Inside the Mind of an Automotive Digital Marketing Analyst
After 7 years of working for Cobalt in a variety of roles, I am comfortable saying that I have fielded virtually every dealer request one can think of. They all seem to have a couple of the same desirable outcomes in mind. “How can I separate my dealership website from the competition?’ and “How can I create more opportunities to sell cars” and “How can I fill my service bays?” One of the more common requests that I receive is for custom content and Flash design. It appears, to me at least, that the need to be more spectacular than the competition drives dealerships to ask for flashier, shinier, and louder pieces of website content.
The Controversy Behind Custom Content and Flash Design
The use of custom graphical content and Flash design on a dealership website comes with a couple different schools of thought. One on hand, there is a belief that custom graphics and Flash are the most modern and cutting-edge way of displaying content on a website. On the other hand, the graphics and assets can be difficult to load and might not be compatible with everyone’s means of accessing the web. iPhones, iPads, other mobile devices, internet connection speeds, etc. can all be variables and inhibitors to a user’s ability to load and interact with a website. While use of this content is not necessarily right or wrong, it’s important to analyze the impact that specific types of content will have on website visitors and their browsing behaviors.
Sage Advice: Look to the Leaders in the Market
One of the best ways to get ideas on optimal content for your website is by checking out what major players in business and internet marketing do. Take Apple for example. Apple.com features one of the most simplistic website designs you can find. A streamlined main navigation bar at the top; a giant featured product which drives customers to a specific area of the website; and typically two small featured products. Apple is a company that has a much broader product line than a car dealership, yet they choose to blast visitors with their primary product and assume the consumer is savvy enough to use the main navigation bar to find anything else they might be looking for.
Amazon is another good example, but different from Apple as they feature a lot more navigation items on their home page. Amazon is a reseller of a very broad variety of goods and services. As such, they have molded a home page design that offers consumers a variety of ways to get to the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. However, just like Apple they dedicate a very large portion of their home page to a very simple image of the Kindle. Why the Kindle? Amazon re-sells thousands of products, but their flagship product is the Kindle. Of course it’s their featured item on the website, and it has been for a few years now. Amazon makes money off the sale of the Kindle and even more money off every book purchased on the Kindle. It’s a guaranteed repeat customer and brilliant home page design. Why would you not feature your biggest money maker prominently on the home page of your website?
Are Bells and Whistles Your Dealer Website Bread and Butter?
When posed with that question of Flash content I have always asked the same question, “What’s your goal of adding this content to your website?” Do you need an animated asset on your home page that offers 6 different calls to action? Or is it reasonable to assume that internet consumers are savvy enough to use the main navigation to find what they are looking for, and instead dedicate a very large section of home page to a model you need to move. Think about the make-up of your inventory and the model that your dealership relies on as its bread and butter. Is there any reason it should not be featured the same way Amazon features it’s Kindle?
Yes, custom graphics and Flash content can be dynamic and can give a website a modern look and feel, but at what potential cost to the productivity of your site? If 60% to 70% of your vehicle sales are one specific model, is there any reason not to feature that vehicle, provide text information about that vehicle, and route customers to more information about it as quickly as possible? Try it for a month and then review your website metrics to see how it affects your visitors’ behavior. You’ll find your specific model searches are up and you saved money by not having that Flash model asset created.
Ian Favre is a Sr. Marketing Analyst at ADP Digital Marketing with 7 years experience working directly with automotive dealers in the Cobalt Services Organization. Ian was one of the first 3 Advocates working with customers when Procare Dealer Services launched at Cobalt in 2007 and spent time as an Advocate Team Lead, assisting Advocacy with website optimization fundamentals and execution. When not helping dealers make the most of their internet marketing opportunities, Ian enjoys writing about golf on his website golfchops.com.