Depending on which article you read today you’ll either hear online sales is the absolute only way cars will be sold in the future or that the entire thing is some hyped up nonsense that consumers don’t want.
So, who should you listen to when deciding how to plan your digital strategy for the rest of 2016 and on?
“Does anyone here have any data? Because if we’re just sharing opinions, then mine wins.” – Netscape CEO, Jim Barksdale
Well as it just so happens, I have a ton of data. Data that’s never been released publicly before, that I’d like to share with you today.
The big experiment and how it all began
For the last 6 months we’ve been running an invite only experiment with over 20 dealerships, ranging from small independents to some of the largest groups in the US.
The experiment was incubated and backed by the Stanford – StartX Fund and run by top Silicon Valley Engineers from Dropbox and Uber.
The idea was simple enough. Add a “Buy Online” button to vehicle detail pages. When the button was clicked, customers would be able to walk through the full checkout process for buying a car – from trade-ins to OEM incentives, real time loan approvals and scheduling delivery or pickup.
Every single mouse click, key press, user interaction was meticulously tracked, tagged and analyzed in a multitude of analytics platforms.
All of this was done to answer ONE SINGLE QUESTION: Is online sales the future of the car industry?
Now, after months of data collection and analysis I’d like to firmly answer that question.
Let’s start by analyzing a simple data point – what was the click-through-rate (CTR) of a “Buy Online” button when placed on a dealership’s VDP and how does it compare to the CTR of more traditional call to actions (CTA). Our platform analyzed every click on a dealers page to answer this question.
When we began the experiment, we estimated a 2% CTR would be deemed a success.
Fun fact: “Text Us Now” had a .5% CTR and “Save Vehicle” came in at .2% CTR. Obviously, we missed the mark with our 2% estimate by a good bit!
As it turns out, shoppers were almost equally likely to click a high commitment “Buy Online” button as they were to click a low commitment “Contact Us” button. But what happens after they clicked? Did the shoppers actually buy the cars?
YES, they did,
Shoppers clicking a “Buy Online” button had a 3-4x higher conversion rate than typical online lead sources on average.
Truth be told, at this point our team was skeptical. Typical adoption curves start with just 2.5% of the population (the innovators) being receptive to a new technology – why then were we seeing such high adoption rates?
To answer this question, our team needed to talk to some customers who had bought online. With permission of the dealers, we started interviewing their online customers. The feedback was almost depressing.
The customers didn’t think anything was particularly “special” or “revolutionary” about our online sales platform. They thought it was…normal.
In other words, these online shoppers had absolutely no idea they were using a system only a handful of dealers in the entire world had access to. They just assumed buying a car online was a normal thing that all dealers offered. After all, it’s 2016, who doesn’t buy things online?
So the simple answer to our question was a surprising one: Online sales isn’t the future of car buying. It’s the current expectation of your customers.
- Click through rates for “Buy Online” buttons are very similar to those seen from industry standard CTA’s
- Shoppers that click a Buy Online button are 3-4x more likely to purchase a car than traditional leads
- Customers don’t think that online car shopping is revolutionary – they think it’s normal and expect you to support it