I probably don’t need to tell you that lead forms are prevalent in today’s automotive digital retail space. Visit the website of almost any dealership in the country, and odds are you’ll be asked to complete and submit some variation of a lead form. Hell, your own dealership’s site more than likely has one. Yet lately, we’re hearing over and over again from dealership website providers and lead-gen companies that form submissions are dead: online shoppers just aren’t filling out lead forms anymore.
And to be honest, that claim is correct … sort of. Last year, in partnership with PCG, we conducted a study of more than 400 dealerships nationwide, and sure enough, we found that online form submissions consistently converted at less than 1%. So, yes – it’s entirely likely that most website providers and lead-gen solutions are seeing almost no conversion from lead form submissions, which could reasonably lead to the conclusion that online shoppers aren’t filling out lead forms. But here’s the thing: it’s not the lead forms that are the problem. It’s that the websites in question aren’t properly optimized for conversion.
We know this because after we conducted the study with PCG, we came back and took stock of our own clients’ lead form conversion rates. The result: an average conversion rate of 5%. As it turns out, low lead form conversion rates are merely one symptom of two serious underlying conditions: poor website optimization and a flawed user experience.
Let’s take a look at why our dealerships have seen such a high rate of success as compared to others throughout the industry.
1. Mobile Optimization. If you look at any of the major providers’ dealership websites, it becomes fairly obvious that most haven’t yet come to the conclusion that how they’re handling mobile is sabotaging their success. 60% of online car shoppers today are conducting their search using a mobile device. However, our study found that the average mobile bounce rate is a whopping 70%. To paint a better picture of what this actually means for a dealership, let’s do some quick math.
Say there are 10,000 people who come to your website while shopping for a car online. Approximately 6,000 of them are on a mobile device. 4,200 of those mobile users will view only one page on your site before leaving. In other words, you’re spending a huge chunk of your marketing budget to drive users to your site, only for most of them to leave almost immediately. A poor user experience for mobile shoppers is resulting in a colossal waste of your time and money. So, as you can see, proper mobile site optimization is no longer a luxury in the automotive marketplace – it’s an absolute necessity.
2. Site Speed.
Thanks to the constant advancement of technology, we as a society have become impatient; near-instant access to information has made us gluttons for instant gratification. Think back to the last time you clicked on an article or video in your Facebook feed. If it took more than a few moments to load, you probably clicked out of it without ever seeing the content you were looking for. Car shoppers are no different, especially when they’re on their mobile devices. In fact, if your mobile site takes more than three seconds to load, the chance of a customer abandoning it increases by 150% (yes, you read that right – 150%!).
And if that’s not enough to convince you that site speed is important, this might be: In January, Google announced that site speed will soon become a factor in its search engine rankings algorithm. This “Speed Update” will go into effect in July of this year, and, according to Google, will impact sites that “deliver the slowest experience to users.” If a page’s loading speed scores lower than 90 out of 100, an automatic notification is sent to the Google team (you can check your page speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool).
Thus, it’s critical to audit your website now and make sure your pages take three seconds or less to load: Come July, site speed will affect not only your organic bounce rate, but will also impact SEO performance.
3. Google Reviews.
At this point, most of us in the auto industry can practically recite from memory the statistics showing just how important online reviews are to today’s consumer. And now, as with site speed, Google reviews also play a role in SEO. The search engine behemoth last year announced it would be tying Google reviews in to overall organic search rankings.
But soliciting and actually obtaining customer reviews, whether for variable ops or fixed ops, is an ongoing challenge for most stores. Dealership service departments are notoriously overloaded, making it less likely that your service advisors will remember or take the time to ask every customer for a review. Likewise, between closing paperwork and sold vehicle delivery, asking for reviews can easily get lost in the process for your salespeople. But even in a perfect work, where every service advisor and every salesperson asks every customer for a review, customers often either forget or don’t want to have to figure out where and how to leave the review and then take the steps to do so.
Nevertheless, you need those reviews! The secret to getting them lies in making it easy and convenient for your customers. And you can do this through your website, by automating the process. Employing effective timing and carefully-worded calls-to-action will allow you to acquire a wealth of (positive!) customer reviews, thereby growing your dealership’s local reputation while simultaneously improving SEO performance.
To sum things up, the problem is not that today’s consumers aren’t filling out lead forms. Instead, low lead-form conversion rates stem from two larger, underlying problems: poor site optimization and a flawed user experience. The solution to these underlying issues involves three key components: mobile optimization and user experience, site speed, and Google reviews. Each of these factors alone can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your digital marketing and retail efforts. But we have found that combining all three creates a massively successful trifecta that can put your dealership lightyears ahead of the competition.