There’s a moment at the dealership when a shopper becomes an owner. It exists in the symbolic passing of keys, the ritual of a final signature, or the act of driving a vehicle to the lot. That moment is the goal for both shoppers and sellers, but how do we get there? It’s complicated.
Attribution Is Hard
The closer dealers get to making the sale – even when face-to-face – the more difficult it gets to determine what brought a shopper to your lot. Shoppers are always connected to the digital world, even as they navigate the physical world. The same person that hears your radio spot is using their mobile device to pay their bills, communicate with friends, and shop for their smallest to largest purchases. The average shopper is exposed to seven times more ads than they were ten years ago[i], and 30 percent more brands.[ii]
On the plus side, you also have more opportunities to reach your customers. On the not-so-plus side, so does everyone else. And, on the let’s-muddle-things-even-more side, the task of assigning credit to each marketing investment is nearly impossible. Nearly.
Understand Digital Signals
Sales and digital attribution models can go a long way in providing clarity to the effectiveness of your marketing mix. Cars.com recently found that we influence upwards of 60 percent of participating dealership sales and, on average, a 41 percent increase in dealer website conversions, answering at least one question of influence for several of our customers.[iii] Exploring new models and engaging with partners in the space (partners that can augment your data) is rapidly becoming critical for dealers and marketers. However, these partners are not the only tools at your disposal.
A better understanding of the digital signals that bring a shopper to your lot is an important tool to add to your toolkit. Ten years ago, the average car shopper would visit five dealerships[iv], but today that number is two.[v] That’s 60 percent fewer opportunities to utilize your sales staff. This doesn’t mean shoppers are evaluating fewer dealers; rather shoppers have taken the evaluation online.
Cars.com has discovered that shoppers are viewing an average of five unique dealer profile pages up to six months in advance of a lot visit.[vi] These shoppers seem to narrow down choices online and only view two unique dealer profile pages the day before they visit a lot. Even more telling, the dealerships visited by shoppers all had at least 20 reviews and ratings of 4.8 (out of five) or higher.[vii] It’s no longer enough to maintain a digital presence. You must also closely monitor and manage your customer reviews and maintain an excellent reputation.
Additionally, digital signals grow stronger as shoppers narrow their search. Metrics such as vehicle details page views (VDPs) and search results page views (SRPs) convey a level of interest, but combine them with other metrics and you can begin to gauge the nearness of a lot visit. In other words, certain engagements with your digital inventory increase the likelihood of a vehicle being sold. Through internal analysis, Cars.com has found that photo views (the more the better), feature or specification clicks, and calculator interactions are the three engagements most predictive of a vehicle sale.
These findings also apply to shoppers standing on your lot. While it’s true that more than two-thirds of walk-in shoppers purchase within 72 hours[viii], 63 percent are still shopping other lots while standing on yours.[ix] They’re using smartphones to shop while on your lot in much the same way they used their phones to choose your lot. But this time they are three times more likely to go to another dealership if they access their saved vehicle photos, and two times more likely if they access their saved dealership profile pages. While the consumers’ cross-shopping habits mean you may lose a shopper to a competitor, their browsing behavior can also work in your favor.
After you’ve built a strong digital presence, you’ve maintained a high customer review rating, and your inventory is merchandised so well you’re racking up those photo views and calculator clicks on a variety of digital platforms you’re done, right? Not entirely. The digital shopper and the walk-in shopper share the same stages of purchase readiness. The distinction is in how long it takes them to move between stages. The walk-in shopper is much closer to purchase – so it may be days, or just hours. Even while standing on your lot, walk-in shoppers require different approaches for engaging them.
Know the Three Types of Walk-In Shoppers
Walk-in shoppers convert within 72 hours[x], making them highly qualified leads. But not every walk-in lead shows up on the lot with the same mindset. Some are more ready to buy than others. To succeed with walk-in shoppers, it’s important to understand the three types: explorers, vetters, and deciders.
- Explorers: 40 percent of walk-in shoppers are exploring, meaning they are looking for an unobstructed ability to browse vehicles on the lot and to learn about their differences.[xi] This is where you have the opportunity to tailor your sale by referencing consumer reviews of the vehicles and to emphasize your experience as a trusted advisor. By easing an explorer along gently, you increase your chances of moving them immediately into the vetting stage during the same visit.
- Vetters: 15 percent of walk-in shoppers are on your lot to find and vet specific vehicles.[xii] They are looking to build confidence that their research is sound. These shoppers may respond well to incentives or to seeing similar makes and models that demonstrate that you understand their criteria.
- Deciders: the largest share, at 45 percent, of walk-in shoppers are ready to decide and purchase.[xiii] They are looking to utilize tools to get the best price and to expedite the purchase process. You can move them to the sale by having finance-prepared options and monitoring your sales staff reviews (both online and offline) to ensure no roadblocks exist in quickly closing the deal.
It’s important to recognize these different types of shoppers, because the ease with which you would consult an explorer may be too slow and off-putting to someone in the decide stage.
Creating car owners out of car shoppers may require more considerations than it did ten years ago, but those magic moments – those moments of sale – are the same. Until that new owner is driving off your lot, it’s key to remember that everyone is still shopping, and more importantly, that everyone is at different stages of shopping – even the walk-in shopper.
[i] Kantar Media (U.S.), 2016.
[ii] Kantar Media (U.S.), 2015.
[iii] 164 Cars.com attribution studies completed in Q12017. Transaction date range: 12/1/16-3/31/17.
[iv] Google/TNS, Auto Shopper Study, 2016.
[v] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, June 2016.
[vi] Cars.com Consumer Metrics, August 2017.
[vii] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q32016.
[viii] Cars.com On-the-Lot Virtual Window Sticker Study, February 2016.
[ix] McKinsey Advanced Industries, Innovating automotive retail,” February 2014.
[x] Cars.com Consumer Metrics, August 2017.
[xi] Cars.com On-the-Lot Virtual Window Sticker Study, February 2016.
[xii] Cars.com On-the-Lot Virtual Winder Sticker Study, February 2016.
[xiii] Cars.com On-the-Lot Virtual Window Sticker Study, February 2016.