Which comes first…the VDP or your dealership’s overall marketing?
Ever since the rise of dealership websites as a virtual showroom rather than the online billboards they started as in the beginning of the digital age, there has been a correlation between the number of people viewing vehicle details pages (or in some cases, inventory search results pages) and the number of vehicles that a dealership sells. Marketers have been attempting to crack the code of the correlation and usually come to the conclusion that if you get more people to view a dealership’s inventory, you’ll sell more cars and therefore the goal should be to drive people to these pages.
The question that has been coming to mind for a while now but that I’ve never voiced in a blog post is whether driving VDP views is improving marketing or whether better marketing is driving VDP views. It may sound like a silly question to ask; who cares as long as it sells more cars, right? In reality, it is the type of answer that can help dealers and marketers better position their efforts and focus solely on what is important, what is truly helping to generate more sales.
It’s important to keep in mind that the products that my company sells are geared toward driving VDP views through search, social, and third party sites, so even bringing up the question at all could be detrimental to business. However, it’s important for us and the rest of the industry to know how this dynamic works in order to market smarter and get the highest ROI.
One thing is clear…this isn’t a black and white issue. Even the extensive testing that we’ve done has only been focused on the components that we control, which means that there are other arenas in which we have no data. That’s the point of this post. I want to hear from both dealers and vendors about their experiences, data points, and opinions surrounding this important topic.
I’ll hold on giving my direct opinion in the article and save that for the comments as they come through. I’ll leave it with my current perception only. In other words, I’ll post which direction I’m leaning – direct VDP is better or not better than other options – without stating why or how adamant I am about it.
In lieu of opinions, I’ll simply lay out the various ways that dealers and vendors are driving more VDP and SRP views and wait for the DealerRefresh community to supply more data. Once we have all of the opinions collected, we’ll follow this story up with further findings of our own. It’s important that this is collaborative; no company is in a position to answer the question from every angle definitively.
Let’s take a look at the different ways to drive people to the inventory.
This is the most obvious example since the majority of major search pay-per-click companies in our industry have as part of their offering dynamic ads that tie into the DMS and create ads to drive people into the inventory. It definitely makes for a great talking point, but is it truly more effective than driving people to model-specific landing pages or top-level used car search results pages?
My Leaning: PPC direct to VDP is not better
Of all of the things on this list, social media advertising using buyer-intent data is the least utilized. Blame that on Facebook if you’d like. Point your fingers at the vendors who still focus on “branding” as the primary benefit of social media. Regardless of who’s to blame for not taking advantage of unpublished posts and hyper-targeting, it’s an untouched arena in most markets. That doesn’t mean that it’s not effective, but should traffic go into the inventory or is there a better location?
My Leaning: Social Media direct to VDP is not better
3rd Party Sites
The continued success of companies like Autotrader and Cars.com as well as the rise of companies like LotLinx and LotVantage makes a pretty compelling case for the perceived success of the direct-to-VDP model, but is the success real? Are dealers selling more cars as a result of more people seeing their inventory? Would they have found the inventory anyway had they been taken elsewhere?
My Leaning: 3rd Party Sites direct to VDP is better
This is the toughest on the list. We have seen great success with multiple target strategies – vehicle details pages, landing pages, and even the homepage. Unlike PPC and other forms of advertising, getting a VDP ranked can take time, during which the vehicle can be sold. Unlike the other forms, you can’t easily turn the SEO off on a page once it’s optimized even if it disappears from the inventory listing.
My Leaning: SEO direct to VDP is not better
The concept of sending people from display ads directly into VDPs is a relatively new one, but it seems to make a ton of sense on the surface. In essence, you’re putting an ad out there that doesn’t get a ton of clicks relative to PPC or social media, so every click counts. People won’t click on these ads without a real interest, so is it better to take them all the way in or simply bring them to the door? Between dynamic ads through companies like Dealer.com and pure display ads through companies like Dominion, there is no shortage of data and successes to report.
My Leaning: Display Advertising direct to VDP is better
Like display advertising, this is relatively new. Like social media, it’s also limited in its usage. This is somewhat of a different beast because there’s a better chance of getting low-funnel buyers (perhaps even those roaming a competitor’s showroom at that moment) to click through to the website. In that moment of truth, would you want them to get to the point and hit your inventory immediately?
My Leaning: Mobile Marketing direct to VDP is better
I know that there are vendors and perhaps even some dealers that are getting ready to lambast me in my own words while they’re reading this. I cannot stress enough that I am putting out these concepts in an effort to generate discussion. I’m only convinced about one of the venues listed above. The others are completely up for debate and I would love to have my perspective either validated or refuted. Either way, we’ll all learn more as a result.
Getting a better return on investment with any marketing or advertising effort requires the best data possible. With companies like ROI BOT and String Automotive out there gathering such data, I would definitely love to hear about what they’ve learned in their travels.
Is the direct-to-VDP model better or do the number simply mean that more serious buyers end up on the VDPs at some point regardless of where they land?
What experiences have you had with driving more VDP views that either helped increase sales or produced equivalent (or worse) results when compared to driving traffic to other pages?
Are there any other forms of VDP traffic-generating strategies that I missed?
Please leave your comments below. Together, we can start finding answers to these important questions.