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From Clicks to Sales: How Auto Leads Move Through the Digital Car Sales Funnel

How Auto Leads Actually Move Through the Online Car Sales Funnel

Having a well-tended digital car sales funnel is increasingly what separates the powerhouse dealerships that are dominating their regions from the dealerships that are just getting by.

Still, plenty of marketing managers are struggling to make their teams see the real-world value of strong online auto marketing.

Don't just describe it to them. To get your whole team on the same page, show them how clicks become sales.

See How Auto Marketing Puts Bodies on the Lot

It's vital to map out your online car sales funnel so that everyone on your staff can talk strategy together.

Take this infographic for example:

The Online Car Sales Funnel, Explained - 9 Clouds Digital Touchpoints

Google, Millard Brown Digital, and Polk identified 24 actions that the average in-market auto shopper takes on their way to a purchase.

Above, you can see the most common path. Of these touchpoints, only five were offline actions, while 19 of the 24 touchpoints were part of the digital car sales funnel.

That means that nearly 80% of the auto buyer's journey is taking place on smartphones, tablets, and computers!

If you've got a GM who's still focused on television or print buys, sit them down with this graphic, and get them up to date.

See What Practices Are Working for Dealers Across North America »

Learn the 4 Main Phases of Online Car Sales

Now, let's break down the roadmap a little further.

Keep in mind that each lead may go through these touchpoints a little differently, swapping the order or skipping some interactions altogether.

That said, here's our best analysis of how the path to purchase can be split into four basic phases. I'll use italics to highlight the offline steps.

1. Market Consideration

In this first stage, the shopper is just starting down the path. They've become aware of the problem(s) that they will eventually solve by purchasing a vehicle.

The shopper hasn't yet decided what to buy or where to go. They're just starting to gather information about all the possibilities.

The market consideration phase includes:

  • Using a search engine
  • Asking family, friends, and coworkers for insight
  • Visiting an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) website
  • Visiting a brand's social media page
  • Viewing photos
  • Seeing an online ad
  • Browsing newspaper ads
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Watching a video ad
  • Searching on mobile

Notice that the digital touchpoints above are based on just seeing online ads and pages. So even if shoppers aren't clicking, the exposure to that information is still pushing them along the digital car sales funnel.

2. Model Consideration

In this second phase, the shopper has decided what's most important to them in a vehicle, and they're now searching with a narrower set of criteria.

Here's where the meat of the research happens.

At this stage, the shopper is more likely to interact with online tools. That means you have a chance to get their email and become the expert who aids their search.

The model consideration phase includes:

  • Using an online loan calculator
  • Building and pricing on an OEM website
  • Seeing a TV ad
  • Searching a tier-two dealer's inventory
  • Reading professional vehicle reviews

3. Dealership Consideration

In the third stage, the shopper has an even better idea of what they are after. They know their price, their brand, and maybe even their trim level.

Now they need to be convinced that you're the store to sell to them. Demonstrate that your dealership is trustworthy and places the needs of your customers first.

The dealership consideration phase includes:

  • Locating dealers from a mobile device
  • Visiting a dealer website
  • Clicking a display ad
  • Requesting a quote online
  • Using model comparison tools
  • Visiting a newspaper's classifieds webpage
  • Reading consumer reviews

Note that this entire phase is happening online. Your leads are forming impressions of your store based on auto marketing — before any salesperson has a chance to engage them.

4. Deal Consideration

At this fourth and final stage, if a shopper has reached out to you, they're ready for the full-court press.

To be competitive in this phase, you can't just convert leads into sales. You need to move a potential buyer through the six steps of digital sales conversion.

The deal consideration phase includes:

  • Filling out a dealership form
  • Visiting a dealership
  • Using a mobile device on the lot
  • Test driving a vehicle

Get the Most Out of Your Digital Car Sales Funnel

Constantly reviewing your analytics for leaks in the funnel, researching new marketing tactics, and plotting comprehensive strategies are the only ways to manage your online car sales funnel.

We explored how dealers across the country manage these requirements in our 2018 State of Automotive Marketing report.

Are you getting everything you can out of your sales and marketing efforts?

DISCOVER THE 2018 AUTO MARKETING TRENDS