In a down market, Morrie’s Brooklyn Park Subaru experienced a considerable decline in lead volume from April to June of 2017. In addition to a large drop off in leads, their lost sales and defection rates were significantly higher than the national sales trends. They needed a solution to identify the source of all lost sales and a strategy to reduce the rate of defection to other dealers, while growing their market share in surrounding zip codes.
3 Steps to Reduce Lost Sales
by David Metter
1. Use Data That Tells a Complete Story
The only way to know exactly where you stand in your market is to have a clear view of what you’re losing. The problem the automotive industry has faced for years now, is that both CRM and DMS data is one-sided, one-dimensional, and only shows your effectiveness against your own sales. But what about the sales of competing dealers or brands in your market? Wouldn’t it be easier to grow your market share if you knew what percentage of it you actually owned compared to your top competitors?
The other problem exists within the reporting provided by some third party vendors, as these reports only show you one side of the story – their side. In other words, what you’re winning. If you think about it, what is the most vital piece of information to have in terms of improving your dealership’s sales operations? Is it how many clicks your VDPs got or is it how many actual vehicles you sold…or didn’t sell? You be the judge.
2. Accurately Quantify Your Lost Sales Opportunities
What if you could know which dealerships you’re losing sales to? How many units per day or per month are you losing to competitors? How many of your customers purchased from competing dealers or brands in your market?
It is critical for dealers to not only look at their own data and sales and defection trends, but also the sales trends of their biggest competitors. Know where you stand. If you have a clear view of what and how much you’re losing, then you have a clear view of what you need to win back.
3. Identify the Source of Lost Sales & Adjust Accordingly
There are several factors that play into each and every lost sale. What dealers need is the ability to recognize if sales are lost due to internal or external factors. For example, is there an internal problem with your sales staff or with a specific salesperson? Are your lost opportunities tied to a certain model? Or, is it an external problem such as one of your lead providers consistently delivering leads that are no longer in consideration? Look into your website traffic and the traffic providers you work with. Are these sources driving low-funnel buyers to your showroom, and can they prove it?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s because you’re not seeing the full picture. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know the problem exists. Similarly, you can’t make smarter decisions with your marketing budget if you don’t know which sources are driving bad traffic or causing high defection rates.
Now that we’ve identified all these potential problem areas, allow me to leave you with the light at the end of the tunnel. The good news is that the tools and data needed to complete the story of your market’s sales trends already exist. I know this because I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I’ve worked as the CMO of a large dealer group, and I’m currently on the vendor side of the car business. Therefore, I can say with confidence that attempting to grow your market share without a complete view of your market in today’s complex landscape is asinine. I can also say based on factual, proven stats that Urban Science has the fastest, most accurate sales match data in existence. So at the end of the day, you can go with your gut, or you can go with prescriptive science-based conviction. (I suggest the latter).
To learn more about identifying and eliminating lost sales, visit DriveAutoHook.com/TCA.
by David Metter
MYTH #1: VDP views are the metric that matters most.
Since when did VDP views become more important than sales? This is not an attempt to downplay the importance of driving traffic to your VDPs. Reputable evidence exists around VDPs being one of the last digital destinations car shoppers touch before visiting a showroom. But are vehicle details page views receiving significantly more attention than they deserve? Are dealers working backwards? Are we losing sight of our one true goal…to sell more cars?
There’s no argument that with everything our industry is capable of measuring, it all comes down to physical transactions between customers and dealers, specifically units sold and closed service ROs. That’s what you measure before anything else. That’s the reason “big data” exists in the first place – to help you generate more sales and service revenue. Dealers have more data at their fingertips than they realize, and it’s easy to get caught up trying to navigate and make sense of it all. Goals become blurred and dealers lose sight of the end game.
Allow me to remind you of the end game. When it comes to dealership operations, NOTHING is more important than increasing sales, service revenue, and customer retention – and I’m happy to take on anyone who’d like to challenge that statement.
I think our industry has completely overcomplicated the idea of big data. The role it plays is actually quite simple. When you break it down, VDP views are #5 on the “what to measure” list. Below is the infrastructure of the order in which you achieve your end game of more sales, closed service ROs, and repeat buyers.
1. Sales Data: Securing accurate and timely sales match data is paramount. There is nothing more important. Leverage sales match data to see if a customer bought from you or somewhere else? What make and model did they choose? Was it your brand or a competitor’s brand? Monitor your pump in and pump out percent to hold onto sales in your PMA.
