As digital marketers we are taught from the very beginning that one of the most important things to measure is “Lead Form Fills”.
The premise is simple: If someone is willing to provide you their information on a lead form, then they are obviously interested in the car on your lot and this automatically makes them a lead.
Score one for the dealership marketing team!
This may have worked back in 2005 and perhaps even in 2010, but today’s buyers have proven that they are much more wary of forms and this wariness has been reflected in their online behaviour.
Why Lead Form Submissions Are No Longer Good Indicators of Intent
As Ward’s Auto states: “Many shoppers were put off by filling out forms asking personal questions. And the people who did go through the exercise and submit leads didn’t get much in return.”
The article goes on to quote Jared Rowe, former president of the Cox Automotive Media Group: “Half of [the people who filled out price quote forms] didn’t get called back, and the other half didn’t get a price quote. They figured, ‘What’s the point?’”
Recent discussions that we have had with top marketers from some of the largest dealer groups in the country have echoed this statement. I’ll paraphrase the sentiment: Even when we (marketers) are able to generate form filled leads – only 50% of them get followed up on in a timely and effective manner.
Is the lead form really as valuable as we’ve been lead to believe? Many studies suggest that car buyers will find the car they are looking for online and only visit one or maybe two stores before making a purchasing decision.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Fewer than 10% [of car shoppers] will fill out an online contact form or communicate via email.” However, the article goes to state that “Nearly 75% of buyers had not contacted the dealership before visiting.” So, are they calling, using chat, texting or something else entirely?
What these two findings imply is that digital indicators of a showroom visit are there, but they are just not as apparent as form leads.
This directly contradicts what digital marketers are relying on as their primary metric and so if this metric is not lead forms, then what is it?
The New Indicators of Interest
Shoppers will still go to dealerships’ websites to view inventory, but they are just not filling out forms. So what we need to do is find new metrics to gauge interest.
Time on VDP
The longer a car shopper spends looking at the cars you have on your lot, the more interested you can assume they are. If you have not set up any goals or events in your Google Analytics, the “Time on VDP” metric can easily be calculated using standard Google Analytics fields. In fact, we have a tutorial on how to measure this.
VDP per Session
The more cars an online shopper views per site visit, the more interested they are in the cars you have on your lot. Like Time on VDP, this is yet another metric that can be seen even if you have not set up any Google Analytic Goals. We have a tutorial on how to measure this too.
Photo/Video Gallery Engagement
Like many complex purchases, scrolling through the photos is a high indicator of interest. Think about an apartment you want to rent or a house you’d like to buy. It’s easy to infer that the more pictures you view in the gallery the more interested you are.
Return Visit Performance
We all know that car buying is a complex decision that requires a significant amount of consideration. As a result, it’s very likely that the buyer will return to the car multiple times. This means that one of the best indicators of interest is the car shopper returning to the site to view the car again.
Dealerships Need to Move from Explicit to Implicit Measurements of Interest
Dealers need to understand that looking at the wrong metrics can have unintended consequences on their results.
By shifting measurement from explicit interest indicators (like form fills) to implicit behavioral metrics (like those mentioned here), dealers are aligning their measurement with the way their buyers are interacting with their website.
This will allow dealers to better invest into products that help drive more traffic and ultimately more sales into their stores.