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How To Keep Your VDPs In Sight, In Mind… All The Time

Shaun Kehrberg by Shaun Kehrberg, Product Marketing Manager, Digital Advertising
Impact of Automotive Digital Advertising on VDP Views VDP views are all the rage. At Cobalt, we traditionally see up to a 30% bump in VDP views when we turn on a VIN-specific digital advertising campaign for a dealer. So what's the key to luring those potential customers back to your website and increasing their engagement with your VDPs?

The answer is Dynamic Inventory Merchandising. This advanced advertising strategy  provides seamless integration between a dealer's inventory and their digital advertising campaigns, automatically generating campaigns based on the inventory on your lot. Dealers can utilize Dynamic Inventory Merchandising to help increase VDP views and overall online engagement with your VINs.

The following is Part I in a series on how, highlighting a technique that some have called the MVP of your dealership's advertising strategy--- dynamic inventory retargeting.

Dynamic Inventory Retargeting

We know you’re already familiar with retargeting - display ads that keep your dealership present even after car shoppers have left your website. But today we can take these ads one step further by utilizing advanced retargeting techniques. Dealers can now easily incorporate dynamic, scrolling images of live inventory in their ads to follow their potential customers around the Internet.

For example, imagine a shopper who spends the majority of their time on your website looking at used vehicles. Shouldn’t the retargeting ads that “follow them” be specifically tailored to their unique shopping experience? In other words, if a shopper was looking at a used Honda Accord, the retargeting ad should feature that EXACT Accord (as long as it’s still on the lot). If that vehicle sells, the next ad served to the shopper will dynamically adjust to feature a similar make/model.

Dynamic Inventory Retargeting

In addition, dealers can target customers with ads featuring a unique look and feel or special offers and pricing based on whether they are shopping for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) or regular used vehicles. The same functionality can also be easily applied to New Vehicle and Service & Parts campaigns - allowing a dealer to reach every website visitor with a dynamic banner ad specifically tailored to her unique shopping experience.

What does this mean for dealers?

This type of advertising is a game-changer because it allows dealers to supplement their generic brand retargeting with hyper-precise retargeting down to the model and even the very VIN a customer viewed. A click on a vehicle image within these dynamic ads takes the shopper directly to the Vehicle Details Page. And as we already know, more VDP views means more cars sold.

There's a new kid on the retargeting block and branded retargeting ads are now only part of the automotive remarketing equation.

As Brian Pasch, President of PCG Consulting, highlighted in a recent article, dynamic inventory retargeting ads "give dealers a dynamic edge" and have emerged as a uniquely efficient means of showcasing your inventory online and driving highly targeted traffic back to your VDPs.

In Part II, we'll look at another technique you can inject into your digital advertisings strategy that can help you drive more traffic to your VDPs--- Dynamic Paid Search Advertising.

Have you experimented with dynamic inventory retargeting and measured the results? Are you sold on this new metric for measuring your ability to attract online shoppers and sell to them--- VDP views? What other metrics do you value most when predicting a success event on your site?

Shaun Kehrberg

About the Author

Shaun Kehrberg is the Product Marketing Manager, Digital Advertising at Cobalt. He is focused on helping dealers understand the power of today’s advertising technology and the collective value of the Cobalt digital marketing experience. Shaun can be reached at 206.219.8203 or

Views: 1331

Tags: VDP views, VIN views, Vehicle Detail Pages, automotive retargeting, dynamic inventory ads, dynamic inventory merchandising, remarketing, retargeting


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Comment by Chris Reed on April 3, 2013 at 9:17am

I think this has been a great dialog.  There is no doubt that the folks contributing to this string are early adopters in this thinking about the value of inventory engagement as a success measure.  Cobalt's contribution to the industry's education can be to back up your insight with data from millions of consumer transactions, and then provide dealers a mechanism to take action on the insight through advertising execution, inventory planning and website merchandising.

Our data is clear that inventory engagement (some weighting of VDP views and time-on-VDP) is the most predictive single measure of sales, and by a substantial margin. However, Tom is absolutely right that no one measure is a "silver bullet" - to achieve 95% of better sales prediction at the dealer level we typically need to use 5-7 inputs in our predictive models, including the traditional measures of visits, hours & directions views and web form leads.  The weighting of these variables changes by make/model and geography.  We also see there is not a linear relationship between VDP views and sales.  Ten VDP views by an early stage shopper have less value than 1 view each by 10 shoppers finalizing their intent to visit your store.  Before long we will no longer be looking at aggregate measures but weighting the probabilities of individual shoppers to buy based upon their individual purchase journeys.