2. Service Data: Measure your closed service repair orders – especially during the critical period from after a sale to the first recommended service appointment. This is where most dealers experience the biggest drop off in retention. Did the customer come to your store for their vehicle’s initial scheduled maintenance or to a competitor? Did they order replacement parts from you or somewhere else? How many people made a service appointment on your website? How many of those people actually showed up? What sales opportunities exist among your service customers?
3. Showroom & Service Traffic: Next quantify, how many people physically came into your store or entered your service lane? The majority of people don’t have time to browse around multiple dealerships or visit your service center just for a quote. If they came to you, it’s for a reason. So make sure your staff is in the business of closing deals and ROs.
4. Leads, Phone Calls, & Chats: When potential customers complete an action on your website, whether it’s submitting a lead form or picking up the phone to call you, that opens the door to potential sales. Metrics on your lead, call, and chat volumes are important to analyze, but it’s much more about quality than quantity. Instead of focusing your budget on more leads, calls and chats, focus on the actions that drive showroom visits.
5. VDP Traffic: VDP views drive awareness, familiarity, and consideration. Although they can influence a customer to take further action, they do not directly result in sales.
MYTH #2: VDP traffic is the foundation for future sales.
In what world does a VDP view hold more value than an actual human-to-human interaction? VDP views are not the foundation. Showroom traffic is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked, getting people in the door and speaking to them face-to-face is the best way to get them in a vehicle so they can touch, see, feel, drive and experience it for themselves. Show rates are infinitely more impactful than any ad or page view could ever be. Our industry has become so brainwashed, people believe more time, energy, and money should be allocated to driving VDP views rather than using those resources to drive showroom traffic. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.
MYTH #3: Big data is very complex and requires experts to turn it into action.
Wrong. All too often, dealers allow outside vendors to come in and tell them what they should be measuring. Social marketers will tell you social metrics are most important. Paid search companies will tell you clicks and website traffic are the secret to more sales. Our industry is stuck in this maze of listening to incessant digital noise. But every dealership is different, and there is no one size fits all solution.
My friends, it’s time to remove yourself from the maze and turn the volume of the noise ALLLL the way down so that you can actually hear the music.
You and your staff are the ONLY people that should dictate what you need to measure. Take the data you already have and zero in on the metrics that involve sales, service ROs, and repeat customers. Data is simply a catalyst for determining and reaching your goals. Sales data shows you where you stand against competitors, but more importantly, how you stand against yourself historically. Sales data will tell you exactly where you are, and exactly where you need to go.
By David Metter
There are a lot of rookie players in the game when it comes to accurate attribution reporting (measuring your digital sales return on investment). More often than not, the task of obtaining valuable sales attribution metrics is put on the bench due to their roaring complexity. The problem is not the data. The data is there; we just need the right players in the game to tell us what to do with it and how it connects. Obscure conundrums of the digital world can be “attributed” to the ongoing development of new media channels and information available. This new-age, omni-channel playing field has resulted in an upheaval of brand interaction opportunities – leaving the one source that led to a sale increasingly difficult to pinpoint. Keyword being difficult, not impossible.
The concept of attribution itself is relatively simple. According to DrivingSales, “Attribution allows you to understand which elements of your marketing mix were involved in the purchase decision process, and ideally, which were the most effective.” The problem lies in securing truthful statistics. What use is big data when you can’t put it into perspective and draw logical conclusions? If we knew which touch point led to a sale, wouldn’t we have a much better gage on how and where to spend our ad dollars?
In Google’s recent article, they highlight one consumer’s 900+ digital interactions that took place preceding her final vehicle purchase.
· The Good News: That’s 900 opportunities for dealers and manufacturers to engage customers with relevant, impactful information. Or in Google’s words, 900 chances to “be there and be useful.”
· The Bad News: The more digital interactions that make up a single consumer’s online profile, the more difficult it becomes to identify which interaction was the tipping point that led to the purchase.
Experian’s Global Marketer Report highlights the current depth of the issue. “The biggest hurdles and key priorities for marketers this year are dependent on having accurate, enriched data, linked together in a central location for a complete customer view.” In 2016, 81% of marketers are still struggling to attain this information. “Proper revenue attribution is crucial to determining each channel or touch point’s role in the customer journey.” But the reality is too many marketers have very little, if any understanding of which investments are paying off.
So let’s get to the point. The answer to the title of this blog is an obvious YES. Overall as an industry, we are stuck in the minor leagues when it comes to correctly measuring ROI. It’s a huge problem for marketers. But I assure you there is hope. If we only had the reporting to know which interaction point transformed a browser into a buyer, we could make much smarter, more efficient decisions with our money.
