How Do I Convert Visitors On My Dealer Site?


image of quite button

I’ve been spending a lot of time digging into the data collected from the analytics of our dealership website recently. Ultimately, I’m trying to discover what consumers are looking to get out of my website so that I can offer them the opportunity to convert into a lead with ease. Naturally, I won’t try to make them feel like they are turning into a lead; rather, I would like to provide convenient options that cater to purchase decisions and actions in a way that entices the user to use the website as a communication tool. Most people don’t want to fill out lead capture forms (and rightfully so), so I have to give them a compelling reason to do so – but how do I do that?

I’m a young guy, so I understand why our target demographic is a little weary of filling out a form online. Personally, I’d be more than willing to fill out a form on a product that I was actually interested in purchasing. I’ve been socially conditioned to treat the Internet as a purchase tool and I’ve had quite an interesting time figuring out how to entice the older generations to follow suit. I believe the only way to do that is to make the car purchase process easier for the consumer.

From looking at my lead conversion data, I can tell you with quite confidence that users aren’t really interested in the opportunity to “Request Information” or “Express Interest” in a vehicle. So I ask the automotive website providers – why are these calls-to-action still so prevalent across dealer sites? Have you even been doing any conversion optimization testing across your dealer pages? If not, can you really consider yourself to be a respectable “player” in the automotive website business? Tangents aside, since users aren’t interested in requesting additional information, we have to decide what calls-to-action will enable them to divulge private information.

The most common call-to-action in the automotive industry is “Get A Quote.”

A quote, you say – for what? The price of the vehicle is right next to the lead capture form, so what exactly am I getting a quote for? Monthly payments? Interest rates? The ambiguity of this call-to-action is rather puzzling – would we be more likely to generate leads if we provided more options for the user that are fairly specific? I understand that people convert all the time on the “Get A Quote” call-to-action, but what if we provided more options for the user?

Lead generation is an interesting topic in the auto industry. Contrary to an e-commerce site whose primary goal is to entice the user to buy a product, we are faced with the challenge of converting visitors online for something that they cannot readily purchase through the Internet. In order to improve, we need to dissect the purchase process in an attempt to provide a simpler, more efficient means of acquiring a new vehicle. What’s the primary reason somebody will contact us via our website? It is most certainly to negotiate a price. Does “Get A Quote” imply that the user will be negotiating a price? I don’t think it does and it certainly isn’t clear-cut enough to entice the average consumer when they can just as easily “Get A Quote” in the actual dealership. We can make this process easier by appealing to the current actions of the consumer. In this case, we need to offer them the opportunity to negotiate a price online before they make the trip into the store. Consumers are already using automotive websites for this task, so let’s make it easier for them.

“But wait,” you might say, “we don’t want to encourage the consumer to request a lower price!” Unfortunately for you, the automotive industry has been doing a pretty good job of encouraging that practice for many years now. The consumer is conditioned to think that they can get a better price than what the dealer lists and I can almost guarantee that you’re selling vehicles for less than MSRP, so why not start the process earlier? You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about your customers and grab some contact information in the process. Let’s give the consumer an opportunity to start the purchase process in the comfort of their home so that they can come into the store when they are good and ready to purchase — it’s what they want to do anyway.

Our culture has done a great job of reinforcing stereotypes of salespeople in the auto industry. Although we know better as insiders, many people still believe that the shark salesman is going to rip them off when they decide to make the trip into the store. What if we turned the process into a friendly encounter with an informative, yet confident salesperson that is willing to negotiate before they get you “in the box”? If you’re looking for dealer differentiators, there’s a good place to start.

I’m not a fan of TrueCar, but I believe they got 1 thing right: consumers want an easier, more transparent vehicle purchase process. However, it is not the case that we have to give away our internal costs to make that happen. Consumers start their research online, so let’s learn from the past and appeal to their purchase behaviors, not fight them. Watch how consumers interact with your website,
track their requests, and appeal to their desires. We need informed ISMs in our industry because the current inflexibility and lack of control from automotive website providers needs to change. This is a dynamic industry, so let’s start heading in that direction with regard to our online presence.

Do you agree/disagree?

Is it useless to try to convert consumers online if they are already interested in a vehicle? Let’s discuss in the comments.

image of Kyle Suss Kyle Suss is a regular contributor to DealerRefresh and is the Internet marketing director for Denver used cars dealer Suss Buick GMC.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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19 thoughts on “How Do I Convert Visitors On My Dealer Site?

  1. Kyle, we have found an invitation to negotiate the entire purchase online is a huge driver of conversion rates on our websites. By allowing the customer to handle the stresses of negotiation in an online system, we’ve found conversion rates jump 60% to 90%. It really works and the customer has a better experience. is the product for more info.