However, a stepping stone to this broader understanding is to help the general community think more broadly on internet marketing success measures than visits and leads.  Education on inventory engagement (e.g. VDP views, time-on-VDP)  measure has other benefits:

- it gives you a view into the efficacy of ALL your marketing execution, online and offline, where the most common current practice is to view marketing effectiveness through the filter of web form leads - a rare event

- it gives you visibility into whether your on-lot inventory is aligned with future demand

- models are rapidly emerging from Cobalt and others that will allow you to predict WHEN you will sell a vehicle and if you are pricing and merchandizing that vehicle competitively

I think we all agree that education on this measure is of value to the broader dealer community and that this will be a dynamic discussion for some time to come.  I hope we all stay engaged in the debate.

Comment by Tom Gorham on April 2, 2013 at 6:09pm

Shaun, perhaps I was a little harsh in my initial response. I haven't had my red bull today, so I will say this. I truly appreciate the following statement you just made.

"If this is old news to you guys, fair enough. To borrow from “Crossing the Chasm”, you are early adopters (maybe even innovators!), but that does not diminish the value of VDPs to the majority of dealers who may not be as advanced."

I may not like things that are "all the rage" but I am happy to see someone advance ideas that may not be new but still have value and may be new to some. Like Ken, I do not believe that VDPs are the end-all, be-all, but I do think they are an important indicator of performance.

I guess I have to explain first that I don't believe in silver bullets. Perhaps I'm an incrementalist at heart. When something is presented as such, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. You described a valuable idea, but it could perhaps have had a little less "silver bullet" connotations. That's just my opinion.

Comment by Shaun Kehrberg on April 2, 2013 at 4:57pm

Great discussion guys, thanks for the comments...

Ralph – as you mentioned, getting more of the “RIGHT IN-MARKET SHOPPERS to view your VDPs will drive increased volume”. Retargeting ads with live inventory feeds are an ideal way to reach consumers who are already shopping for new and used vehicles on your site. As Pasch mentioned this strategy is used by Amazon and other top retailers, but Cobalt is the only automotive vendor doing this type of advanced retargeting, and we’ve been doing it since 2009.

Tim, I could not have said it better myself...just because you know something to be true, doesn’t mean others do.  And Ken, I agree that VDPs should never be a dealer’s “standalone measurement” to evaluate their marketing efforts....but the fact is; inventory engagement signals consumer focus and intent...or in other words, there is in fact a high correlation between in-market shopper VDPs and Sales.

If this is old news to you guys, fair enough. To borrow from “Crossing the Chasm”, you are early adopters (maybe even innovators!), but that does not diminish the value of VDPs to the majority of dealers who may not be as advanced.

Dynamic inventory retargeting is just one strategy to increase VDP views; SEO & Paid Search, OEM Sites directing to model landing pages, and industry marketplaces (AutoTrader,, etc.) also drive this key metric.

No matter what your marketing strategy is, I could not agree more with the need for smooth process/procedure to properly handle the traffic and sales opportunities you work so hard to get. But total visits will vary based on many factors, some of which a dealer can control, and others they can’t.

The buzz or “rage” around VDPs is really a story our data shows us time and time again – VDP views are the most predictive behavior of sales that we have to measure the effectiveness of ALL advertising.  That’s not to say that others are not predictive too - time on vehicle, H&D views, Inventory Searches, Web Form Lead Volume, Page Views and Total Visits are all key performance indicators (KPIs).

But inventory engagement is a superior measure of marketing effectiveness than web visits or leads.  Information like VDP views and time on VIN can help predict when a dealer will sell a car, help a dealer know which vehicles may be priced too high, and which vehicles to consider running specials on -  enabling them to make smart and informed changes to their merchandising strategies to get more of the “RIGHT IN-MARKET SHOPPERS”.

Comment by Ken Beam on April 2, 2013 at 9:39am

"Just getting more people to view your inventory detail pages

does NOT necessarily mean you will sell more cars" - Ralph Paglia

Yep........ that just about sums everything up.....period.

I don`t know about you Boys & Girls, but I`m not drinkin`this VDP Kool-Aid!

