Car dealer websites have changed a lot in the past 5 years.
At the same time, the motor industry has changed – in many cases becoming more mature, sophisticated, and less about the “Wheeling Dealing” hard sell than it had been previously. This combination of increased marketing know-how and an improvement in technological advancement makes it seriously interesting to compare our websites of today with the automotive websites of yesteryear.
Initially when putting this blog post together, I considered looking back 10 years, to a time when only a few dealers would have a website. However, there is something to be said for seeing an evolution, rather than a very dramatic change. Hopefully the ongoing article should show you just how far websites have come, at the same time as revealing some interesting insight into what has stayed the same – and why.
It’s interesting to note that the JCT600 website of 5 years ago made use of some advanced (for the time) functionality.
Stock is segmented towards the bottom of the homepage, making it easy for customers to find new, reduced or exclusive cars. There is also an advanced search that facilitates common search behaviour, and which tied up with the Autotrader of the time. They also used big, visual banners – as this was before the days of banner blindness (a web visitors ability to not even see banners because they have seen so many) this was probably still an efficient way to keep a customer’s attention on your key offers.
As for what’s missing, our increased knowledge of conversion science has led to some big changes, and a major part of that is the clarity of the navigation. It’s cramped and the contact options are hidden in an animated banner at the top of the page. There also isn’t any SEO content – remember, this was in the days when SEO performance was almost entirely based on links!
Today’s JCT600 website is (unsurprisingly!) a much more modern affair. The long-present navigation menu is still there, ensuring loyal customers can still find their way around, but it’s all been supplemented by a much stronger focus on used cars, and on the customer being able to search any way they want. The keyword search front and centre is the most obvious feature here.
There is also much more content on this homepage – scroll down a bit and you see an engaging panel of job listings, news stories, heritage information and social media, all of which makes this a much more welcoming, brand-forward approach. This reflects the motor trade’s increased awareness of the importance of brand loyalty. At the same time, offers and banners have become less important – as we know that they rely on a substantial coincidence of the right person being presented with the right banner.
All in all, it’s a completely different website standing before us today – and one that is one of the most stylish on the market.
5 Years ago, the Drive Vauxhall website was a segmented website that used curved, shaded boxes against a white background. With today’s move towards full width images and solid colours, it’s amazing to see how dated it makes the old website look!
Whilst the looks may be old, however, you can see how the focus of this website was very evenly spread across the different departments. Many dealer websites focus purely on car sales, so it’s great to see the service and MOT booking CRTs. That said, we do see the same focus that the JCT website had – on shouty banners, special offers and images of the day. Today’s car visitor requires more subtlety!
Also, note the lack of contact options – we now know that if possible contact and find us information should be prominent towards the top of the page. Here, there are no buttons, and the phone number is in red on a dark grey background. How far we have come!
Drive Vauxhall are just about to launch their latest generation website with Bluesky Interactive, so hold this space – we can’t give you a peek preview!
However, we can say that they’ve introduced a sticky navigation which stays with the user as they scroll down the page. This ensures simple, visual, easy to see buttons are available at all points, a significant conversion improvement on their website of 5 years ago!
They’ve also, as hinted at above, embraced full width design to clearly segment website sections, and the introduction of Live chat shows just how far technology (and dealerships) have come. As with many other dealer websites, you’ll see much more emphasis on the performance of the company – with customer satisfaction ratings and much more. It’s worlds apart!
While the logo remains the same, it is striking just how much the Richmond website has grown since 2011.
You’ll notice that the multi-franchise Richmond site used to use their group web address as a “splash page”, bouncing visitors out to the franchise they were interested in. This approach has been eclipsed in recent years by this ever-present focus on branding – and the knowledge we now have that customers don’t necessarily know which car they plan to buy.
Whilst customers are bounced out to franchised websites, you’ll also see the bold, in-your-face banner that focuses heavily on the launch of the new Hyundai Veloster (yes, that makes us feel old to, feels like yesterday!). Lots of big numbers, lots of capitalisation – and the tiniest link to enquire you ever did see.
This is, of course, a recurring theme – dealer websites just a few short years back simply didn’t emphasis enquiries. Without doing through to the franchise website, how could you even get in touch. It’s no wonder our modern website generate so many more enquiries.
Today, the Richmond Group have a single website that balances their multiple brands with an overarching used car search.
Richmond’s different franchises all have different branding, so whilst you can still be directed through to the relevant franchise, you don’t have to be straight away. The homepage now gives you an opportunity to see the JudgeService customer satisfaction rating, to conduct a search (including monthly payment search which is so much more important now than it ever was previously), and book in for a service. It’s all so much easier, and convenience matters a lot to car buyers.
What is perhaps most interesting here is that the banners still dominate – and as with most volume brands there is still a focus on offers and discounts. However, the key different is that whilst these tempt the customer in, there are now contact options and supporting aspects that can help to make these banners more likely to convert. It’s fascinating the different psychological focus a modern automotive website like this now has.
So, there you have it. Three very different dealer websites as they were 5 long years ago, and as they are today. The key areas are technology (notice the increased finance penetration, search options, live chat and more), content (which is only going to get more important) and branding / engagement.
For more ideas on ways to bring your old dealer website into 2016, get in touch today.