How Are Car Shoppers Finding Your Dealership?

Today, all leads are Internet leads – especially on-the-lot shoppers – but I’d bet you don’t source on-the-lot shoppers as such.  Dealerships that treat all leads – traditional, digital, and on-the-lot – as Internet leads are going to be the most successful.  So, how are car shoppers learning about your dealership?

How Consumers Find Dealership Information

Half of shoppers go directly to dealerships, rather than contacting them ahead of time (Figure 1)¹. That’s a big insight! These same car shoppers are most likely using their smartphones for maps and directions, making these metrics even more valuable when evaluating digital ad spend. This also makes proper attribution of car shoppers on a dealership’s lot even more important.

Figure 1.  Mobile Influence on Car Shopping.  February 2017.


One-quarter submit contact information and another quarter call for an appointment (Figure 1). While we know that half of car shoppers do not send a traditional lead like phone or email, one-quarter still do send traditional leads making these important lead types to monitor (Figure 1).

However, our data on dealership information sources points out the need for understanding the car shopper lead path journey. While search engines are a primary search path for car shoppers from our study (Figure 2) where car shoppers were allowed to pick multiple information sources, that does not indicate where consumers started their journey. Indeed, by the time a consumer chooses to type in a make or model or a dealership name, they’ve researched enough to actively seek out that information from that specific dealer – but how did they first hear about you?  Even the dealership’s website seen in Figure 2 seems prominent, car shoppers most likely found the dealership from another third-party source before visiting. Last-click attribution is not representative of how car shoppers initially found a dealership.

Figure 2.  Mobile Influence on Car Shopping.  February 2017.


What Can You Do to Evaluate Walk-In Customers?

You need to adopt multi-touch metrics.  The car shopper journey from awareness to an on-the-lot purchase is complicated. On-the-lot shoppers are influenced by several touch points, ranging from organic searches to reviews and third-party sites such as Armed with a wealth of research, they’re visiting dealers’ lots confident that they don’t need to engage with a dealer ahead of time. Consequently, dealers need to use multi-touch attribution strategies, not just last touch attribution or traditional lead metrics, to understand the value of their digital marketing spend in today’s modern car buying journey.

Action Steps

  • Ensure you have an attribution process in place to know how consumers found your dealership and work with your third-party vendors to evaluate that performance.
  • Create a holistic approach to understanding how consumers are researching you and all available touchpoints with your dealership and brand.
  • Evaluate your SEO & SEM performance to ensure you’re not wasting money and are driving the right time of leads and or traffic you need.
  • Review your SEO & SEM spend and place your advertising dollars with more relevant touch points where consumers start their journey to lead them to your lot.

Once you face the reality that your existing lead data is incomplete either because lead data isn’t being sent before an on-the-lot visit, doesn’t account for multi-touch attribution, or that your sales team is inputting incomplete information into your CRM, you can properly analyze your advertising approach to drive consumers to you.  Traditional leads as the industry knows them will soon be a thing of the past.  It’s time for you to dig into your available data in more depth, work with your vendor partners, and do your homework.  After that, you can better optimize your marketing spend to be in front of consumers at all touch points.

[1] Mobile Influence on Car Shopping., February 2017.

Simplifying Attribution to Propel Efficiencies and Profits

Following is a guest article by Ryan Gerardi of DealerRefresh. 


Despite changing consumer behavior patterns, many if not most dealers continue to evaluate third parties only on “hard lead” measures and discount others forms of influenced purchase behavior. Consumers want to be in control of their experience and they are reluctant to provide their contact information because they fear the repercussions of unwanted marketing and solicitation.

These influential experiences appear anonymous to the dealer looking through the lens of a traditional hard lead, and even when a flow of hard leads is provided, many dealers struggle to ascertain their value when they can’t attribute them to immediate sales, even when the leads are proven to have made a purchase elsewhere.

As competition in the automotive space increases and sales plateau, dealers will need a continually better way to understand the complexities of consumer shopping behavior and refined data to help cut through the clutter and focus on their marketing spend,

A Strategy, Goal, and Framework

After months of research and analysis, has launched an attribution strategy that begins to resolve the conflict between how consumers shop and how advertisers measure and differentiate valuable data. While slow to adopt, the general consensus across the industry does acknowledge that the traditional way of measuring performance does need to change.

