Career Suicide or Transforming Our Industry?

A year ago, I had a terrific job leading North American marketing at Subaru. We had implemented very successful programs that were driving record sales and attracting widespread attention for their innovation and results. Life was good, right?

Things were good, but I felt uneasy. Even though I’ve been in automotive forever—in dealership sales, with some innovative vendors, and with several well-respected OEMs—I had some nagging concerns. If the internet has had such a transformative effect on the automotive industry, then why weren’t dealers finding more shoppers? Selling their inventory more rapidly? Achieving lower costs per sale? What the heck was going on?

The nagging feelings persisted into early 2014. Gradually, I became more aware of the problem. Today, it’s harder and more expensive than ever for dealers to find those elusive vehicle shoppers. Why? Because the internet has made it so.

Research shows that shoppers are searching for inventory an average of 84 times…84 times!…before they visit a dealership. Actual shopper visits to dealerships have declined fast, in just several years. Recent data suggests that a single visit is all it takes for a consumer to make a purchase decision. Today, finding and connecting with a shopper online is like asking, “Where’s Waldo?” if you’re color-blind and cannot see red in a crowd.

So what happened? If people are spending more and more time using the internet to buy cars, why can’t dealers connect with them? We (and I mean those, like me, who pioneered online lead generation) have done this to ourselves. We have created our own problem. Think about it: online advertising slams lead forms at consumers during every inch of their internet searches, so of course shoppers have gone into hiding (wouldn’t you, too?). They refuse to fill out leads. They’re primarily using mobile devices. They prefer to shop anonymously. They go to great lengths to avoid any contact until they’re good and ready to buy a car.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t have to be this way. And so when I learned about Shopper Targeting, I saw that there was a better way. Shopper Targeting is a new way of thinking. It’s a new way of connecting with high-intention shoppers (we call them VINtenders, since they’re so committed to buying the car, they actually search on the VIN!). It’s an entirely new online advertising model. It’s so new that most people struggle to understand it (even though it’s actually pretty simple).

Shopper Targeting enables dealers to find those elusive VINtenders and connect with them on terms and in ways that are attractive to both parties. With a Shopper Targeting ad, a VINtender enters the vehicle’s make and model, and his/her zip code. Click and up pops the dealer’s vehicle details page (VDP). Click again and the shopper is on the dealer’s website. That’s it. Shoppers delivered directly to the dealer’s online doorstep.

Does Shopper Targeting really work? (It sounds too good to be true.) The answer is, yes! Dealers who embrace Shopper Targeting are finding and connecting with those VINtenders. Along the way, the economics are mouthwatering:

  • Attracting 95% new prospects to the dealer website
  • Selling vehicles between 44% and 58% faster than previously
  • Realizing <$100 cost per sale

I was so compelled by this model that I actually left my very successful job, in order to pursue a career in this exciting new category of Shopper Targeting. Some people probably thought that was career suicide. But I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my new job. Why? Because I know we have a chance to transform our industry, with a game-changing way to connect shoppers with dealers. It’s a win-win for everyone. And that feels great.

Dean Evans is CEO of LotLinx

Dean Evans


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