So, what are we going to do about it? First, manufacturers and dealers need to hold themselves accountable for seizing the limitless opportunities to connect. Second, ask yourself if you’re holding your vendors accountable for providing you with the attribution metrics that led to a sale? And I don’t mean how many clicks, impressions or unique site visitors your vendors have sent your way. That’s all great to know. But the major league players know that those executions drove traffic into your showroom and they know how many sales they got you.
CDK’s eBook, Automotive Moneyball says it best. “Leads, clicks, visits and VDP views all have value—as do inventory searches and hours & directions lookups. They just can’t tell the whole story when viewed in isolation. No single number can. They’re simply incomplete—pint-sized, partial pictures of the shoppers they represent.”
The major league players have the good stuff: clear, proven, and complete attribution models. However, it is up to you to key up your bases with ONLY major league vendors.
As the former CMO of one of the largest dealer groups in the country, I know from experience how difficult this can be. I also know that dealers are not getting the most out of their vendors for a variety of reasons - one being lack of time, another being the fear they may try and upsell you during a meeting...I get it. But the truth is, vendors are the experts (think of a player using better equipment) and their expertise is up for the taking - just make sure your scouts know how to draft the players with major league talent.
By David Metter
April offers a month of renewed optimism for car dealers everywhere as spring comes into fruition and pockets become heavier with a little cash back from Uncle Sam. Tax refund season has arrived, and with it, infinite profit opportunities for both vehicle sales and your fixed operations. I fondly remember April 15th back in my car-selling days as the “real” beginning of the month.
With that in mind, the following have the potential to be the three most lucrative areas to focus your strategy on during this season of budding opportunity:
1. Increase Show Rates. Okay, this is obvious - but here’s how. We all know the probability of closing a deal skyrockets when a customer is physically in front of you in your showroom. The challenge is getting them there. This is where lead scoring comes into play. If you had the ability to instantly score leads based on their level of buying intent wouldn’t that make the time you spend chasing leads drastically more efficient? Wouldn’t you then know which leads to focus your attention on first and foremost? I recommend implementing technology that has the ability to score all your site, mobile, and third party leads simultaneously and in real-time, so that you know where to focus your efforts.
One way to increase your odds of getting buyers in the showroom is to offer an incentive just for coming in for a test drive, or for a vehicle inspection if their car is a potentially desirable trade-in. The higher the lead score, the more you should offer in exchange to facilitate heavier foot traffic, both on your showroom floor and in your service drive.
DealerRefresh just published an article advising dealers to have their sales staff “put the phone down!” Customers who call your store are not looking to be sold. In fact, they are already sold on which vehicle they want down to the year, make, model, and even and trim level. Therefore, all calls should be managed by your BDC, or your appointment setters as the one and only goal should be setting the appointment to get them in the door.
2. Reclaim Your Fixed Ops Revenue. The service and parts department of a dealership is easily the revenue engine with the most powerful horsepower. The potential for profit opportunities is greater than ever before in a market infested with disloyal service goers. According to DME Automotive, service center loyalty is remarkably low. “Fewer than 1 in 4 drivers are loyal to their service center type, leaving 88.2B up for grabs.” Yes, you read that right. Eighty-eight BILLION. That is how much money is at stake in the market for service and parts. So, who’s going to claim it?
Cars.com agrees and points out, “We in the industry know that dealerships provide fair, competitive prices on quality service, but service shoppers don’t because we aren’t telling them, and it’s squeezing dealership profitability.” National repair chains take business from dealerships either because their digital marketing is more effective, or they offer a smoother digital experience – or both. A better experience includes superior visibility and more transparent pricing models. “All things that are within a dealership’s power to control, improve upon and use to influence service customers,” says Cars.com.
3. Deploy a Millennial Marketing Strategy. As you’ve probably heard, the Millennial market of vehicle buyers is rapidly accelerating – and it covers a wider age group than you may realize, spanning the ages of 18-34 years old. The differentiating factor in this generation is that the dealership experience is rated much more heavily than the actual price of a car. According to a recent DrivingSales study, “While finding the right vehicle at the right price is important to everyone, our study shows that most younger consumers want a positive customer experience at the dealership and are willing to pay a little more to ensure they get it.”
Edmunds.com also offers insight as to what the mobile experience in particular looks like for Millennials, reporting that 60% of Millennial visitors come through their mobile site. These shoppers are most active during evenings and weekends when they are out and about, implying they’re using their phones while on the dealer lot.
