In an era where transparency is the cornerstone of any successful digital marketing campaign, the opaque tactics used by car dealers to convert Internet leads into appointments astonish me.
Mystery Shop 100 Dealers
In order to better understand of our industries lead conversion culture, my team and I mystery shopped 100 randomly selected dealerships from across the country and compared the results.
We went to their websites and asked for their “best price” on a vehicle that we selected from their inventory. Our goal was to look at their processes through the lens of their consumers, here’s what we found:
100% of the dealers with managed chat tried to extract our contact info without giving us their best price. This is ironic because the main reason people use chat is to remain anonymous. Instead of respecting our wishes, they deployed a third party that has no more information than we had (the dealers website) to be their first point of contact.
Every managed chat that we engaged used predictable, scripted or manipulative tactics to persuade us to give them our contact info.
“May I have your contact information so I can get back to you if we get disconnected”.
“Can I have your phone number and email address so I can have someone get back to you with our best price.”
Reasonable questions, but the reality is they couldn’t give us the dealers best price and they were only there to get our contact information which is anything but transparent.
If we refused, but kept pressing for their best price we received replies like this:
“Well, the price listed on the vehicle is $32,900.00 which is well below market value.”
We could see the list price; we wanted their “best price”. Telling a customer the advertised price of a vehicle that they’re looking is condescending and a waste of time.
This question was my favourite:
“I don’t have access to that information. Would you like to make an appointment to negotiate with a salesperson?”
Asking someone if they’d like to make an appointment to negotiate with a salesperson is equivalent to a dentist asking a patient seeking a cleaning if they’d like a root canal.
The Benefits Of Managed Chat
I clearly understand the benefits of managed chat. Chats often occur after business hours and many sales consultants claim to be “too busy” or they’re reluctant to engage chats for fear of missing an UP.
For many dealers managed chat is profitable because they do convert a percentage of their leads. But, I can’t help but wonder how many people are turned off by chat and bounce to a competitors website to get the information they need to make a decision.
71% Got Back To Us Within 24 Hours Without Giving Us Their Best Price
While a small percentage responded with in an hour the majority took several hours to reply. 12% responded within 48 hours and 17% didn’t respond.
68% Sent A Computer-Generated Template Without Giving Us Their Best Price
At one point I was a fan of response templates, after all we can’t be available 24/7 and often times salespeople claim to be too busy to provide the immediate gratification that online shoppers expect.
After receiving several of them within a short period of time I changed my mind, as it became obvious that we were receiving automated templates. Most of them were strikingly similar, poorly edited and impersonal.
Dealers need to realize that online shoppers are smart and well informed. Many of them will shotgun requests for information and by the 2nd or 3rd template they receive will know it’s an automated, fill in the blanks response that does nothing to build rapport, establish a relationship or answer their questions.
61% Tried To Set An Appointment Without Giving Us Their Best Price
The days of dealers controlling the information or conversation are gone. Trying to convert a lead into an appointment solely for the benefit of the dealer is one of the fastest ways to lose a customer.
58% asked irrelevant questions without giving us their best price
While I firmly believe that “Selling Is Asking, Not Telling” and clearly understand the power of asking questions, asking them to take control of a conversation is repugnant.
This is an actual excerpt from an email template we received:
“In order to help you make an intelligent decision, I need to ask you some questions:
Will you be paying cash or financing? Do you have a trade? Would you like to make an appointment to test drive the Elantra so you can see if it meets your needs?”
Is this dealer suggesting that people can’t make an “intelligent decision” without the help of a salesperson?
I’m all about consultative selling but couldn’t help but take offense to this. In addition, these types of questions perpetuate the myth that people can get a better price by paying cash and create suspicion of price manipulation if there is a trade.
AutoTrader.com released a study in 2016 that said 71% of people buy the vehicle they select online. If a person knows what they want and you happen to have it, make it easy for them to buy it, no questions asked.
13% gave us their best price, but it took 2 emails and up to 1 hour to get it
Only 13 of the dealers out of 100 gave us their best price. The question is do they have a competitive advantage or are they setting themselves up to get shopped? While I’m certain that some hard-core negotiators will ask a competitor to beat your price, most people would be so frustrated with their online experience that they would gravitate towards the dealer that gave them what they asked for.
1 Rock Star sent us a personalized video giving us their “best price” within 10 minutes
The most engaging, transparent and customer centric response we received came from an Internet Marketing Manager at a Chrysler Dealership. He sent us a video that was imbedded into an email where he gave us his “best price” and an invitation to visit the dealership to test drive the vehicle.
87% of the dealers we contacted would not give us their best price online. Is it any wonder that the national conversion to sale rate is only 2.2%?
The Lead Conversion Secret
Last year Google studied their users online experiences with car dealership and they found that 50% of them were unhappy for the following reasons.
1. Dealer was too slow to respond
2. Dealer was too pushy
3. Dealer did not respond directly to the question
Of the people that were dissatisfied with their online experience Google said:
Google Said People Perceive Internet Inquiries As Conversations
Conversations that must be replied to in “real time”; the same way we get information from search engines. People asking questions online don’t want to provide their contact information in a chat box or on a form and then wait for someone to get back to them.
People no longer plan to allocate X amount of time to conduct a search, they search in micro-moments. Micro-moments are brief searches that can occur anytime, any place and on any device.
To win the micro-moments dealers must be there to answer questions directly in real time. If we don’t we run the risk of being forgotten or crushed by a competitor who is available to serve people in the micro-moment.
Plus, the information the automotive industry provides is fragmented between OEM websites, dealer websites, social media platforms and VDP pages like AutoTrader and CarGurus, each of which provides a different user experience.
Meanwhile people are becoming “channel agnostic”, which means they move from Website to Website and from a device to device and expect seamless continuity.
It appears that most car dealers’ conversion techniques are not aligned with their customers needs.
How To Crush Your Competitors Lead Conversion Process
It’s time to give people the information they want, when they want it. It’s time to deliver intuitive, compelling and seamless experiences that are all about the person doing the search and of equal value on whatever device they’re using.
The Sad State Of The Automotive Industries Lead Conversion Process
I wish I could say we were surprised by the results of our research, but having mystery shopped dealers for the last 5 years the results were typical.
The Bad News
The bad news for dealers that refuse to evolve is that their antiquated, dealer centric lead conversion process is going to relegate them to “also ran’s” as the Internet, consumers and their competitors evolve.
The Good News
Dealerships that look at their sales processes through the lens of their customers and evolve to meet their needs by developing and implementing truly customer centric experiences will crush their competition.