Editor’s Note: The following blog is authored by Lauren Labunsky, public relations manager for Dealer Spike, a company that provides websites as well as a suite of online advertising solutions designed to help dealers increase sales and service profitability.

As a shopper, you have certain standards and expectations when it comes to the store you are visiting. These days, a shopper is actually more likely to “shop” or research a store online before they make an in-person visit. This makes it crucial to accommodate the shopper’s experience on your website. You must also now consider that the in-store visit may not be a customer’s first impression of your business – there is a good chance they have already spent time online checking your dealership out.

There are a few basic needs that are important to most customers, whether they are fully aware of them or not. Customers generally want their shopping experience to fall into the three following categories.

  • Customers don’t want to be a number – they want to feel like your staff cares about their individual needs. On an in-store basis, this means that a friendly and knowledgeable staff member greets them right away and finds out what kind of unit or product they are looking for. On your website, it may be an option to enable a chat feature or pop-up form that allows customers to easily request information. Providing this option gives them a much more personalized experience on your site. When sales representatives at your store receive leads through the website, they should know exactly how to follow up with that customer.
  • Think about a customer’s experience walking through your store. If they were forced to wander around aimlessly, having trouble finding the unit or product they were interested in, they probably won’t stay for very long. No one has time to waste, and if shoppers have to search your website for more than a minute or two, they’ll probably just go to a different dealership’s website instead. There are some design techniques that help create intuitive websites. Simplicity and use of white space on layouts make them easier to navigate, and a limited number of clearly labeled menu items make it easier to keep things organized. Large, obvious call-to-action buttons are important too, so that when a customer is ready to ask for more information or submit a lead it’s simple for them to do so.
  • As much as technology moves forward, nothing beats human interaction – especially when it comes to a very large purchase like an RV. You would never replace the sales staff in your dealership, but it’s a challenge to give shoppers a similar experience online. One great way to connect with customers online is to have an active social media presence. Be accessible! Post often, respond to comments and questions, and really invest in your audience on those channels. If a prospect can connect with your business in a genuine way, they’ll be much more likely to follow through with a purchase.

Although the ways that your dealership presents itself at the storefront and online may feel very different, they are more closely related than you may think. The majority of customers will visit your dealership online before ever stepping foot in store, so in the likely chance that your website is their first impression of your business, it’s important to make it a good one. These three key pieces of serving your customers well will get you off to a running start.