The Importance of Merchandising Your Dealership's Website

26 Sep The Importance of Merchandising Your Dealership's Website

Do you wish you could read minds?  Surely every car dealer does!  If only you knew what the customer was thinking, you’d know the magic offer that would close the deal on each sale.  Shoppers are coming to you more prepared and knowledgeable than ever before from their online research, and instead of wishing for a super power you’ll never get, today, you can get pretty close to the real thing.

How?  Simply take a look at the newest research about online car shopping behaviors and use some common sense.  There’s a lot we can infer from these studies about what’s going on in the minds of your prospects – from what they already know to what answers they are looking for when they come to you.  The more you know, the more you can exceed their expectations.  The way you can do this is with a well-merchandised website.

The Internet is King: The Research

You’ve heard it before, and you’re going to keep hearing it.  Every year the stats get higher and higher.  As confirmed by the 2013 Polk Study, there’s no denying the internet.  It’s a huge factor in car shopping.  In fact, an overwhelming majority of New and Used Car Buyers indicated that the Internet was the primary source that led them to the dealership where they bought a car – more than 15 times that of any other media source.mostusedsourceOnline shopping is dominating consumers’ total shopping time – with New and Used Car Buyers spending over 72% of their time (10 or more hours) seeking information from dealer sites, third-party sites, OEM sites, and review sites.


We’ve covered why your dealership site (see: Why Better Automotive Websites Lead to More Sales) and review sites (see: Tips for Managing Your Dealership’s Online Reputation) are important, but now it’s time to focus on third-party sites.

Third-Party Sites

Sites like AutoTrader,, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are taking up the most of your customers’ online shopping time.  Below is a breakdown of the hours.

Used Vehicle Buyers spend half of their time online shopping on these sites (about 5 hours) while New Vehicle Buyers spend approximately 2.5 hours on them.


That’s no small chunk of time.  Consumers aren’t just causally browsing these sites.  They’re on a mission.  By finding out what they already know from their time on these sites, you can get one step ahead of the game.

The main things customers are looking at are prices, trade-in values, and reviews.

By the time they come to you, most customers will already have made decisions about exactly how much they are willing to and should pay for the car they want.  They’ve seen the MSRP and dealer invoice price as well as what others in their area are paying for that car.  If they have a trade in, they know just how much it’s worth and what they should get for it.  Know where your offer needs to be to line up with their expectations.

As a side note, not only are customers looking at this information at home, but AutoTrader,, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds all have mobile apps.  Imagine you’re negotiating a price with a customer and you step away for a moment.  With the click of a button, the customer can find a similar car to the one on your showroom floor with a lower price.  You come back, and your offer is refused.

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Pictured (from left to right): Kelley Blue Book App and Edmunds App

Coming back to websites, new and used vehicle buyers are spending over two hours of their shopping time on dealer sites.  Get yours to take up the majority of that time.  Make your site easy to navigate so consumers can find the information they want.  Keep reading for examples of some techniques we used on one of our clients’ websites, Bay Kia.

Merchandising Your Website

Homepage – Keep your slideshow full of current offers and have large buttons linking to the most popular areas of your site below in plain view.  Make sure factory incentives and offers are easy to find.


Monthly Offers and Specials – Have plenty of new, used, service, and parts specials for the customer to peruse, with links to view inventory or print the offer.  Add a contact form, contact information, and a map of your location to the sidebar.



Search Page – Keep your campaign consistent throughout your site by adding a header on the vehicle search pages.  Add third-party widgets below for conversions.


Inventory Detail Pages – These are the most visited pages on your website so be sure to optimize all available editable areas to promote who you are.  Strategically place lead converting tools for more conversion opportunities.  The ePrice button is extremely important for leads.  Display clear prices and show the MSRP.  Include your value proposition to show your stance on pricing.


Use these tricks to increase the potential of your website, and keep customers engaged.

At Chumney & Associates, we are experts in digital advertising for the automotive industry including SEO, SEM, and website merchandising.  Keep checking our blog for tips and advice, and call us at 561-882-0066 or visit to start driving more traffic to your dealership.

About the Author
Marisa Markwardt is an automotive internet marketing specialist at Chumney & Associates with a passion for social media and writing.  Connect with her on Google+ here.

Tony Weaver is a research-based automotive Internet marketing strategist & consultant.  He leads a cutting-edge team of Automotive Internet Marketing & Development professionals at Chumney & Associates.  Connect with him on Google+ here.

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