The #1 Auto Buyer Dealerships Overlook (Hint: It’s Researchers)

By: Felicia Savage

As we’ve mentioned time and time again, the car buying process isn’t just about appealing to consumers who are ready to buy. Quite the contrary! A huge number of prospective customers are still in the research phase when they’re visiting your website. Don’t miss out on engaging these prospects early in the shopping journey.




When building a consumer purchasing funnel for an auto dealership, it’s only natural to focus on appealing to the customers ready to buy a car right now. After all, that’s who is usually walking onto the lot, right?


However, like everything else, the car buying process has been disrupted by the Internet. PERQ research shows 76% of consumers browsing auto dealer websites are in the discovery or research phases of the car buying journey. That means pressuring them “buy now” may send them away.


By optimizing your website to meet those interested auto buyers where they are, you can radically increase your number of potential leads and bottom line sales over time.


Out With the Old, In With the New

When it comes to auto sales, the overall goal of any marketing tactic is to get customers through your doors for a test drive and purchase. However, online marketing now gives auto dealership marketing directors the opportunity to guide people to the lot over time. Prior to the rise of the web, auto dealers had to rely on blanket marketing in the form of print, radio, and TV spots highlighting deals and financing options. Ultimately, a shopper had to come to the lot to learn more about potential vehicles.


Nowadays, shoppers use the Internet to judge a car from the comfort of their own home. Turning your website into a tool to self-educate is one way to engage these consumers early on in their shopping journey.


While the industry is still working to capitalize on these types of opportunities, some suggest that it’s not happening fast enough. Dave Hazel of Larry H. Miller Super Ford Salt Lake City recently explained how the online sales tactics of some dealers may be stuck in the past.


“The car industry is really old school. They want to get shoppers down to the dealership and do the deal there,” Hazel says. “By the time they come to your door, they are far down in the funnel. But people can jump on a website at any phase. Some might be a year out, others might be just as close to buying as someone coming for a test drive.”


Hazel also went on to explain that by fixating on consumers who were further down in the sales funnel, dealers were likely missing out on this diverse market.


“What a lot of dealerships don’t do and what we are trying to do is focus on every stage of customer. Lots are only focused on the ‘now’ business not what they could be growing now for a few months or even a year out by educating and engaging with online shoppers earlier on in their buying lifecycle.”blog separator multi tri | PERQ AI Leasing Assistant

Engagement Without Estrangement

auto buyer dealerships image 2 300x300 1 | PERQ AI Leasing AssistantIt’s true that the more interactive tools you can offer visitors, the better chance you have of converting those interested parties into sales. However, if those tools are poorly designed, too aggressive, or even incorrectly matched with customers on the site, they become far less useful.


Consumers don’t just visit your site when they’re ready to buy — so calls-to-action that are directed towards those at the bottom of the funnel may drive those consumers away.


Your site will benefit best from smart CTAs that automatically personalize to each user; especially to those in the research portions of the funnel. Chris Thomas of Krieger Ford explained that while it can be tricky to optimize your site to meet the right customers, doing so is ultimately worth it.


“It’s something we constantly play with, trying to figure out which experiences work best in each part of the funnel,” Thomas says. “If we have a used car shopper checking us out, and it’s their second or third time on the site, each of those experiences or situations need to offer up different calls to action. For instance, someone who’s higher in the funnel will react better to a lighter touch, in which they can choose to request more information.”


Dave Hazel had similar thoughts, and discussed how a site built to serve only those in the buying portion of the funnel could ultimately drive away potential leads.


“One thing I really don’t like are call-to-actions that say, ‘please call.’” Hazel says. “People are online because they don’t want to call and just want to do research. Someone might just be sending a message to see if a car has certain features and end up getting spammed with calls and emails when they don’t want to buy yet. In that case, the dealership has burned that lead.”


Tools and Features

Given what was said by Chris Thomas & Dave Hazel, how can you be sure which tools offer the best experience to dealership consumers in the research and discovery phases? In order to get more leads from existing site traffic and increase the lead to close rates with more lead data, both Hazel and Thomas partnered with PERQ to take advantage of its hundreds of smart CTAs and interactive tools; which are all centered around the core mission of making dealership websites interactive, connected, and smart. Some tools that PERQ offers for those customers higher in the funnel are:


  •         Model Match Assessment
  •         Trade-In Value Estimate
  •         Welcome Guide
  •         Special Offers to Unlock
  •         Incentive Qualifiers
  •         Lease and Financing Calculators


Along with being interactive and connective, these tools are also referred to as “smart” because they recognize previous customers and store that information using site cookies. Chris Thomas explained that this can cut back on the perception of pushy sales tactics by allowing customers to continue engaging with your website without feeling locked into a lead trap. “Thanks to PERQ, we do have smart site, so we can get info once without ever having to ask again,” he said. “We’re not driving anyone away, and we still have the opportunity to contact the customers if they want us to.”


Thomas added, “It’s about getting the right message to right customer at the right time.” Car buying doesn’t just happen at the dealership anymore. Customers are increasingly interested in performing research and gaining insight before ever setting foot on a car lot. That means your site can’t just serve those ready to buy, but should engage with customers from all portions of the sales funnel.


By implementing PERQ’s interactive and smart tools, your dealership can increase site traffic, capture more leads, and better your sales all without any major site overhaul or redesign.

Additional Auto Resources