The goal is to provide automotive advertisers – OEMs and Dealers – with a better understanding and appreciation of the next generation of value measures that better reflects the connections with Consumers, using a framework to demonstrate value and influence called Influence Drivers. The frame will continue to evolve and grow with the consumer and consists of Digital Drivers, Physical Traffic, and Revenue Signals.

Digital Drivers

Digital Drivers refers to a strategy and use of the full spectrum of digital media opportunities that boost broad influence of a message rather than trigger a behavior. Examples of this might include OEM campaigns, reviews, editorial content, and desktop/mobile integration or even insights.

Physical Traffic

Physical Traffic refers to tracking consumer behavior in the physical world in order to make more informed marketing investments elsewhere. One might think of it like night-vision google for shopper behavior. was first to market with such tracking with its lot insights tool.

Revenue Signals

Revenue Signals refers to patterns of results from marketing investments calculated from a wider rate of financial metrics beyond weekly unit sales. You can think of this like judging GPA rather than an SAT score. As an example, over a six-month span, influenced an average of 274 sales per dealership, 32% of sales at a dealership, and an average of 135 first-time vehicle sales, according to the Transparency Case Study January 2015 – September 2016.

Influencer Summit recognizes that it cannot do this alone. This is an industry move that requires collaboration with other industry players, and because of this has launched its first ever Influencer Summit, an event that is expected to continue occurring annually and grow, also with an ongoing online community effort.

On February 9th, 2017, thirteen industry players from outside the family descended upon the Sheraton Grand in Downtown Chicago for a one-day roundtable discussion to explore  these ideas and how the industry can lock arms to bring solutions to dealers. These players included:

Cliff Banks, The Banks Report
Steve Finlay, Ward’s Auto
Ryan Gerardi, AutoConversion
Darren Haygood, Transparency
Jeff Kershner, DealerRefresh
Eric Miltsch, DealerTeamwork
Gary May, Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services
Cory Mosley, Mosley Strategy Group
Joe Oltman, Pin Business Network
Brian Pasch, PCG Digital Marketing
Matt Reid, Clarivoy
Joe Webb, DealerKnows Consulting
Steve White, Clarivoy

State of the Industry

During this roundtable discussion, CEO Alex Vetter kicked things off with a State of the Industry address that reflected on the industry in 2016 as well as share how is continuing to build a decision engine for consumers and a growth engine for its advertisers. During this time attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and share insights, which as you might imagine from the name listed, we did.

Industry Metrics and Influence Drivers

So much in fact that we rolled seamlessly into the second segment without the planned break. This second segment, led by EVP of Business Operations Elaine Richards explored the issues caused by the modern consumer being mobile and multi-touch whereas most dealer attribution models are not.

Product and Research Strategies

After a brief lunch , Chief Product Officer Tony Zolla gave attendees a glimpse into’s product strategy and upcoming enhancements. He also shared new consumer insights based on’s research.

Industry Innovation Roadmap

Finally, we spent the last part of the day with Chief Strategy Officer Greg McGivney leading a discussion on the advances in digital, giving attendees an opportunity to chime in with their own views on where the auto industry and market is headed in the immediate years to come.

Reflection and Insight – A Summary

Being part of this inaugural Summit was an honor, and I believe all attendees were more humbled by the experience than anything. Each of us in the room has put forth tremendous effort over the last 15-20 or more years, not just riding the wave of digital evolution and innovation in automotive retail, but putting our necks out to be pioneers in our own way. To be recognized for this and asked to participate in this Summit was a welcome nod, especially coming from the folks at

Not So Warm and Fuzzy

As stated in the opening sentences of this article, dealers have a way of viewing a third-party provider that is not always pleasant. The people at not only recognize this but also embrace it, seek to understand it, and are attempting to change that sentiment.

As an example of this, let me assure that not all input from attendees at this roundtable was music to the ears for the team at There was no brown nosing going on in the room. In fact, I observed more challenging situations for the folks at than sugar coating, and it was evident that the team not only wanted this, they expected it from us.

Having dealt with, collaborated with, and observed other third-parties in this space, I am enthused to see such authenticity from an established company such as who by the looks of things is about to make its last few years in the business appear like its adolescence.

