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Jared Hamilton
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Jim Bell

Jim Bell National Sales Executive

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Are You Sourcing Your Traffic and Sales?

Online advertising in the car business can be a tough at times to track.  We hear the numbers from all of the vendors in how many people search and research on the internet before coming into a dealership.  Some will submit for more info, some will call, and some will just show up in your showroom.  There are some pretty stout numbers out there from Northwood University.  So how true are they?

We had a sourcing done by Autotrader and confirmed a lot of info that we kind of knew, but learned a lot in the process too.  We learned that 75% of OUR used car customers were on the internet doing research before they set foot in our door.  Of that 75%, 61% were what a lot of salesmen would say is 'drive-by' traffic.  Only 29% made contact with us before making the trip into the dealership.  This coincides with the Northwood University studies that have been done over the last few years.  They were using websites that we have not advertised on before and had no idea that they relied on that information that much.  With that in mind, we are now advertising there.  Still a little early to see the results.

On the new side of things, 73% of OUR buyers used the internet.  This may be a little low as we are a single point dealership and we rely heavily on repeat and referral business which was confirmed in our study (35% were a referral from a friend/family member).  69% of those people were just 'walk-in' traffic and didn't make any contact with us through email or phone.

This goes to show that even though some of the online advertisers may be a little pricy, it validated where we were putting our advertising dollars online.  We are now advertising on the top 6 of the 7 websites.  The one doesn't allow for advertising as of yet to my knowledge.  People are looking at you online and you have to look good.

You have to have good photos, good descriptions, and competitive pricing.  You almost have to have a pricing tool of some sort like vAuto, VIN Solutions, or something equivalent.  When you have that combination, you will succeed.  Just about every customer is an 'internet customer.'  So is your dealership an internet dealership?  All of the staff has to be prepared to handle the internet shopper because if they didn't submit for info or call in, 6 or 7 out of 10 did do their research online on the car, and the dealership.

Jim Bell
Some of the questions posed on twitter is since it was ATC that did the study, was it valid? ATC hired an outside company. I did see the scripts and it customers were not led to certain answers. I also listened to some of the calls to confirm this. Yes, AT was towards the top, but they weren't the top 2 for us.
Jared Hamilton
Jim, this is probably one of the most interesting studies to me because it looks at YOUR data, not national trends. (Not that national trends are bad, but because your data is BETTER.) Whats difficult to capture online is that we become so click happy. We tend to lean towards the final click and attribute the sale to the first, or last person to get the click. The facts are that customers do not shop in a straight line. Lets say your customer sees your inventory on Autotrader, then Cars.com and submits a lead through a third party site but never replys to your emails responses. The customer liked the deal on AT and Cars, they were happy with the emails you gave them but they just walked in the door and talked to someone (and perhaps switched to a totally different car than they looked at online!!) Is that an internet customer? YES. Who do you source the deal to? Anyone? Does it matter? What would have happened if the price wasnt right on either cars or trader? What if you would not have responded to the leads well could you have pushed them away? Sure. Sometimes we get too click happy and trying to attribute the sale to someone. If we gave every vendor credit for every sale they touched each car deal would probably be attributed to 2-3 vendors. The point is marketing is a code that you have to crack. Customers dont shop in a linear fashion and thus you cant market in a linear fashion. Is about doing the little things a lot of times. Bravo for doing this research and acting on it!
Jim Bell
I don't credit it to one or the other unless they did an initial inquiree or phone call and it goes to that source. Walk in traffic is so hard to gauge. I don't give credit to either one. With my pay plan, it has to be a trackable lead and that is what I consider an internet sale even though a customer may have seen it online and just walked in. I don't think it really matters who gets credit for it on a walk in. If you weren't on AT or cars for example, they wouldn't have known that you were even there. Even in the study that was done on our customers, they would check the different websites that they did use. I do it on every one of our customers that go into F&I with a sourcing sheet that I have designed and it coincides with what we have found within our store with the exception of one source. I would recommend every dealer to do this if they are with AT. They did it free of charge. A few years ago, it was done to prove that AT was a major player, but now it's not anymore since they outsource the whole sourcing and phone calls to the customers.
Larry Bruce
Jim this already sounds as flawed as the Northwood study. First surveys are notorious for being faulty there are numerous studies that prove that customers behave much differently than they tell you they do. Second The question is not whether they contacted your store before coming in, it’s did they contact anyone or any store before coming into your dealership and even more important than that is if they didn’t why? I think you will find if you ask that question all of the sudden those numbers change quite a bit and if you find out the why then you can work on changing the behavior. I don't think there is a car guy alive that wouldn’t rather have a larger number of people contact them so that they have more control over their online sales destiny than to just believe these numbers and cross their fingers hoping the customer comes into the dealership. Finally you don't change thousands of years of human behavior with the internet. The fact is the customer wants to feel like they are getting the right deal and the person they are dealing with is honest and worth the time: “People aren’t shopping for a car as much as they are a salesperson” With that said if you gave them the information they wanted and made it easier for them to contact you I am bettin they would, as a matter of fact I know they would we currently have one client on search marketing that is getting over a 40% conversion rate to a phone call from non-branded search terms for Honda of all things. Bottom line quit trying to guess what customers want and just let them tell you, then do more of it. Never stop testing never stop improving.
Aaron Edwards
You said it Jim! The internet is here to stay, and if you are advertising online; you are too. Great article, thanks for sharing.

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