Why a great website is so important to the success of your dealership

Car shoppers spend a lot of time online before buying.

Car shoppers spend a lot of time online before buying.

The average car buyer spends nearly 15 hours shopping for a vehicle – a little less for new-car buyers, a little more for used-car buyers.

And most of that time – about nine hours – is spent online, according to Cox Automotive.

In other words, your ability to make a sale may hinge on how much of that time you capture online and the shopper’s experience when they get to your website.

While the Cox study says that walk-ins still are the most frequent “initial contact” with dealerships – about 53 percent of all buyers, 56 percent of new and 52 percent of used – it doesn’t count website visits unless they involve online chat, a very small slice of the pie at 2 to 3 percent.

IL-BLOG_70630-11 (The Net Effect Logo)_WordPressIf website visits were counted, they would be the second-most frequent initial contact at 49 percent overall, 50 percent among new-car buyers and 47 percent for used-car buyers.

“Nearly half of all buyers visited the website of the dealership where they purchased or leased a vehicle,” said the Cox study. “It is critical that dealership websites are user friendly, compelling, consistent across devices and accurately reflect the pricing, incentives services and amenities that are offered when the consumer visits the brick-and-mortar dealership.”

That makes your website an important part of your sales team, especially if you can capture a larger share of the total research time and/or online time spent by shoppers, and provide those visitors with an online experience that satisfies their car-shopping needs.

Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening at most dealership websites, according to the Cox data, which reflected shopping behaviors of 2,175 consumers who recently purchased a vehicle.

“Dealership websites drive dealership visits,” said the Cox study, but less than half (47 percent) of new-car buyers would give dealership websites a score of 8 to 10 on a scale of 10. Dealerships do better with used-car buyers, but only 60 percent gave dealership websites 8-to-10 ratings.

With all that’s at stake, those results leave a lot of room for improvement for most dealerships.

The next installment of our series, “The Net Effect,” will cover what car shoppers are doing online as part of their shopping experience.

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