Cracking the Conversion Code

By David Metter

Behind every screen, device, or smartphone in today’s consumer economy resides something that has perhaps gotten lost in the unstoppable avalanche of digital noise. Are we as an industry starting to focus too much on the device, and not enough on the person behind it? All we hear today is ways we can target better on mobile and that we need to use the latest in mobile tracking and mobile marketing technologies. When it comes to selling cars, or converting leads into buyers, let’s begin the New Year with an emphasis on the customer behind the device in order to connect with them better and resonate with them in a more positive way. This is the first step towards improving conversion for your dealership.

The second step is understanding the digital roadmap, or digital learning path that leads to a buying decision. If you want to increase your overall conversion rates, start by only spending money on the consumers that are ready to make a purchase and identify those in-market customers using proper attribution methods. Spend your precious ad dollars on the people that have demonstrated ready-to-buy behavior.

Buying a car is a huge decision for the average consumer – the second largest purchase of their life after buying a home. It’s a really big deal. In 2016, it is imperative that we remember there is a human being on the other side of that screen – complete with thoughts, skepticism, and emotions that come to define their shopping experience, and more importantly, their probability of converting.

So how can we increase conversion and increase the number of buyers we send into our showroom? First, let’s define what conversion means to the average dealership. Then let’s set the bar higher. Conversion is simply the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, whether that’s filling out a lead or incentive form on your site, or their final signature on a new lease. Techopedia defines conversion rate as, “An equation that online advertisers and marketers use to compare the total number of visitors to a website to the number that become paying customers, subscribers or users.”

According to a November, 2015 Dataium study, the average dealer website gets roughly 6,109 unique monthly visitors. Of those 6,109 people, only 1.5% completed a lead form, or in other words, only 1.5% converted. This is our industry’s standard, and we can absolutely do better.

Average should not be an acceptable word in your vocabulary when it comes to your conversion rate. Make it a goal, or a new year’s resolution to demolish “average” and demand to rise above. Write down your goal, and then commit to knocking it out of the park!

So what should your conversion goal be? Many dealers make the mistake of leaving their conversion rates up to their web provider, or placing blame on their website platform for lower than desired conversions. Progressive dealerships see a conversion rate of 6% or more compared to the average dealer’s 1-4%. The truth however, is that dealers themselves hold much more power than they think they do. Do you want to be average or do you want to have upwards of a 6% website conversion rate?

The power dealers have when they’re face-to-face with a customer is vastly underrated. Thus, using incentives to get customers in the showroom may be the most obvious solution to increasing your conversion ratio. If your objection is, “The customer is going to probably come in anyways so why should I spend money to incentive them?” then you should probably stop advertising all-together...which would be a bad move.  Hopefully, you get my point.  If not, stop reading now. 

Sometimes we have to change the way we sell in order to sell better. In the year ahead, our processes should involve taking a step back from “targeting” consumers on their devices, and really focus in on how to connect with low-funnel buyers through the benefits that accompany being a knowledgeable sales person and providing a superior in-showroom experience. Keep in mind that conversion happens at a much higher rate when a customer is physically in front of you than it does online with the standard lead form so be different than your competition.

Behind the screens we hide behind that track our every move, search and click lies a conversion opportunity that can be better accomplished when you focus more on consumers themselves and how they behave while researching their next vehicle. To be clear, I don’t want to downplay the importance of mobile. You have to be where your customers are and they are most certainly on mobile – however if you’re going to ask them for their information you better be positive their experience filling out their information on their mobile device is seamless.

Think about the design of your mobile site and ask yourself, is it optimized for conversion? This means you have to consider things like your call-to-action button and its placement, or if it’s consistent with the average person’s thumb size. According to Apple, “The human fingertip is around 46 pixels squared, so size your buttons accordingly.”

If you’re making digital advertising decisions and you’re not seeing the connectivity into the showroom, and more importantly, sales, you may be either spending your money unwisely, or you have a breakdown in your data that doesn’t allow you to connect these things. When you have great data you can tell a great story. It’s also not just about big data, it’s about good data. Leveraging third-party data partners like IHS Polk we can build a much stronger attribution model and thus determine what exactly led to the conversion of a lead.

Knowledge is power. Knowing which actions along the road to a purchase led to that sale vastly increases your probability of conversion, and more importantly, makes the most out of your ad budget.