By Colleen Malloy
Whether you’ve never had a dealership website or you’re in the market for a new online counterpart for your store, there are some important features to look for when you’re shopping for a website. As an OPE dealer, a strong online presence can breathe new life into your business and help you drive sales. With more and more shoppers turning to the Internet to research products and make purchases, a website that guides your customers further along the path to purchase can help you stay competitive with big box retailers.
As you’re shopping for a website, look for a platform that’s shopper friendly, custom tailored for OPE dealers, and easy to manage. I’ve compiled a checklist of features for each of those three categories to help you assess your options.
#1 Shopper friendly
Your website is more than an online business card for your dealership — it’s a resource for shoppers to learn more about the products you sell, and it can help you drive sales and generate leads if used appropriately. When you’re researching a new website platform, be sure to look for the following shopper-friendly features:
* Clear navigation. Your visitors need to be able to browse your website as easily as they would browse while in your store. Any website platform worth its salt should include a clearly labeled navigation at the top of every page and a search bar to allow shoppers to quickly find the exact item they want.
* Product search & selection. Many shoppers visit your website to learn more about the products you sell, so if it’s difficult to find the products they’re looking for, they might turn to your competition. Keep it simple: Select a website with an intuitive product search feature that allows shoppers to filter results by product type, brand, price and other factors.
* eCommerce shopping cart. If your dealership sells parts and accessories, an eCommerce shopping cart is a must-have. Incorporating ways for shoppers to make smaller purchases (or large purchases with in-store pickup) directly from your website can generate more revenue for your dealership.
* Strong security. With online security breaches making headline news, the last thing you want is for your customers’ information to end up in the wrong hands. Calm hesitant shoppers by securing your website with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). An SSL encrypts any communications between you and your customers, making it extremely difficult for their information to end up in hackers’ hands.
* Lead-generating calls to action. One of the most useful things a website can do for your dealership is help you generate leads and reach new customers. A website that features clear calls to action (like “Make an offer,” “Contact us,” “Book an appointment,” or “Request a quote”) will help you collect information from shoppers that you can use to convert them into customers.
* Service scheduling. Your customers are busy people, and they aren’t always able to call during your business hours to book an appointment when they need a lawn mower serviced or a chain saw repaired. When you’re shopping for a website, look for one that allows your customers to book service appointments online to help generate more business for your service department.
* Consistent contact information. How many times have you visited a website just to find basic information like a phone number, address or hours of operation? If a prospect wants to get ahold of you, they shouldn’t have to hunt for your contact information. Ensure your contact information can be displayed clearly and consistently throughout your new website.
* Mobile friendly. Last but not least, your website should work well on any device that your shoppers use. Your website should resize to display optimally on smartphones and tablets, and all buttons and links should be easy to click on a touchscreen device.
#2 Tailored for OPE dealers
There are a huge variety of website platforms out there, but not all of them are built to fit the needs of an OPE dealership. Find a platform that will support your business by looking for the following features:
* OEM promotions. Many of your shoppers are hunting for the best deal on equipment, parts and accessories, so featuring sales and promotions on your website can be just the push they need to make a purchase. A website platform that incorporates OEM data and automatically pulls promotions can save you time and help you reach these shoppers.
* OEM whole goods. As I mentioned earlier, your website is more than just a business card for your dealership. In this day and age, your customers expect to see all of your available inventory on your site. A platform with the top OEM catalog content included enables you to conveniently add the latest unit inventory to your website. Your customers will appreciate browsing and comparing your available inventory online.
* Parts lookup. Incorporating an online parts lookup tool on your website is a huge opportunity to generate revenue for your dealership. Find a website with a parts lookup tool that lets shoppers easily find the parts they need and order them directly from your website.
* Dealership Management System (DMS) integration. Make your technology solutions work for you. Integrating your website with your DMS helps your customers find and order products quickly, keeps your online inventory up-to-date, and keeps your inventory updated in your DMS. Look for a website platform that works well with your DMS to help you and your team work faster and smarter.
#3 Easy to manage
As an OPE dealer, you’re busy enough running your business. Running your website shouldn’t make your days significantly longer. Ensure you’re investing in an easy-to-manage website by looking for the following features:
* Intuitive back-end editor. Managing your website shouldn’t take a degree in computer science or hours on the phone with technical support. Look for a website platform that allows you to easily make changes to your page content, inventory, pricing and promotions to make running your site as efficient as possible.
* Mobile or app-based editing tools. On-the-go tools that allow you to simplify tasks like uploading photos of your in-stock inventory to your website or pushing units to third-party sales channels can save you a significant amount of time when it comes to managing your website.
* Lead generation & management. When you start raking in leads from the lead-generating calls to action I mentioned earlier, they should automatically aggregate in the back end of your website. While you’re shopping for a new site, look for a platform that allows you to view and manage your leads directly from your website management tool.
* Multi-location support. If your dealership has multiple locations or if you’re considering opening up a second location in the future, make sure your new website supports multiple locations. Being able to post all of your inventory in one central place that supports all of your locations can help you drive sales from customers you might not have otherwise reached.
* Built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Your website won’t do much good if shoppers can’t find it. While there are a number of on-page SEO tactics you can use to ensure your site appears on search engines, finding a website platform that includes built-in SEO can boost your search engine ranking and help you reach more shoppers.
Shopping for a website can be a daunting task. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed comparing platforms. Instead, use this checklist to find the website provider that can help your dealership succeed online and drive sales both on your website and in-store.
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 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!”