Tips for Appealing to Millennials:
· Mobile Focused Ads
· Fluidity of Setting Appointments
· Up Front Pricing
Time and convenience are perhaps the greatest hurdles to overcome when competing for millennial attention, with price following closely in third place. People don’t have time to sit and wait. Often, they are willing to pay slightly more for a faster, easier experience. Wouldn’t you? Quite frankly, time is money.
There is no time to waste. Spring has sprung, and there are billions of dollars to be claimed!
By David Metter
The residents of Missouri and Illinois had a rough start to 2016 after the detrimental flooding of the Mississippi River and other waterways spanning the two states. In some areas, more than two feet of rain graced the Midwest with its presence, resulting in over 25 deaths and thousands forced from their homes in freezing temperatures.
The vicious results of natural disasters can have snowballing impacts (no pun intended). Mother nature doesn’t simply affect individuals, families, and their communities but on a larger scale, both businesses and entire industries feel the consequences. Urban Science data revealed the flooding in Missouri had a direct impact on their auto sales when compared to all other states. In January, sales in Missouri were down about 10%, compared to a 4% increase throughout the rest of the country.
More recently, the East Coast was hit with monumental and even record-breaking snowfall accumulation due to late January’s winter storm, Jonas. The storm’s heartless medley of snow, ice, high winds, and coastal flooding proved the unyielding domino effect of weather-related damage that expands far beyond vehicle sales. Over 80 million Americans were affected, including at least 31 deaths and of course, property damage.
According to Automotive News, the “Jonas Effect” forced Toyota to temporarily close 200 of its dealerships. Herb Gordon Volvo, in Silver Spring, Maryland experienced a roof collapse due to the overly dense snow. Fortunately, there were no human injuries; however valuable inventory was lost (seven Volvos to be exact). General Manager, Ed Sarecky reported the damage would take about 45 days to be restored. The silver lining – they plan on rebuilding the area with a more enclosed, highly stabilized rooftop to prevent losses like this in the future.
This is not the first time the auto industry has suffered from natural disasters, nor will it be the last. Back in 2005, on a much larger scale, Hurricane Katrina became infamous as one of the five deadliest storms in the history of the U.S. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As an industry, we did learn a few things that can benefit dealerships in the case of yet another unwarranted disaster.
The following are the top three findings dealers should be aware of in order to prepare for, or minimize the damages associated with natural disasters such as these (excluding the obvious of securing a good insurance policy).
1. Sales will skyrocket after 30-90 days following a natural disaster. What dealers don’t necessarily expect is that directly following this lagging bounce-back period is when vehicle sales reach record highs. A trend we’ve seen with unprepared dealerships is they often lack the necessary inventory to meet the soaring demand. In addition, we have to consider not just the quantity of inventory to prepare for the spike in sales, but also the right variety of vehicles to keep in stock depending on the geographic location and nature of the storm.
Urban Science conducted an extensive data study one year after Katrina hit. According to Wards Auto, the study revealed, “While Hurricane Katrina sparked a human exodus and crippled many car dealerships in the metropolitan region, automakers scrambled afterwards to get the right vehicles to market because of an ensuing surge in demand.”
Mitch Phillips, Global Director of Data at Urban Science, toured the city of New Orleans and its dealerships to witness the aftermath six months after Katrina. Phillips noted, “Car sales dropped, but pickup truck sales nearly doubled. As people came back to the city, they were fixing their homes and hauling away debris. They needed pickup trucks.”
2. The odds of real-time data will always work in your favor. And by real-time, I mean real-time. I don’t mean data from 30 days ago. I mean real sales and transactional data from this very instant that can be used to your advantage. Big data alone won’t cut it. The data you use to optimize your strategy during a storm-induced sales coma should be fast, intelligent, and purposeful – meaning you can use it to craft your sales strategy right away. Accept nothing less than real-time data, as this is the only truly efficient source towards improving your sales and marketing efforts.
3. You’re going to get fewer leads, so make the most out of the ones you have. This means optimizing your website, lead forms, and overall marketing efforts for conversion. I’d recommend beginning with mobile and working your way down. Make all calls to action, including directions and your phone number prominent and easy to find. Make forms short and to the point. If you’re going to ask for someone’s information, they are more likely to provide it if you offer them something in return. Consider a gift card incentive just for coming in for a test drive. You always have a better chance of converting a customer once they are physically in front of you.
