Why a decent website is key for dealers

Time 11:12 am, May 18, 2015

autotraderHAVING a customer-friendly website is more important than ever for dealers, according to Auto Trader.

It reveals 71 per cent of used-car buyers visit a dealer’s website before making their purchase.

Research based on interviews with 1,300 new and used-car customers, its surveys reveals a higher proportion of digital forecourt visits for car supermarket customers, at 78 per cent, and independents at 75 per cent.

Meanwhile, the proportion visiting a franchised website was slightly lower at 61 per cent.

When asked what information they look for in a dealer website, most buyers focus on stock. A total of 57 per cent said they visited a website to check the range of stock, 41 per cent to check availability of a car for sale and 53 per cent to check prices.

One in five looked for practical information like opening hours and contact details while location maps were sought by 13 per cent of visitors.

Auto Trader’s market research director Nick King says: ‘The internet has fundamentally changed the way cars are bought and sold. Consumers do most of their research online when looking for their next car and this includes visiting dealers’ websites.

‘Consumers don’t feel the need to contact dealers as much, either – they simply turn up on a forecourt knowing exactly what they want to buy.’

But the research also suggests dealer websites are increasingly used to build trust in the company from which they wish to buy, as Nick King explained. ‘Today, around one in ten buyers actively look for customer testimonials on a dealer website. A similar proportion seek background information on the dealership itself, such as how long it has been in business.’

Building trust is an important factor in the success of family-owned business Chrome Motors, based in Macclesfield. Managing director Danny Towns said their brand success had been built on an understanding the industry has changed, that customers have higher expectations and are better informed than they have ever been in the past.

‘I would say that between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of our customers use our website to help build trust in our business,’ he said. ‘When they arrive on our forecourt and we talk to them about testimonials, they often tell us they’ve already seen them on our website. I would estimate about half of our customers research us solely online before visiting in person and I’m very comfortable with that.

‘Our website isn’t perfect yet, but it reflects our track record in supporting local community projects and reputation for providing excellence in customer service. Customers like that. Today we are all looking for the John Lewis-type experience. We want to feel warm and comfortable about doing business with a company. Reviews, testimonials and support for community projects help us achieve this.’

In the past year Chrome Motors has reported a leap in business, from an average of 50 to 60 sales per month to between 90 and 100.

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Colin Channon's avatar

Colin is a former editor of Car Dealer. He left the magazine in August 2015.

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