Confirmed Again—Third Party Leads Are Serious Shoppers

But Make Sure Your Best Practices Factor in Current Brand, Used Vehicle Options, and Distance

A recent exclusive analysis of third-party leads, conducted by R.L. Polk*, revealed data of key interest to the 93 percent of dealers who consider third-party leads an important component of their marketing mix.** In spite of a time frame that encompassed one of our industry’s most challenging periods, nearly 50 percent of the consumers represented by the leads analyzed ultimately purchased a vehicle, although not necessarily at the original dealership, underscoring that third-party leads—even in the worst of times—tend to be serious, in-market buyers who are just asking to be converted. The challenge for dealers, of course, is making sure that those serious buyers purchase at their showroom.
The analysis, by R.L. Polk*, revealed some interesting clues that could help dealerships capture more sales as the worst of times gradually give way to, if not yet the best, still, much better times. Listed below are a few data points from the study, along with key best practices to leverage these insights.
·         Nearly 50 percent of consumers represented by the online leads that purchase, purchased the brand they originally requested.
Best Practice: Reinforce the positives of your dealership brand messaging to your online leads. Market to them before they submit a purchase request with online messaging that truly highlights your brand advantages and continue this messaging after the lead is submitted through customized email programs.
·         Consumers whose garage already contains the brand that they request online are more likely to repurchase that brand.
Best Practice: It probably goes without saying, but it is worth highlighting: Be sure to market to your existing database with strong brand messaging…as well as the advantages your dealership provides. These customers are much more likely to return to your brand, which is why it is important to stay in touch with them throughout the ownership cycle through service campaigns, social media, and special offers.
·         Over one third of consumers who submit an online lead for a new vehicle switch to purchase a used vehicle.
Best Practice: When responding to new vehicle leads, be sure to always provide a pre-owned vehicle option.
·         One in six car-buyers who submit an online lead for a used vehicle will ultimately purchase a new vehicle.
Best Practice: Don’t rule anyone out and offer comparable new vehicle options for your online used car customers.
·         Nationally, 10 miles is the median number of miles car buyers who submit leads will travel, but this data changes according to region, for example, the median number of miles traveled in New York was just 8.5 miles while in Houston it is 11.8.
Best Practice: Make sure you understand online lead buy rates by distance for your region and manage your territory parameters accordingly. For example, there is a significant drop in purchase rates once a lead travels more than 10 miles; still, 50 percent of purchases come from consumers submitting online leads who have traveled further than 10 miles—so you should utilize your online lead program to cast multiple nets to create ‘smart’ territories that match your digital marketing strategy, aligning ROI with consumer propensity to purchase at a variety of distances.
*The Third Party Lead Analysis was conducted by R.L. Polk utilizing Autobytel leads. Leads were tracked for 90 days after their lead intention date utilizing R. L. Polk & Co.’s (Polk) extensive registration database.
**Autobytel 15th Anniversary of the Internet Survey, 2010
Steve Lind is the executive vice president of corporate development for Autobytel Inc. For more information call 866-589-5498 or visit



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