By Dennis Galbraith and Maria Espinoza – While consumers have more access to product information, many still find it difficult to understand the differences between competing products across brands. A Hyundai dealer can credibly tell the customer the difference between a Santa Fe and a Tucson. However, there is little credibility for the Hyundai dealer when comparing these vehicles to a Ford Escape or Toyota Highlander. The dealer does not sell those products; he or she sells against them, so there is no way to establish trusted advisor status across brands.
Everything our industry does to promote vehicles, whether tier 1, 2, or 3 comes from a make level position that naturally comes across as biased. This is what’s given rise to the power of third-party sites. Sites like Edmunds, kbb.com, and Cars.com began offering consumers cross-model information more than 15 years ago, and gained immediate popularity with consumers. Today, well over 70% of Automotive Internet Users take advantage of information on these sites during their online shopping process. Often times, these sites are particularly popular in the early stages of the shopping process.
Dealer groups have a unique opportunity to offer the shopper inter-brand comparisons on their dealer group site. Such a site has clear advantages in meeting customers’ information needs in a credible way. Just making it possible for the shopper to see compact SUVs from multiple makes in the same search result is an amazing benefit. Indeed even third-party sites make it difficult for the shopper to select multiple makes at the same time. However, the dealer’s group site can make this type of search easy and earn trusted advisor status with the shopper.
Selma Auto Mall uses a responsive site from Dealer eProcess to allow shoppers the ability to select multiple makes at the same time. Rather than refresh with each individual click, this tool provides the shopper with full control. Query options can be executed one at a time, in batches, or all at once. The screen only applies the search when the shopper refines the search.
The shopper can also select the body style and other criteria before running the search, making the process much faster and putting more control in the hands of the shopper. The screen shots adjacent and below first show the search criteria, including the selection of both mini vans and the Honda, Toyota, and Nissan brands.
Then a section of the search result is shown (see image below). While this meets a fundamental shopper need, this kind of search is simply not possible on most dealer sites or dealer group sites. Those with this ability help the shopper quickly recognize the store has selection, delivering a significant competitive advantage.
Some competitive advantages take many months and many thousands of dollars to develop. This functionality is standard with a Dealer eProcess RESS responsive website. Also standard is the ability to see every vehicle photo without leaving the Search Results Page. Only Dealer eProcess has this feature. Fully achieving trusted advisor status requires more than just a great website experience, but for most of your customers, this is where the first impression is formed.
Having all the dealership’s new- and used-vehicle inventory on one site is a huge SEO advantage. The group site should be able to optimize better than any of the individual store sites it links out to. In this way, the site attracts new shoppers to the group. Gaining trusted advisor status with these new shoppers is the surest way to get them from the site into the store.