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What Parts of Your Website Actually Matter to Vehicle Shoppers?

Find out if your showroom pages, blogs, or inventory mean anything to your customers with this research-backed and theory-focused article

Being in the dealership website and digital marketing game can often be a battle like a teeter-totter; balancing doing what we know is best for our clients’ performance, and also doing the things that matter most to those clients and their dealerships.

Can I get a “no more sliders” chant, please?

When it comes to making the right choices for your website, there are many factors to consider. We’re big fans of making decisions based on research to decide what areas of websites to focus on and optimize to make the best user experience and performance possible. Here are some insights as to how common dealership pages fare in the real world.

Showroom Pages: a Dying Breed?

As the years progress, showroom pages become ever-more competitive in terms of design and demand. Dealership clients want bells and whistles on these pages more than almost anything else. But, as time passes, these pages are increasingly becoming less important to vehicle shoppers. Showroom pages are something we get many questions and change requests for, from dealers. Why?

Well, we know that dealers like to brag about their promotions, put effort behind old stock or exciting inventory, move what has the best offer, and show that their numbers stack up against the competition in a price-sensitive market. Do these things truly matter to consumers?

Showrooms: Dealership vs. Manufacturer

A study conducted by Google breaks down the vehicle-buying journey as it relates to dealership websites, review sites, manufacturer sites, and Google searches. This study showed a shopper’s digital interactions over a three month period:

  • 186 manufacturer interactions
  • 139 Google searches
  • 69 Dealer interactions
  • And the stats get lower from there (check them all out here)

When it comes to dealership vehicle showrooms, they tend to mirror a lot of the information available on your OEM’s national site. It’s just the nature of the automotive beast. The thing is, customers have often already visited your manufacturer’s website before ever arriving on yours. They’ve done the build and price, they’re familiar with (the same old, boring) promotions available at all of your brand’s locations and they’re now ready to interact with a local brand’s personality and inventory. Does it really matter if I can get a 2019 Honda Civic for 0% financing for $17,970 cash with zero added features if the only units local dealerships have are the LX and EX trims? Nope. So why so much love for the base offers?

The Real Dealership Showroom Statistics

I took real data from a dealership website client of ours to see just how showroom pages hold up. Using the Google Analytics Behaviour Flow feature, I looked at just how much traffic eventually hits the showroom pages of the website compared to the rest:

  • Last year, over 56% of traffic flowed to inventory-related pages
  • For that same period, 4% of traffic flowed to lineup pages
  • The showroom pages? 1.37% of all website traffic flowed to showroom/incentive pages at any point in their interaction with the website
  • The bulk of the remaining traffic visited staff pages, landing pages, and content pages
To avoid isolating the above data, I pulled additional stats from yet another dealer in a different province and from a different OEM. Here’s what I found:
  • 77% of users chose inventory-related pages as their first interaction
  • 0.006% of users chose the showroom as their first interaction
  • 0.15% chose incentives as their first interaction
  • The remaining ~20% flowed to landing pages, blog posts, and promotional/dealership efforts

I kept researching through additional behaviour flow statistics across varying client types and found similar data at each point in the website journey. Shoppers seemingly care about inventory and your dealership brand, as it relates to your website, more than they care about national offers that they can find elsewhere.

Inventory Pages: Where the Party is Bumpin’

Inventory. Isn’t that the name of the game? I certainly can’t buy a vehicle from you if you don’t have it available (see my Honda rant above), and I’m even less likely to complete a lead capture form if there are no pictures of it. That can’t be exclusive to me.

Inventory Images for Ads

Using an ads client as an example, we compared their ad performance using dynamic inventory ads where some had images and some didn’t. This client started with about half of their used inventory being merchandised with real photos and went to having all vehicles merchandised with real images.

Comparing one month to the next, their ad spend per VDP (vehicle display page) view dropped from $0.95 to $0.60, with all other factors (spend, targeting, etc.) held constant.

This also snagged them more results (read: clicks and conversions) for the same spend. The images were the only change to the campaign! Same budget, similar inventory, same targeting, same ads structure!

Inventory Images on SRPs and VDP

The same concept of imagery applies to your SRPs (search results pages) and VDPs. This is where I got into some serious data entry. I took data points across both new and used vehicles, across multiple OEMs and independent dealership sites, makes/models, etc. to get a balanced idea of how VDP views relate to images or lack thereof.

Analyzing over 30,000 VDP views, here’s what that looked like.


statistics comparing VDP views

While there will always be fluctuations in the audience, geography, advertising, vehicles, etc., it’s hard to ignore the stark difference in views per day when we compare vehicles that have real images to those that don’t. If the majority of your website visitors are visiting your inventory-related pages, wouldn’t you prefer to maximize the number of units they’re viewing once they get to inventory search pages and give your inventory equal attention?

While the number of vehicles each shopper looks at isn’t a game of quantity=performance, making sure that the units they’re looking for have the assets that they want to see surely can’t hurt.

Content Pages: Users and SEO Reign Supreme

The value of content pages can be communicated in two different ways, or in two different realms: user experience, and SEO (search engine optimization).

When it comes to content pages on your website, this can look like model pages, landing pages, and our favourite: blogs, among an almost endless sea of other names. These pages are important for a variety of reasons.

Content for SEO: Having content on your website that speaks to your realm of expertise helps search engines understand what your website is all about, and helps to provide authority to your website. Blogs can help you win more users by having relevant content for search engines to rank your site above the competition and help you convert more users into customers by providing them with value.

Content for shoppers: inserting yourself into the buyer’s journey at points where your competition are nowhere to be found can be a serious edge. Some of our most popular blog posts on client sites compare the features of SUV #1 to SUV #2, or our star vehicle against those it competes with. What’s stopping you from helping customers to skip review sites completely and presenting the information they’re looking for on your website?

Giving customers the answers they’re looking for online with content seems like common sense; isn’t that what your salespeople are doing when they’re face-to-face selling? (I sure hope so!).

While these two points could be elaborated on in much, much more detail. I’ll leave it for you to ponder. Wondering what other insights exist to take your website to the next level? Hit us up; we’re always happy to dig into the data.

Whit Norrad      

Whit Norrad      

Whether she's in the dealership rocking USPs with clients or behind the screen, Whit's on mission to scale your local business. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and biz dev at the height of tech expansion, Whit supports individual dealerships as they navigate changing landscapes and grow their businesses.

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