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While talking to numerous dealers here in the Ontario market I have seen a trend towards leads that are being generated from the dealership website. Many dealers lament that they feel most online consumers are simply feeding their forms only to quickly access the lowest quotes possible from multiple dealerships. They view these ups as time-wasters, feeling that these consumers rarely show any true intention of doing business with the dealership and therefore aren't worth a response from their sales teams.

Part of this thinking is accurate, many dealers are not responding to website generated leads. On numerous occasions I have mystery shopped dealers around the greater Toronto area and Ontario to find an empty inbox and zero engagement. The dealers I have spoken to are right, they’re not spending time with these leads. I'm not going to let the shoppers off the hook, there are also online consumers out there leveraging the information they get online from dealerships to try to lower deals their working on with other stores.

The point is everyone at the dealership needs to wrap their heads around the fact that the digital showroom is ripe with qualified leads, consumers who have arrived there due to the fact that THEY ARE LOOKING TO PURCHASE A CAR! And they've spent a fair amount of time researching their options by the time they arrive at your site. If they've gone so far to fill out a request form on your site you should deal with it as quickly as you'd walk across the dealership floor to greet them at the front door.

So perhaps it’s time to take a new approach with these leads?

Establish a test period to follow up on all internet based leads. Just as you would measure in store ups against your sales, do the same with the all website leads. Make sure your lead pool also includes all third party sites you’re engaged on (AutoTrader, Kijiji, etc.).

Most importantly look at the online playing field this way:

If your direct competitors handle their internet leads as you normally do (without follow up or replies) you may be in fact be the only dealer that engages these customers in the final stages of their purchase cycle.

Audit your website, make sure every page contains multiple calls to action; all forms are firing properly and arriving to the correct email addresses at the dealership. Everyday there is an opportunity to build a new customer relationship at your dealership, treat your digital ups as equally as you would you’re in store ones. Let me know how your tests play out!

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Tags: actions, car, dealership, digital, engagement, leads, online, purchase, sales, web


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Comment by chatmeter on January 25, 2011 at 6:53pm

"the digital showroom is ripe with qualified leads, consumers who have arrived there due to the fact that THEY ARE LOOKING TO PURCHASE A CAR!" 


Great points Brent, it seems obvious, but it's so true!  It's important never to forget that while the people who make it to your website may be in different stages of the purchase process, whether they are gathering information or comparing prices, they still represent a sales opportunity and you should definitely be pursuing them as potential customers even though sometimes they go elsewhere. 

Comment by Brent Wees on January 25, 2011 at 2:00pm
Oh yeah...but everyday we make a little more progress and try to educate our clients the best we can!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 25, 2011 at 1:57pm

Brent, the "Internet Gap" seems to be alive and well in the Great White North!  :)

Comment by Brent Wees on January 25, 2011 at 1:32pm
Thanks for weighing in Keith, when my dealers discount these leads from their websites as an "annoyance" I almost fall out of my chair!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 25, 2011 at 1:23pm

When the shopper is online he/she is several times further down the sales funnel than ever before in history.  A dealer would set up a website then not engage the customers who fill out forms there??  Ancient thinking, in Internet time that's kind of like the difference between living in huts and driving a buggy on the moon.  Not only should dealers engage the leads, they should have CHAT on their websites. 

I have lived long enough that the same mental attitude gap between people who wanted horses rather than the smelly new automobiles is now showing up between those who don't "get" the Internet and those who DO!  :)

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