General Motors Relaxes Requirements and Expands Website Options

General Motors Relaxes Requirements and Expands Website Options
Posted November 1, 2019 by Kat Züber

General Motors Finally Sees A Change for the Better

As General Motors (GM) franchisees, we have eagerly been awaiting the moment when GM stores were granted the ability to differentiate their digital storefronts [websites] from their neighboring competitors. After all, competition is not only great for consumers, but emboldens us as owners to improve our digital storefronts to benefit our entire industry.  Finally, the time has come.

Previously, our stores have been required to use clunky and considerably restrictive websites from CDK Global. During this time, we all shared our frustrations over the limited capabilities and identical, unsatisfying online experiences stemming from using these sites. Consumers often didn’t realize who they were shopping from, creating needless confusion. These pain points ultimately diminished shoppers’ online experiences across all GM sites. If they shopped the Chevrolet store down the street with a less than adequate in-store process, all neighboring Chevrolet stores were held to the same impression. These ideas were aggravated by the fact that they could not easily distinguish one Dealer from the other.

Now, there are four website providers to choose from. Each provider offers their own set of benefits and drawbacks. The decision at hand could elevate your store’s online position, granting you unmatched flexibility previously unavailable. It can also intensify disadvantages should you decide to remain with CDK in 2020.

Below you will find our review and recommendations for each of the providers to consider when deciding where your digital storefront will reside. It’s important to note that our recommendations come with one caveat: Should you decide to change providers, our recommendation is to wait until early next year (2020) before launching. Unsurprisingly, an influx of dealers changing website providers can create some obstacles for each of the providers. We have seen this before when manufacturers make these types of program changes. We are currently experiencing it again with this adjustment. Therefore, like most gadgets or updates, version 2.0 lessens the glitches we’d experience utilizing in the first version.

Now let’s review the stats provided by General Motors Google Team during their GM Digital Summit tour.

First Impressions

Figure 1 Source: https://ai.googleblog.com/2012/08/users-love-simple-and-familiar-designs.html

According to Google, it takes 50 milliseconds for an online shopper to form an opinion the moment they see a site. It then takes 2.60 seconds for their eyes to land on an area of the site that most influences their impression. Imagine for a moment how quickly shoppers are making decisions. Your brain can recognize sound waves in the same amount of time [0.05 seconds] a shopper has formed an opinion. That’s ten times faster than the blink of an eye. Light, the fastest known form of energy in the universe, has traveled 9,314.1199 miles in the time a website visitor has already formed an opinion of your site. Even more interesting is how significant the design of your website is for online shoppers.

94% of first impressions are related to your website’s design! That means only 6% of first impressions are formed on the actual content. Only 6% from the content. This represents how important visual appeal and website navigation is to an online shopper. This also puts into perspective how important it is when putting together each page in a meaningful way – or rather what we are placing on the page – is to users.

What does that mean for your website decision? Whichever provider you decide to go with, the most important takeaway comes from their ability to design sites that appeal to a user. The second most important part goes to the website’s ability to personalize your site for shoppers based on their past behaviors, both on and off your site. As the decision maker, you should ensure the website provider has the right tools and capabilities for you (or your marketing agency) to make the necessary changes to ensure we meet these design demands.

 

Mobile Shoppers

Figure 2 Source: Google/Kantar Automotive Path to Purchase 2019

Once again we heard about the importance of mobile. We’ve been hearing this from experts for a decade. Google and Kantar Automotive conducted another study only reaffirming what we have been seeing over the years. Digital research continues and is increasing on mobile devices. Consider this, nearly 50% of Black Friday sales come from smartphones totaling $2.1 billion in sales. With mobile and e-commerce technology improving at record rates,  it’s becoming easier for shoppers to make financial transactions online. This has led shoppers to not only research and buy with more frequency, but also increase how much they spend per transaction. Regardless of if you believe shoppers do or do not buy cars online, 54% said they would “love” being able to sell or buy a car from home, and 42% were fine buying a car without a test drive, as long as there was some form of guarantee.

What does that mean for your website decision? Your website provider must build mobile-first sites, and you should shop them the same way. Building mobile-first sites refers to the practice where website designers strategize and develop for the smallest screen first, then expanding the same ideas to tablet and desktop versions. While you are sitting through demos, ask the presenter if sites or designs are sketched on mobile screens before they are created for desktop devices. Request information on how they develop their designs and features. Keep in mind that a one-second delay on mobile load times will impact conversions by up to 20%.

Optimal Load-Order of Website Components

Perhaps you see certain technical aspects of your site as being difficult to understand, or requiring the knowledge of advanced programming languages. We are here to tell you they are far less complicated than they seem. In fact, We have never met a General Manager or Dealer Principal who could not easily pick up the basics. Afterall, to be a good programmer you must first think logically – which is a characteristic of most people in dealership leadership roles. When considering a website provider, consider how they have built the site pertaining to load times.

Load times are affected by a variety of mechanisms. But like prioritizing responsibilities at your store or our dreaded emails, there is an optimal order that different website components should be that affect load times the most. Developers can re-order the components of a page that may be required for initial display so that users get the quickest apparent response during page-load.

