Today’s Online Consumers Shop Differently—Dealers Need to Change with Them

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Reports keep coming in that VDP (Vehicle Detail Page) views are the most important metric in your dealership today. VDP views drive in-house leads and lot visits, and they are the key driver of sales. Several leading dealer groups have determined that they make one incremental sale for every 20 VDP views they attract. This is because the visitors to these pages are ready-to-buy consumers; it’s the last step today’s buyer takes online before making a purchase.

Think about how you shop online. How likely are you to stop and fill out a form (e.g. a lead form) and then be willing to sit back and wait for a call—no matter what you’re buying, you want the information now, not later. Say, for example, you’re planning a vacation. You’ll likely start with Google to get a general idea of your destination, then move to a research/review site like TripAdvisor to narrow your choices, ultimately ending up at a site like Kayak for comparing real-world air and hotel prices and booking the inventory you want.

This is the de facto shopping behavior for almost every retail category: “upper-funnel” search (Google)=> “mid-funnel” product research (TripAdvisor)=> “low-funnel” vertical search sites (Kayak) => purchase of products/inventory in stock (hotel’s own website).

When consumers hit the low-funnel, inventory-buying sites they are ready to buy and don’t want to be bogged down en route to purchase by filling out another form and waiting for a reply to see if the product they want, at the place they want it, is in stock and available.

Successful “e-tailers” have shifted their marketing to reflect the reality of this sales funnel and the evolved consumer and devote more of their focus and budgets to that sweet spot when the shopper is in the “low funnel” and gearing up to purchase real inventory. The lead model just doesn’t deliver customers in this sweet spot. Consider that 80% of car buyers shop online, but, according to J.D. Power, the rates of internet shoppers submitting leads have fallen precipitously each year.

For dealers, the “low-funnel” sweet spot is the VDP view. Getting to these pages is what online auto shoppers are doing: witness the millions of vehicle inventory searches that light up the internet each month, and the fact that inventory search is by far the most used feature on all automotive search sites. All the data (including Cobalt’s) concurs that a VDP view is the surest indicator that a car shopper is ready to pull the trigger, with 85%+ of car buyers searching actual dealership inventory at third-party sites just before they visit a dealer. VDP views have huge ROI for dealers with far speedier closing. And, perhaps most compelling, a VDP with 20-30 views spends 29% less time on the lot, one with 30+ spends 44% less time languishing.

Not only are you making more sales, you’re making sales faster.

A recent study1 compared the speed with which inventory that received VDP traffic from deep-link technology moved, versus all other inventory. The result was a dramatic decrease in DOL (Days On Lot) across all makes and models. For example, the average new vehicle included in the study averaged 124 DOL prior to sale, while those sold after receiving views generated from deep-linking averaged just 26 DOL.

Average DOL vs. DOL with inventory syndication/deep-linking to VDP pages

New Cars

Used Cars

Average DOL



DOL with deep-links to VDP views



Syndication/deep linking to VDP pages resulted in a 77% increase in sales velocity for new cars and 48% for used cars. Based on January 2014 data.

It’s time to start thinking of a new way to drive the right traffic to your dealership site.

Len Short is founder of LotLinx, the first deep-linking automotive advertising platform. Short is an online marketing pioneer having headed up marketing at Charles Schwab and AOL.

1Data from 140 dealers using deep-linking technology (Jan 2014)

Michael Bowen


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