Clear Vision Leads to Success for Safelite

By James Maguire | Posted August 11, 2005

The Safelite AutoGlass site "had become a little dated — and that's probably an understatement," says Denise Klapper, the company's director of marketing. Originally built in 1998, little had been done to update Safelite's site for several years.

In 2004, Safelite worked with Resource Interactive to completely redesign its site. The company conducted consumer usability tests "to make sure that what we were building was functional for consumers," Klapper says. Additionally, Safelite hoped to increase its all-important search engine visibility.

Due to the revamp, the site now plays an increased role in Safelite's business: customers visit the site to get a price quote on replacing their auto glass; if they agree to the price, they can use the site to schedule glass replacement.

"Before we launched the new site last year, we were getting maybe a 100 customer contacts a week off the Web," Klapper says. "Today we're getting probably 3,000."

The Big Overhaul
Step one in the redesign was simplifying the home page. The old home page was filled with words; these were removed to create a very clean and immediate visual. The front page now presents a photo of a cracked windshield with the slogan "We can help."

Safelite cut all lingo from the site in favor of plain language; the term "back glass," was replaced with the more common term, "rear windshield."

"We put ourselves in the consumer's shoes and listened to the questions they were asking," Klapper says. Safelite classified its customers into three different groups, based on how far along they were in the purchase process. These classifications were built into the navigation paths.

The navigation paths were created to "collect the minimum amount of information needed, but still help them through the process," she says.

Safelite put the phone number — prominently displayed — on every page. "Something that's most disturbing to a lot of consumers is going to a site and not finding a phone number anywhere," Klapper notes.

A New Investment
The redesign was done with an eye toward maximizing the site's organic (unpaid) search engine results. To do so, Safelite researched the auto glass industry's search terms.

"We tried to achieve a balance between building the site for search engines and for consumers," Klapper says. To find this balance, the site focused on incorporating only the most popular search terms into its site's text, meta-tags and meta-descriptions. "We couldn't have 500 words of text that would be good for search engines but not for consumers."

Prior to the overhaul, Safelite had never spent money on pay-per-click advertising. However, "When we launched the new site, we launched an entire online marketing campaign with that," says Klapper.

To launch its paid search campaign, Safelite began with about 50 terms. But as its search buy paid off, it soon began buying far more terms. Safelite has seen the most traffic growth using region-specific search terms, which combine a city name with an auto glass term. "It's people not just typing in 'auto glass' but typing in 'auto glass Phoenix,'" Klapper says.


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Years after first launching its Web site, Safelite Auto Glass revamped its site last year with consumer's needs in mind.

Although most of the search term buys have been with Google and Yahoo (Google is slightly pricier, Klapper notes), Safelite also uses the Internet Yellow Pages. "I think there are a lot more local searches on Internet Yellow Pages," she says, however, "I think the cost per unit sold is a little bit higher than in traditional search."

The company's search engine budget is substantial. "We're spending more than we thought we were going to spend," Klapper notes. "But it's been a good return on our investment."

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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