Today’s technology allows us all to express our individuality, and we expect that in return from the businesses we patronize. Facebook lets us share with our world the things that make us unique — be it the fancy meal we prepared for our friends and family, our children’s successes or the wonderful views we experience on vacation. Twitter provides an instant connection to share what is on our minds at that moment throughout the day. Facebook and Twitter also expose us to this level of content from those we care about all day every day. This is the level of connection U.S. consumers have grown to desire and expect from every relationship, including the one they have with their dealership. Can you imagine a world where everyone’s Facebook and Twitter looked the same, with canned content and pictures? That is what our customers first impression often is when they visit our dealership Websites.
While the rest of the online world — both for individuals and business — has experienced an unseen level of innovation and advancement over the last two decades, dealership Websites have not. We all have an idea where to point the fingers and there is plenty of blame to go around. So, let’s skip how we got here and jump directly into where we need to go from here.
Our customers want a blend of a quick, easy Amazon-esque shopping experience with the intimacy of a Facebook profile. Yes, this does place the bar high for most dealerships in the United States. Today, most dealerships have a cookie-cutter template site that looks and feels the same as everybody else’s. Also, the shopping experience is not intuitive. How is this quick, easy or intimate? This must end. The technology is out there for dealerships to have unique sites that provide a better shopping experience and share the personality of the dealership.
The best Websites are built with widgets instead of templates. Widgets are functioning pieces that make up a complete Website. One widget might show inventory while another would show this month’s community events that dealership will participating in or sponsor. Widgets, like note cards on a bulletin board, can easily be dragged and dropped around the Website to create a unique and intuitive feel. More important, content in widgets can be easily updated to keep the Website fresh. Many dealerships are now handcuffed with complex template sites that require a support ticket to make any type of change layout, content or otherwise. In some cases, these support tickets can take weeks to update. How are you supposed to keep relevant information on what the dealership is doing on your site with a two-week lag time? You cannot — and that is the problem. Break free from the chains of templated sites and enjoy the freedom that widget sites will provide.
Widgets can very simply be compared with note cards. The site’s backbone is like a bulletin board. The content on the notecard is very easily changed and the cards are easily moved. A person who can build a PowerPoint presentation can learn in a day how to drag and drop widgets and edit the content they contain. There is no computer science degree required.
Once you have moved away from the prison of templates into the freedom of widgets, you will be able to create the type of site your customers want. You can monitor and adjust frequently and on the fly to make improvements and keep content fresh. Your Website should reflect this week’s direct mail and newspaper ads. Consumers will visit your Website before they call or come in, so make the feel and offers consistent. Your dealership is likely already sponsoring children’s sports teams and other community events, so put them into a widget. You can even have a widget on your site with the results of the events and pictures. There is a way to drive some organic traffic. The limits you will have are only the limits to your imagination. Now that is how you share what makes your dealership unique with the world and create the shopping experience that your customers desire.
For your free list of the widgets that are working the best today, please email me with “widget” in the subject.