Your Most Valuable Customer: The Walk-in Shopper

Walk-in shoppers are a sizable and important audience. According to recent research conducted by Cars.com, 43 percent of car shoppers don’t contact a dealership before walking onto the lot via traditional “lead” methods, meaning that about 4 out of 10 shoppers have narrowed their vehicle search without ever contacting a dealership.  And, these walk-in shoppers are valuable: two-thirds of them make a purchase within 72 hours of their on-the-lot visit, and 40 percent buy within the same day.

The prevalence of walk-in shopping is a challenge and a catalyst for dealers to adopt multi-touch attribution to maximize marketing effectiveness.

Walk-in traffic has always been a challenge to quantify. I suspect that the number of consumers who walk on to the lot to purchase vehicles will create stress an industry whose key systems to gauging sales process and marketing effectiveness (CRM, Google Analytics and dealership management systems) are already antiquated.

 Walk-in Traffic and Multi-Touch Attribution

Walk-in shoppers are influenced by a number of touch points, ranging from organic searches to reviews and third-party sites such as Cars.com. 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.

However, dealers continue to invest in tactics that support last-click/single-source attribution and are not even necessarily driving sales. For example, in 2016, more than 50 percent of  dealerships’ digital spend went to promoting their website via paid search and display (according to eMarketer). As I wrote recently,when our dealer customers listen to inbound phone calls that originate from branded paid search terms, they realize that close to 90 percent of these “leads” are not leads at all – they are recovery searches for post-influence service. The industry needs to move away from metrics that support last click/single source to advertising that wins with consumer preference and walk in traffic

Winning with the Walk-in Consumer

The walk-in consumer is a great opportunity of sales for the dealer community. To turn walk-in consumers into customers, dealers need to understand their motivations and behaviors. Our data paints the picture of a ready-to-buy shopper  who uses their devices to determine what, where and from whom to buy. They’re using their mobile devices on-the-lot to make smarter decisions:

  • 64-percent use smart phones to compare vehicle prices.
  • 51-percent compare vehicle makes and models.
  • 41-percent read reviews.

Dealers need to train their sales teams to understand how to engage with walk-in shoppers, – and assume that all walk in traffic are consumers who have spent time online researching their future vehicle purchase.  Walk-in shoppers are engaged and ready to talk prices and details about makes and models, and a large number continue their research online while at the dealership’s lot.  Sales associates should understand what key review sites like Cars.com are saying about the vehicles, the dealership, and sales people

On-the-Lot is the New Normal

Dealers need to face a hard reality: their lead data is incomplete and CRMs and Google Analytics currently only support single source attribution. Dealerships that rely solely on last-touch attribution and “internet” lead data to make advertising decisions are missing a sizeable and growing segment of on-the-lot customers — and these are customers who are more than likely ready to make a purchase.  To this end, our industry needs to become literate in the digital experiences, expectations and needs of walk-in consumers to best work with the growing legion of walk in traffic.

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 Cars.com. 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.  Cars.com, February 2017.

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 Cars.com 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, Cars.com White Paper. February 2017.

[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 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. Cars.com. February 2017.

January Voice of the Consumer

Cars.com continues to be the place to go for car shoppers looking at cars for sale.  In January of 2017, 88 percent of Cars.com visitors were specifically doing just that.  We continue to gather feedback from Cars.com visitors to further influence our site’s growth and offerings.  We also ask visitors what they specifically find helpful in using Cars.com.  Among some of the most helpful features of Cars.com 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 Cars.com with 50 percent of those coming from DealerRater.com, a Cars.com company.  It’s important to note that our acquisition of DealerRater.com 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 DealerRater.com 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.

Cars.com 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

 

 

Winning with Used Car Shoppers

Cars.com has a unique, in-market ready to buy car shopping audience – with 29.7 million monthly visits in 2016 alone¹.  From our research, we also know that seven out of ten shoppers to Cars.com are undecided on what and where to buy² giving dealers a huge opportunity to influence car shoppers.

