Think of the last time you made a significant purchase. You probably didn’t go directly to the manufacturer’s website and immediately buy the product. Chances are, your decision took time and was influenced by countless sources along the way. You may have seen a video pre-roll or remarketing ad, received a marketing email from the company or seen a social media post about the product. And then, finally, you typed the company’s name into a search engine.

If that company’s digital marketing measurement practices are like many auto dealers’, they only counted that last click that brought you to their site. According to research recently published by Google, car buyers in particular are influenced by an average of 21 different touchpoints throughout their shopping journey. That means that, if you are only counting each customer’s last click, you could be missing out on a number of opportunities to engage and convert them.

Think of it this way: There is a human being behind each and every engagement touchpoint. How can you entice them to move through the funnel?

Clicks vs. Leads

Missed chances to reach customers aren’t the only consequence of focusing a disproportionate amount of attention on the last click. Even worse, you may also be misallocating your digital marketing spend. What you’re really looking for are actual leads.

As many digital marketers have observed, there’s a shift in our industry that places greater emphasis on putting the customer experience before anything else. To get the greatest return on investment, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. As you know from your own shopping experiences, your customers are more than their last click. Gaining a better understanding of the variety of channels that influence their purchase decision enables you to provide them with a richer online experience that results in better leads.

Here are three changes you can make in time for the New Year:

1. Don’t discount valuable channels: One of the biggest challenges in any digital marketing campaign is to capture the true impact of display and social. According to a recent eMarketer report, the influence of video on mobile devices is large and growing, with more than 105 million U.S. smartphone users watching video at least once a month.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of advertising interaction occurs without trackable online metrics. For example, most users watch a video and never click. But that doesn’t mean ads don’t have influence: users who don’t respond to online ads in any measurable way frequently show up at dealerships to buy cars. The lack of metrics leads many dealers to direct funds away from channels that could prove valuable in reaching consumers.

2. Create more engaging content: Once you have identified the channels that are most valuable to your customers, it’s critical to create relevant, engaging content that delivers an immersive experience — especially on mobile.

A strong mobile-first content strategy must consider how content will live in every ecosystem that contributes to a user’s buying decision, which means content marketing, paid marketing and earned marketing all drive toward the same mobile-optimized sources. As car buyers increasingly carry out key shopping steps on their mobile devices, we must create relevant, personalized content for all the channels in which they seek out product information.

3. Build in multichannel attribution: Today, dealers are developing digital marketing strategies that examine the full range of influences that generate leads. Most digital marketing services providers have the ability to match sales, but they fall short by failing to pair matchback with true attribution.

While it’s useful to determine whether your ads are hitting the right targets by matching online ad views to registration records, measuring lift over control is critical to gaining a clear picture of the effectiveness of your ads.

Buy-through rate (BTR) measures sales activity of the audience exposed to the campaign by comparing the exposed audience to two benchmark groups — randomly selected users and in-market users — who did not see ads. By discovering the rate at which these groups purchase vehicles, you can more accurately determine exactly how ads are influencing sales.

It’s critical for dealers to push the boundaries of digital marketing. Be bold and combine strategies such as responsive Web design, compelling content and multichannel attribution into a holistic approach. By gaining a better understanding of the many influences that affect a customer’s purchase decision, our partners have created ads that are more compelling and effective, and our dealers are seeing the results — and so can you. But you have to focus on generating leads, not just clicks.

Troy Smith is president of Search Optics, a leading digital marketing provider. [email protected]