Good dealerships pride themselves on their great customer service. A core tenet of great customer service is catering to their personalised needs.

So why then are most dealers missing out on a great chance to demonstrate this by serving up cookie cutter websites to their online shoppers?

You know more than you think about your visitors

If I’m shopping on your dealership website, you can form quite a detailed persona on me. You know what website I’ve just arrived from. You know if I’ve been here before and how many times. You should know what vehicles I looked at during my previous visits, what features I entered in my search, what figures I entered in your finance calculator and whether I clicked on any reviews. Any significant interaction I’ve had with your website, you should know about it.

Thing is, you probably weren’t taking any notice of what I was doing on your website. Perhaps your marketing guys were capturing some general Google Analytics events for end of month “engagement” reporting, but you weren’t paying my personal requirements any attention. I’m not officially “a lead” yet, so until I become one, individually tailored customer service can wait.

Amazon is the canonical example of content personalisation on the web with their “Recommendations for You” and “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” sections. They use the interactions you’ve made on their website to serve you up this content just for you. They’ve been doing this for years yet personalised car dealership websites are still extremely scarce. An industry report by Accenture found that 75% of automotive shoppers would like more intuitive, customised content made available to them. The opportunity is certainly there.

So let’s have a look at how this could be applied to the online car shopping journey.

Using a persona-driven approach to personalisation

Creating customer personas as a basis for your website personalisation can be a very effective strategy in mapping behaviours to content presentation. Your dealership’s marketing team might already have identified its own particular personas but here are 5 personalisation ideas for some common customer types that you can start with.

1. The Early Stage Researcher

Identifying behaviours First time visitor. Has arrived from a “car dealers in <your_locality>” PPC campaign. Enters loose search criteria such as body style, colour. Customising content The shopper probably isn’t ready to make contact yet, so keep lead generating CTAs subtle. That means no Starbucks incentive coupon popups or operator initiated live chats. The focus at this stage should be on the vehicle details. Use of a Similar Vehicles list on the VDP will help give the customer a better view of the range of vehicles you own.

Pro Tip: PPC campaign sourced visitors are a prime target for personalisation. If you have segmented your Adwords ad groups appropriately, you know exactly what group of keywords triggered the ad and you can then pass this data through to your landing page and personalise it accordingly.

2. The Budget Constrained Buyer

Identifying behaviours Has arrived from localised PPC campaign for “cheap cars”. Uses a low upper price limit in search criteria. Customising content Highlight the finance calculator and any price incentives you have on offer. Emphasise vehicle reviews and certifications as reliability is probably a high priority requirement.

3. The “I know exactly what I want” Shopper

Identifying behaviours Return visitor. Searched using exact make/model/trim combination type. Has viewed several vehicles of this type in different browsing sessions. Customising content At this stage, the vehicle spec should take second stage as the shopper has already researched this in depth. Time to highlight “confirmation” information such as vehicle reviews, certifications, etc. Also promote any add-ons your dealership can offer: extended service plans, special financing.

4. The Returning Lead

Identifying behaviours Return visitor. Previously submitted a lead (either via a form inquiry, live chat or click-to-call button). Has viewed several vehicles of this type in different browsing sessions. Customising content They’ve made contact but haven’t yet made it into the showroom. Time to go for the hard sell to get them to take the next step. Make CTAs more prominent. It’s ok to lead with the incentive coupons at this stage. Also ensure that the showroom address & map are prominent. Consider using a shopping cart style “Your Vehicles” section containing the vehicle(s) they submitted inquiries about.

5. Let shoppers tell you what they’re not interested in

The previous ideas are all driven by assumptions inferred from the shopper’s behaviour. These assumptions may not always be right so you must take care not to totally remove something which may be useful to the customer. However, you can (and should) allow the shopper to explicitly dismiss non-relevant sections by themselves. Some examples:

Trading in? “Yes – Value My Vehicle” or “No (don’t ask me again)”.

Need Finance? “Yes – Calculate Now” or “No (don’t ask me again)”.

This helps remove the clutter from the shopper’s view allowing her to focus on only the information she cares about. Also, if your internet sales team are using real-time website lead tracking, building these explicit need-demonstrating behaviours into your site will give your sales reps a better picture of your visitor’s needs when they proceed to submit a lead.

Differentiate more!

Cookie cutter is the status quo in dealer websites (with a few exceptional outliers). It isn’t bad per se. It ticks all the boxes for “must-haves” in dealer website functionality. It provides tried and tested, solid features which have proven their worth over time. But cookie cutter isn’t great either. It may help you keep up with the competition, but it constrains you from getting ahead and differentiating your brand. Research has shown that 78% of shoppers visit at least 6 websites when buying a car, so your website experience needs to stand out if you want the shopper to pick your dealership. Personalisation is differentiation. It tells your potential customer that you care about their specific needs. In addition to increasing your website’s hard KPIs (i.e. leads submitted), smartly designed personalised websites will also boost its softer metrics such as brand awareness and customer delight.

The ideas discussed here are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved with personalisation. It can be implemented through a combination of a tracking JavaScript code on your website, a browser cookie and some simple rules on your web pages. No complex learning algorithms are needed to get started.

What is your website vendor doing to help your dealership bring a more personal touch to your online shoppers’ experience?