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The Most Important Attribution KPIs For Auto Dealers

With every year that passes, we’ve seen consumers increase their research and online activity exponentially and it has become increasingly difficult to discover true attribution when analyzing exactly what drove a specific customer into a dealership.


Marketing today mandates an omni-channel approach.

No longer can you simply rely on a website and traditional media. An effective marketing strategy should include such tools as a comprehensive SEO and social media strategy, pay per click ad campaign, presences on third party listing sites, display ads and email marketing, to name just a few.


Because consumers are visiting so many sites in their car-buying journey, I think it would be fair to say that attributing a customer’s visit or transaction to a single source would be misleading. A customer could easily bounce from a manufacturer’s page, to vehicle review sites, to a third party listing site, then go to a dealer’s website, and then perhaps leave there to read reviews on yet another site. Therefore, attributing a conversion to a single page, source or form could lead to erroneous information and budgetary decisions based on that incorrect data – this could then lead to campaigns that are not as effective as they should be.


Some of the most common automotive KPIs currently used include Click Thru Rates; Conversion Percent, Site Visits; VDP views; Dealership address and directions; pricing; and engagement rates on any social media pages. I realize that some dealers may not have the time or resources to track the customer’s entire journey. If this is the case, at least pay attention to the two KPIs that give you real and actionable data:

  1. Lead to Show Ratio
  2. Show to Close Ratio

While these KPIs won’t map out the customer’s journey, what they will do is help you to determine what marketing efforts are producing a return on your investment – and which are not.


A typical beginning of the month has management analyzing marketing sources and measuring their effectiveness by close ratio – i.e.:  We spent this much money and sold this many cars for this much profit. While this typical action may help determine if your marketing is producing revenue, it won’t help to determine whether it could be producing MORE revenue.

If you received 100 leads from prospects touched by all of your marketing and sold 10 cars, you would find that you have a 10 percent closing ratio. Whether this number is good depends on the market density.


But what does it really tell you?

And what happens when you add your show ratio into that equation? By taking that same number of leads and discovering how many of those leads actually came in, you can determine whether your marketing is effective – i.e.: did it do its most fundamental job – did it drive traffic into your store?


You can then use that number to discover the show to close ratio. The first answer (lead-to-show) shows marketing effectiveness. While the second illustrates organizational effectiveness. You may be getting a high volume of customers into your dealership but fail to close them once they are there. OR, there could be a process issue in how leads are being handled.


Take the time to add these KPIs when calculating your lead providers and you’ll be better able to judge their performance and make better budgetary decisions.

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Tags: KPI, PPC, SEO, attribution, automotive, conversion, dealership, digital, marketing, media, More…metrics, sales, social, strategy


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Comment by David Ortiz on July 24, 2015 at 5:18am

One thing to mention is not to look at these KPI's as the end all - be all. 

There are many things that go into Lead/show ratios and Show / Sold ratios. Where we lose sight is when dealers look at the ad source as what will sell them cars and lose track of the people who are managing said leads. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 21, 2015 at 10:11am

@Tim, you have to connect your DMS or CRM or whatever you are using to track sales and connect that with an accountability tool, such as or (works with most automotive-centric service provider solutions and their APIs). This will show the true value of the cost per lead, cost per acquisition, etc. and have the ability to calculate your entire digital marketing ROI. It's not perfect, but I've failed to see a better way.

As for customers quoting, for example, as the means to what brought them into your showroom, well that's the dilemma all dealers go through, most of the time it's a culmination of things, not just one ad they say on, etc. There is a lot more to it than that and we are in the primordial stages of understanding it, in my opinion.

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 21, 2015 at 10:06am

Thanks Michael! Bingo, you hit the nail on the heads. It's rather elementary, if you have the right tools and resources at the helm.

Comment by Michael Bilson on July 20, 2015 at 9:50am

@ Alex..I agree with your post.  Many dealerships will base the value of the 3rd party lead provider only by closing percentage.  When that same lead goes to three dealerships in the same market...the one dealer that makes the sale increases digital spend with that provider while the other two dealers drop that 3rd party provider.  What many dealers miss is the engagement rate and the process of reaching those leads.  The old school methodology of calling a lead immediately ( and three more times that day) and then carpet bombing the customers email with multiple templates that are canned and obviously a computer template simply is not working for todays consumer.

Comment by Tim Rulapaugh on July 20, 2015 at 7:59am

Something I've been battling with is how to track a single channel's overall performance.
For example, a customer comes in and, when asked, say they saw a specific vehicle on a site like  Our sales people and managers then automatically attribute the sale to
The reality, though, is that a single site isn't the absolute be-all, end-all of what sold the vehicle.  Various studies say that a consumer will visit upwards of 20 or more sites during the buying process.
And, let's face it, most customers don't know if they were on,,, or any of the other sites like those.  They either don't pay attention, don't care, or don't know.
Quite honestly, sales people don't know what the different sites are or really even care what brought the customer in.  More often than not, they're just in it for the sale.  And that makes my job on the analytical / marketing end that much more difficult.

I get vendors telling me "Our site sold 20 cars for you last month with a total gross of $40,000, so you can see we're really performing!"  No, you didn't.  You were one of 8 or 10 different marketing channels and 20+ different sites the customer might have visited.  You can't claim that entire gross as attributable just to your site.

The reality has become that multiple sites...or maybe even a traditional what really led the customer to come in.  How do you measure and decipher the influence any of those sites has in the overall decision-making process and attribute any value to them?  Which of those 20+ sites do you attribute the sale to?

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 17, 2015 at 11:25am

Dealerships had better track the entire journey (path analysis to conversion) or they're missing the boat. Whether they do it themselves or use a 3rd party. Accountability and attribution models are needed.

There are plenty of tools that allow dealers to measure general leads (soft = directions and hours views), but fewer that quantify actual customer acquisition or sales, by plucking DMS or CRM data and adding it into the equation (CPL and CPA). These days, it's easy to measure both, from an organic and paid trace. Pull sales data from a DMS and / or CRM, coupling that against 3rd party lead costs, enabling a clear measurement of Cost Per Lead, Cost Per Acquisition. 

Accountability through tools like or (works with most automotive-centric service provider solutions and their APIs). Having provider dealers with loads of quality leads over the years, I can tell which 3rd party lead provider does their job better (against the target demographic) and which dealers have a clue, etc. just by analyzing their ROI.

There really is no such thing as a bad lead, in my book. It's the failure to process the lead, the failure to understand and engage the potential buyer that's the problem at the showroom an BDC level. I feel as if artificial intelligence could help a BDC with engagement and closing ratios, such as

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