CEO of LotLinx Dean Evans explains how his company’s “deeplinking” technology is changing the way dealerships connect with their online leads. BY CAROL WHITE
Digital marketing is one area that leaves a lot of dealers scratching their heads. It evolves at such a dizzying pace that it’s hard to keep up with. The sheer number of vendors selling products and services these days can also add to the confusion.
It’s enough to make you want to – do nothing. “Dealers can get locked into making no decision because they’re so overwhelmed they don’t recognize innovation and a competitive advantage when often it’s right under their nose,” said Dean Evans, CEO of LotLinx, a company whose first-ever “deeplinking” technology has marketing consultants sitting up and taking notice.
“Our average customer moved their inventory 50 percent faster with an average spend level with LotLinx,” said Evans. “That average spend level is about $2,000 per month. What our customers like most though is that the shopper traffic we deliver is mostly showroom traffic, not a form lead or phone call. Ask any dealer and they would rather have showroom traffic over lead volume traffic any day. A showroom lead is easier and faster to convert. Think about it, if the average customer today is only shopping 1.2 to 1.4 dealerships prior to purchase versus four to five dealerships five years ago, you better like showroom traffic close rates!”
Evans came to LotLinx after spending years in both retail and OEM operations, and in a number of online startups including Cobalt, Dealix and Dealer.com. “All of the startups I have been fortunate enough to be a part of have taught me a lot about turning a small business into one with rapid growth.” After being introduced to LotLinx and its role in the future of digital marketing, Evans said he “could not help but to jump onto this next wave of digital marketing evolution.”
According to its website, LotLinx’s founders and leadership hails from some of the industry’s most successful companies including AOL Search, Autobytel, Google, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Subaru and Audi. The company’s platform now powers more than 125 automotive search sites, including AOL Autos and Car and Driver, which reach more than 85 percent of all auto shoppers.
In the not-so-distant-past, 10 to 12 percent of consumers visiting a third-party website would fill out the pop-up lead form in order to gain access to the vehicle they were scoping. Today, that number is less than 1 percent, according to Evans. And with millennials becoming more and more prevalent in the car-buying arena, that number will drop even further. “Millennials have what I call a give-get ratio that’s different from baby boomers,” said Evans, explaining that boomers are more willing to give their personal information in order to get more information about a particular vehicle. Millennials, on the other hand, aren’t buying in – they are much more reluctant to fill out lead forms. Besides, filling out a lead form on a smartphone can be a challenge in itself.
What to do? Evans believes his company has the answer. Deeplinking, he says, makes car shopping easier for the customer and helps dealers connect with consumers faster.
Here’s how it works: When a shopper visits a third-party search site and clicks on a vehicle they like, they are directly deeplinked, through LotLinx, to that dealer’s website and vehicle details page – no annoying form to fill out. And isn’t connecting shoppers with the dealers the whole point in the first place? “We feel the most important action a person can take is clicking through to the VDP,” he said. “These are the low-funnel shoppers who are often at the last part of their buying research. By giving them the information they need upfront, without throwing up an obstacle like a lead form, these shoppers are able to take the next step with that dealer, usually in the form of a dealership visit to buy the car.
“Simple concept, enormous customer experience impact and huge opportunity for a dealer to get access to millions and millions of in-market buyers. It’s a win for the customer and a win for the dealer.”
But won’t this take the shopper off the third-party’s website, you ask. Yes. Is this a problem for those sites? Not according to Evans, who says that that deeplinking actually increases customer engagement and gets customers to circle back because it gives them a better shopping experience on that website. The average customer today does a “zip-make-model” search 84 times before they buy. If they click on a vehicle that’s in a LotLinx dealer’s inventory, they’ll go directly to the VDP. If they click on one that is not in a partnership with LotLinx, they’ll get the popup lead form, which leads to two different customer experiences on the same website.
“What they will do is go back to that third-party site and look at another vehicle. It’s not like they go to the dealer’s website and never come back; they’re going to shop on that third-party site like they had the intention to do.” Getting the shopper the information they need sooner is really the key to moving the metal faster.
So once a customer lands on a dealer’s VDP, it’s important to be sure that page delivers the information the customer wants and incorporates the processes the dealer needs to make a conversion. “There is growing importance on the value of VDP views and the use of quality tactics to get the numbers where you need them to be as a dealer,” said Evans. The use of photos, videos, tracking numbers and chat help drive consumers to the showroom.
Dealers today are faced with the ongoing battle to sell more cars and service for less cost per sale, said Evans. “Digital used to be the low-cost alternative with better quality and targeting capabilities. Most of the choices today have risen in price and/or come down in efficiency and value. Dealers should constantly be looking at all of their channels or media choices and decide the optimal mix for the month, quarter and year.
“We provide the most-targeted and lowest cost digital you can buy today. That helps reduce the overall cost per sale significantly. So if you are have to sell more cars, you know that by just adding LotLinx you will increase your sales numbers and reduce your cost per sale average. On the other hand, if you have to sell the same level of cars but need to take down your cost per sales average, LotLinx is also for you. At $100-200 cost per sale range, you can’t get a better conquest activity, at that price point, today with any other media. Not paid search, not third party leads, not display.”