While looking back on his visit to New Orleans, Phillips adds, “It’s not just hurricanes. Any natural disaster, such as an earthquake, can cripple a dealership. There need to be provisions for natural disasters in areas susceptible to them.”
Personally, I like to consider myself an optimist. Over time, the snow will melt, water levels will recede, and the material damage will be restored. Roads will be cleared and safe once again, and the revival of new hope will begin to set in. I believe that with every misfortune or tragedy comes a valuable lesson. What we can learn from the unstoppable, unpredictable force of Mother Nature is how to prepare for the aftermath should it happen again.
How Dealers Can Eliminate Deficiencies with More Accurate Attribution Tracking
By David Metter
Through endless digital and traditional channels, consumer influence is happening both consciously and subconsciously as they navigate along a digital roadmap equipped with double-digit research touch points that follow no predictable path or straight line. This new age buying behavior makes attributing a sale to one source almost impossible. While new and developing channels provide marketers with an abundant assortment of avenues to reach potential customers, the challenge of measuring the return on your investment is becoming increasingly complex.
“Big data” is a widespread term used relentlessly in digital marketing across all verticals. But the question remains, how can we properly leverage big data to attribute a single sale to a single action? And is it possible to attribute one sale to one source within the surplus of information available today?
Let’s first properly define attribution. According to Forbes, “Attribution is the science of using advanced analytics to allocate proportional credit to each marketing touch point across all online and offline channels, leading to a desired customer action.” MarketShare defines it as “giving credit where credit is due.” To simplify even further, attribution is who or what takes credit for a sale.
For auto dealers, attribution is synonymous with the conduit that led the customer from screen, to search, to showroom. Attributing a sale or a lead translates to knowing exactly where it came from, how it came to you, and why. The problem with digital marketing is that this process can be very challenging as there is no conventional path to follow when it comes to tracking online (and offline) actions today. Attribution defines which elements of your marketing compounds will result in a reaction, or which will ultimately prove to be effective.
There is a reason Amazon is the #1 online retailer. The master of digital merchandising has the most straightforward attribution chain in the business - consisting of three steps: a search, a click, and a buy.
On the contrary, there is no such thing as the “search-click-buy” method in the automotive industry. The question of the moment is could there be, and how do we turn that possibility into a measurable science? The reality is, well below 5% of the total buyers in the market behave in a direct, attributable fashion. Therefore, dealers and manufacturers must focus on the 95% of buyers that have to physically visit the showroom to purchase a vehicle and really drill down to determine their personal, unique path to purchase. But dealers are not dentists, and drills are not a part of the standard dealership sales toolbox.
According to a Dataium study, “One-third of autos purchased today are a direct outcome of internet-generated leads.” Lead conversion must be measured at the dealership level. More importantly, measuring attribution, or the accountability of a sale is of growing importance as more and more media and social networks adapt to a paid advertising model.
Tips to Overcome Attribution Hurdles:
1. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Customize your messaging based on a user’s previous actions and their digital footprint. The smartphone is regarded as the most intimate device ever. Therefore our marketing must follow suit and get personal. Custom-built, targeted messages elicit fiercer impacts. Consumers not only want personalized messages, but they now expect them, and respond better when marketing tactics convey a dynamically tailored message.
2. Implement a streamlined form-fill process on all devices in conjunction with industry-leading responsive design. Evolving technologies have arrived that allow geo-targeting on mobile devices that currently provide dealers with a first ever, “showrooming” solution that is, you guessed it…100% measurable!
3. The consumer experience plays a significant role in the attribution process. When considering the experience, focus on the variables that include specific IP addresses, number of page views before an initial offer or incentive is provided, and closing the loop with re-engagement and retargeting practices.
4. Attribution can be more accurately measured when conversion is streamlined via e-mail or text message delivery. When the consumer data is captured during an incentive redemption during a showroom visit, we can then know without a shadow of a doubt which channel led the buyer to your lot. When you offer something valuable in return for a consumer’s personal information, the probability of them completing the form drastically escalates.
It’s crucial we all take a moment to step back and put aside all the math and the logic. At the end of the day, there is a simple method to the madness. Waiting until a customer physically shows up in your showroom to collect their information enables you to collect more information (and more accurate information) than you ever could from a typical dealer lead form. This is simple quid pro quo; you have to give something to get something. We have to think differently in order to capture the information we need to make smarter budgeting decisions.
To learn more tips towards solving the attribution confusion please check out our attribution whitepaper, “Automotive Attribution: Fundamentals and Future.”