There’s recently been a lot of conversation going on about the almighty VDP view. Upon reading this, I’m sure many of you will say, “Well that’s obvious. Why devote a blog post to it?” Well, during my 17 years in the automotive business (15 of which were as the Director of Business Development at AutoNation), I’ve seen many claims and sales pitches that take a kernel of truth and attempt to twist it into something that has no basis in fact. This “extrapolation” becomes the next “better mouse trap” that is going to lead you to the Promised Land, helping you clobber your competition and sell more cars.
Seems that the latest fad is the VDP view. You keep hearing that the VDP view is the most important metric you can drive because your Google Analytics reports show you that the more VDP views you get, the more cars you sell. This is the kernel of truth. As “natural” traffic flows through your website, and as customers self-select into looking at VDPs, they’ve moved themselves down the funnel to a “ready-to-buy” stage. It makes sense. Why on earth would anybody drill down to a VDP if they weren’t in the serious consideration stage?
Now for the twisted kernel of truth: If past data tells me that VDP views are indicative of selling cars, then all I need to do to sell more cars is to get more VDP views. It’s magic! Along come vendors of many sizes and flavors all promising to deliver you more VDP views. Here’s where it all falls apart: Not all VDP views are created equal. The source of the traffic and the “in-marketness” (I made up a new word!) of that traffic are more important than what pages the traffic look at on your web site. Simply put, if you have crappy traffic – consisting of un-qualified prospects coming from crappy web sites – land on your VDPs, this will only do one thing: Increase your VDP views. But, will it sell any more cars?
This is like Groundhog Day. Back in the early 2000’s, there were a few quality third-party web sites generating highly-qualified leads. When you got leads, you sold cars. Then, the worm turned. Everybody assumed more leads meant more sales. As we all quickly learned, the quality of the lead counted a lot more towards whether you sold more cars or not. You had to understand all the factors involved in how that lead was created, including the lead’s level of interest in buying, how many times the lead was sold and how many “similar vehicle” leads were generated.
At the end of the day, high-quality traffic still rules. Not all providers that promise VDP traffic are bad. Many SEM companies, such as Showroom Logic, use sophisticated technology and years of experience to identify quality traffic and drive it to your VDP. My advice: Measure results and hold your vendors accountable. You need to track leads from each VDP as well as how many sales were generated. Ideally, you would track specific traffic sources based one or more URL identifiers. A URL identifier is a specific piece of information that helps you track the traffic source of each lead. You can then find out how many sales came from the lead source and ultimately tie this back to what you paid for that traffic to find out if your cost-per-sale is worth it. Most website vendors and CRM vendors can easily pass these types of identifiers to your dealership’s CRM.
If your CRM and website vendors cannot do this, then at the very least, measure your conversion rates of VDPs to leads. Then, track the close rates on your dealership website leads. If you are getting crappy traffic, you will see a decrease in the conversion rate, the ratio of VDPs to Leads, as well as a decrease in the close rate on your dealership website leads.
You probably don’t want to waste time testing every vendor out there that drives VDP views. Transparency and measurable performance are the attributes in a vendor that should guide your decision on who to partner with. If the vendor says they can’t tell you where the traffic is coming from, that is a huge red flag. Sadly, this is happening again. We’re hearing more and more that dealers are entering into partnerships knowing full well they will have limited insight into how traffic is sent to their VDPs. Remember the wild-west days of third-party lead providers who could not or would not divulge where the leads were coming from? Groundhog Day!
To tie this all up with a bow, there is no magic bullet. There are not hordes of in-market online car shoppers that are untapped. The path to more sales is more quality traffic, along with all of the other operational factors that go into selling cars effectively. Quality traffic comes from vendors that have worked hard to either create a destination site or who work with your brand to attract in-market buyers through proven digital marketing strategies.