The coronavirus exposed website problems with unemployment agencies across the country, but people who weren't unemployed were going online to do other things, like shop. On Amazon or Target, you can buy huge items by reading reviews, choosing colors or sizes, adding items to a shopping cart, and checking out That's pretty simple, but it seems to work for most retail sales. However, the auto dealerships have missed the boat when it comes to online shopping, whether it's simply for research or even to purchase fully online.
The websites still use awful tactics of popups all over the place. It's not like these are illegal drug or porn sites, or even click funnels. People are going to your vehicle website ON PURPOSE, not because of click bait, and those potential customers want to see what you have to offer. They don't want to talk to some woman in India who uses the photo of an American super-model. Mostly, they want to search new and used inventory, and they want to see deals that apply to those searches.
Misleading deals are dumb. Amazon doesn't advertise one price and then jack it up to another price once the item is placed in the shopping cart. For some reason, it's OK for auto dealers to advertise incentives almost nobody can receive in a price that can't be combined with other current offers, like financing. Just list the darn prices: cash price, lease price, financing price, MSRP. You may or may not make deals from there, but consumers know they won't pay a lot more. Other pet peeves in price include dealer destination and other crap that would not fly on any other website selling an item. It's kind of like shipping on an item online, but sites that sell online generally offer free shipping or a flat rate that's explained. However, if you show up to the store, you're not suddenly stuck with a shipping charge, even though that's exactly what happens at car dealerships. It's not like a tip, which is optional, and it's not like shipping, which is negated if you show up at the store.
With a decent website, you can have customers add all fees and options to some kind of a cart, even if it's simply to print off and bring to the dealership. It's just more transparent and honest, and it's what people want. Salesmen can still be useful, especially for people who don't know what they want. Or for people who have questions while browsing online. I know, old-school dealership folks believe it's all about the hard-sell and up-sell, but those of us who have maintained websites for a long time can tell you that the content that keeps bringing people to your virtual showroom will be more useful in the long run than high-pressure, bait-and-switch routines. Or free vacations. When I was doing research on a vehicle, I found several independent reviews and articles about the vehicle, but dealerships with knowledgeable salesmen were almost nowhere to be found. If I'd lived in one of the communities with a dealership that cared enough to write a real article or film a real review of the vehicle, that would have been my choice of where to purchase. Instead, my own local dealerships were filled with ridiculous offers and misleading/inaccurate content. I was looking at all 2019 models in 2020, most of which had been on the lots for over a year, but the information simply wasn't right most of the time.
I'm sure that part of the problem with car dealership sites is that a salesman (or more than one) is responsible for the content. Or a secretary. Basically, someone who has another job. I could tell from the local dealerships that none of them hire real people dedicated to building good websites. I assume that a web presence is seen as a necessary evil in order to bring the suckers in the door. Customers, I mean. But if you have a car that's been sitting on the lot for over a year and still has the wrong information on the website, then even the suckers notice.
If I ran a local car dealership, I'd have someone responsible for real content for the website. Video reviews. Written reviews. Vacation blogs while using the cars. All that kind of stuff. Especially if we're talking about a new car dealer. If you sell Fords, then all of your salesmen ought to drive a Ford, or at least borrow one for weekends. They should be able to tell people both on the website and in person about the features. I want to see a salesman get into the 3rd row seat of a mid-size SUV. OR stick an inflatable mattress in the vehicle while parked in a campground. And I want to see that on the website rather than sales with goofy free giveaways and fake prices. If I was in charge, I'd also make sure all of the information on the website matched the window sticker of the actual car being offered, which would (sadly) set me apart from all other dealerships.
If you run a car dealership and want to hire someone who knows cars and could potentially be dedicated only to your dealership or family of dealerships, then Passive Ninja might be your web designer and content manager. I can probably take your tired old site and make it work a little better. I can surely create real content that people want to see and read. I can drive hits and customers in the right direction because they believe what they are seeing and reading, not because they've been fooled by sales tactics. Mostly, I'd edit and match actual photos (not stock photos) to actual vehicles, stickers, and other important information that auto manufacturers offer you and the customer. Auto dealer websites aren't doomed to always be awful, and the dealerships that secure a good, dedicated web design person are much better suited to weather the next storm that hits us.