An Insider's Guide to Common Metrics Missteps

there are metrics, and then there
are meaningful metrics.
which ones are you looking at?

Online advertising brought the promise of great measurability. However, media attribution today is still complicated. As car shoppers use more sources and devices during the purchase process, the lines of attribution blur. Despite differences in consumer behavior today, some dealerships are still looking at the same old metrics in the same old way.

Standardized Internet metrics have become obsolete, often leaving dealers with a scorecard that’s stuck in the past. Single-source metrics like email leads represent only a small percentage of overall online activity and influence, yet many stores rely solely on these data points when evaluating their marketing investments.

The digital world is evolving
at warp speed. It’s hard work
keeping automotive marketing
moving in the right direction.
That’s why we’re here.

Start by asking yourself if you’ve been taken by any of the following misconceptions:

Assuming All Audiences
are Created Equal

Putting Too Much Focus
on the Lead

Viewing Vehicle Detail Page
Traffic as the Gateway
to Sales

Not Recognizing the
Importance of Mobile

Underestimating the Value
of Online Branding

Overvaluing Your Own Website
and the Last Click

Believing You Can
Measure Everything

If any of these sound familiar, you may be making decisions based on bad data. In the process, you could be wasting media dollars, or worse yet, eliminating advertising options that help you influence shoppers.

Our deal attribution at the dealership level is totally wrong. We’re not tracking the way the customer actually shops, and the metrics we are using to make marketing decisions are completely incorrect.

We’re trying to single source deals and then making marketing decisions based on who has the lowest cost per sale, but we can’t even track that.

We are making thoughtful decisions with really bad data, which ultimately means we are making really bad decisions.

Jared Hamilton
CEO & Founder
DrivingSales inc.

Savvy Marketers Are Looking at Things in a New Light
Not everyone is hung up on outdated metrics. There are marketers who have rejected old ways and moved to holistic, multisource attribution models. They are aligning their marketing metrics with every aspect of the consumer’s path to purchase. By measuring key activities, considering points of influence and taking into account the complexities of today’s fragmented media landscape, they are making smarter marketing decisions and improving ROI.

This new breed of marketers embraces new data to understand what drives activity, and you can too. Start by recognizing and understanding the 7 Digital Sins that could be holding your dealership back. With a complete view of the metrics that matter now, you’ll be positioned to reach the right audience, build awareness, drive consideration and ultimately improve conversion rates.

Let’s get started.


Assuming All
Audiences are
Created Equal

Not all eyeballs are on the
lookout for a car.

Here’s a common scenario: You’re evaluating your marketing mix for the year, and you need a way to compare all of your media options. You look at the total audience size and the cost to reach a certain number of buyers and choose to work with partners who deliver the greatest reach for the lowest cost. Or you simply choose partners who promise the biggest audience or most impressions.

Good plan, right?...Well, not really.

Why Bigger Isn’t Better

While traditional media such as TV and radio promise broad reach for your brand, your message there is often wasted on a large number of consumers who aren’t concerned with car shopping, not to mention those who simply tune ads out.

Considering only 11 percent of U.S. adults aged 18-64 are considering buying a new car at any given time, your ad dollars may be wasted on the 89 percent who are not in the purchase process.1

In other words, it’s likely your message will only be relevant to 1 in 10 consumers who are exposed to your advertising.

Despite this data, many dealerships are still investing sig-
nificant dollars in traditional media with the goal of getting their brand in front of a large audience. Pretty good for brand building, not so good for driving traffic and sales.

According to the latest data
from NADA, more than 50% of
dealership’s ad dollars are
going to traditional outlets:2

  • radio 16.9%
  • newspaper 15.9%
  • TV 20.2%

Advertising Action Tip

» Regardless of medium, make sure you are giving your audience a consistent message. Delivering a consistent message across channels will make your media dollars work harder, and it will give the audience a more trusted view of your brand, helping them distinguish you from your competitors. «

Sin To Win

Today’s media landscape is highly fragmented, leaving consumers with more choices and giving advertisers more effective options to reach them. To get the greatest efficiency in your media plan and stretch your marketing dollars, targeting is key. It’s no longer about reaching the most eyeballs, but about reaching the right eyeballs at the right time.

Linda Bartman
CMO CMO Linda Bartman advises stores to look to media options that drive action based on relevancy.

Rethinking audience and aligning media to deliver against your marketing goals will promote efficiency in your budget and improve effectiveness of your marketing.

