AM looks at some best-practice examples of web design from inside and outside the motor retail industry.
1: Use data to inform intelligent iterative changes
Sytner-owned CarShop won the 2017 AM Award for Best Website. Its latest website was designed specifically for mobile and the company says dealers should avoid the temptation to introduce any clutter – no unnecessary features and no wordy copy.
Leo Nelson, marketing and IT director, said: “You need to know what you want to achieve for your customer journey.
“At an early stage, we knew we wanted to get the search, finance and part-ex valuation right, as those were the three things that were most important for customers.”
CarShop builds and tweaks different versions of pages to test if they work for consumers. Test pages are only released to a certain percentage of live users when they visit the site and CarShop collects usability data on their visit.
Nelson said: “We only implement changes if we’re seeing some statistical significance in what we have done.
“Sometimes you design something and you think it’s great, but you have to test it with real customers.” Nelson said this can take time if you don’t have a high volume of traffic to a website, but for CarShop it was quite a quick process.
CarShop also hires a user experience lab every quarter to test what it is doing. Nelson said: “The test lab can easily help us to identify any areas of struggle.”
2: Eye-catching design and calls to action
Grassicks Garage in Perth, Scotland, uses Auto Web Design to help build its website and manage its pay-per-click strategy. It’s an ongoing partnership where Auto Web is constantly carrying out usability tests on the live site to help make design changes to improve the user experience.
Martin Dew, Auto Web Design head of operations, said it was important the homepage for Grassicks’ dual-franchise business made sure the dealer’s own brand got across instantly, in addition to the manufacturer brand.
The website has a responsive design that goes beyond the standard resizing that happens on most websites.
Dew said: “Not a lot of other providers seem to be doing this, but we have developed a responsive website that is more bespoke when it resizes for smart devices.”
It’s not a separate website for mobile, he added, but the background coding makes it a better experience to fit on mobile.
Dew said: “The whole site has been designed to stand out, with imagery and video to make customers want to engage with eye-catching calls to action.”
3: Mobile-optimised and customer-driven tools
Developing a website that works seamlessly on mobile has to be a basic requirement today, but there are still plenty of websites out there that struggle to get it right.
Arnold Clark, the 2016 AM Awards Best Website winner, knew that 60% of its traffic website was coming from smart devices, so making sure it was a great experience on mobile was paramount. There was also a focus on useful tools for customers, such as buying insurance for their car online.
High-quality images and videos now appear alongside content produced by an in-house newsroom, while the ability to search used cars, buy insurance, book
appointments and access live chat functions are all easily accessed and fully optimised for smartphones.
Arnold Clark’s website is developed in-house and management of the different sections is split among its own 150-strong marketing department.
One of the strengths for consumers is being able to load pages quickly, something that is not always easy when including high-quality images and video content for every vehicle.
Auto Trader recently introduced new price indicators to help guide consumers on whether the price of the car they are looking at is high or low compared with similar cars listed online. The aim of the new feature was to increase transparency and speed up the research phase for consumers.
Nick King, Auto Trader insights director, said: “We know from our own research that transparent pricing is the most important factor in the car-buying process.
“We never introduce change for change’s sake. That’s why before we launch any new feature we test it extensively to ensure that it resonates with consumers and enhances their journey with our customers and, importantly, makes it easier too.”
King said it was important for Auto Trader to practice what it preached as the company regularly advises retailers to think about who their customers are and provide them with a tailored digital experience.
5: Consumer control and keeping it simple
Carwow employs a digital-first strategy, something it believes car-buying consumers have been craving but have not been getting.
Gareth Thomas, Carwow senior designer, said: “We try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to the design of the website, from visuals to technical explanations and flow of the product.”
Offers are clearly displayed in an impartial way, allowing a customer to contact a dealer either by calling or direct messaging to get further offer details or book a test drive.
Thomas said: “Feedback has found that car buyers want to know more about a dealer proposition.
“As a result, offers are shown with prices alongside perks and other services dealers offer, helping dealerships promote themselves to potential customers.”
Carwow tests multiple variants, changing layout, copy and visuals to work out which one leads to the most conversions.
6: Look for inspiration outside automotive
Nelson said AO.com is a great example of how to do visual merchandising well and manage a customer journey digitally post-purchase. He said it was an inspiration to CarShop when building its website.
Nelson said: “AO.com isn’t an aspirational retail destination, but the way they display products with images and video and keep you updated every step of the way after you’ve clicked ‘buy’ is so good.
“The order-to-delivery journey is so seamless.”
Thomas said the onboarding process with Airbnb, where a consumer familiarises themselves with their service, is “second to none”.
He said: “It’s the combination of simplicity with only asking for what they need with a very clear and simple user experience.”
King said trainline.com is consistently ranked highest in Auto Trader’s consumer surveys.
He said: “Trainline’s recently refreshed site has successfully placed the customer journey at the heart of its digital experience.
“It’s intuitive, fast, accessible, and, most importantly, it’s functional – it does what it’s designed to do, and does it very well.
“Using technology to make the customer journey easier has made a huge difference to brand strength and loyalty.”