CHICAGO – Automotive dealerships may have opportunities to invest more effectively in digital media, according to Dataium LLC, the largest aggregator of online auto shopper behavior. In an independent study commissioned by Cars.com, the premier online resource for buying and selling new and used vehicles, Dataium found inefficiencies between dealerships’ digital marketing mix and the quantity and quality of traffic to their websites.
“Dealers’ websites are one of the primary ways they connect with potential customers, and when they see the bulk of traffic to their sites coming from search engines, it makes sense that they would drive more of their marketing dollars into paid search,” said Jason Ezell, president of Dataium LLC. “Because our study was able to look beyond direct referral traffic, however, we found that the majority of search engine traffic comes as a result of a consumer typing a variation of the dealership name into the search field. In other words, consumers are forming impressions earlier in the process, likely via other forms of media – search engines are often the taxi taking them to the place they’ve already decided they want to go.”
The study, conducted between January and June, measured the activity of more than 20 million automotive shoppers per month on Dataium’s network and focused on evaluating the direct and indirect value of the two primary dealer advertising investments – paid search engine marketing and automotive marketplaces.
The study’s findings included:
- Role of automotive marketplaces: According to Dataium, automotive marketplace websites are among the primary ways for dealers to influence purchase decisions because they facilitate the research process and link unique shoppers to a specific vehicle quickly and easily, ultimately helping to deliver prospects to dealership websites who are closer to purchase. In its analysis of both direct and indirect traffic, Dataium found that consumers who visited Cars.com were 70% more likely than those who had not visited the site to click on a map, review directions or look for business hours on dealership websites – key “walk-in indicators” reflecting purchase intent. Shoppers who visited Cars.com were also 10 times more likely to submit a lead on a dealership site and did so within 48 hours on average – 4 times faster than the 8 days averaged by consumers who had not visited Cars.com. Overall, Cars.com was in the browser profiles of users submitting 36 percent of the email form leads received via websites of Cars.com dealers – whether the shopper was referred to the dealership website directly from Cars.com or visited the dealership website in a separate session.
- Inefficiencies in paid SEM spend: Despite an average of 55 percent of dealerships’ online advertising budgets being devoted to paid search engine marketing, just 6 percent of dealership website traffic on average is referred by paid search keywords. Furthermore, less than 1 percent of this traffic resulted in email form leads submitted on dealership websites.
- Value of “upstream” media: Nearly 80 percent of direct referrals from search engines during the study were driven by keywords that were a variation on the dealership name, representing traffic a dealership would theoretically receive via high rankings in organic search results regardless of the level of paid SEM spend. In addition, this search activity suggests that these shoppers had been familiarized with the dealership prior to their visit to the search engine – by what Dataium calls “upstream” media in its report.
“Dealers know that there’s more to the story than the last source a consumer visited prior to clicking over to the dealership website,” said Michael Page, Vice President, Advertising Solutions at Cars.com. “Dealers have access to more data than ever before, but it remains difficult to see all of the sources that contributed to a sale – at the end of the day, a consumer still has to walk into the dealership to purchase a vehicle. What we wanted to accomplish in commissioning this study was to understand the indirect value of dealerships’ online investments and provide dealers with information about the quality – not just the quantity – of their online investments.”
The study also found that Cars.com outperformed its competitors when it comes to engagement and conversion of the direct traffic referred to its customers. Dataium discovered that Cars.com users consumed 2.5 times more pages and 3 times more vehicle detail pages on dealership websites compared with visitors from other automotive marketplace sites, and Cars.com’s direct lead conversion rate on dealership websites was more than 40 percent higher than the average achieved via others in its competitive set.
“Understanding why Cars.com outperformed is an area we’d like to explore with additional research, but I would speculate it has to do with the consumer experience. Cars.com offers resources for the entire shopping process from start to finish, including research, comparisons, pricing, inventory and reviews – all of which advance a shopper toward purchase,” said Ezell. “That’s not to diminish the value of the other sites – we saw similar trends in shopper activity across the category – Cars.com just seems to be more of a ‘one-stop-shop.’”Download more insights about the study here.
ABOUT DATAIUM LLC
Dataium is the largest aggregator of Internet automotive shopping activity. With its Cloud Intelligence® platform, the company collects, analyzes, and indexes billions of online automotive shopping events from over 20 million active auto shoppers monthly. The company supports cutting-edge data collection and reporting technology;VisiCogn® Knowledge Center, VisiCogn® In-Market Lead Solutions, and is also known for its ASI™ index. For more information, visit www.dataium.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 877-896-DATA (3282).
Cars.com is an award-winning online destination for car shoppers that offers information from consumers and experts to help buyers formulate opinions on what to buy, where to buy and how much to pay for a car. Cars.comis a division of Classified Ventures LLC, which is owned by leading media companies, including A.H. Belo (NYSE: AHC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).