Optimizing Your Website for Top-of-Funnel Buyers

Helping the Undecided Become Decided

By: Russ Chandler

If you’re like most dealerships, you likely focus a lot of your marketing and sales efforts towards the bottom of the purchasing funnel — basically when a customer already has an idea of what they want and they’re ready to make a purchase. It makes perfect sense, after all. The moment a dealer spots a buyer who simply doesn’t know where to spend their money, they need to strike while the iron is HOT. 

Still, what about the other buyers? The buyers who are interested in purchasing (eventually), but are still looking for the perfect vehicle that best suits their needs? And what about the buyer who kinda has an idea of what they want, but they’re looking for cheaper options?

Even though it’s wise to go after buyers who are ready to purchase, dealerships have a wonderful opportunity to personally move buyers down the purchasing funnel (from top to bottom). Obviously, your sales folks have an assortment of sales tactics up their sleeve when going after “top of funnel” buyers — but what about your website? Can it efficiently cater to buyers in the research phase? If it can’t, that’s perfectly okay.

Helping Potential Buyers Look

Lots of dealership websites are set up with the primary goal of getting “already decided buyers” to schedule a test drive, apply for a loan and/or get a trade-appraisal and make a purchase. “Top of funnel” buyers do often use those tools; but they might not use them until they’ve decided on what they want. 

Let me state, once again, that the concept of going after the “bottom of funnel” buyer is perfectly okay. But let’s put it this way… if your dealership’s website is constructed to be a valuable resource for buyers who are still researching, do you think they’re going to go to very many more places? Maybe… but it isn’t likely. And if they do, I can almost guarantee that the tools and resources they see on your website will continue to be top-of-mind. 

Here are some great ways you can make optimize your website to make it more engaging for buyers who are in the discover/research phases of their purchase journey:

Create Engaging Interactive Content

There’s really no question that I’m a huge advocate for interactive content — especially in regards to lead capture. I talk about it and write about it all the time. Along with being beneficial for buyer lead capture (for folks at the bottom of the purchasing funnel), interactive content can be particularly advantageous for folks just starting their search. 

When it comes to creating interactive content, the only limitation (besides actually developing it, of course), is your creativity. Because prospective buyers are seeking out all the information they can possible get, there’s also no limit to the number of engaging resources your dealership could provide. 

Often times, at the very beginning of the research phase, buyers are trying to figure out a few things: the type of vehicle they want, the brand they want, the type of financing they might require and whether they should buy new or used. Heck, sometimes they’re asking themselves “Do I even need a new car?”

At this stage, it isn’t very likely that they’re thinking of filling out a credit application or even discussing the trade-in value of their vehicle. When I say “early researchers,” I mean SUPER early. That said, what types of interactive resources would benefit car buyers in this early of a stage?

The best types of resources you can provide are the ones where you can answer buyer questions before they’re even asked. When coming up with ideas for interactive content, that should be top-of-mind. As I just mentioned, many early stage buyers are often curious to know what type of vehicle suits their particular needs. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of buyers who really don’t know what type of vehicle they should buy.

An online evaluation would be a great way to engage with early stage consumers, as their curiosity would essentially lead them further down the purchasing funnel. For example: a indecisive buyer might actually narrow down their options by taking a “What vehicle is right for my family?” evaluation where they answer questions about their shopping preferences in order to receive a valuable answer.

Knowledge quizzes can also be helpful, as your dealership would have the opportunity to rectify any misconceptions or misinformation buyers have of the dealership. One of the questions in the quiz could be “How many free oil changes have we done in the past year?” Regardless of the answer chosen, it’s a way to provide information to the buyer (indicating that it is a service you DO offer), and brag about yourself. 

Behavioral Based CTAs – Helping those in the Discovery Paths

Quizzes and evaluations are great for helping top-of-funnel buyers figure out what they want, but sometimes those buyers just need a push in the right direction. Some buyers benefit more from exploring your website and sifting through your dealership’s inventory, then having an answer “calculated for them.” Each consumer is different. Heck, some consumers might prefer to have both. Either way, for the buyers who like to explore, you can pretty easily integrate behavioral based CTAs onto your website. 

For those who are unfamiliar, behavioral based CTAs are banner ads that display personalized offers and information based on the actions of the visitor. Initially developed as a way to consolidate Calls-to-Action (many dealerships still have an overwhelming number of CTAs on their pages), it can be a great way to push top-of-funnel buyers further down the purchasing funnel.

Let’s say you have a buyer who’s more inclined to freely explore your website than take a quiz or assessment and be spoon-fed an answer: As they explore different sections, your website will collect that data, logically determine the next best step, and display a banner ad that points them to information that would best suit their interests. 

Here’s an example scenario: You’ve got an early stage buyer who doesn’t know what they want, but they’ve been told lots of good stuff about your dealership — and obviously, that’s why they’re on your website. On the initial landing page, a general banner ad might be displayed since no data has been collected yet. It might be relevant, and it might NOT be relevant.

Regardless, the buyer is off to explore some of the inventory. As they continue to peruse the website (let’s say they’re looking at hybrid sedans), any other banner ads they’re served from here on out will be completely relevant to their previous activity. One of the banner ads might encourage the buyer to “test drive a hybrid sedan,” or “take a peek at our used hybrids.” Whatever the ad is, it pushes them to more of what they’re looking for, and the buyer can make better decisions. 

Conversions Shouldn’t be Your Top Priority

While you’re coming up with ways to make your site more engaging for top-of-funnel buyers, keep in mind that conversions shouldn’t be your TOP priority. I mean, conversion should BE a priority later on down the funnel, but at this stage, the goal of your content should be to inform and help with the decision making process. Whether you integrate a cool evaluation or quiz onto your website or integrate behavioral based CTAs (or both), the point is to be a resource for buyers who are unsure of the next steps they want to take.

Many dealers will argue that buyers who are ready to purchase immediately are the most important folks to go after — but when you think about all the steps it takes to get to that point, you realize all the missed opportunities that could have been in your hands to mold.

It might take a little longer to mold a buyer into a paying customer, but when you finally do convert them, you’ll reap other benefits as well. Those customers will likely appreciate that your dealership took the time to provide helpful resources that helped initiate the decision making process. Those are the customers who are likely to come back, and the ones who are likely to refer others to your dealership.

In short, never underestimate just how much power your website actually possesses. It’s capable of a lot!