XIGroup websitesI may be sounding like a broken record, if anyone remembers vinyl recordings, but the largest companies that service automotive retailers have made major investments in rebuilding their website platforms in the past year.

This is a very promising trend and will make attending the upcoming October automotive conferences critical for any car dealership looking to significantly grow their business in 2011.

The XIGroup, owned by Dominion Dealer Solutions, is no exception. The latest XIGroup platform we reviewed showcased many features that will surely please their user community as well as attract new customers. This article is not meant to be a full review of the XIGroup website technology.

The XIGroup platform will be included in the 2010 ASMA Report that will be published on October 12, 2010 which recognizes and awards the leaders in automotive search technology.  The award ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday October 12, 2010 at 8:00 am in the Mirage at an industry breakfast hosted by PCG Digital Marketing.

Focus on Data Quality

I was impressed with Joe High, General Manager of XIGroup, who made the presentation because his focus was not the same as other companies that we have reviewed as part of the 2010 ASMA Study. Joe started his presentation with a focus on the quality of data presented on car dealer inventory pages.

Inventory pages are the most popular pages used by consumers when visiting a car dealer website. XIGroup has leveraged automotive data from Data One to create what Joe High considers the highest quality car detail data in the industry. You don’t have to look hard to find car dealer website with inaccurate data for options and configuration data by VIN Number.

I was also impressed how easy the car detail pages could be configured to give car dealers the ultimate granularity in how their cars are presented online. In the screen shot below, you can see that dozens of features can be turned on or off on a car listing page to make the consumer experience powerful.

XIGroup Inventory Control features

XIGroup Administrative Tools

In fact, this degree of customization is integral in the entire platform. I give XIGroup high marks for their back-end administrative menus on how easy it was to change website features. Some car dealer website platforms have so many features that dealers can get lost in finding configuration settings.

The XIGroup administration controls were clean and followed a user interface design that even novices could follow. The menu design is a hybrid between “old-school” menus that dealers like and new navigational aids that the next generation of dealership employees demand. Shown below is one master menu that controls some of the user configuration options:

XIGroup Adminstrative Tools

One of the most interesting features was their rules based engine. Dealers can quickly update inventory pricing, tags, call-outs, visibility based on business rules. If dealers wanted to add a “special” tag on all cars in inventory over 30 days, that can be done in one click. Dealers who want to take any car out of inventory without waiting overnight for a new feed can do so quickly. The rules based inventory management features will save dealers a lot of time when compared to manual editing.

Consumer Friendly Car Listing Pages

Another feature of the XIGroup platform is that all car photos can have a custom overlay with the dealer’s information. Photos on a car dealer’s website look so much better when a consistent photo overlay is used. This is branding 101! The XI platform can automatically take plain photos and dress them up with the dealers phone number, website address and logo.

The integration of car photos and videos is very smooth and the car detail pages are very clean and attractive. I like that consumers can bookmark cars, save them and create a side by side comparison. This feature is useful when consumers find similar new cars in stock that have significantly different prices. The tool can show them how the installed options change their delivered cost.

In the screen shot below, you can see where I highlighted in red the two visual navigation controls that are visible on car detail pages:

XIGroup car detail pages

XIGroup SEO Functionality

The new XIGroup platform has one of the strongest page editors on the market and gives dealers full control over SEO Page Titles, META Descriptions and Keywords. Their platform allows dealers to create unlimited content pages and these pages can be placed on multi-level nested navigation menus.

XIGroup Text Editor

XIGroup is one of a handful of website platforms that offer specific upgraded packages for Automotive SEO. Their offerings to car dealers who want managed SEO include Basic SEO, Enhanced SEO and SEO Elite, which are all priced very reasonably. These packages are what I would consider “On-Site” SEO and on-site optimization is a very important part of the overall success of any car dealer’s website.

XIGroup Websites Summary

In conclusion, XIGroup hit the bull’s-eye for dealer usability and consumer shopping tools. Their new platform does a great job of providing a robust feature set that can be easily controlled by dealership staff; especially those that do not have a technical background. With their mobile platform offering and a new website architecture, XIGroup website technology demands a closer look.

We look forward to testing this new platform as part of the 2010 ASMA Awards and rating their search marketing strengths. Results of our review of 46 automotive website platforms will be announced on October 13, 2010 and published on www.asmaawards.org.