Dealer Outlook

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Too many Web sites are too confusing

In this day and age, almost all dealers have a Web site working for them, or should have. After all, itís an important 21st century vehicle for stimulating business. Or, is it?

As Web sites have become so common, even taken for granted now, theyíre effectiveness and productivity is coming under increasing scrutiny.

A good example comes from the travel industry. One of the most successful categories for Internet Web site results has been in the travel market. Online travel bookings have been a steady leader of the consumerís move to Internet shopping. However, a recent US Online Travel report has revealed the dynamics for this category are changing.

In 2008, US travel sales booked online reached about $105 billion, up 12 percent†from 2007. Interestingly, however, even though online sales were still growing, fewer travelers were actually booking their trips online. Moreover, the drop was not due to economic concerns — online travel bookers are mostly an affluent demographic. Rather, the drop is being caused by consumer frustrations with the Web sites. In this particular case, frustrations with the planning and booking capabilities of the online travel sites. One result has been to actually spur some renewed appreciation for the expertise and personalized services offered by traditional travel agents.

†There are some lessons in this for us, too. One is that we likely donít take time to make certain our Web sites are not a cause for frustration, either by their design or operation. In other words, as in the travel example, that our Web sites do provide an opportunity to easily navigate to and access all the information a visitor might want.

†No question Internet studies have shown a person who becomes frustrated with a Web site simply clicks the mouse and theyíre gone. . . and so is some potential business!

Another point is the need to respond fast to inquiries coming in from your Web site. There are countless stories of lost business because no one responded quickly to an e-mail inquiry. Finally, when someone did respond, the response they most often got was: ďIím sorry but since you didnít get back to me right away, I bought it from someone else.Ē

I find that once dealers have established a Web site, most donít visit them frequently enough. Not good! Always keeping a Web site fresh and up-to-date is critical to its success. But, if you donít go to it, how can you inject new, fresh ideas into it? Doesnít happen, you say? I have visited many Web sites and I can tell you I have observed a lot that havenít changed, updated or added something good in years. They never change. So, they can hardly be called up-to-date and effective.

How about your Web site? When did you last visit and take a serious look? How far back did you make the latest changes and improvements? If it has been a while, nowís a great time to jump in and get it done.

Comments

8 comments on “Too many Web sites are too confusing

  1. Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

    On a different subject… The current Drudge Report has an excellent wire story about how hard-pressed boat owners (especially in Florida) are abondoning their boats because they are too expensive… Norm (as always) is of coruse correct about the importance of web sites and keeping them fresh…

  2. Shaun Prentice

    Norm, Agree 100% w/ you. After several years I decided to join the club of having a website and although only weeks new, it took alot of thinking “outside the box” to try to keep people as interested as possible to stay and not click away somewhere else. http://www.stlawrec.com

  3. Larry Rains

    Great post on the importance of simple easy to use websites. I would add that a company’s entire online presence needs to be coordinated. How many websites and directories does your company have. At my YachtWorld.com presentations I ask the audience and get an average answer of three. Brokers and dealers often have: their company website, a Boats.com Marine Site, a YachtWorld.com Classic Site. Additionally, they may have directory listings with outdated information throughout the internet. I advocate our customers make frequent searches on Google for their company name to see what information their clients are finding online.

  4. Dave Valentine

    We here at Marine Web Services, a leading provider of dealer web site solutions, strongly agree with Mr. Schultz. Your web site is one of the most cost-effective and far reaching marketing options you have available. With an increasing number of people locating and researching products and services online, you want to be sure your online presence reflects how you feel about your dealership and your customers.

    Since more and more consumers are doing preliminary research on the internet, the dealer web site is often the first impression a potential customer will get of a dealership. Therefore, Mr. Schultz’s points about avoiding frustration and confusion, and making regular updates are crucial to keeping visitors on your site once they get there.

    Consider a dealerís brick-and-mortar store. Is the dealership organized and easy for visitors to walk through? Does the dealership make regular changes regarding store displays, advertising and promotions? Is the dealership set up to impress every potential customer that walks through the doors? Is the dealership doing its best to ensure customers keep coming back for future boating needs? For successful dealerships, the answer is always ‘yes’. If your web site is your “virtual” dealership, then do the same things online that you do in your store to create customer interest and keep them coming back.

  5. Arch

    Websites are TOTALLY overrated. They do little for business and when everyone else has one, whatever they are doing for you, they are probably doing for everyone else. It’s all relative.

  6. Jim

    That’s right Arch, and I hope you keep thinking that way. We normally only sell 30 or 40 boats per year online or so.

  7. Jeff Siems

    Arch, Yes everyone might have a website, BUT a website is not evenly effective for everyone. It all depends on how useful their site is, and what content it offers and how up-to-date it is. We just made a large change in our website, and in less then a week we had seen a dramatic change in our traffic and leads. This was due to change in content, and access to information to the customers.
    Websites are often compaired to our brick and morter stores, it is like having a good or bad sales staff, or a good or bad technician, on how successful a site can be.

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