Now, how do you speak to car shoppers who may be interested in used inventory, specifically?  We worked with a third party research firm to learn more about just that to help you win with used car shoppers.

The used car shopper mindset is a practical one.  Car shoppers looking at used inventory are more interested in getting the best car they can for their money in a style that matches their ideal car³.

Vehicle Attributes

We asked used car shoppers what vehicle attributes were most important to them when shopping – reliability came back as the most important.  This was followed closely by vehicle value and “best fit” for their lifestyle³ (Figure 1).

Figure 1.  Dealer Walk-Ins Analysis, Placed Inc. 2016.

 

It seems that used car shoppers are more willing to compromise on features for a good deal and value in a used vehicle.  This is all great information, but when is the best time to speak to these shoppers to help them make a purchase decision?

Vehicle Consideration

We found that the window of influence is ripe at least one month before their intended point of purchase³ (Figure 2).  Note that the percent of people considering a used vehicle is much higher than the percent of purchasers. In part, this is because our location research only includes people that visit a dealership; used buyers from private parties, like Craigslist, did not show up in this study³.

Figure 2.  Dealer Walk-ins Analysis.  Placed Inc.  2016.

 

The key takeaway here is that while used inventory consideration increases towards the point of purchase, car shoppers don’t always buy from a dealership when they make their decision to buy.  This is why you need to learn when used car shoppers plan to buy to better influence their decision to purchase from you – at least one month out.

Cross Shopping

Let’s take a quick look at cross-shopping by used car shoppers.  Used car shoppers highly consider CPO vehicles in their consideration sets³ (Figure 3).  Used shoppers are also more likely to trade up to CPO more so than new car shoppers³.

Figure 3.  Dealer Walk-ins Analysis.  Placed Inc. 2016.

 

Knowing that the window of influence for a used car shopper is about a month out from their intended point of purchase and that they consider CPO vehicles in their shopping journey is pivotal information in speaking to the used car shopper.  It’s up to dealers to best figure out how to target, speak, and influence used car shoppers.  Cars.com is here to help.

Our Marketing, Product, and Tech teams continue to make progress driving more meaningful, in-market traffic to our dealers – with the highest quality audience in the business. We will continue to optimize traditional lead delivery for our advertisers while redefining the future of value delivery with on the lot visits, multi-touch attribution, and other quality metrics.  We will continue to help you win not only with used car shoppers, but all car shoppers.

[1] Cars.com  Internal Data, December 2016.

[2] Cars.com Consumer Metrics Study, December 2016.

[3] Dealer Walk-Ins analysis.  Placed Inc.  2016.

The Value in Your Online Presence & Reviews

Dealer Reviews are more important than ever in today’s “go-online-first” world. The vast majority of consumers begin their research and shopping journeys online. In fact, consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential.

Today, online resources carry more weight in consumers’ minds as compared to more traditional information sources because of the speed at which information is updated and made available for consumption. If you’re an advertiser, spending more of your time and energy in digital will pay off more in reaching and gaining share with consumers because of the speed at which the online marketplace moves.

Specifically, reviews play a pivotal role in consumers’ minds by helping them decide how they will proceed in their shopping journey after looking up a product or service and analyzing how other consumers felt about their experience. Over 90 percent of consumers who shop online, regardless of product or service, say they use online reviews¹. That’s significant! Online reviews aren’t going away, and how you react to online reviews will greatly impact your standing in consumers’ minds.  Let’s take a look at some data.

How do Consumers Use Online Reviews?

Consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential. But, to what degree? Well, a large majority feel that online reviews are helpful and almost half would avoid a purchase without them, in general.

Dealers need to understand the extent to which online reviews influence purchase decisions. It makes sense that in our digital culture today, younger consumers use reviews more compared to consumers 55 years and older, but older consumers shouldn’t be ignored in an online review strategy. If a dealer doesn’t have online reviews, they are effectively ignoring the younger, Millennial generation with significant buying power.

