The war over automotive website platforms has been hot for some time. Providers who offer responsive swear by it. Those who don't swear at it. There's a fallacy of an argument circulating about responsive websites that dealers need to know.
One of the primary arguments against responsive websites is that major retailers like Amazon and eBay do not use them. If they have all of the money and research abilities to determine what's best for them as a mobile strategy, car dealers should emulate them, right? That's the argument. Here's why it's an invalid one...
Common Use Websites Rely on Apps
Buying things on Amazon and other major retailers is a completely different experience than buying a car. People don't research the Kindle online for weeks or months at a time before driving to a nearby Amazon store to take it for a test drive before making a purchase. They actually buy the items themselves online.
The mobile experience on sites like these are geared towards driving people to download and use the apps. They don't want people on their mobile sites. They know that if they can get them on their apps, they have much more control over the current purchases as well as potential future purchases. With a mobile app, they can push notifications, integrate with appropriate mobile payment systems, and be ever-present on the phone rather than passively waiting for people to return to their mobile website.
The thought might occur to dealers or vendors who here this that they should be trying to do the same thing. I'm not going to go so far as to say that there are no apps out there that can be effective for selling cars, but I haven't seen one yet, nor have I heard an idea that would make an app valid for car dealers.
It's a completely different experience. People make quick purchasing decisions when they go to Best Buy's app. They don't make quick decisions about a car. More importantly, they rarely purchase a vehicle without driving into the store to check it out first. When was the last time you heard of someone testing toilet paper before buying a pack of 28 double rolls on Amazon?
Major Retailers Don't Receive as Many Visits for a Single Purchase
When buying something on Amazon, there's a chance you might visit the website 2 or 3 times before making the purchase. Most purchases are done on the first visit.
When buying a car, people will often visit the same websites over and over again. Uniformity of experience is one of the biggest advantages of responsive websites, so whether they're viewing it from their desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, they'll see pretty much the same thing. This consistency is important, especially when it can take a long time for car shoppers to make the decision to pull the trigger.
The Apple Scenario
People often point to Apple.com as an example of a forward-thinking company that does not use responsive. Here's the reality - they do use a variation of responsive website design. It's an odd variation that doesn't quite make sense to me, but they have the money and the brain power to put out things for reasons that I don't need to understand...
...and that's the point. I don't believe that responsive websites are the absolute best thing that a dealer could use. I have in my mind an appropriate hybrid approach that would revolutionize the industry. The only problem with it is that the development, maintenance, and content management system required to apply it properly for car dealers would put the price tag well above what any dealer would be willing to pay today. It simply wouldn't be worth it.
For Apple and other retailers, they can and do invest millions of dollars per year into their web presence. They have that luxury. Car dealers do not.
Responsive websites are not a compromise any more than buying a Mercedes is a compromise. It's still better than 99% of the vehicles on the road today and has many of the same features as a Bentley or a Rolls Royce. However, it can be purchased at a much more reasonable price than any of the luxurious super cars. Responsive websites, when built properly, are the best way for dealers to take full advantage of the shift towards mobile while maintaining their strong presence on desktops.
When you hear automotive vendors say that responsive websites are no good, be sure to question their motives. Do they really feel this way or are they defending their turf because they haven't switched to their own responsive platform yet?