If you’re like most dealerships, you use a variety of lead capture methods on your website. A balanced mix of chat, prequalification forms, and offers is a great way to give website visitors different ways to engage and convert.

But there are two problems with the way most sites use lead capture:

  1. Your website captures one type of lead. Which one? Late stage shoppers who are ready to buy. Customers in this phase are more proactive, know what they want, and make an effort to get it. They are likely to convert on an offer for a specific model, or spend 15 minutes filling out multiple fields on a financing application. They may even wait 45 seconds for a chat to respond…Yikes! You know who won’t do these things? Early stage shoppers. Weeks away from buying, they are doing research, getting ideas, and seeking information. But they not going to give you their time, patience, or credit score.
  2. Every website visitor sees the same offer. Sales representatives in your showroom instinctively understand that the couple with young children and the Millennial starting their first job have different needs. They also know after one or two questions whether a customer is ready to buy or needs more time to research. They would probably not give the exact same information to every customer. Your website needs this same adaptability, especially because most people now do research online before coming into the showroom. Shoppers need to have their questions answered, even if it’s first online, or they will turn elsewhere.

In short, most websites do not provide a personalized shopping experience that addresses the needs of each customer. That’s why they lose early stage leads at an average of 97% loss rate.  Think about it– if you convert about 4% of your website, what’s happening to the other 96%?

Now, it might seem counterintuitive to try to engage early stage leads who are not yet ready to buy. But the key here is yet. These leads are tomorrow’s sales looking for a positive shopping experience. If you invest in them now, they will buy with you later. Ignore them now and they will turn to your competition.

Here are some specific benefits early stage lead capture can bring to your dealership:

  1. You become the trusted expert. When you capture early stage leads, you build relationships by starting the conversation early in the buying cycle. If you provide consistent value and a positive shopping experience for customers in research stages, you become the trusted expert and the natural destination for buying.
  2. You accelerate the buying process. People often find car shopping confusing and overwhelming. But, when they have a trusted expert to turn to– ie, your dealership– they can get answers fast. Without extra time and frustration spent searching for answers, they buy faster.
  3. You’ll beat the competition. When you start relationships with early stage customers, you eliminate their need to turn to other dealerships. If they find everything with you, early on, you’ll get the sale, and your competitor won’t.

Ultimately, capturing early stage leads means more customers and more sales for your dealership. Think about it: if you engage people who will be ready to buy next month, next month’s total sales will increase– and this month’s might as well.

So how do you capture these early stage shoppers? Simple. Give them what they want.

Specifically, focus on the following:

  • Not all the popups on your site need to be conversion forms. Instead, some can be engagement forms– content designed to engage early stage shoppers before they are ready to convert, without pressuring them to convert. Shoppers who are very high up the funnel don’t want to give you their phone number. They certainly don’t want to apply for financing. What they do want is information that will help them choose the vehicle that is right for them. Content that explains the newest technological features, compares and contrasts popular models, or provides general tips for car shoppers– this is information that helps early-stage leads learn the things they want to learn.
    They could go elsewhere for that information– OEM sites, third-party vendors, consumer review sites– but they won’t have to if you answer these questions right on your website. Content is about building credibility and trust by offering the valuable information and insight today’s consumers are looking for. The more you present helpful information without asking for anything in return, the more early stage shoppers will turn to you as their trusted expert, and ultimately buy from you.
  • Generalized incentives. Imagine you have just discovered a new store. Maybe you heard about it from a friend, maybe you saw an advertisement, maybe you just happened to wander by in a new neighborhood. Either way, even if you don’t need something specific, if that store window advertises “25% off entire store,” you just might stop in. That doesn’t mean you have to offer 25% off on your dealership inventory to get people to convert on your website. But a holiday sale or a general incentive to come into your showroom could be enough to bring the curious but uncertain buyer into your dealership. An offer on a specific model likely will not.
  • Technology for sophisticated targeting. Once you create content that appeals to early stage leads, make sure the right customers see the right content. Your website should be equipped with the technology to detect and analyze the behavior of visitors– which pages they visit, how much time they spend on each, what links they follow– so it can show the right content and offers to the right people at the right time.

Machine learning allows your website to understand and adapt to the preferences of individual visitors, just like a real-life salesperson would. Is a website visitor demonstrating an interest in safety? Your website can offer content on safety features to look for when choosing a vehicle, or a run-down on the features of a model known for safety. Are they interested in style or efficiency? Your website should be able to address that, just as you would inside your showroom.

The more varied content you have, and the more you use technology to tailor and personalize your website shopping experience, the more your digital showroom can actively move your visitors down the funnel. People who get what they want come back for more. Early stage customers become late stage ones and eventually buyers.

All because you took the time to listen to what they really want.

To read more about boosting sales at your dealership with early lead capture and how to properly follow up with these leads, email Chaya at CDavid@www.digitaldealer.com for their new whitepaper.

Author: Chaya David

As Customer Engagement Manager at AutoLeadStar, Chaya works to increase client satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. With many years of experience in communications, education, and client services, she understands user needs and constantly works to translate that into the best possible digital experience. EMAIL: chaya@autoleadstar.com.

Digital Dealer