  2. Great work Kyle, we’re totally headed the same direction. Like you, I’ve been studying and gathering shopper optimization data for years on this. VENDORS, this is your responsibility, not your dealers.

    Adding to Kyle’s thoughts and challenges, here’s where I am…

    Rule #1). Shopping is a task.

    Rule #2). A great website makes that task smarter & simpler.

    Rule #3). Conversion optimization takes 2nd place to Rule#1 and Rule #2.

    Rule #3). If you NAIL rules 1&2, shopper satisfaction will rise, shopper anxiety will fall and so will the barriers to a shopper giving up personal info (aka Conversions will rise!)

    The hallmark of a great website is NOT conversions, it’s how many shoppers return and how long they spend on your site (and not your competitors). Optimizing a site for leads is really optimizing the site for the dealers satisfaction, NOT the shoppers satisfaction.

    Here’s a few DR links that anchor my website makeover game plan for 2012:

    The cycles of a shopper:

    Top 17 Shopper Anxiety Obstacles:

    What are they looking for that they can’t find?:

    What Rocks the Shoppers world? (thank you John Ross)

    Split Testing is a FAIL without a foundation:

    Lipstick on a pig is still an ugly pig.

    Dear Dealer, DARE to ask yourself… are we really that different? Hold your business model up against these players:

    It takes Balls…

    Vendors need to satisfy the check signing HIPPO* and all to frequently, their score card is simply “how many leads did it send me?”. This puts the Vendor between a rock and a hard place. It’ll take a brave soul at the top open this door and empower (and fund) your team to deeply explore this knowing the outcome may or may not produce more leads.

    If you deeply explore each and every link that I posted above, rest assured that the REWARD is waiting for you (example: see SEOmoz case study).

    I say, go forth brave vendor and dare to blow up the VDP as we know it! Our shoppers will thank you.

    • @JoePistell Hey Joe. I agree, this is the responsibility of the vendor.

      I like your thinking regarding this quote: “The hallmark of a great website is NOT conversions, it’s how many shoppers return and how long they spend on your site (and not your competitors).” The more intuitive, simple, and straightforward a dealer site can be, the longer the user will want to stay on that site. What more could we ask for?

      •  @Kyle Suss Brother Kyle, the design goals of “intuitive, simple, and straight forward ”   are important to you because you feel that car sites are NOT.. intuitive, simple, and straight forward.  You’re speaking about improving the User Interface (UI).  
        Is the UI the roadblock in your shoppers path to your store?
        I signed up with clicktale 4 weeks ago… I thought my site was good.  I thought my shoppers are navigating with ease.
        Humbled in Syracuse.

  3. Thanks, Kyle. Your observations are absolutely on target. There is a science to conversion. Some website providers and dealers get it, and some don’t. You would probably be surprised at the number of dealers, GM’s, even Internet Manager’s that have no clue what their conversion numbers are. Your question: “Is it useless to try to convert consumers online if they are already interested in a vehicle?” I would say that it is definitely not useless. Customers will engage when the site is laid out properly, with less intrusive and cumbersome forms, and with the right Call-to-Action prompts. A few percentage points difference in conversion, can make a huge difference in appointments, shows, and ultimately sales.

    • @Dave White Hi Dave. I certainly agree. Could you imagine if vendors worked with their clients to set up analytics and conversion tracking? It would make things much easier for the Internet managers. Any report I ever received from my old website provider didn’t have any actionable information — can you believe that they tried to tell me that someone who views my Hours & Directions page counts as a conversion?

      It’s my understanding that GM requires an address on their dealer’s websites for all individual vehicle leads. What’s missing here? Why are they doing this? I noticed a considerable drop in lead count when this was implemented — are they not seeing those numbers? You’re right, the forms need to be less intrusive to achieve a conversion.

      •  @Kyle Suss Don’t want to get commercial but that’s just what our lead management software does . . .show you why people react and conversion metrics for review.
        That being said, I’ve spent a great deal of time in varied industry sectors studying the varied reason behind consumer interaction.  The auto segment is overwhelmingly based on pricing and availability.  A big reason for that is simply the incredible amount of supply sources for the consumer.  The internet has made the business an auction, just like Google Adwords.  Multiple participants for the same unit at the same time. 
        What needs to be better addressed in dealer communications is VALUE, not price.  What do you offer me as a service provider that the other guys don’t?  How do you weave that into your discussion so the consumer is less focused on side-by-side pricing comparison, but side-by-side value offerings?

  4. Very interesting Kyle!

    May I play Devil’s Advocate here? (for discussion purposes only).

    You are addressing the idea of better capturing bottom-funnel shoppers that are currently on your website. As long as I’m in the car business, the first topic everyone addresses is price. And as long as I’m in the car business, there has been a Manager telling me that Process beats Price.

