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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What Do Dealer Web Site Visitors Really Want?

Let’s take a look at some of the charts and graphs which show the aggregated survey answers from over 5,000 dealer web site visitors… One of the more interesting results comes from when dealer web site visitors were asked how soon they would be buying their next vehicle. Their responses to the “how soon” question is shown in chart #1 below:
For Internet Sales Specialists and Managers who have been working with a mix of dealerweb site generated leads and leads from other sources, this comes as no surprise. TheSurvey data validates the experience of most dealerships in finding that Internet leadscoming in from their own web sites result in vehicle sales at a far higher rate than Internetleads from 3rd party lead producers and aggregators.
If you are like me, when a customer says they will be buying a vehicle in the near future, one of the first things you want to know if there is a trade-in involved. In trying not to be overly transparent as to your concern over the customer’s trade-in situation, you might ask the question in this type of format: “Will you be replacing a vehicle, or adding another vehicle to what you currently own?” The dealer web site visitors who answered the “how soon” question responded to the replacement or trade-in question as shown in the next illustration, which is chart #2:

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Ralph PagliaDirector – Digital Marketing / ADP Dealer Servicesemail: RPaglia@AutomotiveDealersNetwork.comCo-AuthorRudy MartinVice President/ Intellimark Group
What the above chart goes to show is that visitors to dealership web sites who are in the market for a vehicle are highly likely (67%) to be interested in the value of the vehicle they are replacing as a trade-in. Although some of these people may intend to sell or otherwise dispose of their current vehicle, there would still be a desire to see an estimated value. This helps to prove the value proposition of the industry’s two leading dealer web site trade-in evaluation tools, Kelley Blue Book’s LeadDriver and Black Book Online.So… What are these wonderful dealer web site sales prospects considering for their next vehicle purchase?

Ralph has held positions such as OEM Partnership Executive for Reynolds and Reynolds, CRM/eBusiness Director, New Car Sales Manager, Used Car Manager, F&I Director, General Sales Manager and General Manager. He led the development and design of nationally implemented CRM and eBusiness programs for Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and other car companies. He also designed Ford’s BDC program Mercedes-Benz StarLeads CRM system and the Mercedes-Benz BDC.
With over 35% of dealer web site visitors saying that they intend to buy a pre-owned vehicle as their next purchase, and 51% stating right up front that they are not interested in a new vehicle for their next purchase, it makes sense to consider putting an emphasis on used vehicle specials as featured content on dealership web sites. With so much emphasis and effort being made on competing in the hyper-competitive new vehicle sales arena, this data suggests that an equal amount of effort in using dealer web sites to promote used vehicles may yield a higher return. With used vehicles being somewhat more unique, and less of a commodity than new vehicles, the argument for featuring and promoting used vehicles on dealer web sites gets even stronger when reviewing the survey data.Despite the software based tracking metrics that most digital marketing professionals use, it is interesting to see what answers you get when simply asking dealer web site visitors how they found the dealer’s web site. The answers received on the surveys show a different makeup than what we usually see when looking at Omniture SiteCatalyst or WebTrends reports for dealer web site visitors. Take a look at chart #4 below and consider the differences between what “stimulated” a consumer’s search for a dealer’s web site and the technology they chose to get there:
Integrated Marketing campaigns are those that include both conventional media and online digital marketing. Despite the current situation of few dealers focusing on using advertising to specifically drive customers to their web sites, 44% of the Intellimark Surveyed dealer web site visitors indicated they got there as a result of dealership advertising in non-digital conventional media sources such as TV, Radio, Newspaper and direct mail. What is glaring to me is the low percentage (14%) of dealership web site visitors who got there using search engines… These results indicate there are significant areas of opportunity for dealer web site traffic growth using Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Digital Advertising Campaigns.When we break down the aggregated data from these Surveys within categories of those who say they intend to get a new vehicle, versus those who intend to get a used vehicle, or are undecided (open minded), we get a clearer picture of what is important to each type. For example, among those that indicated they intend to buy a used vehicle, or are open minded about their next vehicle purchase, we wanted to see what vehicle type they were most likely to consider. Understanding buyer intentions helps to guide us on what to feature in our online specials and when we advertise on other web sites to attract more traffic. Chart #5 is shown below:
The high interest in used passenger cars shown in chart #5 may have been influenced by the last 3 years of sustained high gas prices. Used vehicle demand may be a leading indicator of what will sell on the new car lot. This survey result also shows why the domestic auto industry’s continued emphasis on trucks and SUV’s is not generating the level of interest we experienced prior to 2005.So, what is most important to these used car buyers visiting dealer web sites? The aggregated survey results from over 5,000 visitors to dealership web sites shows that price and payment is still king with pre-owned buyers. With fuel economy rising to third place in importance and overtaking the previous perennial favorite, vehicle safety. In chart #6, we see what the dealer web site visitor who is either undecided on new versus used, or wants a used vehicle, says are the most important decision criteria used to determine the actual vehicle they will end up buying:
In Chart #6 we see that the most effective advertising may be that which features monthly payments, followed by selling price… I know, very few of you are surprised. So, why do we continue to place advertisements intended to drive traffic to dealer web sites that do not feature payments, price or even fuel economy?

