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How to Make Your Website a Research Hub That Leads Customers Through Their Car Buying Process

Where Are Car Buyers Researching Vehicles in 2019? 

Consumers spend the bulk of the buying process online, where resources for vehicle information and incentives is plentiful. The question is, what is your dealership doing to take control of the buying process? 

If you’re trying to solve this problem by getting more people through the doors earlier in that process, you’re doing it wrong. The typical consumer is only going to visit 1 or 2 dealerships in-person, while they’ll visit nearly 5 dealership websites on average during their research process. As friendly, inviting and unique as the experience may be at your dealership, it’s never going to compete with a consumer’s ability to look at vehicles from their phone with Netflix on in the background and a bag of chips at their side.  

Where Car Buyers WANT to Do Their Research 

After all, according to Google, 95% of new vehicle buyers have done some level of research online. This digital research is taking place on several types of websites, with OEM websites being the top resource and dealership websites coming in at a very close second. So, it’s clear that consumers WANT to research their car options on your website, but CAN they? If you aren’t putting effort into creating those webpages that can act as a resource for car buyers, then consumers may go elsewhere for the information they’re looking for. This could mean OEM websites, review sites, automotive blogs, YouTube or another dealership’s website. Either way, when a customer leaves your website to find a better resource, you have a diminished chance of seeing that customer return. In fact, you’ve likely just lost a sale, and quite possibly the service and brand loyalty that comes along with it. 

You need to be meeting your customers online at every stage of the buying process, not just when it’s time to make a sale. Yet, there remains a significant difference between a buyer’s consumption of digital resources and the percentage of the budget a dealership is spending on digital. For example, despite print resources making up a miniscule percentage of many people’s media consumption, dealers are still spending a significant portion of their budget on print materials. In most cases the starting point for car shopping happens online. According to Google, the first action a user takes in the buying process happens online 56% of the time, while offline resources like TV or print make up just 7% of those initial actions. Has your budget been adjusted for this digital landscape? 

Having your inventory listed online is a good start, but it’s not good enough. Inventory is great for buyers who know the exact model they want, but not all customers are going to stumble across your website that far down the buying funnel. Your website also needs an arsenal of other resources that can educate customers at each stage of the process. Let’s walk through the exact types of research materials you may want your website to have for each one of those stages. 

Dealership Sales Funnel

Brand Awareness

This is the point at which customers first learn about your business. Often times, this step works hand-in-hand with the Interest stage below, but there are other ways to raise awareness of your dealership before people are even looking for a new vehicle.


This stage is where customers enter the funnel as serious prospects. They may be ready to buy within the next couple weeks or within the next year. Regardless, you want website resources that provide the information they need to continue along the buying process.  

  • Informational model pages 
  • Overviews of a particular segment (sedans or SUVs) 
digital marketing funnel, awareness - interest - consideration - intent - convert

At this point, your potential customer has moved from being just interested in buying a vehicle to seriously preparing for a purchase. The research being completed is more detailed and involves not just learning about vehicles on a broad level but comparing vehicles from different brands side-by-side.  

  • Model vs model comparisons 
  • Brand vs brand comparisons 
  • Warranty information 

By now, a customer is ready to buy. It’s just a matter of sealing the deal. But don’t think their research is finished just yet. They may know the type of vehicle or OEM they want to go with, and may even know the exact model they want, but things can still fall apart at this stage. 

Once a customer is seriously ready to buy a vehicle, it’s important for details regarding offers and incentives to be available on the website. Like we said, your dealership may be the first choice at this point, but if the right deals aren’t advertised they could just as easily go somewhere else. 

  • Stock-specific offers 
  • Military discounts 
  • College graduate programs  

From here, the customer is in your hands. Your website content resources have made it easy for the customer to complete their research while remaining on your website. But, be cautious. That doesn’t mean the digital journey is over. Many customers will still want to continue the buying process online, organizing purchase details before they commit to visiting the dealership. If this is the case, utilize your CRM to ensure you can continue these conversations effectively in the digital space and allow the customer to determine when they are ready to stop by in-person. 

The Types of Content Your Dealership Website Needs to Have 

What we listed above is just a small sample of the types of research pages your website can house. But, they do establish a solid foundation for dealerships working to build up resources for their customers. Let’s look in more detail at a couple of these landing page types to see what they can do for you. 

Model Research and Comparisons 

As a research hub for car buyers, these types of pages are your bread and butter. Advertising sales events and special offers is great, but a user needs to be able to learn about the vehicles you’re offering as well. 

Your inventory may contain some of this information, but those pages tend to contain too many details for the general research a car buyer is looking for at this stage in the buying process. By highlighting the most notable features and capabilities in a vehicle, this research becomes clear and easy for the consumer. For example, DealerFire comparison pages contain easy-to-understand charts that compare key vehicle features side-by-side between OEMs. 

mazda cx-5 vs hyundai santa fe comparison chart

General model overview pages work together well with comparisons to lead buyers from the research phase of their buying process to considering your dealership or brand as a real option for purchase. But, keep in mind that this content shouldn’t just be copied from an OEM website or anywhere else. When buyers search for such keywords as “2019 Mazda CX-5 near me,” they need to be able to find the pages you are creating since many consumers won’t go directly to your website from the start. That means these pages should be uniquely written and optimized for local SEO. At DealerFire, these pages often contain contact forms and a module featuring vehicles in your inventory to help guide users to the next step in the process. 

[Read more: Why duplicate website content is hurting your dealership] 

Stock-Specific Offers 

Any dealership website should contain a page dedicated to the latest incentives coming through from the OEM. But what do you do when you need to advertise an offer for a specific stock number? 

Often times, these stock-specific offers are some of the best offers a customer can find, but advertising them on the website wasn’t convenient. At DealerFire, we recognized a need for pages that highlight these deals, and so we developed our stock-specific offer webpages. 

As with any website content designed for local buyers, these pages are locally optimized and uniquely written, so consumers can find them easily whether they are searching for “2019 Kia Forte specials” through a search engine or just browsing your website.  

Through certain functionality in Ignite, our dealers are able to add featured offers for their website (or we can do this for you). Then, a module designed by the DealerFire team pulls these offers to the webpage automatically, organizing the information in a clear format with calls-to-action so customers can claim the offer. As these offers are updated each month, the modules on the pages are also automatically updated. 

kia lease and financing offers

You may be thinking this is a lot of website content to produce, and it is. But digital car shopping isn’t going away, and if your website doesn’t contain the materials consumers need to gain information on the vehicles you sell and establish trust in your brand, then they can just as easily go elsewhere to find it. After that, however, there is no guarantee they will return. Once a consumer is on your website, the goal is to keep them there by providing the webpages necessary to guide them through each step in their buying process. 

Thankfully, we have a team at DealerFire that has perfected these strategies for dealerships, continually creating and developing content that establishes dealerships as the automotive research hub in their area. To get a taste of what we can do for you, schedule a demo of our digital marketing products.   

Schedule Your DealerFire Digital Marketing Demo Today