On the next page are some quick tips to help you more effectively evaluate audience metrics when looking to establish the right media mix for your store.

Considerations When Evaluating Audience

Align Audience with
Marketing Goals

Before you evaluate audience,
first establish your marketing goals.
Choose platforms that deliver the
right audience for your campaign

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Are you looking to differentiate your dealership, promote an incentive or get visibility for your inventory?
  • What types of consumers do you
    want to reach?

Understand Audience

Don’t just look at broad audience
numbers. Understand the local
audience composition your buy
will reach.

  • What concentration of car
    shoppers does the medium reach?
  • What are the audience
    demographics and how do they
    match audience needs for
    your makes?
  • Is the audience local?

Evaluate Audience

Consider how engaged and
receptive the audience will be
to your message. Understand
how likely the platform will be
to influence decisions and
drive conversion.

  • How engaged is the audience
    with the content and the ads?
  • What is their intent? Is the
    audience there to buy a car?
  • Are you reaching the audience
    in context at key moments of
How does stack up?
Take a look for yourself


Putting Too
Much Focus
on the Lead

Let’s try to keep the lead
in perspective.

The lead has long been considered the holy grail of conversions with a host of associated metrics — from cost per lead to cost per sale — that dealerships track vigilantly, driving their strategy and advertising decisions.

Yet, most car shoppers today never actually generate a lead. Even those who submit one don’t always convert. Still, many dealerships remain focused entirely on email leads.

It Was Great While It Lasted...

When online retailing first arrived, courting email leads made a lot of sense in terms of technology and shoppers’ online activities, and many marketing platforms were built around that activity. Email leads were easy to measure and to assign accountability for within the dealership. But as our industry has matured and technology and consumer behavior have changed, there are countless reasons to rethink a singular focus on the lead.

Why is it time to
start seeing what
else is out there?

Well, first of all, email is not how shoppers engage today. Very few car shoppers see enough value in sending an email lead to provide their personal information. For consumers, there’s very little to gain.

Many times users have specific information needs and they question the turnaround time of an email request, so they seek channels that allow for immediate conversations, rather than a formal, delayed response. For some, these channels still include a phone call. But, this is dramatically shifting as well.

In fact, 47 percent of consumers
between the ages of 18 and 34
view an SMS message to be as
meaningful as a phone conversation.7

A recent Experian Marketing Services study shows how SMS is replacing phone calls. Shoppers are opting for chat and SMS because they are more anonymous and/or immediate than waiting for an email response. In fact, many shoppers use the live chat option on and indicate chat as their preferred method of communication.7

Dealers who effectively manage these new channels have an immediate opportunity to build rapport and trust with live shoppers.

Next, of course, lead sending is on the decline. Despite the fact that site traffic is up by more than 30 percent on, we’ve found that traditional leads (email and phone) are not growing.3 As we’ve enhanced our user experience to be more consistent with consumer behavior, we’ve learned how readily available data and user tools have eliminated the need for today’s shopper to submit leads.

Information is readily available. Other options are faster and easier. No wonder shoppers aren’t filling out lengthy email lead forms.

The fact that only a small percentage of shoppers on convert to a lead is not unique. According to Dataium, on average, less than two percent of traffic to dealers’ own websites converts to an email lead.8 Some dealers are reporting increases in email leads due to removing obstacles such as lengthy and cumbersome lead forms, yet these gains only represent a very small portion of total consumer activity.

However, this decline doesn’t indicate shoppers are less than serious. Sales are up, and consumers are connecting in ways that align with their natural behavior. As leads decline, we’re seeing a simultaneous spike in other key activities that dealerships must also begin to measure and build process around.

Consumers don’t just send a lead and ignore all other points of influence. It’s time we recognize that shoppers don’t follow a linear path to purchase, and that leads are not the cornerstone of consumer behavior.

Jared Hamilton
CEO & Founder
DrivingSales inc.

And anyway, a lead is not a sale. It’s a common pitfall to assume you have a buyer on the hook when a lead lands in your inbox. Consider why shoppers are sending leads, and remember, they’re typically sending requests to multiple dealerships.

It is also important to remember that many shoppers go on to do additional research after submitting their initial lead.

We’ve seen that 58 percent of lead senders return to after their initial dealer email.3 dealer training manager, Jack Simmons, notes that despite years of process optimization, even the very best dealers are only closing 15 percent of the leads they receive. This reinforces the fact that even the few shoppers who send leads are sending multiple leads to several dealerships, yet buying only one car in the end.