Any dynamic features that require the page to complete loading before being used should initially be disabled, then only enabled after the page has finished loading. This will cause the JavaScript to be loaded after the page contents, which will improve the overall appearance of the page load. Please keep in mind that if your site is using any tracking or third-party scripts including additional tools not normally part of the site, this may cause delays for these tools. Nonetheless, your users will thank you when they see what they are looking for quickly. Look at the graphic below for a quick visual representation of how things should load.

What does that mean for your website decision? A website provider should be able to provide you with a breakdown of how different assets on your site – specifically your mobile site – will load. Confirm how different aspects of your site are loaded sequentially with each website provider you are reviewing.

Images, Files, and Other Time Delaying Aspects to Consider

If you have ever had a website review conducted for your site, you may have heard this before: “Minimize or decrease HTTP requests”. What are HTTP requests?

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) requests done whenever a browser fetches a file, a page, or a picture from a web server. Any time we visit a page on a website, a server somewhere is called to return the files for that page to your browser.

Think of the website URL as the home address: You are visiting someone’s home and the files on the site are like the furniture inside of the home. When you first arrive inside someone’s home, you walk through the different rooms taking in the interior. In this case, a website calls on all the different files of a site just as you would walk through someone’s home.

Requesting these files can account for up to 80% of a website’s load time and browsers limit how many requests can be made simultaneously. This means with more of these requests made to your site, the slower your site will seem. Modest sites load faster. Take for example this site. There is nothing on it, therefore it loads almost instantly. Hence minimalistic sites are preferred by web surfers. As for dealership websites, there are some things we can’t avoid; For example: the inventory. But there are things we can do to help lower the load time.

The first thing you can do is reduce how many images you add or include on pages, especially the home page or landing pages. We are all tempted to add various banners and graphics to our sites. Be forewarned, these images may seem appealing to you but may also impair the site’s ability to load quickly. If you want to include images, be sure to compress them. If you don’t know how, the website provider should be able to help you here.

What does that mean for your website decision? Speak to your website provider – prospective or not – regarding HTTP requests. More specifically, ask them how you can have your site built in the most minimalistic way to reduce load times as much as possible. Also, reconsider some of your third-party tools. If you have too many, your house is cluttered, and your guests won’t feel as welcome.

Our Recommendations and Comparative Review of  General Motors Website Providers

We have included the most important items to review with each of the website providers in an easy-to-read grid below. Each provider (including General Motors) has created their own comparison guide. Evidently, each Provider’s comparison guide is intended to promote their best interests. We have created a non-biased comparison review based on aspects we deem most important to us as dealers. Take a moment to review these features. Please keep in mind, we advocate for using a website provider’s premier option. Time and again we have discovered lesser alternatives come with more limitations. Your website is the most important part of your digital presence.

Questions to Ask Prospective Website Providers

We have prepared additional questions to ask prospective website providers pursuing your business. Please use this list to help prepare your eventual decision:

  • Can you share your most recent examples or success-stories?
  • What’s your experience in my DMA?
  • What other local GM or competitor dealers do you service?
  • How many websites are you currently building and will it delay my site?
  • What are you planning to do to make the website transition as smooth as possible?
  • How long will the website migration take, and what will you need from me to ensure it is completed swiftly and correctly?
    • Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about the process. Anytime website providers make agreements with manufacturers, it’s not common to experience delays. You should be well informed about this process.
  • How can I expect to communicate with you, and at what frequency?
  • Who will be my account representative?
  • How many accounts is this representative be responsible for, including mine?
  • If I’m using an outside digital advertising agency for my marketing, how should I expect you to work with them? What restrictions do I need to inform them of?
  • How frequently are you testing site speed, and what resources will you use to optimize my site’s speed?
  • Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, while providing detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
  • What are your measurements for success and what can I hold you accountable to them?
  • How will you manage leads – such as form submissions and other direct actions – customers complete on my website?
  • Request a technical and search audit for your site to learn what they think needs to be done, why, and what is the expected outcome.

General Motors Dealers – Be an Informed Decision Maker

This next part is related to self-education. Many experts and industry leaders have opinions on a variety of different elements that may influence your digital decisions. Often, these ideas are general and broad-ranging, making it difficult to know exactly what to do. We understand; We have all been to the countless digital summits and conferences that occur each year. Frequently, we walk away with conflicting or unclear ideas. For that reason, we recommend continual self-education to help you make the right decisions for your store.

Please visit Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to help you understand how Google finds, indexes, and ultimately ranks your site. We also recommend taking Google Analytics Academy courses. Do not wait for another industry expert to tell you how to manage your website. Take control of your digital presence by becoming proficient of what makes sense for your store. Not all recommendations are equal and not all make sense for your store.

Our General Motors Provider Review

Please review our comparison of each provider here. We have ranked each of the most important aspects from 1 through 5. A score of 1 is considered least favorable and 5 is the most exceptional grade for that feature. Keep in mind whatever decision you decide, nothing will dictate the success of your website like your participation and management of it. Having a great dedicated website representative goes a long way in safeguarding the site’s success. Make certain that individual as mastery over all website optimization aspects. Get their supervisors information from the start of your relationship in the case you may need their involvement.