AM Online

Ignoring internet a costly mistake

Almost half of retailers in the AM100 top 20 take more than two days to respond to an email request for information, according to new research.

The generally accepted response time for good customer service is less than 24 hours.

The Auto Trader website usability study, carried out by eDigital Research, found that fewer than half of the 500 motorists who took part in the assessment would visit the dealer website again based on their email customer service experience.

Quality of response, product knowledge and ability to help for email enquiries were all rated below 50% - substantially behind phone enquiries ratings at 73%.

However, at least those retailers actually allowed potential customers to make an email enquiry.

Almost one-third (29%) did not offer this facility, while 52% were even more determined not to speak to potential customers by failing to include telephone details for customer service.

The 500 motorists rated the new car home page and the used car home page for the top 20 dealers as “satisfactory” and the search facilities as “good”. Thirty per cent found parts of the website confusing.

The overall experience was similarly patchy with just 52% of people saying they would visit the website again based on their initial visit. Only half would recommend the website to their friends and family.

Guy Phillipson, chief executive officer of the Internet Advertising Bureau, says dealers who ignore the importance of the internet are missing out on a huge and growing opportunity.

“The number of visits a customer makes to a showroom before buying a car has reduced to two to three on average,” he says.

“People are spending 27% of their daily consumption online, second only to TV on 33%. Our research shows that the internet accounts for 39% of brand engagement for women on small cars.

“I predict that online will overtake TV by 2010 as the biggest single ad medium.”

Last year £2bn was spent on internet-based advertising, with the automotive industry accounting for 12%. This total is expected to rise by 30% this year.”

The website usability study findings were revealed at the inaugural Auto Trader Click Awards. Hartwell won the dealer website of the year; Toyota took the carmaker award.

Top 10 dos and don’ts

1. Do not “dead end” visitors by not allowing them an easy way back to the Home Page. Provide a clearly labelled Home Page link.

2. Keep the main logo at top of page and make it clickable to return to Home Page.

3. Where possible provide a link to “refine” or “amend” a search. Retain common information provided e.g. postcode. Why should users have to keep inputting this information?

4. Some searches fail because the criterion for search is not met, e.g. no dealer within 20 miles of postcode. This is returned as “no cars matched”. It would be better to return – “your closest dealer is X miles”.

5. Take care when using Macromedia Flash. Ensure DDA compliance plus speed of loading for target audience. Overuse of Flash can break user browser interface expectations

6. Know your user system profiles. Know how many of your potential users are on broadband? Test site 1024 x 768 screen resolutions – 55% of UK users have this screen size.

7. Don’t let brand designs overtake the basic requirement of the site which is the product offer. Potential purchasers are using sites to compare offers. Let them find what they are looking for easily and simply.

8. Ensure email contact forms are working. Check them regularly. Answer emails within 24 hours!

9. Telephone contact is important. Treat it so.

10. Know the main reasons users are visiting the site and make it (very) clear how to find those features and information with clear tabs or buttons. Find out why they are leaving and their future intentions.

Source: Auto Trader

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