Just a few years ago, car buy­ers ven­tured into dealer lots to have a look at the lat­est mod­els, but more and more con­sumers are start­ing their new car shop­ping online.  Auto­mo­tive mar­keters are chal­lenged with tar­get­ing car buy­ers online, and then com­pelling them to visit their dealer loca­tions for pur­chase.  Now, audi­ence tar­get­ing tech­nol­ogy and sophis­ti­cated online car con­fig­u­ra­tors are begin­ning to opti­mize the pur­chase process for con­sumers and man­u­fac­tur­ers alike.

Adobe Dig­i­tal Index has ana­lyzed 1.1 bil­lion vis­its to auto­mo­tive web­sites, which include 12 of the top 15 auto­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ers, to look at how auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies are pro­gress­ing with con­vert­ing online vis­i­tors into buy­ers at the dealer loca­tions.  As one would expect, some web­sites are doing bet­ter than oth­ers. Those in the top 25% are listed as the “Best of the Best” below.

Mobile traf­fic is on the rise


Almost every car man­u­fac­turer has a tai­lored and mobile-optimized site, demon­strat­ing the auto­mo­tive industry’s com­mit­ment to tar­get­ing mobile traf­fic.  As a result, the auto­mo­tive indus­try is attract­ing more mobile vis­i­tors than all other indus­tries with the excep­tion of retail, travel and hos­pi­tal­ity.  We see a large dif­fer­ence in the abil­ity to attract mobile vis­i­tors between auto­mo­tive web­sites that are mobile-optimized and those that are not.  Non-optimized auto­mo­tive sites receive 11% of their vis­its from smart­phones and 7% of their vis­its from tablets, while mobile-optimized sites receive about 50% more traf­fic from these devices (up 5% and 4% respectively).

More vis­i­tors are stick­ing around, but not for long


While the auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies have been suc­cess­ful in draw­ing vis­i­tors to their web­sites, they have a short win­dow of time to con­vince vis­i­tors to select a car and phys­i­cally visit a dealer. Auto­mo­tive sites are among the low­est in min­utes per visit by indus­try, with only finan­cial ser­vices sites scor­ing lower.  Within auto­mo­tive sites, top per­form­ers tend to have more per­son­al­ized con­tent, lead­ing to greater engage­ment which enables them to keep vis­i­tors a full minute longer than aver­age.  Over­all, how­ever, the num­ber of pages viewed on auto­mo­tive web­sites is among the high­est of all indus­tries, with retail being the only indus­try with more pages viewed.

Get them to a dealer!


The main goal for any auto­mo­tive web­site is to drive web­site vis­i­tors to the dealer loca­tion. More and more con­sumers begin their shop­ping at an auto­mo­tive site’s car builder tool. Vis­i­tors can use the tool to select and design a car, find a dealer, and sched­ule a test drive.

Top per­form­ing auto­mo­tive web­sites engage more than 50% of their vis­i­tors with this tool, as con­sumers vir­tu­ally fil­ter down the cars they want to see. Engag­ing more vis­i­tors to play with a car builder tool is a crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tor for any auto­mo­tive site. The Dig­i­tal Index data shows that sites with more inter­ac­tive and per­son­al­ized tools receive greater than 20% more vis­i­tors than the aver­age auto­mo­tive site.

Dri­ving cus­tomers from the con­fig­u­ra­tion tool to the dealer is another crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tor.  We also see large dif­fer­ences in the suc­cess rate for the use of a dealer loca­tor.  The best auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies are engag­ing 30% more vis­i­tors to locate a vehi­cle and 60% more vis­i­tors to locate a dealer.

The final online event is to sched­ule a test drive.  Top auto­mo­tive sites have almost three times more vis­i­tors sched­ul­ing test dri­ves than the aver­age sites, which can trans­late to con­sumers walk­ing into deal­er­ships who are more qual­i­fied and likely to buy.

What steps do you take when you’re look­ing to buy a car? Do you Build your Car or Request a Test Drive, or are you more influ­enced by offline methods?

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @jbrhanson for addi­tional dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing insights.