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Helpful Hints to Convert Customers

David Kain
Helpful Hints to Convert Customers David Kain

To sell more vehicles online, a key initial goal is to generate the best quality leads possible. The dealer statistics my clients have provided me with support the fact that leads generated by a dealership's own website close at up to three times the rate of leads purchased from third-party sources. So naturally, progressive internet dealers must actively engage in navigation strategies and technologies that will convert as many website visitors to leads as possible. And of course the best starting point is to build your website using proven techniques for converting traffic. 

Before I review some of the latest and greatest technologies to accomplish this goal, let's discuss what a good conversion rate goal is for a dealership website. A website conversion occurs when a customer completes a website form requesting personal data and submits the information to a dealer. Typical websites today convert at a rate between 1 and 7 percent (source: Ward's Dealer Business). Let's look at a comparison:

Website visitors 1000 1000
Website conversion rate 1% 7%
Sales leads 10 70
Kept appointment rate 30% 30%
Kept appointments 3 21
Kept appointments sold % 50% 50%
Average vehicles sold monthly 1.5 10.5

When you couple the sales with vehicle gross profits, you will see the benefit in dollars and cents. 

Vehicle sales 1.5 10.5
Estimated average sales gross $1500 $1500
Estimated monthly gross $2,250 $15,750
Estimated website monthly cost $850 $850
Monthly return on investment $1,400 $14,900
Annual return on investment $16,800 $178,800

The ability to grow sales and profits through an effective website is quite extraordinary, which makes me wonder why a large percentage of dealers rarely participate in the building of their own dealership website, instead turning the entire project over to outside site builders and their internet managers. While letting vendors do the heavy lifting of website development is a good option for professional results, every choice made can have a great impact on the website's success, so it's important to know who you are working with, and stay aware of the development process at every key point. At the very least, dealers who want to remain hands-off should be sure they select a website vendor that can show proof of the historically high conversion rates of their websites. 

If your current website is not converting at the rate you desire and you are burdened with a long term agreement with a company that cannot solve the riddle of improving the conversion rate, you may want to try some of these add on features: 

Online chat
There are two approaches to this technique, and I can recommend both. One is a do-it-yourself model, such as what is offered by www.contactatonce.com. With this service, when visitors click on your site's chat feature, your computer will ring just like a telephone, alerting your sales force that a visitor is looking for answers. Some dealerships rotate this chat feature to the sales floor and only allow those salespeople qualified to chat to work with these prospects. A different approach to dealership do-it-yourself chat is the video rep feature offered by www.covideo.com, whereby the dealership rep talks live to the customer via video while the customer responds in a chat format.

The second approach to chat is the outsource model, such as that offered by www.outsell.com. This service allows a dealer to benefit from a professional team of chatters in an outsourced call center who chat on behalf of the dealership. Chat is a great way to turn casual shoppers into meaningful leads because the site visitor may click off before they submit unless they have an instant way to get an answer. By providing the information right away, while they are in the process, the dealer can earn the right to email them more data or provide them with updated specials when they become available. All of the tools described can be up fit to most any dealership website. 

Pop-up coupons
Website popups have been criticized as intrusive and not effective at generating dealership leads. Clients I work with have experienced quite the opposite, as their statistics demonstrate that website popup coupons offering a $100-$500 discount provide considerable lead volume. An easy add-on tool that continues to deliver consistently good lead conversion volume is offered by www.eautosavings.com

Online trade evaluation
With a large percentage of consumers needing to dispose of their current vehicle to purchase a new or used vehicle, it makes good sense that the dealers who offer trade evaluation tools on their website have a leg up on their competition. A tool that fits this need and works on almost any dealership website platform as an add-on is the evaluation tool offered by www.intelliprice.com. This tool is widely employed on manufacturer sites, and is seen more and more on individual dealership sites. 

An important way to increase your website conversion rate is to provide a tool that allows your current clients to create their own car page for vehicles they currently own. This add-on tool is particularly effective at maintaining owner loyalty, which lowers your overall marketing costs. In addition, the tool offered by www.mycarpage.com has been proven to increase parts and service sales. 

More and more website builders offer the following techniques as features that enhance conversion rates:

Search by payment
This clever tool allows your website visitors to type in their desired payment range and determines which vehicles in your inventory meet their payment criteria.

Fresh start financing
Website visitors to new vehicle franchised dealership websites feel much more inclined to provide personal data if the dealership mentions their ability to assist buyers looking for a fresh start. 

Whether you have a current site that needs a boost or you are shopping for a new site as your contract terms is concluding, keep in mind the aforementioned conversion rate improvement tools and try to incorporate them in your website. Your dealership website leads are typically easier to appoint and to close and because of this you'll want to generate as many opportunities as possible. Once you have a website that converts at a good rate, you'll want to concentrate on strategies to drive more traffic to the site.

We'll cover traffic boosters in the next installment in this series.

David Kain is president of KainAutomotive. .


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