Click here to read more on DealerRefresh.

Multi-Touch Attribution Changes Marketing Decisions for Dealers

Following is a guest blog by Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies, Author, and Keynote Speaker.


Dealers who have been following the progress of the PCG Engagement Project have new tools to inspect the quality of their website traffic and smarter strategies to capture conversion on their website. Once standardized goals are installed in Google Analytics, dealers can take advantage of VistaDash’s automotive specific Multi-Channel Funnel template.

With one click, dealers can now see Assisted Conversions (Column B) in addition to the Last-Click Conversions (Column A) for common automotive marketing channels. This information is critical for dealers because their CRM lead source reports are not accurate. (read my previous article)

The Google Analytics Assisted Conversions report, enhanced with the VistaDash template dated 3-14-17, created a more informative lead management report for this dealer to show the direct influence of their marketing investments. For this dealer, their CoVideo communication platform (line 7) is working well to increase conversion. Did they know this for a fact?

Here is another example of CRM blind spots. In the dealer’s CRM it was reported that CarGurus (line 11) generated only seven leads (last-click attribution), but the platform also influenced nine other conversions: a total of 16 leads.

Without considering multi-touch attribution, dealers may fire their most effective marketing partners.

The VistaDash Multi-Channel template also shows Tier 1 and Tier 2 influence, which can be customized by market. The template shows paid search conversions, lines four and five, which has been a topic of discussion lately.

Line five breaks out conversions that were generated by purchasing the dealer’s name. You can see that approximately 50% of all paid search conversions were generated from the dealer’s name. This is not uncommon. The data confirms that the success of AdWords campaigns ride off the dealer’s other branding and advertising investments.

Enhancing Analytics With Third-Party Data

Keep in mind that Google Analytics Assisted Conversions report only documents influence that comes directly from another website. Recently I wrote about the partnership between and Clarivoy that will enhance GA reports based on offsite data. (read article)

This type of innovation is exactly what the auto industry needs; clearer ways to measure marketing ROI and influence.

The good news is that VistaDash will be supporting Google Analytics multi-touch attribution reports and sales funnels, so the enhanced data from Clarivoy will be automatically made available for their customers in VistaDash.

What dealers find when doing audience overlap studies with Clarivoy and Transparency will shock them:

40+% of their vehicles sales are directly influenced by third-party classified websites and only a small percentage customers, who purchased a vehicle, actually visited the dealer’s website before arriving on their lot.

I will be sharing more data regarding these findings, along with other speakers, at the 2017 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC) in May.

Stop Firing Your Best Marketing Partners Based on CRM Data

When dealers start to measure the quality of website traffic and how they convert (or just walk in) they can make smarter business decisions to increase engagement and sales. The automotive community has to look at engagement, conversion, and sales data with a fresh set of eyes to stop perpetuating harmful marketing myths.

Smartphones Are Used More than Desktops and Laptops

According to our study Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, smartphones are used for nearly half (46%) of online car shopping activities¹. Desktops or laptops are a close second, being used for 41% of all online activities¹. Tablets are a distant third, being used for only 13% of online car shopping activities¹.

This shows a shift in the way consumers interact with the world today, not just in car shopping. Not long ago, desktops and laptops were the primary method of surfing the Internet and shopping online. With the advent of higher quality digital, mobile technology, consumers are allowed to shop online on their own terms.

Dealers that recognize the role mobile plays in consumers’ lives will be the most successful in moving metal. This is why it is important to think from a mobile, digital perspective when creating an advertising strategy. Optimizing vehicle inventory to be seen on smartphones— along with the necessary merchandising—is key to engaging car shoppers and influencing them to choose one vehicle or dealership over another. It should be no surprise, then, that Millennials are the primary users of smartphones in car shopping. This generation has grown up with technology and has quickly adopted a mobile mindset when it comes to interacting with the world and consuming entertainment, information, or shopping online via their smartphones.

We know the role smartphones play as the device of choice in car shopping, but what actions are car shoppers performing? Smartphones are especially the device of choice for viewing maps and directions to the dealership, deciding which dealerships to visit, and reading dealership reviews. This makes sense — using a mobile device while in transit to help navigate to their dealership of choice. This also means that car shoppers have made a choice and researched enough to be satisfied to choose a dealership’s lot to visit.

