As more and more business moves online, your dealership website is increasingly important. Customers now often check out your website before visiting your premises – and if the website is below par, you won’t make a great first impression.
It’s easy to spot a badly made website but much harder to figure out what you should do to build a good one. We might not all have huge budgets to create a flashy online presence, but with a little thought and planning, your website can still impress potential customers by being clear, informative and easy to use.
Protecting your premises and everything in it – including any computer hardware – should be your top priority as a motor trader. Get a quick quote for motor trade insurance from Insurance Choice today.
Why do websites matter?
A slow shift towards online car sales has accelerated rapidly under pandemic conditions. The closure of physical premises and concerns about Covid safety meant that dealers had to adapt to new working practices in order to ensure their business would survive.
GForces, an ecommerce service provider for 20 manufacturers across 65 markets, says that sales of new and used cars using its online platform rose an astonishing 1,228% in 2020
, representing over £500m in online car sales. GForces predicts that transactions will grow from around 58,000 in 2020 to 72,000 in 2022
As online shopping for cars becomes increasingly normalised, your dealership could lose out unless your website is up to scratch and able to compete. This doesn’t mean you have to become a super high-tech online sales platform, but equally a basic website with not much more than your business name, opening hours and phone number might not cut the mustard any more.
What should be included on your website?
The exact nature of your car dealership website will depend on the characteristics of your business, such as the type of vehicle you trade in or the services you offer. However, these features are likely to be important:
This is a standard part of any website now – a section that encapsulates what your business is about. This could be a brief description of your company’s journey, for example how long you have been trading or if you are a family firm. It should also state the core offering of your business, such as the best prices on used vehicles around, the widest selection of electric cars, the best servicing etc.
What you offer
It should be very easy to discover what your business actually does from looking at your website. If you can, divide your site into sections describing your different activities, for example different types of vehicle you stock, your valeting and servicing, warranty details and so on. If you stock a wide range of vehicles, you might want to break the site up into different categories to help customers find what they are looking for. Be as clear as possible about what you provide – it will waste time if you are vague or misleading.
You have to assume that most of your customers will view your site through a mobile phone or tablet, rather than a laptop or desktop computer. Your website design must be mobile friendly, otherwise your customers could have a poor experience with overlapping images, hidden buttons and slow loading speeds. If your website is not mobile friendly it will also be sent down the search results ranking list by Google.
A large percentage of people visiting your site will want to get in touch – they might have a question for you or want to make an appointment. Don’t make them hunt through your site for your contact information or they might think twice and go to a competitor! Remember, many people prefer to use email, chat or an enquiry form rather than a phone number, as they might be visiting your site outside of working hours.
Terms and conditions
You should always include a link to your Ts & Cs on your website somewhere. This will help to make matters clearer if you are ever subject to a legal challenge – for example, specifying the limited company that customers contract with when they buy from you. Your motor trade insurance
may also have requirements for you to notify customers of these matters – check your policy wording for details.
Make it easy for customers to find you. This means including your address and your postcode, as well as embedding a map showing your location. If your site is tricky to find, a few sentences describing the best route to you or local landmarks can also be helpful.
Social media links
You might think social media is a bit beyond the scope of your business, but you’d be wrong. Your customers are looking to see whether your business is run by people they can trust. A social media presence showing what you and your team look like and what services you offer can help to reassure would-be customers that they can expect a friendly and professional welcome – helping to get them one step closer to a sale.
Many visitors to your site will be looking for simple information such as your opening times. Make this easy to find, and ensure that the opening times on your site and on Google results are all accurate. There is nothing worse than a customer coming to your premises and finding you are closed because the opening times given online are incorrect.
Details of vehicles
Prospective customers want to know the details of your vehicles so they can get a good idea of what you stock, your prices and your terms. You could invest in a search facility for your website so customers can filter by price, colour, model, engine capacity, number of doors, motor insurance category and so forth.
Visual information is much more powerful than written information. You might have the best vehicles at the best prices, but if the photos on your website are low res, blurry or poorly taken then many customers will be turned off. Your website represents your brand – if it looks clunky and badly put together, people might think this applies to your vehicles, too.
