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Jasen Rice

Jasen Rice Owner, Dealer Management

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How to Control Your Online Inventory Traffic

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You have a lot of control on how much traffic your inventory gets online and not much control of your physical lot and here is why. The only way to control how much traffic you get on your physical lot is to have a police officer in the street in front of your store directing traffic onto your lot. That’s the only way to guarantee more traffic onto your lot. But online it’s a different story, it is almost all up to you!

Online there are 3 major metrics that you can control and track to gauge your inventory internet traffic and those are SRPs (search result pages), VDPs (vehicle detail page views) and VDP% (the conversion percentage between SRPs and VDPs). And online, you have control of how many SRP’s, VDP’s and how good your VDP% is based on how you control your inventory. There are 5 major components that effect SRP’s, and you have control over all of them but 1, and there are 3 major components that drive VDPs you have control of all 3. Let’s imagine that a SRP is the equivalent of a customer pulling in on your lot and driving up and down the lanes looking at what cars you have for sale and that a VDP is the equivalent of them stopping their car, getting out and asking you for the keys to take a closer look of the vehicle. So you really cannot sell any car off your lot without the customer asking for the keys to take a look at it, but you cannot get that customer to ask for the key for your car if he is not even on your lot in the first place. So SRPs drive VDPs and VDPs drive sales.

Here are the 5 components that effect your SRPs

  1. More or less traffic online (this is the one you cannot control, if there are less shoppers online that can equal less SRPs for your inventory, and you cannot control that, but you can still drive up SRPs with less shoppers the better you get with #3)
  2. Inventory count. If you go from 100 cars to 50 cars, you should expect less SRPs (unless you do better with #3)
  3. Inventory mix. The better your inventory is matching what customers are looking for the more SRPs you can get. If you replace vehicles that are not being shopped for with vehicles that are more popular you should get more SRPs and vice versa
  4. How fast you can get the car listed online. If 20% of your inventory is not online because they have not been through the shop and photo/described/priced it is costing you SRPs. If you reduce that to 0% you will get more SRPs because you have more cars online
  5. Budget and package options. If you invest more in different packages offered by sites like Autotrader and cars.com the more SRPs you should get. If you go from a top package from one of these providers to a base package you will get less SRPs

Some would argue that you can drive SRPs with Photos, Price and or Descriptions but these do not guarantee more SRPs because you have seen vehicles with no photos and no descriptions still show up in a search because the default searches on these sites are set to show all vehicle. Yes, if someone narrows their search down to a photos only search and you do not have photos it will cost you a SRP but it is still not a guarantee that they will search that way and that’s the same with descriptions and price. I can even argue that price can drive SRPs if you Flat Price a vehicle (talked about in previous articles) but it still doesn’t guarantee the results if customer don’t search by price band. Watch out for your numbers leading you wrong. Just because you are seeing an increase in SRPs and VDPs doesn’t mean you are doing a better job, it could just mean there are more active shoppers in your market, so you need to be trending that activity out if you want to see what kind job you are really doing. But if you are seeing a drop in your SRPs and you have not changed your packaging then the first place to look is inventory count, then see if there were less shoppers in your market (both Autotrader and cars.com backend show you active shopper count) and then check to see if you have all your cars online or are they held up in service or by your photo person. I would trend these all out because a drop in SRPs could be caused by a “drop of the ball” in one of these processes.

Here are the 3 components that effect VDPs

  1. Photos. If you do not have photos of your vehicles or if your thumbnail photo is horrible, then you will not get the click or VDP
  2. Price. If you are priced to high or no price at all you will greatly reduce the VDP, the better you are at pricing the more VDPs you should get
  3. Descriptions. The better you are at selling that car in the first few sentences the more VDPs you should get. (This does not guarantee more VDPs on a site like cars.com because they do not display the comments on the listing (SRP) page but it does help increase sales once the customer gets onto the VDP page).

The better you get with photos, price and descriptions the more VDPs you get on your vehicles and that drives your VDP%. If you are seeing that you have a drop in your VDPs, the first place to look is to see if your VDP% has decreased, if that’s the case it has to do with price, photos and descriptions. If you VDP% didn’t drop off then you need to see if you had less SRPs and if you did then you need to see what you can do to any of the 4 SRP factors (that you control) that you can change to get the SRPs back in line or to increase.

All these things play a factor in how successful you will be with your inventory online, and like I said at the beginning, you almost have total control and that’s the fun but yet challenging part. So I say, trend, trend, trend and if you can catch one of those issues sooner than later then you will continue to increase your online traffic (SRPs) which will increase your clicks (VDPs) which will increase your sales. 

Robert Karbaum
One of the easiest things you can do to increase your SRP numbers is to focus on getting your inventory online as soon as possible. That being said, you want it online and in a presentable fashion. Look at how many days it takes to get a vehicle online ready, and look for inefficiencies. Is your detailing taking too long? Do you need new photo capture software. Little things can make a big difference.

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