Creating an easy and convenient experience for automotive shoppers

When was the last time you looked at your website through the eyes of a remote car buyer? Before the last couple of months, you probably thought your dealership’s website worked just fine. It brought in a lot of leads and customers into the showroom, didn’t it? But, as author and automotive thought leader Brian Pasch, CEO of PCG Companies, suggests, the old rules just don’t apply anymore. To fully commit to digital retail, it’s time to analyze whether your current marketing strategy is providing consumers what they want. He contends that, if done right, dealers can double their digital sales.

As Pasch points out, yesterday’s marketing messages don’t have much relevance for today’s digitally-savvy consumer. No one really pays attention to the fact that your dealership is the oldest family-run operation in the area and has racked up dozens of awards. According to Pasch, what does matter to the consumer—especially now that they are homebound—is what their next car buying experience looks like. They want it to be simpler, faster, and mostly online.

Pasch believes that online retail tools have evolved far beyond most dealers’ online marketing strategies. He has worked with dealers across the country on improving their web presence in order to more efficiently walk customers seamlessly through a remote selling process. By following these actionable recommendations, dealerships can transform and drive more remote sales. 

His top tips include:

1. Develop a clear message and brand promise that resonates with your customers and captures what they value most. The brand message should be in the form of an impactful logo with a tagline that appears not only on the main banner of a website’s home page but on successive pages thereafter. The messaging for the brand promise can include things like transparent and upfront pricing, a dealership’s return policy, information on test drives, post-purchase support, and more. Here’s an example:

ABC Ford Fastlane
The fastest and easiest way to buy your next vehicle

    1. Clear pricing for all vehicles on our website
    2. Save time by customizing payments and calculate your trade value online
    3. Schedule a visit, and we will pick up right where you left off online
    4. After a test drive and vehicle selection, we will get you out of the store within an hour
    5. Buy with confidence with our seven-day exchange program

ABC Ford Fastlane example-storyboard & brand promise

2. Make sure you display a COVID-19 popup on the home page. This should state your dealership’s policy and practices during the pandemic. Thoughtful content placed front and center on a dealership’s website gives customers a sense of confidence in your sincere commitment to keep the community safe. Let customers know how you plan to serve them and how they can initiate a remote purchase online. For example, let them know that you have concierge service with at-home vehicle delivery. Also provide information on adjusted days and hours of operation.

Autofi website overlay example signage for COVID-19

3. Don’t confuse website visitors with too many dead-end forms and multiple tools. Automotive dealers often bombard customers with forms that lead nowhere and tools that are confusing or redundant. Make sure your dealership’s website has a clear path for consumers to accomplish what they want. If there’s a digital retail tool that covers all the bases, make sure customers are guided to that tool and only that tool. Once consumers engage, you can reach out and schedule a conversation—via videoconferencing or a phone call. This speeds up the deal and increases customer satisfaction.

4. Limit your calls to action (CTA), and make them stand out. A website really needs only three or four CTAs. Examples include a button that leads to the dealership’s digital retail tool, another one to schedule a test drive, and another for online chat or to ask a question. Make sure the primary CTA—the one that goes to the digital retail tool—is in a “violator” color. Typically, green works well (unless, of course, your website’s palette is mostly green—in that case, choose another contrasting color). The CTAs should appear at the top of each page in the customer’s journey, including the Search Results Page (SRP) and Vehicle Detail Page (VDP).

CTA button examples

5. Create customer-friendly omnichannel videos. These explain your digital retailing process and are tied to your brand promise. Keep them short—30 to 90 seconds long—and post them on social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube. These can also be used for local cable TV advertising, and, of course, on your website. Use humor, and vary the themes and scenarios to keep the videos fresh.

Omni Channel Videos image

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* Caveat: As always, I urge you to check with your local and state Dealer’s Association to ensure you are operating within current guidelines.


View the Marketing for Remote Sales webinar on demand, and join us for the AutoFi Remote Selling & Social Distancing Series, every Tuesday, 9:00 AM Pacific through May 5, 2020.