“Only one dealer will win the sale,” says Simmons, who reminds dealers that leads are just opportunities. “Email leads require a strong handling process to re-engage shoppers in the purchase process and to make a connection that brings a shopper into the store and moving toward a sale. It’s worth noting, that while you’re focusing on tracking down an email customer, a mobile shopper is likely already shopping on your lot.”

Most importantly, leads are not single-source deals.

While it certainly simplifies matters in your CRM system to give full credit for a sale to the given lead provider, even leads are typically the result of multisource media consumption. Before sending a lead, shoppers may check reviews, search the dealership and visit the dealer’s website. Perhaps they chose to send the lead based on awareness from a radio ad of a special the store was running or because a relative had shared a positive experience about the store. The same holds true for the shopper’s ultimate decision to purchase.

Can Leads Still Play a Role?

Simmons doesn’t advocate dealers move away from leads entirely. “While dealers need to evolve and optimize for new forms of contact, I don’t suggest forgoing traditional email leads altogether. Leads continue to provide an important opportunity to connect with a key segment of shoppers. You need to have a solid process in place to build trust, get them into your store and give them reasons to do business with you.”


Simmons offers the following advice when it comes to measuring lead activity.

Each marketing platform is different and serves a different role in bringing customers into your store. Looking at lead volume and close rate from pay-per-lead product vs. leads that come from inventory-based digital marketing platforms will not provide meaningful or actionable data for a side-by-side comparison.

Regularly evaluate your lead-handling practices to ensure you are optimizing for conversion.

» How fast are your people responding
to shoppers?

» Are they providing a quality response
aimed at answering shoppers’

» Does your lead response reinforce
your “Why Buy” message and
differentiate your store?

Sin To Win

Just because shoppers aren’t sending a lot of leads, it doesn’t mean they’re not sending signals that they are ready to buy.

Measure New Activities and Optimize for Success

To keep on track, you want to be aware of new communication channels, measure them and invest in media that optimize against these behaviors.

When you receive a traditional lead, you still want to re-engage shoppers by answering their questions and selling them on why they should choose to do business with your store. It’s likely that by investing energy into the following new points of influence you could actually increase conversion.





If you are not already using chat, you are missing out on an important contact and a growing lead source.

One in three households of identifiable shoppers who chatted purchased a vehicle within 60 days.9

A great way to get started is by activating chat on your
own website, as well as and other sites that provide the ability.

Chat Metrics
That Matter

Time Online: The most important metric for tracking the success of chat is the percentage of time your store is showing up online. Simply put, if you’re not online, there’s no way customers can contact you, even if they want to. Strong dealerships should try to be online a minimum of 50% of the time.

Chat Engagement Rate: Once you’re showing up online, look at the number of chat messages your dealership receives versus the number of chats answered. If you’re missing chats, you’re missing direct opportunities to engage with customers.


As shoppers look to find out more about your dealership, many go directly to your website from other shopping destinations. Engage them in your site by providing relevant information about your dealership’s inventory and the experience your customers can expect when they choose your store. Remember, many shoppers will also be viewing your website from a mobile device. Be sure your website is optimized to receive mobile visits, or risk being eliminated from consideration.


of tablet and
users said they’ll
never return to
a site if it’s not


In-store vistors offer the greatest opportunity to win sales. But if your dealerhip’s in-store experience does not match what shoppers are promised online, you're likely losing sales. To optimize conversion with walk-in customers, it is essential that you have the inventory you advertise online in stock and that you’re consistent in your pricing strategy. Shoppers who don’t find the vehicles they’ve researched online will assume the worst and may eliminate your store from consideration.11


Viewing Vehicle
Detail Page Traffic
as the Gateway
to Sales

Think your VDP volume is a silver bullet?
You could shoot yourself in the foot.

Right up there with the lead, many have hailed the Vehicle Detail Page, often referred to as the VDP, as the ultimate indicator of digital marketing performance and advertising value. On most automotive websites, the VDP features one specific vehicle, providing shoppers information such as photos, price, vehicle features and more.

It’s natural to assume that VDP views will drive sales. However, be careful when evaluating the effectiveness of third-party websites based on volume of this metric alone.

Keep in mind that comparing
VDP views from one
third-party site to the next
is apples to oranges.