The high prevalence of use of dealership reviews on smartphones also shows that consumers may be cross-shopping competitor dealerships while on the lot. Auto shoppers want real-time information. We know from our own research that 63 percent of auto shoppers were still researching dealerships after showing up at a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².

We can’t discuss the role mobile plays in the car shopping journey without understanding the role that desktops and laptops play as well. Desktops and laptops are especially the device of choice for viewing vehicle colors/360 vehicle views, completing credit applications for vehicle financing, and using build and price vehicle tools.

Device Usage in Specific Car Shopping Activities

Figure 1.  Car Shoppers Are Judging You, February 2017.


Essentially, desktops and laptops are used for those tasks that may seem more laborious to the consumer — providing detailed information via online forms or more video-heavy experiences — that are deemed easier to perform with larger screens and keyboards.

Desktops and laptops have their place, and when used, one could assume that consumers are highly focused and engaged when giving in-depth information in this way.

Screen size can also play a role in collecting various types of information, and it could just be a preference amongst some car shoppers to use desktops and laptops in some cases. We see here that most consumers are searching dealership inventory on their desktops and laptops. Car shoppers may be in their early stage of shopping, wanting to choose vehicles, review specs, and incentives to later compare vehicles and move to their mobile device.

In any scenario, smartphones are a key touch point for car shoppers with any dealer’s brand.  It’s these mobile touch points that influence the car shopper and drive them to action – sometimes literally driving them to the dealership’s lot.  Keep this in mind the next time you do a review of any advertising strategy or a reallocation of advertising funds.  Placing emphasis on a mobile presence can pay off significantly.


[1] Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, White Paper. February 2017.

[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile,, Q3 2016 Recognized with “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” Award is proud to be the recipient of AUTO Connected CAR News’ award for Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web.  AUTO Connected CAR News’ annual Tech CARS Awards winners are determined by consumer votes. This recognition reflects our commitment to delivering superior experiences to consumers while delivering quality metrics and results to our advertiser customers in a mobile-first world.

Mobile-First Mindset is the first and only third-party website in the automotive space to go mobile responsive. The massive endeavor, which allows for a seamless site experience across devices, has paid off. In addition to receiving “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” award from AUTO Connected CAR news, ranked highest in overall satisfaction among third-parties in J.D. Power’s 2016 Automotive Mobile Site Study℠* (October, 2016). And, according to App Annie data, our app is a consumer favorite in the US with 10% more iOS and Google Play downloads in 2016 than its closest car sales app competitor.

Mobile-First Metrics

As consumer behavior drives change in the industry, has also revolutionized measurement tools for car dealers and manufacturers. According to our “Mobile Car Shopper Survey,” more than half of consumers use their smartphones on dealership lots to get more information¹. With the launch of our Lot Insights report, we put a stake in the ground demonstrating the importance of mobile attribution for dealers. The first-of-its-kind report, which uses geo-fencing technology, allowing dealers to track and analyze mobile car shopper behavior on or around the lot.

“We’re on a mission to evolve how we measure value in the automotive industry,” said Brooke Skinner Ricketts, CMO, “Our Lot Insights analytics and reporting is a great first step, but we’re not stopping there. Mobile accolades like this create momentum behind our efforts as they prove the changes taking place in our space. We will continue to lead with a user experience that aligns with modern car buying behaviors and provides our advertiser customers better understanding, reach and influence.”

With mobile momentum continuing to build, we’re just getting started. To deliver quality, in-market shoppers to our advertisers, will continue to innovate to provide the best consumer experience across devices while delivering results for our advertisers…for every turn.

Click through to read more about the winners here. 

¹ Mobile Shopper Study, VerstaReserach, December 2016

Walk-In Shoppers Aren’t Sending Leads

We recently worked with an outside research firm to learn more about walk-in shoppers. With the advent of our Lot Insights report and our desire to continually understand and improve our reporting on our in-market car buying audience, we’ve found some very interesting nuggets of information.