Comment by Brian Pasch on April 2, 2013 at 6:57am

Ralph " Getting more of the RIGHT IN-MARKET SHOPPERS to view your VDP's will drive increased sales volume." this is such a true statement.  That is the unspoken foundation of this research and you will start to see dealership website platform start to integrate proactive tools that can spot cars or trends that might indicate a process or investment is not working properly. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 2, 2013 at 5:24am

Ken, thank you for picking up on my drift in that comment... I would also like to echo your statement about VDP View Metrics driving marketing decisions and go one step further... No individual measurement or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) or performance metric should be considered in isolation of all the other meaningful measurements.

If we were chasing VDP Views by themselves, it would be fairly easy to drive traffic to various VDP pages using Search Engine Advertisements (SEA) and boost the numbers immediately... If this were done at the lowest cost possible and without correct targeting, along with careless disregard for likelihood of being "In Market" the VDP page views would jump, but the sales would not. I am NOT suggesting doing that, I am merely trying to point out the folly of becoming obsessive compulsive around a single measurement.

Heck, you wanna give me $2.50 for each person i get to any of a dealer's VDP pages?

I will break your bank, but you won't sell any more cars! 

Of course, done properly in conjunction with effective targeting, more cars will get sold as your campaign sends in-market shoppers to view more VDP pages... These views will happen immediately prior to the increased sales.  

We all need to get our minds behind the idea that when cars are being sold, more VDP views are being generated... When sales fall, so do the number of people viewing your inventory detail pages inside the dealer's website.  Just getting more people to view your inventory detail pages does NOT necessarily mean you will sell more cars.   Getting more of the RIGHT IN-MARKET SHOPPERS to view your VDP's will drive increased sales volume.

Comment by Ken Beam on April 1, 2013 at 10:15am

Tim all that I am saying is that VDPs should not be a stand alone measurement to evaluate your marketing dollars spent at a dealership. I also agree that the industry is constantly evolving and therefore you need to stay open-minded. After evaluating our processes & marketing dollars, much like the CEO of Autotrader Chip Perry, the Douglas Auto Group has also decided to move on from - We no longer see them as "The Ultimate Automotive Marketplace"

Comment by Tim Elliott on April 1, 2013 at 8:30am
Ken, might assume his level of knowledge is shared by all. It's not. Being a life long learner means I decide to be curious and explore the unknown. But not everyone is wired this way ...just because I know something to be so, doesn't mean others do. I consult Dealers weekly and have to first assess their level of understanding of the changes to our industry. Anyone who speaks publicly must start with the "least of these" regarding understanding of current trends and key issues of todays market. We go to learning events, blogs, industry pubs ....why learn what I don't know and acknowledge that others do. This is what I love about ADM....the willingness of the Learned to share with me "the least of these" what they know and I don't but want to. As to VDP's ....well all I know is when a Dealer gets more they sell more. I have seen this since 2007 when I started to educate myself on the correlation between VDP and sale. Yes, there is much more to it than more VDP....people and process are also key.....but when I see strategy developed around driving more VDP's , the right people and the right process ....I see over and over the same results.....more sales.
Comment by Ken Beam on April 1, 2013 at 7:08am

Ralph Paglia states, "I would also suggest that whenever I see what is pretty much common knowledge, especially with VDP page views, where the data has been available for at least 8 years that I know of, there is often times a marketing pitch to attach such a correlation to a product or service provided by a supplier... Better late than never, but let's all be aware that to say you are just now learning about the relationship between VDP views and sales volume makes you look like Rumpelstiltskin of the Automotive Marketing world"

AMEN RALPH! I couldn`t agree more! This is not Cutting-Edge, Earth-Shakin`, Ground-shakin`, Viagra-takin` info Boys & Girls! It`s old hat!

VDP views is not a metric that a dealership should use to refine or define their overall digital marketing budget as there are way too many variables in regards to the type of inventory and type of customers you are marketing/targeting. My advice.......... tighten up/refine and focus more on your internal internet processes/procedures when that potential client does make contact with your dealership,....... and don`t drink this VDP Kool-aide that`s going around as there are many more important components that should you should be focused on at your dealership.


Comment by Tom Gorham on March 31, 2013 at 6:51am

Ralph, thank you!  I am looking forward to Part II, Dynamic Paid Search Advertising.

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