Prior to the Internet, the only way consumers could gain knowledge about a particular vehicle they were interested in purchasing was to visit a dealership. Today, however, dealership visits are down, with the bulk of research now being conducted online. Tens of millions of consumers today spend an average of nearly 17 hours online researching their next vehicle purchase (replacing the need to visit dozens of dealers), and at some point in their research, they submit their contact information – or lead – along with the make and model information of the vehicle they are interested in buying.
But what happens to that lead once it’s submitted? Do consumers predominantly buy the vehicle indicated on the lead form? Is this the end of the research cycle? Do they predominantly buy from the dealer they selected to help them? If so, what did they buy and from whom? If not, why not?
Lead Loyalty, defined as the propensity to buy a specific brand of vehicle after a consumer submits a lead to buy that brand, is a hot topic and one that needs to be addressed from a best practices perspective.
“A common myth in today’s industry is that a dealer’s competition, after a consumer submits a lead, is his fellow brand dealer in the area.”
The question is: How can dealers improve lead loyalty, enhance customer service, and ultimately sell more cars?
- A majority of consumers are relatively undecided about which make and model to buy, up to the week of purchase.
- Over 50% of consumers who submit a lead to purchase a particular make choose a different brand altogether.
- Over 70% of consumers who submit a lead to purchase a particular model choose a different model altogether.
- Of the consumers who submit new car leads, 40% end up buying used.
- Of the consumers who submit used car leads, 17% end up buying new.
- Subaru is the brand to which most consumers are Lead Loyal (meaning, those who submit a lead to buy a Subaru make and model end up buying a Subaru make and model a majority of the time).
A common myth in today’s industry is that a dealer’s competition, after a consumer submits a lead, is his fellow brand dealer in the area.
The reality, based on our analysis of the data, is that consumers are still shopping brands as their car choice is being finalized, which means your competition is actually competing brands and not necessarily competing dealers who sell the same brand as you.
What’s more, consumers visit many different automotive websites during the research process and chances are, when they arrive at your dealership, they’re ready to buy. This makes the dealership visit even more important to get consumers off the Internet merry-go-round and into your dealership no matter if your website is the first website they visited, or the 50th.
That’s why it’s important to keep these tips in mind.
Tip #1: Ask the right questions.
Always ask consumers, up front, three critical questions.
1) Who is the lucky person that will be driving this car?
2) How will the car be used?
3) What features does the primary driver find most important?
Tip #2: Tout your brand.
In all correspondence with consumers, it’s important for dealers to communicate the benefits of their brand, including awards and accolades the brand has achieved – and why buying their brand is the best choice.
Tip #3: Tout your dealership.
In all correspondence with consumers, it’s important for dealers to communicate the benefits of their dealership, including the key characteristics that make their dealership the best place for consumers to buy and service their vehicle.
Tip #4: Provide options.
Don’t forget to highlight other models, trims and option packages in addition to cars in your used inventory, and be sure to discuss the advantages of your CPO program. And don’t limit used car options to your own brand. Successful dealers highlight off brand vehicles in their used inventory that might be a good fit for the customer also.
Author: Scott Pechstein
Scott Pechstein serves as Vice President of Sales for Autobytel Inc. where he manages in-house and field sales and account management for the company’s broad range of industry leading products. Scott serves as an automotive industry spokesperson, a company news media spokesperson, and lead trainer of the Autobytel Dealer Insight Series. He also contributes sales insight for the development of the company’s client marketing communications programs. Scott is a Digital Dealer, NADA Convention, NADA 20-group, IS-20 Group, and Internet Super Conference speaker, among others. Scott got his start in automotive at the age of 19 at Tuttle Click Automotive Group. He began his career at Autobytel in May 2000 and since that time, has advanced through the ranks of the company, serving in various sales roles until being appointed to head up the Sales Department in 2011.