We asked cars shoppers if at any point during their last car purchase from a dealership if they submitted contact information online to the dealership prior to their visit. We found that 43 percent of shoppers do not contact a dealership before walking onto the lot¹ –a plurality of car shoppers (Chart 1). This is a significant insight. This illustrates the role of online shopping to today’s car shopper.

Chart 1. Walk-In Shopper Survey. Toluna. February 2017.

You could say the more information you provide on your inventory online for consumers – the better you are at merchandising – the greater your chances are at encouraging lot visits from car shoppers. Now, we also took this study a step further to understand what car shoppers do after they just show up on the lot without submitting a lead to the dealership.

We asked car shoppers, regarding the dealership they ultimately purchased from, approximately how much time passed between the moment they first visited the dealership and the moment they purchased a vehicle. The takeaway here? Walk-in shoppers are high-quality leads: over two-thirds of these shoppers purchased within 72 hours of their on the lot visit¹. That’s huge! That’s a short window between an on the lot visit and a purchase. More credence needs to be given to those car shoppers showing up on the lot.

Chart 2. Walk-In Shopper Survey. Toluna. February 2017.

When we cut the data down further as we see in the chart above (Chart 2), 40 percent of car shoppers bought within the same day¹. That’s an even better insight! On the lot visitors need to be treated as if they are ready to buy and supported while visiting the dealership.

If you aren’t already using the Lot Insights report, today’s the day to start. We know that visitors to the lot are showing up informed and are using their mobile devices to cross shop pricing, makes and models². The dealership that recognizes the value of the on the lot visitor, and that they most likely have not submitted a lead and supports them during their visit can increase the likelihood of a purchase.

Having a strategy in place to fully answer on the lot visitor questions quickly and knowledgeably may decrease their likelihood of cross shopping on their mobile devices.

We all know that not everyone submits lead information in today’s digitally savvy world. Now, we are shedding more light on what consumers are doing when they are fully informed and showing on the lot. The rest is up to the dealership.

[1] Walk-In Shopper Survey. Toluna. February 2017.
[2] Mobile Influence on Car Shoppers. February 2017.

How Third-Party Sites Fit Into the Online Advertising Universe

It’s great to see our partner Steve White, CEO of Clarivoy, discussing the importance of multi-touch attribution.  There’s a myriad of touch points that consumers encounter along their path to purchase.  It’s important to get beyond last click and really consider all touch points along the path of a consumer’s car shopping journey that have an influence in their decision to consider a vehicle or to purchase to fully understand ad spend and ROI.

“The process of in-syncing folks, it’s a little hairy at times, but as we continue to get more APIs, the process is going to continue to get more streamlined.” – Steve White


Steve continues to elaborate on what Clarivoy is able to show dealers in getting beyond last click and touches on the role of paid search and how he thinks dealers are spending too much money in that arena, “…particularly with brand being the dominant force, it over shadows the effectiveness of paid search.”  Something had to prompt a car shopper to type in a dealer’s name into a search engine – the zero moment of truth – there has to be a catalyst.  In Steve’s case, Clarivoy can track that moment all the way through to a dealer’s website helping dealers understand the engagements happening both on and off their own websites.

This is native integration into google analytics and evolves into the sales attribution product to better help dealer’s understand the consumer’s path online to help provide that “proof” that all dealer’s want from their vendor partners and consumer engagement.

“Some vendors may just be doing retargeting or remarketing for the dealer and they are kind of the last person in, and if they only look at it from a last click perspective, then that vendor is getting all the credit.  And the previous vendors that helped get to that moment helping the consumer get to their website weren’t getting any of the credit.” – Steve White


In the end, Steve highlights that dealers who partner with vendors that help provide insight into the influences on a consumer and embrace the idea of looking at performance differently will be the ones to win and improve their business model.  Third party sites like are a destination for consumers.  We’re proud to see Steve helping dealers understand the value in partnerships and proving out the success of our dealer partners.

Check out the full interview on CBT’s Kain & Co by clicking here.

Is Google Analytics Your #1 Competitor?

The following is a guest blog by Steve White, CEO and Founder of Clarivoy.

Consumers have gravitated to the Internet for – well – just about everything. So, when it comes to digital marketing, it’s more important than ever for marketers to know what’s working and what’s not. Everything from SEO, to content, to social media and display ads contributes to the lure which brings consumers into dealership showrooms.

