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

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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

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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!

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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.

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