Different site designs, consumer search options and calls to action significantly affect the amount of VDP views the average dealer sees from one site to another. Each site offers a unique user experience depending on a shopper’s stage in the process, so resist the urge to lump them together in your evaluation.

VDP Shoppers are at Different Stages

It’s also important to understand that shoppers engage with the VDP in different ways.

An analysis of behavior on shows that many use the VDP as a research tool during preliminary visits. In other words, a view of your VDP at this stage – the VDP Browser phase – may be more about price range or vehicle features such as MPG than reflecting an interest in buying that specific vehicle from your store. As a result, you get mixed signals.


VDP Browsers are earlier in their process.

They’re using VDPs to do their research and build their consideration sets, and they’re doing that research over the course of multiple visits to the site.


VDP Buyers are closer to purchase.

They tend to use VDPs to narrow down their options and make sure they’re not missing a better opportunity.

VDP views from shoppers in the later stages of their process — the VDP Buyer phase — mean your inventory is getting in front of shoppers closer to purchase, but it’s important to note that the VDP itself may not necessarily be what influences a shopper to choose your store over a competitor.

What Shoppers Do After the VDP is What Really Matters

If you are truly looking to measure purchase intent, don’t look at VDP volume in isolation. You need to be a student of consumer behavior and look at what happens next. Shoppers who visit these key sections in conjunction with the VDP are more likely to contact your store.

more likely
to engage
a dealer3
more likely
to engage
a dealer3
more likely
to engage
a dealer3

In other words, VDPs may be an important factor in getting on shoppers’ radar when they’re Browsers and help you stay there while they’re narrowing their options down as Buyers. However, VDPs are not always the trigger that gets a shopper to choose your store over your competitor’s.

Sin To Win

Because the lines have blurred and there are so many touchpoints throughout the purchase process, you have to consider VDP metrics in context of other consumer actions.

Looking at things holistically will help you gain insight into the complex interdependencies that drive sales.

The VDP is a much better diagnostic tool than indicator of purchase intent on third-party sites or a comparative measure of ROI. You could have the best inventory in your market, if you don’t merchandise effectively, you’re likely to see a drop in VDPs. Fewer than average views of your vehicles may indicate problems with pricing, merchandising or the inventory on your lot.

Optimize VDP Performance


Know how the Browsers get to your VDP on every site your inventory is listed and make sure your inventory shows up in search results.


Price your vehicles competitively to show up early in search results.


Give shoppers a reason to choose your vehicle once it appears in search results by including photos, popular options, vehicle history reports, certified inventory and special offers.


Strive for effective merchandising, such as descriptive seller’s notes, high-quality video and good dealer reviews.


Make sure you turn on the chat notification to further engage the customer.


Track search results impressions to discover any issues.


Not Recognizing
the Importance
of Mobile

Mobile is a mainstay for shoppers today.
Underplaying its importance might just
be the worst sin on the list.

The proliferation of smartphone use over the past five years is staggering. Mobile now accounts for nearly 40 percent of traffic to sites like, making it critical to measure your mobile marketing activity and influence. It’s a trend we don’t see stopping. In fact, mobile traffic on has grown 100 percent since last year.12 Are you keeping up with the mobile market?

Are you keeping up with
the mobile market?

FEB 2010
FEB 2013






+385% CHANGE



Today, mobile is the shopper’s research tool of choice

Research that was once relegated to desktop computers is now happening on the dealership lot, or on the way to it, via smartphones. Indeed, a staggering 62% of site visitors say they accessed automotive content at a dealership via smartphone prior to purchasing their new vehicle.14 What they find can either give them the confidence to pull the trigger and make a purchase or send them off to shop your closest competitor.

62%of mobile
car shoppers use their
smartphones on the
dealership lot

Sin To Win

Want to optimize your dealership for mobile? Let’s look at how you can begin
to measure this critical point of activity
and better optimize your influence with mobile shoppers.





First Things First, Recognize How Mobile Metrics
Are Different.
As we’ve already established, mobile shopping matters most when consumers are close to purchasing a car.11
Having done preliminary research on the desktop or tablet, they’re now qualified prospects, ready to get down to business. However, this doesn’t involve sending emails.

In fact, mobile shoppers are 60 percent less likely to send a lead from their smartphones than they would be from their desktops, according to analysis.15

So instead of looking at mobile leads, measure other key indicators that show how mobile is driving traffic to your store. Mobile map views are a strong signal of intent and are considered by many to be the “new lead.”


