Managing by the numbers is nothing new to auto dealers. They have been analyzing data since long before the Internet revolutionized the industry, and because technology allows dealers to easily track Web analytics, they have even more numbers to manage by. In fact, there’s so much data available to dealers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So which analytics are the most important? Dave Winslow, the intelligence chief at, shared the top five Web analytics dealers should monitor.

5. Mobile Traffic
As smart phones and tablet computers continue to take the country by storm, mobile traffic on dealership websites continues to rise, which is why it landed at number five in Winslow’s list. He said, “We’ve seen mobile traffic grow exponentially this year.” He suggested all dealers monitor this data, stating they should begin paying even closer attention once mobile accounts for more than 10 percent of total traffic. “We’ve got mobile reporting at – Google Analytics has some robust mobile reporting as well – to show what devices [mobile visitors] are coming from and how they’re engaging.”

Dave Winslow"I think for dealers, the thing is not to get overwhelmed. Set up a checklist and say, 'Once a week, I'll look at these five metrics.' ... Data can be fun too."

- Dave Winslow
                                     Intelligence Chief

Furthering his point, a recent Nielsen survey of mobile users reported that 43 percent of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own smart phones. Among mobile users ages 25 to 43, a whopping 62 percent own smart phones. While smart phone penetration among people 55 to 64 is only currently at 30 percent, that age group saw a 5-percent jump from the second quarter of 2011 to the third quarter. Nelison reported it was “the second fastest-growing smartphone penetration rate” after younger adults.

Winslow pointed out that when mobile visitors use devices like iPhones and Androids, they spend only a minute or two on the dealership’s site, but when using a tablet like an iPad, they’ll spend five to six minutes on the site. On smaller mobile devices, customers are “looking for quick information, usually directions, hours of operation, maybe a piece of inventory or two,” he said, but when they’re on a tablet, they’re “actually shopping.” He stated, “I think it’s really important for dealers to … get a better understanding of how people are engaging.”

Monitoring mobile traffic can be done on a monthly basis, as it doesn’t typically shift much in a short amount of time. He said dealers seeing more than 15 percent of total traffic coming from mobile are at the high end of the spectrum, and he expects that to continue to increase. So, dealers who aren’t optimized for mobile visitors yet should take note. “It’s a different medium, and I think it’s really important that dealers understand that,” Winslow explained, “[Consumers] want something that’s optimized for those different devices.”

4. Referral Traffic
Landing at number four on the top five analytics to monitor is referral traffic, which is website traffic that landed on your site by clicking on a link elsewhere. Winslow said this data is important because it helps dealers determine the effectiveness of paid digital marketing, as well as how much free referral traffic they receive. Tracking referrals can also alert dealers to new traffic sources, as well as waning ones. This data, he said, changes much more quickly and should be reviewed at least once a week.

Facebook is one source of referral traffic that’s growing for dealers, said Winslow. Currently, the percentage of referral traffic a dealership website receives from Facebook is “less than five percent typically, but … the quality of the traffic is very high,” he said. Plus, it’s growing. “It’s doubled this year … The way Facebook is growing and increasing user engagement, I wouldn’t be surprised if it accelerated [more].”
Another important referral source to pay attention to is manufacturer traffic. “I think manufacturers are doing a much better job of putting dealer locators first and foremost within their websites … The bond between a dealer and a manufacturer is only going to grow stronger through digital technologies,” said Winslow, who added that manufacturer site referrals should be a top referral source that delivers visitors who spend a decent amount of time on the dealership’s site and convert well. If dealers notice a “decline in traffic from their manufacturer’s site, they need to reach out and find out why.”

When dealers dig into referral data, Winslow thinks they’ll “be pretty excited to see the amount of different sources of traffic they get.”
3. Return Visitor Count
How many visitors do you have coming back to your website? Winslow says this is important because a vehicle purchase is a large purchase. “When looking at a car, thinking about a purchase or lease, they’re probably going to visit your site three or four times before they actually take action. They might research the dealership and the inventory available.”

While the benchmark for return visitors varies based on the types of vehicles the dealership sells, a good ratio of return visitors to new visitors is 50-50. “If you were 50-50, it would be amazing … even if it goes up to 70 [percent new visitors], that’s not too bad.”

Stats on returning visitors can be checked on a monthly or weekly basis, said Winslow, and the key is balance. Dealers need a good portion of new visitors who are in the earlier stages of the buying process, as well as a number of return visitors closer to purchasing, so that the buyer pipeline is well-proportioned. “Once you get up to 80 to 90 percent [new traffic], that becomes a lot more difficult because if 90 percent of your traffic is new, you really don’t have people coming back that second and third time; they’re not engaged as much.”

