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Jim Bell

Jim Bell National Sales Executive

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Internet = Lead Generator or an Influencer?

So the question at hand is "Is the internet a lead generator or is it an influencer?"  This is a great topic for discussion.  I feel that it can be both to an extent, but which one weighs more than the other?

Autotrader just released all of their info that they gathered with Polk on Understanding the Influencers that Drive the Vehicle Purchase.  When I signed into the webinar the other day, I was anxious to see what they had to say and found out in their study and how it paralleled with the study that was done for our dealership.  To give a little background, the study was conducted by Polk and commissioned by Autotrader.  They wanted to understand what media sources influence the new and used vehicle buyer last year.

Some interesting things came out of the study that hit home and how the internet is getting so big in the vehicle purchase.  Yes, we know that it is big, but HOW big is it?  Well, here are some of their findings.  The new car buyer will spend a total of 19 hours shopping for their next new vehicle.  Of the 19 hours, 7.5 were offline and 11.5 were online.  On the used car buyer, a total of 18 hours were clocked with 7 hours being offline and 11 hours online.  This just goes to show how important it is for your online presence is strong and your merchandising is at it's best.  If it's not, then the mouse may just skip right over your vehicle and they will move on to the next one on the list.

According to the study, the most influential source leading to your dealership is the internet (50% on new car buyers and 58% for used car buyers).  Coming in a close second is referral from a friend or family member (16% for new and 19% for used).  Can you feel the sarcasm here?  So how is your online reputation?  If it isn't good, I would say get a plan in place.  Customers are looking at reviews more and more just like when you are in a city visiting, you are looking at restaurant or hotel reviews to see where to eat and stay.  It is only human to rely on other humans and what they say and think about the business that is in question. 

When the customer contacted a dealership, only 30% of them either called or emailed the dealership before coming in the door.  If you want to think that people aren't hitting 3rd party sites and you aren't getting your ROI that you are wanting, you are wrong.  You have to look at those 3rd party sites as advertising.  Yes, they will generate some leads via phone and email inquiries, but a lot of your foot traffic is from those sites also whether you believe it or not.  Someone asked me what I thought of Autotrader and Cars.com and I said that "yes, they are expensive, but you can't really afford NOT to be on them."  The internet is your newspaper advertising that we did several years ago.  If you are still doing traditional media like newspaper, you are probably blowing your money.  Spend it digitally.  I will say it again, 70% of the buyers included in this study researched your vehicle online, and just walked in the dealership.

Now here are a few staggering statistics.  When the buyer is early in the process, the average number of vehicles that they will consider 5 months from their purchase is 2 vehicles.  When they get to 3 months from their purchase, the number goes up to and average of 2.3.  And during the month of their purchase, they are considering and average of 3.5 vehicles.  So how are you standing out?  Are you showing stock photos or are you showing the actual car in your pictures?  37% of the buyers wanted to see your actual vehicle that is on the lot, not stock photos.  This will make you stand out and you will see more clicks on your cars on those 3rd party sites.  The study found that a consumer is 4 times more likely to click on a vehicle with actual photos than one that doesn't have them.  It also increases the prospects by 2 times.  Need I say more?

These are just a few take aways from the study that I found interesting.  Now back to the question at hand, is the internet an influencer for your dealership or is it a lead generator?

You can look at the whole study by clicking here.

Lindsey Auguste
I'm a huge research fan and aggregate data is so telling of people's behaviors as a whole. Sure, there are unique difference, but you can't deny that stats. We need numbers like these to show the skeptics how important online really is. With or without a strategy in your own store, these are consumer behaviors. Act accordingly. Thanks for sharing.
Bart Wilson
Thanks to Autotrader for the info and @Jim for sharing. Anyone who has spent time in a dealership has seen the traffic shift. Its good to have some data to back it up.
Stacy Mueller
Very interesting data- thanks for sharing. I was reading an article on AdAge which is slightly relevant about the Millenial generation (http://adage.com/article/adagestat/millennial-grocery-shopping-habits-marketing-trends/228480/). It basically said that 68% of consumers will ask friends before they buy anything. This study pertained to smaller purchases, like groceries, but you'd have to believe it's even more true when it comes to larger purchases like a car. They will get online before they go into a dealership and they will read what others are saying.

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