Car Dealer’s Guide to a Complete Digital Storefront

Auto retailers who want to improve online customer experiences should offer six essential components.

Bob George

April 15, 2020

3 Min Read
couple using internet
Today's car consumers have more time to spend online than ever before.Getty Images

Online shopping has redefined how business is done across sectors from consumer-packaged goods to real estate – and the auto industry is no exception as consumers and dealers move increasingly online.

Not to mention, recent public-health events are causing what was traditional showroom foot traffic to become dealership website traffic more than ever.

Current demands necessitate a digital strategy that goes beyond a simple online presence as we enter the era of the complete digital storefront.

Consumers are looking for a personalized, convenient, one-stop-shop experience. They don’t want to click through multiple pages to find relevant information about their next vehicle.

Modern online shoppers expect e-commerce to cater to them – not the other way around.

But what distinguishes the average dealer website from a complete digital storefront? Dealers who want to level-up their online customer experience should offer these six essential website components:

Website speed.

Online attention spans are short. Shoppers have little patience when it comes to accessing information.

If a dealer webpage takes even a few too many seconds to load, the customer could already be browsing a competitor site.

Choose a vendor that consistently monitors speed index and First Contentful Paint (a metric for measuring load speed), has cloud-based website hosting and third-party code integration standards.

Third-party code can greatly impact site-speed, increasing it up to 90%.  Ensuring a third-party provider complies with website integration APIs simplifies the processes of adding code to dealership websites. It is another step toward offering the fastest site possible.


Easier sorting and filtering

Dealer sites can offer a wide variety of information and inventory options, which sometimes makes it painstaking for shoppers to weed through multiple listings.

Improved inventory search sets that combine sitewide free-text search and easy sorting and filtering create faster paths to content without page reloads, giving customers relevant information quickly and efficiently.

Customized inventory or service recommendations.

Whether it’s in-store or online, shoppers want a buying journey that’s tailored to them and their various needs, whether sales- or service-related.

Dealer websites should provide custom inventory recommendations, along with slides, banners and coupons featuring relevant incentives and specials.

Consider targeting vehicle owners with service-related specials via slides and coupons.

Meet the car buyer or shopper where they are in their journey. A customer should feel like they are getting the same personal attention on a dealer website as they would at the store itself.

Positive customer reviews.

Word-of-mouth stands the test of time. Testimonials play a vital role in a buyer’s decision, with 88% of consumers including some type of review into their final purchase decision. 

To capitalize on this, leverage reviews as a selling tool via homepage integration for guaranteed visibility and instant validation.

Think of this as free advertising and a great way to showcase dealership staff performance. Bring the good of everything you do to the forefront, as well as proof of your consistent engagement with consumers through review responses.

Side-by-side vehicle comparisons.

Customers want to feel confident in the dealership they choose for their next purchase.

Dealers who are transparent with vehicle information establish a sense of shopper trust. By offering side-by-side vehicle comparison, a dealer not only satisfies a consumer’s need for information but makes the buying process fluid and simple. Comparison is a critical step on the path to purchasing. It always has been, even prior to shoppers going deep digitally.  

Website amplification.

Traditionally, digital retailing leads have been used to bring informed and ready-to-buy shoppers into a dealership.

In today’s environment, dealers need to focus more on closing the deal online.

By utilizing digital retailing, customers can view bank-supplied payments, evaluate trades and apply for credit without stepping foot in a dealership.

Shoppers who engage with digital retailing are six times more likely to purchase a vehicle. 

Today’s average shoppers visit over four websites during their buying process. Now, they have more time to spend online than ever before.

Bob George.jpg

Bob George

A shopper-centric experience that relates to customers’ personalized needs provides unmatched technologies and delivers information in an easily accessible way. Dealers who understand that are closer to providing the ideal online dealership experience, which now is an essential part of car shopping. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Bob George, left)

Bob George is’s assistant vice president-products.

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