For dealers experiencing a high percentage of new visitors, Winslow suggested they consider implementing retention tactics, like trying to get site visitors to sign up for an email newsletter or connect with the dealership via social media. “The biggest opportunity to keep people returning is through social media channels. If a consumer ends up on a dealer website, one of the best things a dealer can do is get them [to follow the dealership] on Twitter or get them to like their Facebook page.”

2. Bounce Rate
The number-two metric dealers should monitor is bounce rate, which is “the percentage of single-page visits (i.e., visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page),” according to Google. In Google’s July 2011 Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter, the average bounce rate from Nov. 1, 2010 to Feb. 1, 2011 was 47 percent. Granted, that average includes much more than dealership websites. However, Winslow suggested dealers shoot for a bounce rate lower than 50 percent.

A high bounce rate, he said, “indicates your website is not doing well.” He added, “We always try to look at a 30-percent bounce rate as acceptable, so 70 percent of your traffic is actively engaged.” Two possible reasons for a high bounce rate: the landing page isn’t relevant or the site doesn’t properly engage visitors.

Dealers should review bounce rates weekly and after any changes made to the website or digital marketing. “Bounce rates typically don’t move that much unless you redesign a portion of your website, launch a new website, or launch a new marketing campaign,” said Winslow.

1. Conversion Rate
The top Web analytic to monitor is conversion rate, which is a measure of website traffic that results in leads. “It’s really an indicator of not only how people are engaging on your website or mobile experience, but whether they’re taking action or not,” Winslow said.

Dealers can convert traffic via phone calls, emails, price quote submissions, online credit applications, service appointment schedulers, and much more. “We see upwards of eight times the amount of phone calls to actual lead forms on a website, and that’s especially true on mobile.” He believes this is due in part to Google pushing click-to-call technology on mobile devices.

To increase conversion, dealers should help customers along a path that encourages them to convert to a lead. For example, if a dealer’s goal is to get a credit application, as a customer drills down into the dealer’s online inventory, the website should prompt the customer to complete a credit application once on a vehicle details page, if not before. “I think that it’s important for the dealer to have good funnels for each [lead conversion point] and not let one overpower the other. If the dealer’s more focused on sales versus service or finance, they might want to emphasize that a little bit more, but I think they have to pay attention to all the different conversion points.”

Another way to increase conversion, Winslow suggested, is to collect minimal data. “Dealers by nature, like most businesses, are going to want to collect as much information up front [as possible], but … the goal is actually to collect less information and … get that additional information later.” If a person is looking at a car, the dealership really only needs the person’s name and email, and maybe a phone number.

Conversion rate is something that should be monitored on a weekly basis. “If there’s nothing really happening, you shouldn’t see too many variances,” said Winslow. “Now, if they launch a new website, a new section of the website or a new marketing campaign, I’d recommend daily [monitoring].” When dealers invest money in new marketing campaigns, they need to measure conversion to help determine the quality of traffic driven by the campaign as well as the ROI.

“Some applications, like Google Analytics, have the ability to set up alerts.” He said dealers can be alerted if conversion rates increase or decrease by a certain percentage. “That way they don’t have to go proactively check it as frequently.” dealers have digital advisors monitoring such data, so they can be alerted if conversion rates fluctuate. While a benchmark is tough to pin down, Winslow said some dealers reach up to and beyond 15-percent conversion rates.

Don’t Get Lost in Data
In addition to the top five listed here, there are several other statistics to dig into, but “don’t get too hung up in hours upon hours of looking at all this data,” Winslow said. “I think for dealers, the thing is to not get overwhelmed.” He suggested dealers set up a checklist of which analytics to look at and how often, and use tools to simplify it. “There are a lot of ways to set up reporting, so they don’t have to make a lot of clicks to get the information they need.”

As data continues to evolve, dealers already engaged in analyzing it will stay ahead of the curve, and changes are coming. “One of the things that you’re going to see from in 2012 and beyond is trying to tie in offline analytics more … A lot of digital marketing isn’t just going to lead to online conversions.” People can go to a website, never actually interact with the dealership online, show up on the lot and buy a car. “None of the digital marketing would get credit, even though it’s what drove the person to the lot.” Once dealers can merge data between digital marketing campaigns and lot traffic, they’ll be able to analyze their data even more thoroughly. “Data can be fun too,” added Winslow.

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Vol. 8, Issue 12