Nearly 90 percent of today’s consumers use the Internet to shop for a car, spending hours online and visiting dozens of Websites during the research process. It has never been more challenging for dealers to stand out from the crowd and drive serious car buyers to their Websites and ultimately, their showrooms. And, with dealership visits per purchase going down from four to one over the last few years, it has never been more important to reach and engage with low-funnel, in-market car buyers.
Dealers spend plenty of money on their Websites and on digital advertising — search engine marketing, or SEO, in particular — to attract traffic to their site. There is little doubt that having a search presence is critically important to a dealer’s marketing efforts. But to really optimize your efforts to drive traffic and sales, it’s important to understand the behaviors of consumers as they travel through the purchase path. Knowing these behaviors will help you reach and engage with them at the right place and at the right stage of consideration and drive them to the right pages of your Website for maximum conversion.
Be Present at Vertical Search
As consumers start the automotive purchase process, they consider multiple makes and models and as they continue along the Internet path to purchase, they use research sites to help them add and delete vehicles from their consideration set. The car shopping process is no longer linear. It is now a dynamic process where consumers add brands — or eliminate brands — as they research. At the critical stage of finalizing their purchase sits vertical search, such as a publisher site or vertical search engine, where consumers find the specific vehicle they’re looking for before visiting a showroom. This is where a dealer needs to be. This in-market traffic is delivered directly to the dealer’s Website, typically at a much lower price point than traditional search.
Drive Traffic to the Right Place
The entire vertical search process culminates with the dealership Website visit, which makes the page you drive traffic to a critical consideration. While plenty has been written about the benefits of deep linking to a VDP page, we advise against it. Maybe a customer wants to see a range of vehicles versus the black sedan to which you directed them. Instead, direct car buyers to more general areas of your Website, such as a Vehicle Search Results page where a broader range of models is featured, or to a specials page highlighting your “Why Buy from Me” message.
Create a Great User Experience
While driving increased volumes of high-quality traffic to your Website is great, don’t neglect the user experience once consumers get there. Conversions depend on the tools you provide to get car buyers to stop researching and visit your brick-and-mortar dealership. Do you offer a texting solution backed by a management system that assists with compliance? Do you offer virtual showroom technology to co-browse key areas of your virtual showroom Website? Do you offer shop by payment tools with a soft credit pull? Have you implemented instant retargeting technology? If you don’t offer these solutions, it’s time to start. It’s much better to immediately engage with a consumer versus chasing a lead.