Attribution And Conversion: How Dealerships Should View Both

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Hale Soucie

Are You Focusing Too Much On Attribution and Conversion?

The way that people buy cars today has drastically changed as digital marketing itself keeps evolving. Just a decade ago, auto dealers used to buy leads that were hastily thrown together with only about a 3-5% conversion rate on account of most people filling out entry forms for sweepstakes rather than being interested in buying a car. The lead giant Autobytel sold millions of leads to dealerships around the country, but conversion was poor.

Lead generation efforts today require a little more effort. However, a mistake that dealerships keep making when determining a digital marketing campaign’s success is that too much focus has been placed on attribution and conversion. While these metrics are important, they don’t tell the whole story as to how effective your overall digital marketing strategy has been.

Today, millions of people use more than one device. Simply seeing an ad for your dealership enough times across all of those devices can be all the prompting that a prospect needs to come to your dealership. If you’re only counting prospects who enter their information on your website as conversions, you’re ignoring how effective your overall strategy is. says that companies with more digital capabilities across multiple channels are able to convert sales at a rate 2.5 times greater than those with fewer touchpoints. These brands are also seeing more positive word-of-mouth online due to their larger multi-channel footprint.

So, how are people coming to your website? What is the measured effect these methods are having on turning online traffic into foot traffic, eventually signing papers?

Even if you have a survey where a customer takes the time to tell you that they found your dealership through an ad or social media mention, people like anonymity. With concerns about online privacy, little desire to get phone calls, and not wanting to take the time to fill out forms and surveys people want to visit your site to learn as much as they can and stay anonymous. Just because you didn’t get them to sign up on your website doesn’t mean that they haven’t been paying attention and won’t come to your dealership.

By focusing too much on conversion rates, you’re losing focus on what’s making people come to your site in the first place. According to the Online Marketing Institute, it takes 7-13 touches to sell a prospect. What’s happening in those 7-13 touches that will convince them? Sirius Decisions and Spear Marketing found that 67% of the buying cycle is now conducted online, regardless of sales involvement. That means almost 75% of the buying process (sales funnel) could be over before anyone in your organization has “touched” the prospect in any meaningful way.

SalesForce says it takes 6-8 touches to generate a consumer lead, not even a sale, so lead quality matters. Similar to the mistakes that dealerships made in the past with buying millions of leads from companies and having poor conversion rates, it’s better to have a lower amount of quality leads to work with than millions that won’t go anywhere. By targeting prospects who are searching for car dealerships in your area, you have an opportunity for a very lucrative mobile advertising campaign which may not necessarily result in filling out forms on your website but getting people to show up at your lot right away.

Context also matters. How much do you know about your more nurtured leads that you can reach out to with fairly targeted emails? Think about the types of vehicles that certain segments are going to be likely to buy and tap into those insights. By contextually targeting people who are in the car dealer’s market (whether this is by income, location, or both) and whose online activity is indicative of shopping for car dealers’ products and services, these efforts will produce far greater amount of quality leads. These leads may not necessarily give you their information upfront and count in your conversion rate, but are far more apt to show up in person ready to buy a vehicle.

Digital marketing is very effective at getting foot traffic to your showroom. Just because you’re not getting email signups or forms filled out right away doesn’t mean that your overall strategy isn’t working.

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