What Ford and Tesla’s digital presence can teach us


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From clothing to big-ticket tech items to vehicles, more than 87% of buyer journeys now begin online, according to Salesforce. Yet many traditional brands continue to underinvest in their online presence, even as they spend considerable amounts on above-the-line (ATL) advertising (think TV commercials, magazine ads, and billboards). ‘display). As the CEO of a global digital agency, I see it often – big companies that are too slow to recognize and exploit new opportunities, even moves as basic as creating an effective website. Take Ford: Once a pioneer in the auto industry, the automaker has continued to focus on the ATL, even as younger, more dynamic brands like Tesla have begun to chip away at its market share by appealing to digitally savvy consumers.

I recently compared Ford and Tesla’s websites to analyze their understanding of online audiences – in the process of reviewing messaging, user flow and UI/UX design – and some of its key points are explored below. The most fundamental conclusion, however, is that no brand, big or small, can afford to ignore its digital presence.

A Brief Look at Today’s Car Buyer

A 2020 study by tech journalism/report aggregator DataReportal states that “the average American spends 7 hours and 11 minutes staring at a screen each day,” which is just above the global average. Working from home and pandemic-related lockdowns will likely have added to that already incredible number.

Why should this matter for automotive brands? The Internet is where consumers now learn about and form opinions about brands, and where they shop — yes, even in the automotive industry. In fact, American millennials, who are already “buying” baby boomers in the auto market, show a clear preference for online platforms over dealerships, according to The New York Times. Generation Z, on the other hand, are rapidly emerging as significant influencers of the interests and purchasing decisions of their peers. Although their car buying days are mostly still ahead, these consumer wish lists are being built today and are growing online.

Still not convinced? Take into account the impending metaverse, which is slowly blurring the boundaries of physical and online realities, and you’ll realize that we’ve barely scratched the surface of how consumer behaviors are about to evolve.

Related: Your customers use multiple devices. You should be too with omnichannel marketing.

If Ford’s 2021 website was a showroom, its sales team would be in trouble

Your website is one of the first steps in a buyer’s journey. Much like a showroom, it can influence how prospects perceive your brand and how likely they are to engage with it. A study from Stanford University confirms it: 75% of users judge the credibility of a brand by its web design. A quick look at Ford’s 2021 website reveals that its virtual showroom leaves a lot to be desired. (Note that the brand has updated its design since my video review, but some structural issues remain; it’s akin to wallpapering cracked walls.)

Take the homepage funnel: we see seasonal offers featured in the heroes section, followed by electric models and all vehicle categories, while the rest of the product categories are visually grouped into blocks competitors as if to say “don’t click on us”. : we are not important.

In copy, we see form trump function. “Join the electric revolution,” for example, is a call to action (CTA) that sounds cool but delivers no value. Are they looking for engineers or are they taking you to see their electric models? As always, messaging is key. It’s fine to add voice, but users shouldn’t have to decipher vague copy. Headings and CTAs should be as specific as possible (and keep in mind that less than 20% of users read paragraphs), so choose function over form.

Now there are also redeeming elements, like the drop-down menu with images of car models. It’s a nice idea, but it’s quickly overshadowed by the fact that you have to click on the menu item to bring up the drop-down list rather than just hovering over it. This is a level 101 error; you want to minimize the number of clicks to any destination.

Overall, from the weird banner text overlays to the poorly constructed funnel and vague messaging, this website makes it look like Ford hired interns to sell products worth dozens of dollars. thousands of dollars.

Related: Does your company’s image need to be refreshed? What to do when it’s time to switch brands

Tesla’s web design by comparison

Before entering Tesla’s website, a disclaimer: I do not own their car, nor a Ford. This analysis has nothing to do with the quality of their products, but to illustrate the importance of an effective digital presence.

This site is already a few years old, but it still feels fresh. High-end product photography with ample breathing space allows you to focus on simple, fluff-free messaging. Clear, actionable CTAs follow the user and keep them on their journey effortlessly, which is great for increasing click-through and conversion rates. Product landing pages, on the other hand, have an always-on chat feature to connect users with representatives. It’s not only an effective method of lead generation, but it’s important for the user experience, as quickly resolving doubts or questions from prospects helps them build confidence and commit to a purchase. .

Minimal and specific copy, visible and clean typography, product mockups, user support and strategically placed CTAs are just some of the details that demonstrate Tesla’s attention to detail and dedication to its audience online.

Related: Low-Code and No-Code design is the future of website building

Your site is the forward-looking seller for your brand. It’s no wonder, then, that traditional companies like Ford are losing market share to bold newcomers. But legacy or not, brand longevity depends on its ability to understand and respond to changing consumer expectations, and the more our physical and virtual realities intertwine, the more critical that digital presence becomes.


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