Put process in place to leverage mobile
It’s time to get serious about mobile. According to trainer Jack Simmons, this entails putting rigorous process around mobile metrics and aligning showroom process and marketing strategy to convert
on-the-lot researchers. Simmons advises you to truly embrace mobile. “Offer free Wi-Fi or provide tablets for shoppers to use on the lot. It’s a great way to build trust with customers.”

If leads are our legacy, mobile is our future. Forward-looking dealers should begin to treat mobile opportunities with the same diligence. There is a wealth of data mobile can provide that we should
not just measure, but also act on.

Jack Simmons
Dealer Training Manager


Consider these action steps around mobile:

Evaluate your mobile audience
What outlets help you best reach mobile shoppers? You need to start by understanding where mobile shoppers are going in your market. Ask your local media representatives how they are delivering mobile shoppers and how they help you to influence buying decisions at this key stage — when shoppers are actively engaged in car buying.
Make sure shoppers can find you and give them reasons to buy so they’re not lost to a competitor who is present in the mobile environment.

Optimize your mobile presence
Optimizing for the mobile shopper means making sure
all the information consumers are looking for from your dealership is available and easily viewed on a mobile device. If your dealership’s website isn’t mobile-friendly, contact your website provider to start developing a responsive mobile site.

Therefore, providing a
quality mobile shopping
experience is essential
to attracting new
customers and keeping
shoppers engaged.

What can you do about it?

Prepare for mobile conversions by optimizing for mobile-heavy activities. Phone numbers on your
mobile site should be click-to-call and addresses
should pull into a map function.

Use site analytics to evaluate your mobile traffic
and optimize features based on shopper behavior.
For example, many shoppers use their phones to
check financing and payment options. Consider
offering these tools on your mobile site.

Offering specials can give shoppers a reason to pull the trigger, so make sure your mobile presence features current promotions.

Boost your reputation online. It’s important at all stages and across all platforms, but nowhere will a positive reputation have as big of an impact as on a mobile device. mobile shoppers are 184% more likely to read Dealer Reviews.15 Learn more about reputation management

Incent mobile shoppers to act now. Many shoppers ultimately decide to purchase because of incentives.
Use that to your advantage by tracking which of your dealership’s programs and incentives drive the most conversion specifically on mobile devices.


the Value of
Online Branding

What used to be “Internet shoppers”
are now just “shoppers.”

Digital marketing has come a long way
since the days of email leads arriving via
fax machine, with consumers now making major decisions about which vehicles and dealerships to consider — or eliminate —
based upon what they see online. This
increased sophistication, combined with
consumer adoption, means that digital
media can positively showcase your
dealership at a brand level.

rethinking the way you’ve done things
for ages often yields great rewards.
reassessing your planning process
may be the boost your dealership needs.

Old habits can be hard to break, and
thinking about digital advertising merely
as direct response or inventory marketing
is no exception. Because of its roots
in performance marketing, the brand-
building potential of digital advertising
is overlooked and undervalued.

So, when developing your digital media plan, it makes a lot of sense to shift traditional media dollars to tell your “why buy” story online and set your store apart from the competition. Since your digital media assets can drive traffic and conversion and build your brand, you will reap the benefits of a hybrid that delivers exceptional value. When used strategically to support your objectives, digital and traditional work well together to strengthen your brand.

There is no traditional vs. digital.
That is the wrong way of looking
at it. There is just marketing.
Do what’s best for the problem
at hand — branding or promotion.

Jared Hamilton
CEO & Founder
DrivingSales inc.

With consumers spending
so much time online for
entertainment, research
and work, dealers who
pass up opportunities to
brand online are missing
key moments to build
awareness and drive
consideration for their
stores when shoppers are
making key decisions.

Q1 2012
Q2 2013



Watch TV


Go on the Internet with your computer, not for work


Listen to the radio


Go on the Internet with your computer for work


Read a printed book


Read the news online


Use an app or go on the Internet with a mobile phone


Read a printed newspaper


Read a book online (including using eReader devices)


Shoppers Really Do Want to Get to Know You

Digital shoppers aren’t blind to your brand. In fact, shoppers on are telling us in no uncertain terms they want to know more about you and why they should buy from your dealership.18 They want to understand the experience your store will offer and learn what sets you apart from other dealers down the street. This gives you opportunities to communicate your brand message and to differentiate your store.

