First off, let me say that I’m excited to see Managers and vendors even discussing the matter of conversion percentages on dealer web sites. Another step in the right direction. But just as we always get caught up in the simplicity of misleading national statistics, there seems to be a lot of people adopting of the rule of the “2-3% conversion ratio” as the primary measure of success on dealer web sites. That’s a bad habit to get into, and I’ll tell you why.
First off, you’re making the grave mistake of thinking all dealer web sites bring the same types of traffic. Whatever gave you that idea? Just because two dealerships have matching stats doesn’t mean their sites are performing equally. Do their visitor stats exclude internal traffic? Are they getting visits from new buyers only, or do they have users coming back again and again? Are the leads being generated by marketing efforts from outside sources (like big billboards and newspaper ads directing traffic to the site), or is the site making magic on its own?
A second point of concern is search engine presence. Take two dealerships with identical visitation stats. Web site #1 has zero search engine presence, where the only people who make the leap from Google to their site are the ones querying the dealer name specifically… it’s only by sheer luck that they get substantial traffic numbers, because they’re a well-known dealership in the area. On the other side, web site #2 has true long tail presence and is heavily optimized, reeling in search engine traffic for such off-the-wall queries as “ford mustang replacement headlight”. Site #2, having such great visibility in search engines, is bound to have a lower conversion ratio than Site #1, simply because Site #2 has successfully marketed to prospects who are less likely to be in the market for shopping at that dealership. So we reprimand the latter site for having a lower conversion ratio? If they stopped optimizing for search engines, their conversion ratio would skyrocket… tell me that makes any sense.
And what about all the social network marketing some of us are doing? If you run a blog that is well-indexed by search engines, you already know how many eyeballs you’re getting from people in other cities, other states, even other countries. If you’ve set up a MySpace or anything else where you’re shamelessly promoting your dealership, do you really expect that incoming traffic to convert into a lead at a 2-3% clip? Again, it’s your ingenuity and forward thinking that’s causing a low conversion ratio on your dealer web site… that doesn’t mean you should stop social marketing, does it?
You get the idea. It goes on… sites that do a great job of converting to phone leads vs. emails, sites that drive users to other conversion tools like Black Book Appraisals or another store in a dealer group… there are plenty of reasons to ignore the magical 2-3% conversion standard. Don’t let the statistics alarmists of this industry trap you in that mindset.