Currently, the single biggest asset digital marketers use to determine marketing effectiveness is Google Analytics. Many look at Google as an independent, unbiased third-party where they can get accurate measurements of what is actually driving activity to their websites and converting into sales. Sadly, they are wrong. Here’s why:

Google slowly and indirectly crept into the auto industry, similar to how it dominated every other industry — through pay-per-click advertising. Google then developed a department specifically dedicated to the automotive industry, which has been around for about the past five years. This is because between auto manufacturers, third-party listing sites, lead providers and dealers, the auto industry is very lucrative for them, which naturally drives their motivation to favor attribution that makes them look good. It also justifies the huge budgets some dealers put into pay-per-click.

In my opinion, Google Analytics is the #1 competitor to third party sites and digital vendors. The reason is that Google Analytics’ settings, by default, are configured for last-click attribution. And where do most clicks come from? Either organic or paid search results. It doesn’t matter if the customer saw your vehicle on a third-party site, then later did a search for the dealer’s name and clicked on the link (organic or paid), guess who gets credit for that click? You got it, Google.

One of the biggest issues for most dealers is that they simply do not have the time or available resources to pay attention and measure attribution properly. Therefore, they take the easy route and use the default Google Analytics setting for their marketing decisions. It is imperative that you upgrade your Google Analytics configuration so that you can get a more accurate picture of all your marketing investments. I promise you any time or money spent is a wise investment.

It takes quite a bit of knowledge, and time, to properly setup Google Analytics with every touchpoint, conversion form and social media ad to register and attribute properly within Google Analytics. Frankly, most dealerships just don’t have those resources. Perhaps they have an Internet department filled with Internet managers. But what I see across the industry is that 99% of those positions have pay plans that revolve around sales – not digital marketing. This forces Internet managers to choose between doing the activities that make them money (sales), and those that don’t. In the end, the only attribution source with data that shows if that dealer’s marketing is working or not is Google Analytics and the CRM. Thus dealers end up making poor decisions regarding their marketing tactics and spend.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Pay-per-click and SEO efforts are certainly vital and can certainly perform well if properly executed. However, accepting everything that Google’s reporting platform tells you as fact is like accepting ANY vendor’s reports as fact.

In the end, Google is simply one of your vendors and, like most vendors, the reporting is configured to benefit them so as to justify your investment in their services.

You would be wise to stop taking Google Analytics reporting purely on face value as a 100% accurate measurement of online marketing results. Google isn’t an independent, third-party. They’re a vendor selling a service just like any other… and their reporting should be viewed with the same micro-inspection that you give any other vendor’s reports.

For more information, click through to the original posting here and for more from Clarivoy, a marketing technology firm specializing in unified, unbiased business intelligence.

January Voice of the Consumer continues to be the place to go for car shoppers looking at cars for sale.  In January of 2017, 88 percent of visitors were specifically doing just that.  We continue to gather feedback from visitors to further influence our site’s growth and offerings.  We also ask visitors what they specifically find helpful in using  Among some of the most helpful features of are search filters, vehicle merchandising, and reviews.


We are happy to hear all of the above, especially that reviews are helpful to our visitors.  As of February, we have 3.6 million reviews live on with 50 percent of those coming from, a company.  It’s important to note that our acquisition of allows us the ability to syndicate dealer reviews to various other platforms.  This includes other vendors like AutoTrader and Kelly Blue Book who also feature reviews on their own websites.

We continue to listen to our visitors to improve our website functionality and offerings to help them find the vehicle that’s right for them using all the information they can at their fingertips.  When we help visitors win, we help our dealers win by better connecting car shoppers to the right dealer. Internal Data, January 2017.

Reviews Influence Car Shopping Decisions: Infographic

Understanding when and how online reviews are used can help to make sense of a complicated topic: do reviews influence car shopping decisions?  The answer is yes!  But, what are car shoppers doing with reviews?  What review types are they looking up?  We gathered this information and published it in our latest white paper “Car Shoppers are Judging You,” which can be found here in full.  However, we wanted to put it  in a more quickly digestable form, so take a look below and download the PDF infographic to learn what consumers are doing with car related reviews.

Car Shopper Use of Car Related Reviews