Sin To Win

So you’re telling your brand story via digital media.
Now how do you measure its impact?
While we are accustomed to measuring online behavior, brand impact can be more difficult to attribute, and it’s unlikely you’ll see the results in the form of clicks and leads (see Digital Sin #7, Believing You Can Measure Everything). Alternatively, look to more traditional measures such as impressions that can be an indicator you are building awareness.

Despite effectiveness in building awareness, the average click-through rate for banner ads online
is 0.1 percent;19 and just 8 percent of Internet users account for 85 percent of clicks.20

Even though clicks don’t effectively show the role banners play in building awareness, advertisers continue to try to simplify their digital measurement using click-through rate as the primary measure of success.

Case Study


George Matick Chevrolet
Metro Detroit, Michigan

Sales & Marketing Director Ryan Esler is no stranger to the power of online branding. Esler works to ensure a
consistent brand experience and
he knows that the power of uniformly communicating his store’s message builds awareness and, more
importantly, builds trust.

“Customers have many sources to pull from,
so we have to make sure they’re consistent, and that takes time and effort,” stated Esler. “We use the same exact dealer branded assets, colors and logos across
all platforms, which speaks to consistency and leads to trust.

We make sure our branding and promotional strat-
egies are the same across all of our advertising, whether that’s TV, radio, newspaper or online.

In addition to communicating the same incentive information in all of our advertising, we make sure the look and feel of our ads is the same, the tagline appears consistently everywhere and that all of
our ads convey the same message to customers.”

Your reputation: The ultimate brand metric

While some brand metrics can be difficult to assess, one of the easiest metrics to track is your reputation. The emer-
gence of online reviews has given you a powerful tool for collecting real-time feedback about the health of your brand and the experience you are providing shoppers. Looking at review volume and quality will give you a strong indicator of how shoppers view your dealership.

Low scores or volume could be indicative of a problem with the experience you provide to customers, ultimately cost-
ing you sales. If your dealership has a bad online repu-
tation, some shoppers will eliminate it from consideration and never engage.
Shoppers want to validate their choice of dealership before making a purchase and are leveraging reviews to build confidence in their decision.11 Even if you have the right inventory, it might not matter if you don’t have a strong reputation.

Moving the needle upward on your reputation is likely to yield results in the metric you care most about — sales.

Tending to your brand reputation

Be sure someone in the dealership is accountable for measuring your online review volume and reviewing feedback scores weekly. These are numbers
that should be top of mind throughout the dealership. While management
may help set the processes and monitor performance, frontline staff must also
be facilitating online brand health
by consistently delivering a positive in-store experience and asking shoppers to provide their online feedback.

Advertising Action Tips

»Are you doing your brand justice? It’s important to keep your brand in front
of shoppers as they engage and re-engage with your store throughout their
research online. Here are some tips to get you started: «

»Set your store apart from competitors who are not articulating their “why buy” message by clearly communicating your own. Tailor your call to action appropriately for each platform.

»Make sure your store’s branding is consistent across all advertising channels, whether it’s TV, radio, print or online.

»Use online display ads, retargeting and
audience extension to stay top of mind
with in-market shoppers throughout their shopping journey.

»Monitor and promote your reviews on and other major review sites to
support your brand. Track the volume and
quality of reviews you have across these sites.

»Be sure the experience you promise online is consistent with what shoppers will find when
they step on your lot.

»Help customers build up your brand by
asking them to share their buying experience through online reviews and social media.
Use what others have said about your brand
to complement your own marketing message.


Overvaluing Your
Own Website and
the Last Click

To get the whole story, it’s important
to track where shoppers have been
and what they were doing before they
arrived at your site.

You know your website delivers. When a
shopper arrives at your virtual showroom,
you own the experience, and you often see
a higher close rate than on leads from any other medium. So why not just invest in search to drive your own traffic and forego
the rest of your advertising investment?

Search engines give shoppers a direct
link, but only when they know what
they are looking for.

There are several reasons to think twice before relying on search and your website alone. While both play a key role, it’s important to think about what happens before car
shoppers arrive at your website. By that point, they’ve almost certainly made several stops along the way.

This consumer journey — which can include
research and ad exposure — holds multiple
opportunities for you to build a relationship
that instills confidence, trust and preference
in the shopper.

With your brand message already established, shoppers arriving
at your website as the last stop
have a much greater likelihood
of contacting you, visiting your
dealership and, hopefully, making
a purchase.