Use video to bring your site to life
Customers are often influenced by videos on your site as these give a fuller picture of what they can expect. You don’t need to shoot a feature-length film of every car on your forecourt, though. Clips showing key members of your team, or brief explainers about key issues such as how to judge a used car or carry out basic servicing will give your customers a good impression and encourage them to trust you.
Testimonials from customers
People love having the reassurance of knowing others have bought from a dealership and had a good experience. If you include testimonials from customers, prospective buyers will see you as honest and transparent, rather than another used car dealer trying to pull a fast one. Of course, reviews are never 100% positive. If you provide a good service and respond rapidly and professionally to any critical reviews, you should be able to maintain a positive image.
Shopping for a website
How do you find someone to make you a website that will boost your business? If your tech knowledge is limited, it can be daunting to contemplate handing over a large sum to someone without really understanding what you will get in return or how to judge whether a website is a success. There’s no shortcut for really getting to grips with this stuff yourself – the internet is here to stay, after all.
However, here are some of the main considerations you should take into account when approaching a web designer.
Good domain name
Your site should be simple and easy to spell, avoiding any numbers or hyphens. The best website names also work well with search engine terms, for example place name + motors will turn up more results than just using your own second name. However, if you have a well-established brand then this will also help to produce search results.
Make sure your site is scalable and look for good tech support
Web hosts provide the behind-the-scenes tech support that enables people to see your web pages. The package you go for should be scalable so you can grow your website easily, or increase and decrease your bandwidth to deal with fluctuations in your trade.
Using a virtual cloud hosting plan usually provides the best option for affordability and flexibility. You should ask questions about the security measures in place and what kind of tech support is provided – does the company provide email and phone support?
State what your business does
Before you shop for a website, you should be very clear about your business’ main proposal – what you offer, how and to whom. If you are fuzzy about this then your website design process is also going to be inefficient and time consuming. A clear, concise description of who you are and what you do sets the tone for the rest of your website.
Websites are like rooms in a house – they work best when thought has gone into them, they are free from clutter and there’s a subtle but consistent style throughout. A bit of research looking at your competitors’ website should give you some ideas and pointers, but a good web designer can also more than pay for themselves in saving you the headache of making style decisions for yourself.
Much of what we do when we visit a website is subconscious – our eyes scan the page and work out where to click without taking in every single element or reading every single word. Use a clear navigation system with bold push buttons for where you want customers to take action (for example, ‘get in touch’ or ‘find a car’). You can use colours to help users navigate your site, choosing bold colours for buttons and calmer colours for background elements.
Including free-text search functionality on your website will allow customers to search for exactly what they want, rather than hunting through your pages to see if they can find it. A motivated shopper who knows what they are looking for wants to cut to the chase, rather than browse through all the content on your site.
Content management system (CMS)
A CMS is used to allow you to maintain and edit your website. This means you can tweak the wording of your main pages or add regular updates to sections such as your blog, vehicles for sale or news and upcoming events.
Changing your site content regularly helps to flag it as an active site for search engines, meaning you are more likely to appear in search results. There are many CMS options out there with various pros and cons – just make sure you go for an option that is user friendly, the right price point and allows you to do all you need to do, for example changing templates or adding plug-ins.
Running a modern motor business is a demanding, multi-faceted job and it can be hard to ensure you can wear all the right hats – dealing with sales, business management, employee issues, maintaining your premises and then handling a website on top.
It is important to understand how your website impacts the risks faced by your business, and how these are covered by your motor trade insurance
. For example, what would be covered by your motor trade insurance if your systems were hacked and customer data was stolen?
Insurance Choice can help you select a motor trade insurance policy
that is tailored to your business’ individual needs. For example, you might need road risk cover, valeting cover, mechanic cover, or collection and delivery cover in addition to your insurance for general business risks such as employer’s liability, public liability, and buildings insurance.
Insurance Choice has been providing protection for dealerships for over 20 years, so we know the trade inside and out. If you prefer, you can opt to spread the cost of your insurance into monthly instalments.
Get a quote for motor trade insurance today.