Dean Evans

Dean Evans

Last year, after working for an auto broker and in the marketing departments at several major manufacturers, Dean Evans believes he knows the secret to capturing the hearts and minds of Internet shoppers. As the CEO of LotLinx, he is putting his theories to the test. Auto Dealer Today caught up with Evans to learn why he believes vehicle description pages (VDPs) should be at the heart of every dealer’s digital marketing strategy.

ADT: How did you get started in the auto industry?

I’ve been in the automotive business since graduating college. I love our industry. I started with an auto broker and in retail right after college for about half a year. I then went to Chrysler Corp as a field rep and, from there, took positions on both the vendor side and the OEM side of the industry.

ADT: How do those jobs differ, and how are they the same?

Moving between OEM and retail marketing has allowed me to be closer to innovation at the retail marketing level. This knowledge helps me do a better job when in a marketing leadership role at OEMs. A big part of the overall OEM marketing role is understanding how retail marketing works with Tier 1 marketing. 

ADT: What does OEM-generated marketing do for dealers that they (or their agencies) cannot do for them, and vice versa?

Tier 3 drives in-market and “which dealer” types of decisions. Tier 1 drives brand and model awareness. The most successful OEM marketing strategies are now integrating both tiers. It’s important to know which Tier 3 media types help support and integrate with Tier 1 strategies that result in demand generation. In other words, more OEMs today realize it is not just brand awareness they are responsible for, but demand generation in the showroom as well.

ADT: Will Google’s role in driving leads to dealers expand or contract in the years ahead?

Search engines will continue to play a big role in driving leads. But because auto consumers are now more empowered with pricing information than ever before, they search inventory and self-direct themselves right into showrooms. They no longer need a form lead or phone call to get the process started. The average customer today does 84 ZIP/make/model searches before they buy. This is the new lower funnel search engine. Yes, Google can drive vehicle description page (VDP) views and then leads, but it comes at a much higher cost today then from lower funnel shoppers you get from us. In some cases, it costs 80% less.

ADT: What advice would you give to dealers who are reconsidering the format or content of their VDPs? What information are shoppers looking for, and what should be presented first?

It has been all about VDP views for a few years now. We just take it to the next level and specialize in finding ZIP/make/model specific-buyers and matching them to local dealership VDPs. The result is a shopper who is much lower in their sales funnel and at what we call the “FINMot” moment — the final moment of truth. In other words, we help shoppers find the right vehicle at a local dealership at the exact moment they’re ready to pull the trigger and buy the vehicle. Studies from companies like CDK are doing a lot to raise the level of awareness in this area.

The more photos and calls to action VDP pages include, the better they perform. Mobile VDP pages need to be reviewed as well, because some dealers today are approaching 50% mobile traffic. Our own numbers show we deliver 70% of shoppers to mobile VDP pages. The bottom line is this: Be where the buyers are to increase your bottom line. At this point in time, that’s on your VDPs.