Pre-season Website Review: Is your website ready for the selling season?

By Colleen Malloy

An annual website audit is a must for every OPE dealer, and now is the ideal time to ensure your website is primed to drive your in-store and online sales for the busy selling season that’s just around the corner.

Ready to get started? The answers to the following five key questions will help you develop a website optimization action plan.

QUESTION #1: Is your site’s design in line with your in-store image and branding?

Your website’s virtual storefront is the first impression that you will make on a great majority of your store’s prospective customers, so it is critical that your website is reflective of the brand image you’ve cultivated at your brick-and-mortar location. This goes beyond the prominent display of your store logo. Be sure to consider the following:

* Is your site’s design modern and up-to-date? Web design has come a long way in the past decade, and if you’ve got a site that looks fresh out of the early ‘00s, it is time to redesign.

* Does your site feature professional-quality photos? You’ve invested a lot in your website. While some stock photography and smartphone photos are acceptable, be sure that your store is well represented with high-quality imagery.

* Are your specials and promos up-to-date? You wouldn’t dream of leaving a Christmas tree up in your store until February. Don’t commit the same faux pas on your website. Out-of-date specials and promos are dead giveaways that you aren’t dedicated to keeping the content on your website current, and will plant a seed of doubt with site visitors about the accuracy of your inventory and other time-sensitive content.

* Is your site’s content free of spelling and grammatical errors? Typos show carelessness, and if you can’t sweat the details when it comes to your website, it will make site visitors question your overall dedication to quality. Again, don’t give your customers a reason to doubt you!

QUESTION # 2: Can shoppers easily find what they’re looking for?

One of the key goals of your website is to make it easy for prospective customers to raise their hand and say, “I’d like to do business with you.” That virtual hand up may come from a form submission, an e-commerce sale or a good old-fashioned phone call.

You likely know your own website inside and out, and while you can easily navigate around your website, the same may not be true for your site visitors. While an entire industry has cropped up dedicated to website user experience and testing, you don’t need to hire a team of psychologists and consultants to help evaluate your site’s usability.

Enlist a user with limited knowledge of your site to spend an hour or so testing your website. Sit with the user as he or she navigates your site. Don’t help, but ask the user to think out loud and be brutally honest. Was it easy or aggravating for the user to find what he or she was looking for? Start with these common activities:

* Find phone number and address

* Find store hours

* Find a specific new unit and request a quote

* Find a specific used unit and request a quote

* Schedule service

* Find a replacement part and add it to a cart (if applicable)

* Complete the e-commerce sale (if applicable)

If your test user was unable to complete these common tasks with ease, other shoppers are likely to abandon your site as well. Don’t let a poor user experience sabotage your sales — talk to your website provider to develop a plan of action to make it as simple as possible for your customers to find what they need.

QUESTION #3: Is your site optimized for mobile browsing?

Mobile browsing has officially eclipsed desktop browsing. According to a recent comScore report, smartphones and tablets combined account for 60 percent of all online traffic.

When we talk about optimizing your site for mobile, you really have two options. The first is a responsive site that scales to fit the user’s screen, and the second is a dedicated mobile website. However you choose to optimize your site, it is key that you create a mobile shopping experience that meets the unique needs of mobile users.

Mobile buyers are generally closer to purchase than desktop users. Here are some eye-opening stats from Google Nielson Mobile Path to Purchase Study:

* Location matters: Searchers want the business they are looking for to be close to them. According to the study, 69 percent want you to be within 5 miles of their location when they search.

* Immediacy is key: 55 percent of mobile shoppers want to purchase within an hour, and 83 percent want to purchase the same day.

* Mobile influences purchases across channels: 93 percent of people who researched on their smart device went on to make a purchase online or in-store.

One of the key takeaways from this data is that you need to not only make it easy for shoppers to browse your inventory on your website, you need to make it easy for those shoppers to find your physical location. A mobile site that allows customers to call you with a single click or easily access point-by-point directions could mean the difference between a potential buyer choosing you over the competition.

QUESTION #4: Is every piece of stock that’s on your showroom floor fully represented on your website?

If not, you’re missing a major opportunity to drive the leads that drive your business. According to a 2013 GE Capital retail study, a whopping 81 percent of shoppers research major purchases, including outdoor power equipment, online before they ever shop in-store.

Details count: Here are a few specifications you won’t want to miss:

* Model Year

* Manufacturer

* Model

* New/Used

* Condition

* Color

* Engine Type

Photos are key: While the manufacturers do a way better job of photographing the 2015 model year lineup than you ever will, if you want customers to imagine themselves sweeping across their lawn on your mower, you need to show that exact unit to them, so they can see every detail for themselves and make that critical decision to fill out a form requesting a quote and the ultimate opportunity to buy from your dealership.

Not only will accurately listing each and every unit on your showroom floor help you convert shoppers who are familiar with your dealership, but all of this regularly updated, highly keyword-rich content will help deliver new prospects to your virtual showroom directly from search engines.

QUESTION #5: Are technical glitches hurting your site in search?

From poor search engine optimization (SEO) to slow load times, there are a whole host of issues that may be lurking on your site that are a bit trickier for you to diagnose. Thanks to a handy online tool you can find at www.woorank.com, you can generate a report that will give you a full list of optimization issues present on your website.

While some of the results in your report will be a bit overwhelmingly technical, start with the actionable advice regarding issues such as social media, online reviews and other content-focused areas.

When it comes to the more technical results, I’d encourage you to share your findings with your website provider and work together to develop an action plan to get your site fully primed for the 2015 selling season.

1502_OPE_FS_Pre-season Website Review2_author-Colleen Malloy-web
Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store.
ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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