Do car dealerships really know how their advertising dollars are performing?
For an industry that spends as much as it does in advertising, one would assume that they are tracking the return on investment down to the penny and taking action based on what they see.
As a relative newcomer to the world of automotive marketing and call tracking, I was curious about whether or not this was the case. To find an answer I decided to take a hard look at the call and website tracking data from a representative pool for dealerships to see what it was trying to tell me.
For the month of November, I isolated 17 of our larger automotive dealership clients that were tracking all of their calls and dealer website sessions to see if there were some common threads that we could learn from. I looked at total calls and unique callers for each store and then compared that with the percentage that came from the main website. Then I looked at how many web sessions occurred at each store and the associated referring source and referring keyword for each.
This is what I found:
In summary, 17 Large Dealerships included in survey (extreme outliers or bad data was omitted from the
analysis as shown in red above)
- 56% of calls are coming from their main website # (54% of unique callers)
- Google is referring 43% of web visitors
- Roughly 29% of referring keywords are some combination of the dealership name (roughly refers to the fact that defining this variable across 17 stores is not a perfect science)
- 26% of visitors came in through the direct domain
The first question I asked myself was, “What is this telling us?” Well, I think the data is screaming a few things at us.
- Most people are going to the website before calling the dealership (Duh!).
- Over 2/3 (69%) of website visitors are coming through Google or the Direct Domain.
- Over 1/2 (29% + 26% = 55%) of people knew exactly where they wanted to go when they started their search.
The next question I asked myself was “What does it mean?”. I think there are a couple of important takeaways from the data and not all of them are new.
1. We have known for a while now that the internet was the dominant source for driving phone calls. People are using the internet like the yellow pages.
This study reinforces that and lets us know that most of those people are entering the website before making the call. Embrace that fact! Don’t be afraid to drive everyone to your website. The data tells us they are going there anyways.
Make sure your website is well constructed and invites phone calls. Understand the analytics. We know that a single page view and a phone call are some of the most valuable, so don’t get too upset about your bounce rate.
2. As numbers two and three above highlight, the people visiting your website set out to visit your website before they say down at their computer. They did not find your website while conducting some long drawn out search that eventually led to your site. They sat down and entered your url directly or typed your name into Google. I think that this fact illustrates the vital importance of branding.
How did they know your name? Where did they hear about you or your website? Where did they see it? This data suggests that could have come from any number of sources (AutoTrader.com, Radio, Print, Facebook, etc . . .). They were branded at some point with your name and initiated a web session based on that prior branding. Make sure your marketing efforts are organized accordingly.
3. Finally, you can see that tracking all of these streams is more challenging than ever, as is interpreting the data. It becomes more important than ever for the marketer to dig into the conversion rates of these secondary channels because there is a high likelihood that they are translating to conversions via Google and Direct Domain due to the branding effect they have on the consumer.
Proper attribution of conversions tied to branding is the next big challenge for marketing analytic companies. In selecting a call tracking provider, dealerships should be sure that the vendor that they select is at the forefront when it comes to technological innovation. If they don’t have this on their radar, you should probably look elsewhere.
As a call tracking provider, we get questions all of the time about the data that we provide, and one of my favorite sayings is “The data is the data, and it doesn’t lie.” The data presented above is valuable information. If you have any marketing budget at all it is absolutely vital that you are looking at the data. It usually tells a story, and the moral of the story is always smart marketers spend less and make more.
Here are a couple of bonus observations from this study:
Bonus #1: All of the dealerships surveyed in this study use CRM and Call Measurement religiously. It is ingrained in their process and culture, dictating much of their sales strategy and approach. All of the dealerships surveyed in this study come from large automotive groups (more than 80 stores) and represent the top producing stores within their respective automotive group. Is there a correlation between the two? As I like to say “The data is the data.”
Bonus #2: The top seven producing dealerships surveyed in this study also utilize outbound call measurement, meaning they track and measure all outbound calls to potential customers. In addition, one of these stores actually received more inbound calls from their Outbound Caller ID than any other source by a wide margin (a blog in and of itself waiting to be written). The moral of this story is, if you’re not using outbound call measurement, why not? The data suggests that you probably should be.