When you recognize this chain of behaviors and understand the multiple touchpoints that can influence shoppers before they get to your website, it’s likely you will see the value in staying with shoppers throughout their journey, not just when they turn to a search engine. In other words, eliminating your presence in the places consumers turn for impartial research and information can ultimately decrease the effectiveness of your website.

What’s the best way to capitalize on the activities consumers engage in before arriving at
your website? According to an independent study by Dataium, third-party automotive
shopping sites like help drive qualified, in-market car shoppers to dealership
websites, and those shoppers are more likely to turn into buyers faster. The study found that:

Shoppers who had been on prior to the dealership website were 10x more likely to submit an email lead than those who had not been on, and they were nearly 70 percent more likely to click on a dealership map, directions or hours, indicating more walk-in traffic.21 shoppers who submitted a lead from a dealership website did so within two days, 4x faster than the average shopper..21

Additionally, 22 percent of shoppers who clicked through to a dealership website from submitted an email lead — 12.5 percent within the same session and 9 percent during a subsequent session..21

By contrast, just 1 percent of paid search traffic resulted in the user sending an email lead. Interestingly, keywords for 78 percent of search traffic to dealership websites, both paid and organic, included variations of the
dealership name..21

Of dealers who subscribed to a ad package,
36 percent of their website’s email leads came from
consumers who had in their browsing history..21

Understanding Website Referral Traffic:
Metrics in Action

While investment decisions must be made carefully and should account for factors beyond just direct referral traffic, understanding how shoppers interact with your site based on the referral source can help inform how you keep shoppers engaged and move them closer to purchase.

After properly setting up his Google Analytics account, Vernon Auto Groups’s Chris Slaydon has been able to track which referring sites send shoppers who know what they want (even down to the VIN) vs. which sites send less-informed shoppers who need more time using his site to decide.

He knows which sites deliver more engaged shoppers, which sites send shoppers who are more likely to contact him and which sites send shoppers who are unlikely to stay long. He then uses that insight to identify advertising partners that deliver the highest quality of traffic to his site.

Depending upon your dealership’s strategy, all of these referral sources may provide valuable traffic in the end, but the information helps Chris provide a better experience on his own site and optimize his store’s presence on the referring sites to ensure the interactions are consistent throughout a customer’s journey.

Reconsider the Value of the Last Click
Another common misstep is putting too much focus on the last click.

To increase conversion and your ROI, you need to make sure you are marketing to shoppers who reach your site via view-throughs (shoppers don’t click through from a direct link), not just click-throughs.

While it can be tough to get insight into a shopper’s journey prior to the direct source of their visit, making decisions based solely on referral traffic could result in cutting yourself out of opportunities for shoppers to learn more about your store elsewhere in their process.

Chris Slaydon
Director of eBusiness
Vernon Auto Group


Believing You
Can Measure

Are you drowning in data,
but unable to know anything?

"I know half of my advertising budget is
 wasted — I just don't know which half."
– Henry Ford

Long before the Internet brought the promise of measurability, automotive industry icon Henry Ford quipped about the effectiveness of his advertising and the complexity of measuring results.

Though CRM systems and customer
surveys encourage dealerships to
track a single point of influence,
single-source sales simply don’t exist.

it’s time to stop trying to measure
advertising effectiveness that way.

Today’s shoppers
use more than 18
sources in the
purchase process,
making it increasingly
difficult to attribute
a sale directly to
one channel.22

Email leads, phone calls, chat contacts and direct URL
referrals to a dealership’s website represent some of the critical metrics for measuring value, but they only tell part
of the story.

It’s time to acknowledge there’s no single metric that encompasses the multiple points of contact during the sales process. Rather, a good strategy is to move to three or four types of connected metrics that better reflect your customers’ path to purchase.

With this shift in perspective, dealerships have an
opportunity to understand trends and attribute in-store activities appropriately. Relying on simplistic measures to define a complex process — one that navigates
from online behaviors to in-store activities — can be problematic.

As data will define competitive advantage moving
forward, those stores that manage to the right metrics will be poised to gain market share by
increasing their media efficiency and optimizing in-store processes to align with the behaviors of today’s shoppers.

Metrics Tune Up: Measuring
What Really Matters

So, while it may seem daunting, start evolving your measurement approach by focusing on just a few
new metrics at a time. Here are some suggested
resources that can give a deeper understanding of marketing attribution, media planning and local
market trends.

