There’s no question that consumers use search engines in the car shopping process, but a new white paper from AutoTrader.com sheds light on just how and when they are turning to those tools — providing key insights about the actual behaviors of online shoppers that dealers and OEMs can — and should — use to reach more shoppers and convert them into buyers.
According to the , web analytics tools (which dealers use to analyze traffic to their web sites) typically show only a 2 – 5% direct referral rate from third-party sites like AutoTrader.com and KBB.com to dealership web sites.
Additionally, the white paper reinforces a common theme, which is that shoppers are more likely to use search engines as a directory.
“There is a gap between perception and reality when it comes to the role of search in the car shopping process, which could be leading dealers to over invest in search marketing at the expense of more effective sources,” said Kevin Filan, vice president of customer marketing at AutoTrader.com.
Further, the white paper demonstrates that third-party sites not only drive a significant amount of shoppers to dealer web sites, but they also drive a more qualified shopper.
“The results of this analysis really show that there is significant risk for dealers who assume that shopping activity began from the source that provided a direct referral to their web sites,” Filan continued. “By having the right inventory at the right price and merchandising it well, dealers will be able to capture the attention of more qualified shoppers and have a higher chance of converting them into buyers.”
Turn Insights into Actions
So ultimately, what does all of this mean for dealers? Here are three tips from the AutoTrader.com experts:
- Don’t assume that car-shopping activity begins on search engines. Deeper shopping engagement occurs upstream of search engines.
- To better understand which sources are driving traffic, focus less on direct referrals from search engines and more on the keywords shoppers enter into search engines to locate the dealership website.
- Focus on the key tenets of successful online automotive marketing, such as having in-demand inventory, competitive pricing and robust merchandising online. For inventory, use multiple custom photos (not stock), custom vehicle comments and video, and don’t forget to merchandise the dealership to highlight why shoppers should buy from you.
, an intensive analysis from of the online behavior of over three million shoppers showing that third-party sites drive a significant amount of qualified shoppers to dealer websites and that shoppers mostly using search engines as directories.