AutoUSA Internet Sales Solutions (www.AutoUSADealers.com) today announced the results of its 2013 annual auto dealer Internet Marketing survey. Financing tools such as online credit applications and trade-in calculators deliver the most valuable website leads, according to respondents. Other significant results from the survey identify pricing and affordability as the most commonly heard sales objection from consumers, while Internet departments’ biggest challenges include lead volume and staffing issues.
“We believe the most successful dealerships have effective Internet marketing strategies, and this annual survey helps to identify how well some of those strategies are performing in current market conditions,” said Phil DuPree, President of AutoUSA Internet Sales Solutions.
The survey was conducted during September and October and summarizes results from 147 respondents, including Internet sales managers, sales managers, BDC marketing and senior management.
Customer Sales Objections
When asked what the most common sales objection is from customers, the top response was “our price not in line with customer expectations” (28 percent). Other responses were “customer can’t get financing” (19 percent), “customer confidence with the economy” (14 percent) and “customer can’t afford a new vehicle” (12 percent).
By contrast, in AutoUSA’s 2011 Internet marketing survey, not meeting the customers’ price expectations was the least-common objection (10 percent). Also in 2011 “didn’t have desired model available” was the most common sales objection (25 percent), followed by “can’t afford a new vehicle” (14 percent).
“The difference in sales objections compared with two years ago is consistent with what we see in the marketplace; consumers are finding ways to work themselves through the process and further down-funnel,” said DuPree. “And while the economy may have improved somewhat, pricing and affordability are still major hurdles for many consumers.”
Internet Department Challenges
Survey results indicate that dealership Internet departments are facing a new challenge in 2013. “Not enough leads” (26 percent) is the most cited challenge for Internet departments, which is quite a turnaround from two years ago, when “keeping up with lead volume” (31 percent) was the number one challenge.
According to this year’s survey, Internet departments’ biggest challenges behind lead volume are related to staffing. Twenty-one percent of respondents cited “not enough staff” as the biggest challenge, while 19 percent stated “quality of staff,” and another 18 percent chose “staff does not adhere to processes.” Additionally, 18 percent complained their “marketing budget is not large enough to meet objectives,” and only 17 percent cited “keeping up with lead volume” as their number one challenge.
“It’s interesting that while Internet departments appear to be spending more than ever on search optimization for their websites, they are not getting their desired lead volume compared with two years ago,” said DuPree.
Lead Volume and Quality
When asked, “which website conversion tools or add-ons results in the most leads (including phone calls) from your website?” respondents ranked the following: online credit applications (52 percent); chat applications (50 percent); trade-in calculator (37 percent); coupons (20 percent); online service appointment scheduler (19 percent).
Survey participants were also asked to rate the value of leads that they received from their websites. The most valuable are “VIN-specific used vehicle leads” (76% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”); credit application leads (73% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”); new vehicle leads (66% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”); chat leads (51% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”); trade-in leads (45% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”) and lastly, general contact info (27% rate as “the best” or “pretty good”)
“Inventory leads and leads from financing tools appear to be the most valuable to dealers, which makes sense because once customers start engaging with a website conversion tool they are probably serious shoppers,” said DuPree.
Internet Marketing Budgets
In spite of the commonly cited statistic that more than 90 percent of consumers begin their search for a vehicle on the Internet, the survey found that most dealers do not allocate a majority of their budgets to Internet marketing. In response to the question, “What percentage of your overall advertising & marketing budget is spent on Internet marketing?” survey participants shared the following:
- 50 percent of dealers spend less than 30% of budget on Internet marketing
- 37 percent spend between 30-60% of budget on Internet marketing
- 13 percent spend more than 60% of budget on Internet marketing
On the extreme ends of the scale, 10 percent of dealers spend less than 10% of their budget on Internet marketing, while only one percent of dealers spend 90-100% of their budget on Internet marketing.
However, in response to the question “do you plan to increase your Internet marketing budgets in 2014?” 59 percent of respondents responded “yes.”
Survey respondents were also asked, “In which areas do you plan to allocate the majority of your Internet marketing budget in 2014?” The responses were:
- Website SEO/SEM (54%)
- Leads from inventory sites, i.e. Cars.com, Autotrader.com, etc. (51%)
- Independent leads from AutoUSA, Dealix, Autobytel (33%)
- Social Media (23%)
- E-Mail Marketing (22%)
- Video production and marketing (17%)
- Reputation Management (14%)
- Online ads (14%)
Finally, the majority of dealerships are optimistic for a profitable 2014. When asked if they believed they would sell more vehicles in the coming year, 85 percent of respondents claimed “yes, my dealership will sell more vehicles in 2014 than in 2013.”
About AutoUSA Internet Sales Solutions
AutoUSA Internet Sales Solutions brings the best-in-class tools to increase Internet sales and lower costs for automotive dealerships. Leading products include Payment ProSM, a payment-based pre-qualification tool for dealer websites; ShowProSM incentive program, proven to turn more leads into shows; Leads&ListingsSM, providing the highest quality, new and used car email and phone leads from 100+ sites; PowerListingsSM 2.0, helping dealers increase traffic to—and leads from—their social media sites; and AVA Virtual Sales Assistant, helping dealerships manage more leads at a reduced cost. AutoUSA products are currently benefiting thousands of active dealers all across the U.S.
For more information, visit AutoUSA’s web site, subscribe to our blog at http://blog.autousadealers.com, follow us on Twitter @AutoUSALeads and “Like” us on Facebook at /AutoUSADealers