Partner Reports: Most advertising tools and website providers offer comprehensive performance reports that give insight into the audience you are reaching and the influence and impact of your ads. Work with your partners to understand each of the reports they provide in order to gain perspective on the investments your dealership is already making.

Your Local Media Reps: While only you can put the pieces together for your store, your local media representatives can provide a wealth of data and insight about local market trends to give you a more complete view of audience and your performance relative to the competition.

Your Manufacturer: Your OEM is a great source for valuable data about your target customers, key points of influence and media mix performance. Take advantage of available insights in developing media plans for your franchise make.

By the Numbers:
What’s Your Score?

You know days’ Supply of Inventory
and can quickly rattle off metrics like the number of aged units in your used car department, but do you have a handle on these new marketing metrics?

Ask your team for data on these key metrics at your next staff meeting to quickly get a sense of how and if these critical points of influence for your brand are being performance managed. If your store is not reviewing this list of metrics, they should be.

Map views and mobile map views

Display ad impressions

Vehicle Detail Page views

Number of dealership reviews across the Web

Aggregate review score on key sites

Unique visitors to your dealership website

Dealership website visits from a mobile device

Top website referral sources

Referral time spent on dealership website

Chat conversations


Phone calls


The New
Money Metrics:
A Framework
for Measuring

Evaluating relevant metrics
across the entire shopping
journey gives you a more
complete view of your digital
marketing performance.

At, we’re developing a new framework to help you measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your media spend, offering new insights to fuel your dealership’s marketing strategy.

We’ll provide important data about:

  • The audience you reach
  • How your advertising builds
    awareness for your dealership
  • How awareness leads to consideration
    with shoppers that engage
  • How those shoppers convert to take
    action with your dealership

This new framework, and our approach
to analyzing the value of online
marketing, is based on four key types
of metrics.

1Audience: Audience metrics capture both the volume and behaviors of our qualified in-market shoppers. Examples of Audience metrics: Visits to, mobile visits to, proximity of mobile searches.

2Awareness: Awareness metrics happen on pages where consumers are presented with research tools, market information and editorial content to help identify the dealership and vehicle that best fits their needs. Examples of Awareness metrics: search engine results impressions, display ad impressions, Special Offers impressions.

3Consideration: Consideration metrics are created when a shopper chooses to learn more about a particular vehicle and dealership. Examples of Consideration metrics: Vehicle Detail Page views, video views, Dealer Specials views.

4Conversion: Conversion metrics occur when a shopper takes a specific next step to connect with a dealership. Examples of Conversion metrics: Map views, website transfers, ad prints, chats, phone calls,

Can’t get enough?

For more insights and best practices


  1. 1Borrell Associates Inc. Custom Analysis, 2013.
  2. 2NADA Industry Analysis Division, NADA Data State-of-the-Industry Report 2013.
  3. Internal Site Data, Q2 2013.
  4. Custom Study/Millward Brown 2013 Study, Q1/Q2 2013.
  5. 5Korrelate - O2O Purchase Affinity Analysis, Q1 2013.
  6. Custom Analysis, Q2 2013.
  7. 7“Simmons® National Consumer Study,” Experian Marketing Services, December 2012.
  8. 8Dataium, Internal Research, Q3 2013.
  9. 9R.L. Polk/Contact At Once! December 2012.
  10. 10Kentico Software, May 2013.
  11. Consumer Journey, Conifer Research, July 2013.
  12. Internal Site Data, Q1/Q2 2013.
  1. 13comScore Inc., “State of the US Online Retail Economy in Q1 2013,” May 17, 2013, Source note: Estimated on earliest observed comScore smartphone engagement data calibrated by number of smartphone users at that time.
  2. 14J.D. Power and Associates 2012 New Autoshopper.SM
  3. Internal Site Data, Q1 2013.
  4. 16comScore MobiLens, February 2013.
  5. 17Temkin Group as cited in company blog. March 28, 2013,
  6. Internal Site Data, Q4 2012/Q1 2013.
  7. 19MediaMind, “The In-Stream Benchmark Research,” September 2012, as reported by
  8. 200comScore Inc. “Natural Born Clickers” Research, 2009.
  9. 21Dataium: “Rethinking Online Media Attribution,” Independent Study for, 2012.
  10. 22Google/Shopper Sciences, Zero Moment of Truth Industry Studies, U.S., April 2011.
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