you sell. It's on your prospective customers' minds from the time they decide whether to visit your website or a competitor's, and it will determine whether they find themselves in your showroom or the one just a few miles away.

Your online appearance represents your brand and how tightly you run your ship. Recent research has revealed a staggering statistic - 50 milliseconds - that's how long it will take someone to form an initial impression of any one of your website pages, be it the homepage or a landing page. If you're a part of a larger dealership group, be sure to adhere to group standards for the sake of consistency and brand equity. Be you part of a larger group or a single, independent rooftop, all elements of your site design - fonts, colors, layout - should all combine synchronously into a single "look."

Less is still more, so get rid of the clutter! Make your message clearer to the customer and increase the likelihood of conversion simply by editing down every element to its necessary essence. Avoid too many calls to action; once someone enters the conversion funnel, you want to limit the number of ways they can leave, and a disorganized - looking page may cause enough navigational friction to turn a prospective customer into part of your bounce rate. How many homepage banners and buttons can fit into 50 milliseconds? Only enough to distract the customer.

If your website is older and overflowing with "link juice" you may stand a better chance at ranking higher for the short-tail keywords, but both types are still necessary for well-rounded, comprehensive SEO. A stronger focus on SEO is equally important for either type of website; remember that the term "SEO" now implies far more than its acronym... it's the pillars of site content, meta content, URL structure, inbound linking and content silo management (linking relevant content together on and off-site) that uphold the stature of your website.

Speaking of "friction," it comes in many forms and translates into "POA anxiety." At every Point of Action, from the lead form on a landing page to the customer's faith in your likelihood to provide them with the best service after purchase, give assurance at each possible point of concern to more effectively move the customer through the conversion funnel. Place emphasis on your genuine customer concern and make sure that your customer knows that they, their money and their information, are safe with you - no selling of email addresses or any other information to third-party companies, and you'll be there for them for the life of the vehicle if there are any issues at all. If you provide a better warranty, complimentary maintenance or roadside service, or even if you have a special inspection process on your used cars, every one of these is a critical part of your online trust and your value proposition - customers want to know more about these than the specs on a particular vehicle, which they can get at any number of sites. Their online trust in you will be achieved when you show them why you're a better overall package than your competitor, and that you can be relied upon.

Online trust goes hand-in-hand with the interactivity of the internet itself. Have you noticed that a dissatisfied customer will rush to the nearest computer to tell the world of a bad experience on a dealership review site, while happy customers rarely take the time to speak of it? Harness the positive... a simple email campaign to your customer database offering a free oil change in exchange for posting a positive review online can, in one fell swoop, harness all the good testimonials of customers past. If you're starting fresh now, take advantage of customer waiting time by asking them to take 2 minutes to post about their experience for a service coupon in return. One marketer recently spoke of how easily he could capture the reviews before the customers had even left the dealership...

"We just set up a laptop in the lounge, where we have a coffee bar, and asked customers to post their reviews while they were waiting for paperwork or after the sale. In exchange for nothing more than a cup of coffee and a danish, we easily got 9 out of 10 to write reviews."

As our lives are increasingly being lived online, building market trust in any industry is a new challenge, but the automotive industry has even more to overcome with the stereotypes believed about car salespeople and dealerships overall. There is no face-to-face opportunity to build that trust upon a prospective customer's first impression online, so these few simple guidelines can help you better gain the confidence of your target market in the new year. Let online trust be a part of your New Year's resolution... and your success!

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Tags: SEO, branding, customer, friction, management, relationship, reputation, website

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