What’s in a sale? If you work with an automotive shopping site such as Cars.com that tracks the number and type of car-buyer contacts your listings receive until they sell, the answer extends beyond a healthy profit for the store and a solid commission for you. Not only do these reports allow you to identify the source of the sale (e.g., email, phone call, walk-in visit or click to your website), they also ensure you have the cars that car buyers want. Properly utilizing this data, in turn, improves the effectiveness of your online advertising and increases the profit on each vehicle you sell.

Know What Works
Only online advertising delivers this level of detail and control. Unlike other mediums, promoting your inventory on the web uniquely allows you to identify how prospects learn more about your listings and then correlate those actions with a sale. As we’ve discussed before, be sure to look beyond email and telephone inquiries if you want a true picture of your internet return on investment.

Most car buyers today are internet shoppers: In fact, according to eMarketer, roughly 70 percent of car shoppers go online to research their vehicle purchase¹. Yet most new- and used-car prospects arriving at your store are likely to tell you that they were “just driving by,” never mind the listing printout folded in their pocket or the map tucked out of sight beneath the driver’s seat. By masking their interest in the vehicle, they hope to maintain their bargaining position. Only when you’ve sold the car and examined your online ad reports for the month are you likely to ferret out the truth.

For example, the last reported contact for the car you sold this afternoon may very well have been the:

  • Email sent three days ago
  • Phone call placed this morning
  • Map and directions printed yesterday
  • Click to your store’s website two days ago

Whatever the case, each point of contact typically represents a low-funnel shopper who is focusing in on the car he or she wants to buy and the dealer from whom he or she wants to purchase. Taking into account this information allows you to see all of the traffic generated by your online advertising and gauge its impact on sales. On Cars.com, you have access to these details through your Sold Vehicle report, included with your OnlineAdReports.

Know What Sells
Beyond the ability to track prospect inquiries, these reports also provide a market-based snapshot of the cars that are hot in your market. The system records how many days your vehicles remain in inventory, showing you which vehicles are likely to turn in the least amount of time and for the highest gross. Armed with this information and the associated CarsStars report, you set the stage for future success by knowing what vehicles to acquire at auction or from customer trades.

Know What Lingers
An equally important thing to know is what vehicles perform poorly at your store. By reviewing your sold-vehicle report, you can quickly identify which cars generate little interest among shoppers and should be avoided in the future. Such cars typically linger on the lot while you wait for just the right buyer or must be deeply discounted/sold at auction to make way for more in-demand models. Either way, understanding a vehicle’s prior sales history can help you steer clear of similar mistakes in the future — whether the solution is to not keep it in inventory or to facilitate a timely sale with an aggressive price from the get-go.

Over the years, we’ve discussed the importance of telling a car’s complete story to driving traffic and making the sale. Now, with the availability of advanced online advertising reporting tools, the same advice applies to supporting your operations. Only with a thorough understanding of how individual listings contributed to your overall sales performance can you make the inventory decisions that best serve your customers and support your long-term business objectives.

Additional Resources
Online demonstration: To view a demo of Cars.com’s online ad reports, visit https://growwithcars.com/oar.

¹ eMarketer: Automotive Online, March 2006