{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Fordonline.co.uk is a new website from Ford Retail, which has been launched this week based on the belief that people are prepared to buy cars online without a test drive.

According to a survey quoted in the press release, 37% of web shoppers would purchase vehicles without taking a test drive, thus removing a barrier to online car buying.


I've been trying out the new website to see how it works...

Homepage

This isn't a full e-commerce offering where users checkout online; instead customers can purchase the vehicle via email or over the telephone, and the car will be delivered to one of 12 regional centres. 

Still, since most dealer websites only offer a telephone number or the chance to book a test drive, then this new website is a little different. 

The homepage showcases Ford's range of new cars, and provides plenty of clear links to the various areas of the site. There is a used car search tool on the page too, which offers a shortcut for users, though it perhaps deserves a more prominent position. 

Meanwhile, a clear contact number at the top on every page offers both reassurance for customers and a quick point of contact for customers with any questions. 

Car search

I tried the used car search first, and it works well enough, as long as you have a clear idea of the model you want to buy. Other automotive sites have useful car configurator / comparison tools which allow users to enter their preferences and requirements (economy, size etc) before selecting the most suitable fit from the range, and this may have been helpful to the site's users. 

Once you have selected a model and price range, the search results page is nice and clear, and contains some useful options to narrow the selection by colour, fuel type, economy etc. 

Searching for new cars is a different experience, and all you can do is view the details of each model, there is no way to see the range of engine sizes and specifications available, so I'm not sure that enough detail has been provided for customers to make a decision about a car purchase. 

Product pages

The product pages for used cars provide a range of photos, as well as the basic details on specifications, mileage etc. 

Since it is possible to buy or reserve and pick up cars from various collection centres, I think this could be made more clear, and customers should be encouraged to get in touch by phone or email. 

However, there is just the number at the top of the page, and the contact form at the side. A clearer call to action would be an improvement. In fact, the clearest button on the page allows users to save the car for later in your 'my garage' page. 

Since car buyers will spend time researching online, and visit several sites, this is a useful feature which will allow users to resume their search quickly when they return to the site, but they may not find the 'my garage' page as easily as they should. 

The link is there, just under the navigation bar, but it is not as clear as it should be, while it has been labelled 'saved vehicles' rather than 'my garage': 

While there is a decent range of photos for each car, the pictures are too small, and cannot be enlarged any further, meaning that it's harder to see the various features in detail: 

Aiding customer research

A car purchase is something that customers spend time researching online, so automotive sites need to do as most as possible to provide customers with the information they need to make a decision. 

While there is some useful information on the site, and the clear contact details and ability to save cars for later viewing, there is still a lot more that this, and most other automotive sites could do to help customers in the research phase. 

A few suggestions: 

User reviews

Since user reviews are proven sales drivers, why not have reviews of cars on the website? people will be looking for reviews elsewhere anyway, so why not provide this resource and keep more users on the site. 

Expert reviews

In the same vein, expert reviews by the likes of Parkers and Autocar would be a valuable resource that online car dealers could provide, either through syndication, or simply by linking out to this content. 

Videos 

Online video is a great way to showcase most products, has been shown to improve conversion rates, and should work especially well for cars.

Allow users to compare cars against competitors' models

Many visitors looking at, for instance, a Ford Focus, may then look elsewhere at similar cars from competitors, VW Golfs, Astras, Honda Civics etc. To keep customers on the website, car dealers could provide comparison tools to allow users to compare cars against those from other manufacturers according to fuel economy, price, safety etc. 

This is something that Jeep, Toyota and other manufacturers do on their US websites. It allows customers to stay on site to do their research, and can increase customer trust if they see that sites are open about comparing against competitors. 

Conclusion

This new website is well-designed and generally delivers a decent user experience, as well as having a wide range of cars available. 

Like many other UK automotive websites though, it could make more use of the kind of tools and features that most e-commerce sites have been using for some time; such as product videos and user generated content. 

Graham Charlton

Published 24 June, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Avatar-blank-50x50

Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Small things -  

I) bad for SEO: they are offering the same content at two URls - fordonline.co.uk with and without a leading www

II) you can find a car by searching, and then click a link to be told:

     404 Error - The vehicle has been sold.

    Sorry, but our stock moves quickly!

     Please follow this link to return to our home page or call ....

This suggests that some of the content is not up to date.

It's frustrating for users when you search, find what you're looking for and then have your hopes dashed with a message like this.

To improve, they need to

i) run some User Journeys 24/7 and find out how often 'missing car syndrome' is happening - does it justify engineering time to overcome.

ii) instead of a dead end page like the above - include a link back to 'cars similar to the one that you just missed'

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Great points Deri

almost 6 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.