When Will It Arrive and What Will It Look Like?

First came what is known as Web 1.0, which was basic Web design that included a number of static pages that basically pushed information out to online shoppers. It was really about serving up information and expecting site visitors to interpret that information in the manner you wanted them to, which often did not happen. Many of these sites were too busy and not intuitive for the user. A few dealers are still operating under the assumption that this is an acceptable platform for their dealership Web site. They are way off base.

Next came Web 2.0. Web 1.0 didn’t disappear. It’s not like everyone woke up one morning and Web 1.0 was gone, and a new World Wide Web greeted you. It was more of a transition in how sites were developed and how consumers were expected to use them.

Although auto dealers have been slower than some in other industries to embrace Web 2.0, the best dealership Web sites now incorporate many Web 2.0 elements in their design. Web 2.0 sites are simpler in layout (from the user side, not necessarily the development side) than their predecessors, and designers and developers focus on the content more than the backdrop of the content. Instead of believing that every inch of space has to be filled with something, site designers have embraced white space. However, what really separates Web 2.0 from its predecessor is the user participation aspect.

Many sites now incorporate user-generated content and social media integration. Along with serving up an abundance of information, many Web sites encourage participation from the consumer. Many sites allow customers to rate, review or submit content, while others encourage continued interaction to help push the prospect through the sales cycle while maintaining top-of-mind awareness. On auto dealership sites, this can be seen in build-your-car features, request-a–quote lead submission points, or even in live chat functions.

So, what is Web 3.0, when will it arrive and how will it change what we do on the Internet? There are plenty of opinions on all of those questions and few hard answers yet. The only thing for certain is that it is coming. Some people believe the beginning of Web 3.0 started with iGoogle and the ability to personalize your Google home page. You select the widgets you want to appear and place them where you want. Web 3.0—or the “semantic Web,” as many are referring to it—will be more about this type of personalization. It will be about understanding the individual consumer on a site and serving what they want and need. Some of this takes place in behavioral marketing already. For example, a Web surfer is served a Toyota ad because they have previously searched for Toyota vehicles. However, Web 3.0 is much more than behavioral marketing.

Microsoft hopes they have just delivered the biggest game changer for Web 3.0 in their latest search engine launch, Bing.com. Regardless of whether or not Bing works like it claims to, the commercials produced for the launch hit the nail on the head for many Internet users. If you haven’t seen one of these Bing commercials, go watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wYrxHrsoXs (or search YouTube for Bing Commericals). The series of commercials reflect the sentiments of many Internet users today. When users search for a term  they often get millions of results. But most people don’t search past the first page of results. Typically, before they actually find what they want (if they ever do), they click on several results on the first page and wind up distracted by useless information that was not what they were searching for. You can thank keyword optimization and pay-per-click campaigns for that. This process is actually very frustrating for many Internet users who want to find specific information.

The concept of Web 3.0 is that instead of masses of data being pushed to a customer, a customer would be able to request specific information that is not merely sent to them but is gathered and interpreted for them. It would give them, in essence, a condensed version of relevant results. Let’s look at an example. You walk into an electronics store and find a new television you like but you don’t want to fork over hundreds or even thousands of dollars without knowing more than the salesperson will tell you. In the Web 2.0 world you would delay your purchase, go home and spend a great deal of time online searching across several sites for everything you can find about this television, from specifications to consumer reviews to warranty issues.

Contrast that to a Web 3.0 world where, while in the store, you could use your smart phone of choice to go to the Web and input your request – “specs, warranty and reviews on ABC television.” Then, instead of your search  returning sites that have keywords that match, you would get a summary from multiple sites of that exact data. Web 3.0 is about providing useful, relevant data based on what the customer wants. Web 3.0 is about the relationship between the question and the context of the content.

Here’s an example that every dealer is likely to identify with. You receive 10 automotive publications each month. Some are monthly, while others are bi-weekly or weekly. Do you have time to read them all, or do they just pile up? Do you believe there is useful information in each of them but simply don’t have time to read them all? What if you could go to the Web and enter a search like, “All automotive service related articles published in the last 30 days,” and receive only those articles? Consider how useful that would be to your team for finding training material or even researching a specific topic.

So, when is Web 3.0 arriving? We are already seeing signs of it, but full adoption and exploitation of it will take several years. Based on the rate of change in the automotive technology industry, auto dealers aren’t likely to be the first adopters. For a game changer, think about this: A shopper inputs, “red 09 Pontiac G8 GT within 50 miles of Evansville, IN,” and only those dealers who had that specific vehicle were delivered instead of pages and pages of links, most of which are irrelevant. Those results would not be delivered based on keywords hidden in a page or how much someone paid to appear on the top of the page. That change in revenue models is why it may take longer to get to Web 3.0 than some would like.

The most important thing to remember is that Web 3.0 is coming and dealers who want to stay ahead of their competition will have to embrace it as it evolves. Get ready for the ride; it’s likely to be a fast one.

Vol. 6, Issue 9