How Car Shoppers Travel from Your Website to Showroom

By: Kylie Beaty

Every car shopper takes a unique path to purchase, but almost all start the search online so they learn as much information as possible before visiting the showroom. Auto dealerships can gather marketing insights and valuable data on customers by tracking website leads as they begin researching and following their consumer journey until they buy or lease a vehicle on the lot.


By reviewing our PERQ data and our client sales data, we analyzed the online path to a vehicle purchase of two online shoppers. Let’s take a closer look at how these consumers narrowed down their vehicle of choice and engaged with interactive experiences on Toyota of Kirkland’s website before buying from the O’Brien Auto Group dealership in Kirkland, Washington.


Tale of Two Different Auto Consumer Journeys


While both auto shoppers land on Kirkland’s home page from an organic Google search, they take vastly different approaches to vehicle research on the dealership website.


Customer M.J. spends more than four hours looking around and returns several times to engage with the website’s tools as he seeks to trade in his 2007 Toyota Corolla for a newer sedan. Customer J.R. only visits twice and searches the site for 38 minutes total before upgrading his 2002 Toyota Tacoma for a 2018 model.


When reviewing these customer journey profiles, Toyota of Kirkland’s General Manager Craig Withey admits it’s hard to tell at first glance if either customer is serious about making a purchase within a week (like they ultimately do), given how much one shopper bounces around to various features on the website and how little time the other spends on the site. They’re the type of leads that could easily get overlooked without thorough data.


Independent data points and broad summarizations of website data don’t give dealerships the full view of what customers want. By following a lead through the entire shopping process, auto dealers can better understand what information moves customers down the sales funnel and leverage that data to convert more leads.


“The data’s valuable, only if you pay attention,” says Withey, who encourages his sales team to check a consumer’s online profile to learn what they’re interested in buying or leasing before reaching out.


Help Auto Shoppers Research Online


Car buyer M.J. uses his mobile phone to visit the Toyota of Kirkland website more than 10 times in a week to research various vehicles and engage with the website’s AI-powered Online Guided Shopping experiences. As he interacts with the website, M.J. submits personal contact information and shopping preferences by answering simple questions in exchange for helpful information to guide him in his choice. While he indicates he prefers phone communication and is ready to purchase within a month, he buys a used 2015 Camry from Toyota of Kirkland after one week of engaging solely on the dealership’s website.


M.J. first visits the website at 9:54 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2018, and does nearly an hour of research on used sedans for sale. For seven days, M.J. bounces between the used and new car sections of the website. He spends the majority of his time viewing dozens of used car listings on the site and only researches new cars for 28 minutes total, but he returns several times to check out the latest models available despite ultimately buying a slightly used car.


Through the website’s Value My Trade tool, M.J. gets a $2,255 trade-in estimate for his old Corolla and narrows down his Vehicle of Interest to the 2015 Toyota Camry he eventually buys by completing the What’s Your Body Style? assessment three times. He also uses the website to Schedule a Test Drive for Oct. 31, check for deals, and look up the dealership’s hours and location.


According to the consumer profile timeline, on the day of the test drive, he uses his mobile phone for 7 seconds to pull up the Camry saved as his “Vehicle of Interest” on the website and shows the salesperson what he wants. Following the test drive, M.J. buys the 2015 Camry he’s scrutinized for a few days.


Capture Auto Customers Who Casually Browse


Truck owner J.R. arrives on Toyota of Kirkland’s website on Oct. 15, 2018, at 8:24 p.m. and quickly bounces around the website, clicking on the chat feature, viewing the Service Center and Toyota Care pages before logging off his desktop computer just 10 minutes later.


J.R. returns later that night at 9:55 p.m., searches a few new vehicle listings and attempts to leave the site after one minute. An Exit Intent contest incentive entices J.R. to register his information and he decides to immediately return to the site to view the KBB: Trade-In or Sell Your Car feature and complete the Trade-In experience. He finishes by browsing the new inventory page and searches for trucks, viewing the 2018 Toyota Tacoma and exiting at 10:12 p.m.


At 4:31 a.m. the next morning, J.R. spends another 10 minutes browsing new trucks and returns to the 2018 Tacoma listing three times. Six days later, after zero website activity, J.R. visits the dealership on Oct. 22 and trades in his 2002 Toyota Tacoma with 299,000 miles for the newest model.


Make Marketing Decisions and Track ROI


By tracking online leads and tying them to sales, dealerships collect data to determine return on investment for lead-generation tools and digital advertising in addition to collecting valuable consumer profiles.


“We make decisions around all of this data,” says Mariam Ketner, director of social & media at O’Brien Auto Group. “We use it to assign ROI, to track leads to see where website visitors came from and what each customer wants, and to adjust our online and web marketing. It’s very valuable information.”

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