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How Dealerships are Losing Online Leads

The automotive industry is notorious for outdated sales practices and our lack of a fundamental e-commerce framework. But what’s worse than no online presence at all is one that feels half-baked and leaves customers more confused than ever.


Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry.

Here’s what’s happening and how you can fix it.

Are you handling your online leads correctly? Or at all?


In recent research conducted by our team, 17% of dealerships never responded to online lead forms and requests for information — and that’s just the start. The automotive industry is notorious for outdated sales practices and our lack of a fundamental e-commerce framework. But what’s worse than no online presence at all is one that feels half-baked and leaves customers more confused than ever.

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Stop scaring away your digital leads


First, we have online lead generation itself. This seems easy — just build a website and wait for the leads to roll in. Maybe promote yourself on social media for some more lift. But it’s not that simple. Customers like the internet because it’s easy, anonymous and flexible. They can research their next induction cooktop in between meetings and compare the brands in their price range.

The automotive industry makes it difficult by offering little to no information online for consumers. Instead, 15% of dealerships list “$CALL” instead of any useful price information. It doesn’t help that 37% of dealers require a customer’s phone number just to inquire about basic financing data. Some dealers even go so far as to force customers onto a mailing list as a precursor to any conversation.


For customers who typically have the power to research and purchase products from home, the presence of 20th century sales processes is off-putting. It feels needlessly involved and pushy, especially when they know they’ll inevitably end up in the dealership for the test drive anyway. Add to that the 83% of consumers who spend more than half their time researching their purchase online; you have to wonder why so many dealers refuse to answer questions online.

In our research, 60% of dealers declined to answer basic questions about lease and finance pricing, pushing phone calls and appointments on customers who want neither. We received as many as 22 emails without ever seeing anything resembling a useful answer, instead receiving a litany of requests to call or visit the dealerships.


The omni-channel solution for online leads


All of these problems go away when we take the responsibility for the transition between digital and personal away from salespeople. Your team has its strengths, but you can accomplish so much more with sophisticated software. An omni-channel digital retailing system makes it easier to track and close online leads. It’s time to reduce that 17% of dealerships who never follow up on leads.

A true omni-channel digital retailing platform also keeps the data flowing. We found that 15% of dealerships asked for information already provided on the lead form, which wreaks havoc on consumer confidence. With a system that integrates a customer’s digital and dealership experiences into one unified journey, information doesn’t get lost and customers don’t feel ignored.


There’s no better way to make a client feel as though their time isn’t valued than by pushing for hours of phone calls and in-store appointments to answer a question that could be addressed in a simple email. And yet, dealerships send as many as eight emails in two days without ever answering the customer’s query.

That’s what omni-channel fixes: your customers can bounce back and forth between the internet and the showroom as often as they like. They can proceed with confidence from the knowledge that their information and progress will follow them at every step. No online leads get lost, and no customers get frustrated and leave for another dealership.


Make your dealership stand out


We found that only 3% of salespeople made any attempt to differentiate themselves when responding to lead forms. Generic responses and vague statements made each dealer’s email blend into the next; our overburdened inbox contained little useful information.

Believe it or not, this is good news for you. It’s not hard to stand out right now. Consumers are happy if dealerships can answer even the simplest questions without a lengthy phone call or trek to the showroom, which gives you the opportunity to stand out like never before. An omni-channel digital retailing platform eliminates all the sticking points in the sales processes. Even better, it builds customer trust in a way few can compete with.


Most dealerships make the purchase process too complicated and too time consuming, and customers are ready for something better. When your competitors are struggling to respond to leads at all, your seamless digital retailing experience makes your dealership the obvious consumer choice.

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