Maybe it’s just me, but have you seen the state of auto industry websites lately? I’m not just talking about dealerships (which are mostly awful). I’m talking about the vendors and even the auto repair industry too. The user experience in automotive industry websites is bordering on silly and I can’t take it anymore.
I’m a consumer just like the customers who visit these sites and I can’t decide whether it’s a lack of understanding, a lack of empathy or simply a lack of caring that brought us to this point.
This post may end up looking like a rant but the truth is…
The truth must be said.
Let me give you some examples. I’m not going to call out names (although I’m tempted to because what’s happening here is costing business owners lots of customers). I’m simply going to tell you what I’ve seen lately and you can take that info with you to form your own decisions about your site.
3 Examples of Poor User Experience in Automotive Industry Website…and What Can Be Done to Stop It.
These 3 examples are taken from my own experience in connecting with business owners in the past month. I have had the honor of spending time with them looking at their site from a customer’s (aka: human) standpoint. The following is what I’ve learned from delving into each situation, looked at the details, and spoken with their website providers and/or developers.
EXAMPLE ONE: THE NO VALUE SITE
User Experience 101: a website must capture visitors’ attention with some kind of benefit the minute they land on the site.
Most everything I see today on automotive sites has nothing to do with benefits, only pretty pictures of products and…blah, blah, blah.
I’ve spent years advocating for dealerships (and their employees) to differentiate themselves from the store down the road. Data shows us that those who stand out get the sale.
People who visit your site are looking for reasons to buy from you. They’re offered so many choices in their search, so why not be the ONE they choose? Why pay to look like all the rest of sites they see? If you’re going to spend, spend right!
Take off your ‘boss’ hat for a minute and go click on your site. Pretend you’re the customer who’s just clicked on your site. Now, answer this question within 10 seconds after clicking on your site:
What value do we provide that holds our customer’s attention when they land on our website or read about our business?
FACT: Your business is not the hero, your customer is.
If you want to turn browsers into buyers (and I think you do), capture your visitors’ attention with a statement of how your products and services will benefit your customer.
Clearly define what you will do for your customer and why you’re better than your competitors. Provide solid information that cuts through their confusion.
According to ChartBeat, you have between 5 to 30 seconds to hold the attention of a viewer. In other words, if you can’t communicate your value in less than 30 seconds, you’re losing money.
EXAMPLE TWO: THE TEMPLATED SITE
A templated website is one that lives on a server you do not own or manage. You still own your domain of course, but you own none of the content on your site. If you choose to part ways with the company who provides the templated site, you can lose all the content.
With templated sites, content is not truly yours.
I had a templated website provider inform me that, should their client choose to leave, the only thing they would ‘get back’ is their domain. I don’t know about you but that makes me very uncomfortable. Content is a company asset and to have it be threatened by a vendor puts a company in a precarious position.
To further illustrate the problem, templated sites often have a lot of duplicate content. Google has warned site owners for 3 years now about duplicate content and the dangers of ‘thin’ content.
The problem with duplicate content.
The reality in 2016 is that if Google classifies your duplicate content as ‘thin’ content, or manipulative boiler-plate or near-duplicate ‘spun’ content, then you have a severe problem that violates Google’s website performance recommendations and this ‘violation’ will need to be ‘cleaned’ up if, of course, you intend to rank high in Google.
If you have a templated site and you want to test this, simply navigate to a few (or more) of your site pages, copy a paragraph, and plug that into Google’s search box. If it comes up with a list (sometimes the results can be in the hundreds or thousands), your site has duplicate content.
I conducted this test for a client recently and found over 1,400 other sites with the very same content on more than 30 of their site’s pages (I stopped at 30 because it was the same scenario every time). Each result was the content from my client’s site, verbatim, except for the cities they mentioned in the text.
I asked the same provider I mentioned earlier about this issue. “Did you know your client’s site has duplicate content on nearly every page?” I asked.
He said, “Yes.”
I replied, “And you know about Google’s guidance on this subject?”
He replied, “Yes.”
Sadly, that was all he had to say.
Own Your Content.
Technology is improving buying options and it’s time for the automotive industry to seriously assess where they want to be in the next 5 years. If surviving and thriving is the plan, then explore the options available with having your own site.
These templated sites served somewhat of a purpose a few years ago but not anymore. There are just too many vendors out there right now delivering questionable solutions to an unsuspecting automotive industry and frankly, I’ve had enough.
Hey, I understand if you’re not website or search engine savvy. It’s getting tougher and tougher to market a business online. But now is not the time to hand over your ‘digital storefront’ to these companies whose priority is to scale products instead of giving you and your customers a stellar experience.
EXAMPLE THREE: THE VERBAL DIARRHEA SITE
Just like computers, human brains have a limited amount of processing power.
The total cognitive load, or amount of mental processing power needed to use your site, affects how easily users find content and make decisions.
Never overload website visitors with too much information. Here are a few of the UX design components that cause overload:
- Too many options
- Unnecessary actions
- Too much content
- Hard-to-find pages and features
Complicated and confusing interfaces force visitors to find solutions to problems that shouldn’t be there in the first place. A visitor who feels confused by the options, the interface, the navigation and so on will likely feel overwhelmed and lose interest.
Solid content strategy dissolves confusion.
I was asked to review a site this week from an automotive industry vendor and deliver my advice on their content strategy. Experiencing their site, as a prospect would, was confusing and somewhat offputting. I felt compelled to mention the user experience issues.
The first thing that hit you when you landed on their site was a long paragraph in a gray box. That is the visual equivalent of Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: “Wah, wah, wah. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wahhhh.”
What followed that paragraph can only be described as the digital equivalent of verbal diarrhea. I kept searching for what it was they actually sold or did but was unable to determine it easily.
Human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. Holding a visitor’s attention can’t be done with a confusing onslaught of too much content. They will click away faster than a buttered bullet.
Pro Tip: You only get one chance to make a great first impression. If the first, best thing you can deliver on your site is to confront visitors with a long-winded paragraph filled with $10-dollar words about your ‘awesome’ product, seek some help, man.
Website design reflects a company’s ability (or inability) to communicate their value to would-be buyers. Don’t let a bad user experience push customers to search further.
The best user experience is the one the user doesn’t notice. It appears smooth and simple on the surface, but hundreds of crucial design decisions have been made to guide, inform, prevent confusion and convert prospects.
If the user experience design does what it’s supposed to do, the user won’t notice any of the work that went into it. The less users have to think about the interface or design, the more they can focus on accomplishing their goal on your website. Their experience will be frictionless and they’ll convert more often.
Author: Kathi Kruse
Kathi Kruse is an Automotive Social Media Marketing Expert, Blogger, Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Kruse Control Inc. Born in the heart of Los Angeles to a family of “car people”, Kathi’s passion for the car business spans a 30-year career managing successful dealerships in Southern California. Kathi is the author of “Automotive Social Business – How to Captivate Your Customers, Sell More Cars & Be Generally Remarkable on Social Media”. Her Kruse Control Blog is the leading Automotive Social Media blog in the U.S.