The first step in my search was to start visiting car manufacturer websites. I decided to focus my attention first on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (EVO) as it’s one of the few cars on my list that is currently available.
My initial impression of the Mitsubishi website (once I found the correct URL) is favorable, although I will admit I had to resort to a search engine to find it. It’s mitsubishicars.com if you’re interested.
It’s simple, well laid-out and intuitive.
It’s easy to find the information you want from many different avenues and in a variety of formats. There’s plenty of photos and videos for those who want more visual stimuli, there’s plenty of specs for those who want the facts. They also make it easy to compare the various models within each make.
Now the important part. How functional is the build your own model aspect of the website.
I’ve narrowed it down to the EVO model and click that I want to build my own. It next asks me what trim level I want. I have four options: the GSR, SE, MR, MR Touring. The photo, price and description changes as I click on each option. This is very good as your customer may not quite remember which trim package they were liking the best and this provides a reminder without taking up a lot of valuable real estate.
After selecting the model, you are asked to select the color. It’s a small thing, but the color changes on the photo as I click each option.
As a consumer, this is something I really want. Yes, some people know exactly what color car they want because it’s their favorite color, others pick a color they think looks best on the car, and others will pick when they’re at the dealership. Regardless of how they pick a car color, it’s important for the consumer to see their option. If you have the default as yellow and I want a black car but am forced to see the yellow car every time I make a choice, I may abandon the process before I finish. Yes, believe it or not, many consumers are that finicky. Not only that, but if I’m building “My Car” than it should reflect the options I’ve selected.
I am next taken to the Packages and Accessories page. This is an area that could be slightly more user friendly. You click next to any options you want and it selects them. The name and price are listed as well as a spot you can click to pull up a description and/or picture. However, most car companies offer many of these options either separately or as a package, yet no package deals are listed. Not all of the options have photos, and some are only photos without a description. The price keeps a running total as options are added and subtracted.
Finally, you’re given a run down of everything you’ve selected and given the option of printing it, or requesting a quote. Upon inputting your zip code, you are able to select a dealership. As a consumer, I very much like the option of being able to select which dealership my information is sent to rather than it automatically being sent to my “closest” one because maybe I’ve had experience with a particular dealership in the past and may or may not want to do business with them again. Or perhaps, I would want a dealership close to work instead of home or for some other reason. Either way, consumers like choices.
As part of the information request process, Mitsubishi requests (although they don’t require) your current vehicle make and model. No big deal right? I select my year and then my make. But when I get to the model selection, I run into a hitch. Apparently the Mitsubishi marketing department only thinks those Ford drivers interested in the EVO drive cars. There isn’t a single option for any of the Ford SUVs or trucks. The only options that aren’t currently visible are the Thunderbird and Crown Victoria (which interestingly enough isn’t in alphabetical order like the rest of the options).
Some may say so what? But this is actually rather important. All marketing departments should be aware of and abide by the GIGO principal. (Garbage In, Garbage Out). If you’re taking the time to request the information, you want it to be correct and useful. By not offering all options, you’re forcing your customer to either select a different vehicle, or not provide you the information at all. If the information you’re requesting is so unimportant that you don’t care if your customer doesn’t answer it, or provides you with incorrect information, than why are you asking it? You’re wasting your consumer’s time and yours, not to mention you’re getting inaccurate information which is basically useless.
Now comes the fun part. It has been my experience that many dealerships try to automate as much of the next step via email and drive you nuts with phone calls. I will be curious to see how Quality Mitsubishi (my chosen dealership) handles me.