Women Are The Primary Users Of The Internet according to surveys conducted from 2000 to 2005 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Both genders go online to gather information, but according to Pew, "Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process — one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal e-mail exchanges."
I've found dealership Web sites run the gamut from the obligatory two- to five-page "gotta have a Web site" type of site, to the full-blown informational and sometimes e-commerce type of site. If reaching out to women is part of your overall marketing strategy, here are ways to use your Web site to help connect with that all-important demographic.
Dedicated women's section: I believe in having a dedicated section of your Web site targeted at women. You may say, "But our entire Web site has information for women. Why should I separate women with their own section?" Because there are some specific resources (which follow) better suited to a women's area. And it makes women feel special to have their own section in an environment where men dominate. That's why ladies-only events have been so successful.
Resource list: The first item in the women's section should be a list of resources, with the primary one being a list of local women's riding clubs. Women-only clubs are popping up all over the country. Many women appreciate being around like-minded individuals. Plus, new riders can learn from the experienced ones. Women in the Wind (womeninthewind.org), Women on Wheels (womenonwheels.org) and The Motor Maids (motormaids.org) are the oldest and largest clubs with chapters all over the country and even internationally. Contact the chapter director in your area to ask if you can list that chapter in your resources. Include a link to its Web site. Do a Google search to find other smaller clubs forming in your area. For example, the Chrome Divas (chromedivas.com), a national group that started in 2002 in Florida, is organizing chapters all over the U.S.
Motorcycle training sites: Because women are the fastest-growing segment of riders, you should provide information on motorcycle training facilities in your area. This should be in the women's section as well as on your general Web site. If I wanted to become licensed to go scuba diving, I'd Google a local dive shop and expect it to provide information on where I could get trained. I would expect the same from a motorcycle dealership.
Photo gallery: Some dealership sites have a photo gallery with shots of customers and their motorcycles. Have a separate section just for your female customers. Women like to see the motorcycles other women have chosen. I have a section called "Readers' Motorcycles" on WomenRidersNow.com where visitors send in photos of them and their bike accompanied by a paragraph describing why they like it. Testimonials go very far in selling a product. You're more likely to sell to women if they can view female customers on the motorcycle they've purchased from you.
Mailing list sign-up: An easy way to gather names and addresses is to ask visitors to your Web site to sign up to be on a mailing list. Mention this is strictly for your use. Use the list to market events, sales and other specials. Don't just ask for an e-mail address; have your online form include space for mailing addresses as well. E-mail addresses change more often than a person's mailing address. There is still high value to owning an old-fashioned mailing list of names. If a visitor to your site doesn't want to include her mailing address, she won't. Women are more likely to sign up, generally speaking, because women appreciate being informed of special deals and sales going on at places they like to shop.
Answer "Contact Us" e-mails: One of the biggest complaints by Internet users is that their e-mails to businesses go unanswered. If you post a generic e-mail address on your Web site, dedicate someone to answer those e-mails within a reasonable time frame — 24 to 48 hours. If you don't have an employee dedicated to monitoring that generic e-mail in-box, then set up a trigger response form saying, "Your e-mail has been received, and someone will respond within 48 hours."
As stated above, many more women are using e-mail to connect with others. Perhaps during her Internet browsing a woman decides to send a message to your e-mail address inquiring about training facilities. Someone at your shop better answer her pronto. Otherwise, she'll get in touch with the dealership down the street. Women remember gestures like a prompt response, especially in an environment in which so many generic e-mails go unanswered.