The results are in following the review of 61 Melbourne Driving School Websites.
As reference points, the site visitor avatar was a learner driver (or their parent) and the site conversion goal was to achieve a booking. The analysis was limited to the websites of the 61 driving schools and their Facebook pages if applicable. The findings in no way indicate the financial efficacy or service quality of any of the businesses.
The review included 14 categories which were each scored individually then combined to produce a total score for each of the business sites.
1 SITE APPEAL.
This element scores a general feel for how the site looks, the level and relevance of information shown to prospective clients and to positively impact their willingness to learn more or (ideally) book a driving lesson. People visiting Driving Schools sites are comparing based on perceived instructor reputation (safety) and price (value). They will decide based on what they see on a homepage and possibly a pricing page. The research revealed an overuse of stock imagery and graphics grabbed from the internet. Website owners should replace these with visuals of real (local) people.
2 CONTACT OPTIONS.
Scored out of 5 with one point allocated for landline phone number, mobile phone number, free call number, email address and contact form. The more options given to potential clients the more likely they are to contact the business. This was the best-scoring category across the data set and most sites provide good means of contact for their customers. The nature of Driving Instructors is that they are often uncontactable during work hours so offering mobile messaging and webforms serves their purposes but perhaps not the needs of their potential clients who are looking instant appointment confirmation.
3 PERSONAL TOUCHES
Having a driving lesson is extremely stressful so it’s crucial that learners are comfortable with the instructor before they make a booking. Consideration should be given to increasing the number of pictures of staff members, instructors with students and the actual vehicles used in the lessons. All these things will help ‘break the ice’ and make learner drivers more comfortable to make contact. Nothing says impersonal more than using stock images (as previously mentioned) so it should be avoided wherever possible. I found several sites that showcased left-hand drive vehicles which are hard to find on the streets of Melbourne. There are many sites that don’t even list the name of the instructor(s) and hide behind enquiry forms.
4 TEXT CONTENT
Learner drivers are after as much information as they can get so easy-to-consume text blocks, downloadable pdfs and real people photos (again no stock photos) should be made available on Driving School sites. However this was not found to be the norm in the study. Content provided by state licensing authorities was presented or linked to on several websites but I found a few broken links which is another confidence killer for potential customers.
5 VIDEO CONTENT
The internet is very much geared towards video these days. The search engines love them so having a few clips (up to 3 minutes each) will attract visitors and make them stay and hopefully make a booking. Very few businesses have branded YouTube channels which could be a great unique positioning play for the savvy business owner in this niche.
Providing topical articles related to the learn-to-drive subject helps portray a higher level of professionalism and it also gives learners confidence in choosing one business over others that don’t. CAUTION – don’t start a blog if you don’t intend to update it regularly. I found a few blogs with just one post and others that have been dormant for years. The way forward should be to decide to close the blog (remove from the site) or rejuvenate with new content.
7 CALL TO ACTION STRENGTH
Just having a web page is not enough. Businesses need to understand what they want their visitors to do and make it easy for them to do it. Buttons like “BOOK NOW”, LEARN MORE” or “CONTACT US” should be prominent (but don’t overdo it). Many of the sites reviewed seemed to be brochure sites with content that in many cases is out of date.
8 SOCIAL PROOF
Learner drivers want reassurance that an instructor can be trusted and the only people they believe are other learner drivers. Simple pics of former or current clients (not stock images) with their “P’s” shows evidence that an instructor has got them through the test. It was interesting to find that only 15% of sites display the Australian Driver Training Association (ADTA) badge. Showing testimonials is one of the key improvements that Driving School sites should consider. Several of them are doing this via Facebook Pages but not sharing them on their sites which is a huge missed opportunity.
9 ONLINE BOOKINGS/SCHEDULING
Practically all the websites have a contact form serving as a booking system which just doesn’t cut it these days. There are lots of online services that use actual calendars to offer appointments so for a small price per month clients could be booking driving instructors directly without having to speak to them saving both parties a lot of time and hassle. You can even accept payments at the time of booking. This is another of the key opportunities for differentiation in the Driving School niche.
10 PRICING SHOWN ON WEBSITE
Most visitors will be comparing prices so it’s essential that businesses show their prices and anything else that proves value for money. With nothing to compare to people will leave one site and go on to the next.
11 VOLUME DISCOUNTS
Learner drivers need more than one lesson so offering packages is a great way to lock them in and help with cashflow. Most sites offer “Buy 9 get your tenth lesson free” (or variations).
12 GIFT VOUCHERS
Family and friends sometimes don’t know what gift to give to teenagers. A driving lesson voucher is a great choice so Driving School sites should offer them. This may require a business to to create a PayPal account but it should be worthwhile particularly when Gift Vouchers are included as part of offline local marketing campaigns. Most people are no longer deterred to pay online so take advantage of it.
13 FACEBOOK PAGES
Nearly half of Melbourne Driving Schools have either dabbled with or are actively using Facebook for customer engagement. An important consideration here is that it has to be kept up-to-date so businesses need to think carefully before they start. They need to make sure their goals are well laid out so results can be measured against them. Adding content regularly is key to show that there’s activity there and it also needs to be included (not duplicated) on the main business website as well.
14 SOCIAL SHARING
Even if businesses aren’t active on the various social media platforms it’s likely that their clients (mostly young people) are. Adding ‘Share’ buttons on a site allows fans to tell their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, Linked In etc to raise brand awareness and builds social proof.
The top 10 scoring Melbourne Driving School Websites were:
So, Where to from here?
There are great opportunities for many of the Melbourne Driving Schools. Quite a number of the websites could use updating to enable the use of modern online facilities including making them mobile-device friendly. Here are my 3 top suggestions directed to business owners:
Make your website more personal and ditch the stock imagery.
Learner drivers and their parents need to feel comfortable with who they select for lessons. They want to be assured that you are a real person running a real business. Include a few portrait pictures of you and any other staff members your clients are likely to interact with. They don’t need to be studio quality – just real pictures of you.
Build social proof and make the most of your client feedback.
Closely related to personalisation this one is just as easy to implement. Just ask each of your ‘P’ Plate graduates to pose for a simple photo and get a one-line comment from them. Create a Facebook Page and load them on there and make sure you include them on your website as well.
Realise that your Enquiry Form is NOT a booking form and get real online scheduling integration.
This is a major way you can stand out from your competition by paying for someone to integrate a scheduling facility into your website. Enquire about the features and benefits of offering ‘real’ online bookings to your clients.