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The future of dealer websites: one-stop shops? - guest opinion

Neil Smith, operations director, Imperial Cars

There is no escaping from the fact that the days in which a great website was a nice addition rather than a  necessity are long gone.

In these demanding market circumstances, it’s easy to imagine how challenging it would be for anyone to stay in business, let alone be profitable, without investing a considerable amount of time and resource into a well structured, visually appealing website.

Continuous development

Imperial Cars was lucky enough to understand very early on the importance of continuously improving website content and structure in order to attract, acquire and retain more customers. So much so that, over the past 3 years, traffic has consistently grown by 25% year on year, reaching over 2.1 million visits in 2017.

As remarkable as that is, there is much more that can be done. From design, to quality of information, to ease of use, we should all be committed to consistently raise the bar and give our customers the best possible website experience.

We firmly believe this translates into investing even more into website development, and whenever possible, employing in-house resources. That’s why, contrary to common industry practice to rely on third parties to develop and maintain the website, Imperial Cars is keeping the responsibility within our experienced in-house team.

Internalising responsibilities allows us to innovate at a faster pace than the industry and to develop proprietary state-of-the-art products and technology, such as automatic photographic booths allowing a hi-res 360 degree view of the car.

The future of dealer websites

Now more than ever, with GDPR changes fast approaching, it should be in every dealer’s interest to make it a lot easier for customers to register their interest in cars and receive price and stock updates based on their preferences.

In addition to that, there seems to be an appetite for feature-rich content, which we’ll be gradually unveiling over the next few months. This will, over time, make Imperial Cars less of a pure retail website and more of a one-stop shop.

At the end of the day, once customers are on the website looking at our stock, they shouldn’t need to go anywhere else to find additional information, such as maintenance and how to videos. 

They also shouldn’t need to ring or email us with any questions about the cars, as everything there is to know about that car is already clearly displayed on the page. The only time they should ring us is to ask whether the car they’re looking at is still available.

Product confidence is key

It’s time the industry starts treating customers as intelligent individuals who are doing many, many hours of research on the car they want to buy, across many different platforms.

We simply need to be confident in our products and present them online to the best possible standard. If we’re outstanding at this, when customers are ready to make the final decision and visit a dealership, they should have no other option but to consider us as one of the 1.5 showroom they visit on average.

At the end of the day, if you’re not confident enough to display all the vehicle information online, you could argue you shouldn’t be buying that stock in the first place.

Wrapping up

In summary, we believe continuous website development, an all-encompassing experience and complete product transparency will be key contributors to the success of dealers of any shape and size. Could there be an opportunity for you to incorporate any of these points in your digital strategy?

Author: Neil Smith, Operations Director, Imperial Cars 



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