Looking at the results of these Intellimark Surveys, it is no longer a mystery why this ad seemed to drive so many more web site visitors and phone calls than the “Largest Inventory” advertising campaigns:

These considerations, what to advertise and which message will get the most attention are the questions best answered by surveys such as what Intellimark Group has put together. After all, if the message doesn’t hit the car shopper’s hot spots, then it won’t get their attention amidst all the media clutter that is out there today.Which brings me to another interesting insight from this survey research… What are the most significant factors in deciding what type of vehicle to buy and when to pull the trigger? Of course, this is based on what car shoppers say is important… Anyone who has sold cars long enough will tell you that how buyers act is often different than what they say. Still, there is a lot of value in studying what car shoppers believe are the reasons they will decide on a particular vehicle or deal. With that said, there are a lot of differences in what motivates vehicle buyers depending on the vehicle type they are considering. So let’s take a look at chart #7 which shows the considerations that dealer web site visitors reported when asked what factors would determine what, where and when they would make their next vehicle purchase. These responses were aggregated and then segmented by the specific vehicle types the buyers said they were looking for. Chart #7 breaks down vehicle purchase consideration factors by type of vehicle the dealer web site visitor reported as being their primary vehicle of interest:
It is interesting to note that once again, monthly payments and vehicle selling price are the two most important criteria. Fuel economy is more significant than at any time since the Arab Oil Embargoes of a generation ago, especially for passenger car and commercial vehicle buyers. Surprising to me, coming from a vehicle sales background, is the low level of importance placed on vehicle styling. Of course, once again I would like to remind readers that these are what car shoppers “say” is most important and how they actually end up buying may or may not correlate to what they said before they make their purchase… But, this still shows us what these visitors to dealer web sites report as being most important and what will get their attention more effectively than ads or specials focused on other criteria.One of the many factors to consider when looking at these survey results is that these are shoppers who are very deep into the sales process funnel. As indicated in chart #1, these are people who will be buying a vehicle fairly soon and may have already gone through the process of determining what type of vehicle they will be getting next. For these reasons, the degree of importance placed on price and payments may be far more significant than people further away from their next vehicle purchase, who have not yet determined the type, make or model they are most interested in. After all, when interviewing people who have already found your dealership’s web site, how likely would it be that they have already decided on a make and model and are now looking for the right deal, salesperson, convenience and financing terms? The results of this Intellimark Survey of dealership web site visitors may not be too surprising to many people, but they do confirm that most dealerships are better served by generating more visitors to their store’s web sites. When considering the ways we can most effectively drive traffic to dealership web sites, it is highly logical to look at what consumers who have already visited dealer web sites find most important to them… Then we can use those most important criteria as a means of deciding what is most likely to work in trying to get more of an already good thing; the car shoppers that visit our dealership’s web sites. These aggregated survey results are all the more significant because of the sheer size of the sample… 5,000 dealer web site visitors is highly significant from a statistical perspective. There are many ways to interpret and act upon these results, but one plan of action should be strikingly clear. The use of integrated marketing campaigns that use a mixed blend of media such as TV, Radio, Outdoor, geotargeted search engine and display advertising on web sites… This is what works in driving the most valuable leads we can generate. The leads and phone calls coming from visitors to our own dealership web sites.