    I’m going to be that Manager here and say that there are better ways to capture that lead than by primarily focussing on price. People on your site are looking for a reason to do business with you. Does price play a role? Of course. But if you make it your focus, you make it the customer’s focus.

    Increase time-on-site. Increase engagement. Seems to me we have tools and opportunities to better do this than ever before. Is it a better idea to add more pricing tools or add more avenues where peers talk about your great prices? “Get Pre-Approved” or a video with actual clients talking about how cool their F&I experience was?

    Again, I don’t have the answers — just some fodder for consideration. But I do think it’s hard to argue with the fact that your lead levels will increase if your site visitors spend a little more time with you and get a “warm and fuzzy” as a result of their visit.

  5. JQ – “the first topic everyone addresses is price”. Not on used when they are on the phone; they want to know if the car is still there. Availability is a prime concern. I’m curious if anyone has tested a “Check Availability” button. My sense is it might drive even more responses, instill a sense of urgency, and KEEP the conversation off price.

    • @VelocitySales We have a “Check Status” call-to-action on our site right now. Not sure if people think that means the same thing as “Check Availability” but nobody has used it yet…

  6. This is actually the kind of comment I was hoping for :)

    Let’s get this out in the open — I certainly don’t claim to be some sort of sales expert. I understand your position though and I can agree that process does beat price; however, what’s the process in this case? Up until recently, I haven’t encouraged a single visitor on my website to start a conversation based upon price, yet they do it anyway. And it’s not just a couple of the visitors, it’s the vast majority of them.

    That being said, I can tell you that since we’ve implemented a pricing call-to-action on our website, we’ve had the best Internet numbers we’ve ever seen (not only in terms of conversions, but also in terms of sales). So what does that mean?

    I know a good salesperson would cringe at the idea of starting a conversation based upon price, but I have yet to see any real data pointing to the idea that web customers care about much else. We have a few other calls-to-action on our site, but the pricing one is definitely the most heavily used. If those leads are also turning into sales, where’s the issue here? Just because we have the pricing call-to-action doesn’t mean we’re going to heavily discount our price, so long as we implement our sales process effectively after the fact. It’s imperative that we get the shopper’s information before we can work our process, and our data shows that they want to talk about the price.

  7.  @Marc Bodner I couldn’t agree more in regards to bringing attention to VALUE in the product. A consumer goes to a dealer website, they are looking for a certain amount of peace of mind. If price were #1 factor, they could easily find what they may be looking for on craigslist or in their local paper’s classifieds. I suppose I am referring strictly to pre-owned  consumers seeing as I am a Certified Pre-owned Client Advisor, but it’s true. They go to a dealer’s website because they know there will be a sense of ease. They may walk out with a warranty, but they will certainly walk out with the dealerships name. Make sense? When they approach price, although they have an amount in their mind they want to stick to, when the value of the vehicle; of the brand, is “branded” into the customer they may be more likely to purchase even if the price is slightly more than they wanted to pay. Consumers want peace of mind. I am new to all of this, but what can be done to add value to our products online?

    •  @BMWgirl This article is not about how to sell vehicles. In order to sell vehicles, yes I believe you should demonstrate a value to your prospects that other dealers don’t offer & avoid playing a pricing game.
      That being said, this article is about how to convert visitors on your website into leads. You say people want to see value before they buy a car and maybe that’s true in the showroom, but my conversion stats show me that people who convert online care about price.

      •  @Kyle Suss
         This is true. I reread the article and some of the other comments and understand. I have done internet sales for a dealership and as a sales professional who takes on internet leads, I am told 8 out of 10 times that the “best price”‘ is in the dealership. How can you get there without driving it? ETC…. Understand the obstacle I face with web customers and their best price interest? So, yes, while we can give price online and convert them to actually submit a lead…perhaps the reason why we face a shortage of leads is because enough people have stumbled upon this mindset with dealerships where they are told they can’t have price without visiting the dealership. Am I making sense? With that said, the reason I mention enstilling value online with price is when they are proposed by the representative who calls or e-mails them to visit the dealership without the bottom line “best price”, they already have it in their mind that it would in fact be worth their time to do so.

  8. @BMWgirl – make sure your web page has market differentiators on it . . .The “XDealer Peace of Mind Guarantee”, “No charge Oil Changes”, all those things that show your dealership has a competitive edge on the competition.  Just having pics of vehicles and the stats does not make you different or provide any value to the consumer.
    Instead of those very frustrating and inconsiderate live chat drop downs the minute you hit the site, have a banner telling customers to browse without fear of being attacked.  When you’re ready we’ll be happy to answer questions.  After a few minutes you can have a pop up that says “if you can’t find the perfect model, let us know what you’re looking for (collect web address and model requested). 
    There are dozens of ways to present value to the consumer.  Don’t be afraid that they may not immediately engage, or they leave the site.  If they’re for real, they’ll be back because you have shown a difference.