ResearchJul 9th, 2021

Auto Dealer Digital Strategies that Drive Engaged Shoppers Online


Driving shoppers to the dealership website is only part of the battle... getting them to stick around & engage is the real feat!

Back in the early 2000s, we marveled at our ability to attract consumer “eyeballs” as they migrated en masse to the web. Banner ads, pop-ups, and search advertising propelled at a pace that would take your breath away! 

It took some time and billions of dollars of ad spending, but we finally began to understand the importance of delivering the right content to the right potential customer at the right time. Even more, we figured out that by doing so, our ad dollars yielded much more than just the presence of our target market members – it inspired their participation with our brand, products, and services. 

For dealers, the holy grail is to drive a high volume of quality website traffic that gets deeply engaged with inventory search results pages (SRPs) and vehicle details pages (VDPs). By making shopper engagement a priority, dealers can draw more website visitors deeper into the purchase funnel while providing a seamless transition to the showroom.

Website Visitor SRP & VDP Views vs. Engagements

Digital professionals understand the importance of ad tactics that land visitors directly on SRPs and VDPs. Such a strategy is crucial considering that dealership website visitors only view between 3-4 pages per session on average. These SRP and VDP “views” are synonymous with the “eyeballs” from the early 2000s – and they accomplish the goal of getting inventory pages in the presence of potential car buyers.

But what about getting visitors to “participate” with SRPs and VDPs – to engage with content, elements, and tools? Today, the digital imperative for dealers is to drive digital-first shopper engagement experiences – inspiring SRP & VDP interactions rather than just views - the top priority for advertising dollars.

Average SRP & VDP Visitor Stats

Consider the following facts about dealer website traffic on average:

  • About 30% of a dealership’s total monthly website traffic makes it to an SRP 
  • Total website visitors stay on the site for about 3 minutes
  • Only about 35% of website traffic that views an SRP, drills down to the VDP level
  • Visitors that view both an SRP and a VDP, view nearly 9 pages per session and stay on the site between 9-10 minutes

Look at the following Google Analytics reporting from a live dealership over a 90-day period. We can see that there is a huge opportunity to get more SRP visitors to drill down to the VDP level. When they do, they stay on the site 6.9x longer and view 3.6x more pages per session. Additionally, there is a much higher engagement rate at the VDP level than the SRP level. 

There is a direct correlation between VDP engagement and a car deal - the more engagement, the higher the probability the visitor will become a customer.

Digital Strategies That Drive SRP Traffic To VDPs

The typical car buyer spends about 14-15 hours researching before they make a purchase decision with most of this research done online. However, about 50% of car buyers have no contact with the dealership before they arrive in the showroom. This gap from online to in-store indicates a need for dealers to create strategies to get higher levels of interaction from car buyers while they are on the dealership website.

When conducting research, car buyers search for the following information and more:

  • Video Test Drives
  • Service History Reports
  • Reconditioning Records
  • Inspection Results
  • OEM Window Stickers
  • Used Vehicle Return Policies
  • Extended Service Options
  • eBrochrues
  • Vehicle Photos & Videos
  • Dealership Reviews
  • Special Incentives
  • Trade-In Value
  • Monthly Payment Estimates
  • Dealership Value-Add Programs

Much of the information that car buyers look for during the research process is either not on the dealership website, buried under navigation tabs, or not contained on SRPs and VDPs. If shoppers only view 4-5 pages on the website and two of those are an SRP and a VDP, then we know they are not seeing other valuable information that would aid their decision making.

Look at the SRP image below… From this view, shoppers can see that there are reconditioning records, the manufacturer’s ebrochure, an OEM window sticker, the dealership’s inspection results, a video walkaround, a digital portfolio, and dealer reviews.

By bringing such valuable information to the SRP level, more shoppers will drill down to the VDP level and ENGAGE. More importantly, you will have provided information that shoppers want right up front – without forcing them to drill down into your website or leave your inventory pages altogether to get the information they need.

Not all SRPs are designed to accommodate this size of a widget, but there are a variety of options for creating more interest even with a vertical, narrower SRP layout. 

Placing informative banners above the SRP is another strategy for informing shoppers that there is additional valuable information that will help in their decision-making.

Today’s, car buyers expect a rich, interactive shopping experience. Serving up highly engaging content such as videos, reports, documents, and photos on SRPs and VDPs allows you to get the right content at the right time to shoppers in the discovery and research phase of the car buying process.

Proving relevant information upfront that answers questions and educates shoppers creates a transparent environment where trust is built. The result is increased conversions, a smooth and seamless transition from online to in-store, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. 

To bridge the gap from the digital retailing experience to in-showroom – dealers must explore creative options to engage car buyers on key inventory display pages and draw them deeper into the purchase funnel.

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