“Eighty percent of Millennials said that they plan to purchase a vehicle in the next five years. At 80 million strong, and with more than $200 billion in annual buying power, there are plenty of sales to be generated from Millennials².”

What Review Sources do Consumers Trust the Most?

Consumers trust reviews from experts and from others who have purchased the same product they are interested in as the most influential.

From our study, three quarters of consumers trust expert reviews, and nearly as many trust reviews from other customers. The level of trust in experts and other customer reviews is on par with family and friends as sources.

Advertisements, whether online or through other media, are not as trusted. It is interesting here, though, to note that men, parents, and frequent review users are more likely to trust advertisements for making a major purchase — those sources by TV, radio, newspaper and other traditional media — with 25% indicating as such compared to 73% trusting expert reviews.

We recommend dealers have a process in place that highlights expert reviews on the makes and models they carry that will reinforce their own brand and get consumers talking. Dealers should also highlight reviews provided by customers who have previously purchased from their dealership. Doing so can help reassure potential consumers they are making the right decision in choosing the dealer they are researching.

How do Consumers Feel about Negative Reviews?

Negative reviews not only provide a look into how perceived poor experiences are handled at a dealership, but they can also highlight a pain point that may need addressed in the dealership’s own sales, service, or operations processes — an issue that may not have been apparent before. But, responding to negative reviews and showing other consumers that you’re willing to do what’s needed to make consumers happy after purchase can greatly improve your digital word of mouth and credibility in the minds of future consumers—setting you apart in the marketplace.

We aren’t done talking about dealer reviews.  Stay tuned to our blog for more on the role reviews play in the car shopping journey in the coming weeks.  All content, unless otherwise cited, comes from our own research in partnership and with execution and analysis by an independent third party, Versta Research.  We performed a quantitative survey of 503 recent and prospective car buyers from November 3 – 15, 2016. Our sample was carefully sourced and screened from a large national research panel.

[1] Review Usefulness and Recency, Cars.com, November, 2016.
[2] Millennial Car Shoppers, CDK Global, 2015.

NADA 100 Recap

Cars.com had a great time at NADA 100 this year.  The industry has seen tremendous change over the last 100 years and Cars.com has enjoyed being a partner in growth for the local retailers for amost twenty years.

As a partner in growth, Cars.com is always keeping an eye on the changing modern consumer behavior and how we can support dealers win in their local marketplace.  At NADA, we shared new insights on mobile shopping behavior to help dealers capitalize on the new opportunities to connect with the modern consumer.  Cars.com also announced a new Attribution solution with Clarivoy to help dealers make data-driven advertising decisions with the full picture of their advertising performance via their Google Analytics dashboard.

Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter said it best, “2017 is the year of efficiency.”  We are moving forward with our partners to grow efficiency in working together and in connecting car shoppers with the right vehicle, dealership, and sales person.  We saw this on the NADA expo floor, which was jam-packed with long-standing digital advertising partners as well as a high number of new companies.

What stuck out to us was the common message that dealers need to partner with companies who understand today’s modern consumer and with those who will do their best to grow dealers’ ROI in new, innovative ways.

Take a look at some of the good times below to see how Cars.com and DealerRater partnered with those dealers in attendance to discuss what’s new with us, everything we have available to dealers, and how to better our partnerships in 2017.

Cars.com event staff take some time for photos with the band Fitz and the Tantrums who performed at the Cars.com event party at NADA 2017 in New Orleans.

Cars.com sales team members review our Lot Insights reporting and answer other questions from those dealers in attendance at NADA.

Dealers who came to NADA had the chance to speak with trained Cars.com sales team members to learn more about Cars.com solutions and our unique, in-market car shopping audience.

Cars.com Trade Marketing staff work the booth to help visitors learn more about us and provide insights into Cars.com events and speakers.

Jamie Oldershaw – Senior Vice President of Product for DealerRater, Alex Vetter – CEO of Cars.com, and Gary Tucker – CEO of DealerRater, take the time to pose for pictures at the DealerRater booth at NADA.