ResearchJun 11th, 2014

Today’s Consumers Shop Differently—Dealers Need to Change Too


Today, search engine marketing (SEM) represents 55% of the typical dealership’s total ad spend. Yet, dealers are not getting the results they want. Conversions on the big guys (Google,, and Edmunds) even on key terms, are less than one in four. In fact, our research shows that of all buyers today, only 30% will ever engage through a lead device like a form, chat, email, or phone call. Fully 70% will avoid all forms of engagement and make their first contact with the dealer on the lot.

What we’re seeing is a fundamental shift in how consumers shop online. They are spending less time on big search engines and more time on topical sites where they can hunt down specific inventory. These self-directed and highly engaged consumers close at a rate of 64% or more, and at a fraction of the cost of paid search. Shift the way your dealership spends online, and you can nab more of these shoppers and close more sales at a lower cost.

The New Search Paradigm

Over the last decade, searches on topical sites, known as vertical search, have steadily climbed. To explain this shift, think about how you shop online. 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, and ultimately end up at a site like Kayak to compare real-world air and hotel prices and book the inventory you want.

For another example, think about how you shop for a consumer product. You may navigate to Google for that general idea, than go right to Amazon, eBay, or PriceGrabber to find the exact product you want. This is the de facto shopping behavior for almost every retail category: people navigate to an “upper-funnel” search to get a general idea, move out of the search engine to a “mid funnel” search and ultimately end up on a “low funnel” vertical search site to purchase real inventory.

Leveraging This Search Shift

Putting more focus and budget on that sweet spot where the shopper is in the low funnel and ready to buy real inventory, will nab more sales. For dealers, the sweet spot is the vehicle detail page (VDP) view. The proof is in the millions of vehicle internet searches that light up the internet each month, and the fact that inventory search is by far the most used feature on all automotive sites.

A strategy that focuses on creating comprehensive and complete VDPs, and deep linking them directly to the over 135 popular automotive vertical search sites (topical sites) where nearly 70% of inventory search happens, has huge ROI and far speedier closings than traditional SEM.

Getting Real Results

Dealers using a deep linking strategy see an average of 147% more shoppers per month from paid search. These highly engaged shoppers are more likely to visit the lot, where they close at a rate of over 65%. Not only do sales shoot up, they also happen faster. New inventory VINs with Deeplink views move 42% faster than those without. Used inventory VINs move over 60% faster with deeplink traffic.

These results are possible with only a small shift in ad spending. A study of 197 Dealer Groups found that shifting just 24% of search spend to VIN deep linking dramatically improved results. Rooftop paid search shopping volume went up nearly 147% and engagement increased by 2X. Most astounding, deeplinking increased inventory search reach by 425%! Advertising costs were also dramatically lower. Cost per shopper decreased by over 94% and cost per VDP view dropped by 83%.

It’s a fact: shoppers are evolving and changing their search behavior. If your dealership wants to increase its reach to the in-market, self-directed consumers who are ready to pull the trigger on a new vehicle, you have to deep link your inventory to low-funnel vertical search sites. Do that and you’ll increase engagement, lot visits and most importantly, sales.

Len Short is a 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. You can reach him at [email protected].

Authored by

Len Short

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