How one auto retailer gets people into the store by helping them at home

Today’s consumers live their lives online. With countless research opportunities and sources available at just the tap of a finger, people are more educated than ever before when it comes to deciding which products to buy. But even with all the technology available, there are still certain purchases that have to be completed in person.

1471 Inline 01

For most shoppers, getting the keys to a new car requires a visit to the dealership. But thanks to digital media, the process has changed significantly. On average, new car buyers visit two Dealerships before making a purchase — a big departure from the days when people comparison shopped for cars in a showroom rather than online.1

“By the time a customer gets to us, they’re a lot more educated about the buying process, so we have to adjust the car-buying experience to match.”

So for Park Place, a prominent dealer group in Texas, getting shoppers into stores meant adapting the traditional car-buying journey to meet new consumer needs. “By the time a customer gets to us, they’re a lot more educated about the buying process, so we have to adjust the car-buying experience to match,” said Kennedy Gibson, director of digital marketing for Park Place dealerships.

To reach and effectively engage people before they visit the dealership, Park Place developed a three-pronged approach to create a more assistive online experience and use the right measurement metrics to gauge success. It’s the sort of approach that, with some slight modifications, can work for those outside the auto industry.

Give people the keys even faster

The relationship between dealerships and a potential customer starts long before anyone steps foot in a showroom. It starts online. For Park Place, customers who engage with the dealership’s website buy at a rate 2X higher than those who only use other auto internet sources.

To better engage with people at the start of the car-buying process, Park Place added a tool to its site that allowed customers to complete 80% of the purchase process online. The new Path to Purchase tool takes people through every step of the purchase journey, from selecting a specific vehicle to entering financing and trade-in information. The information is then sent to the dealership, so when people show up at the showroom, they can drive away in their new cars as quickly as possible. Since launching the tool, Park Place has seen a 23% growth in purchases from online car buyers.

Make help just a tap away

Today, 60% of automotive searches come from a mobile device.2 Park Place Lexus realized it needed a seamless mobile experience to satisfy on-the-go shoppers looking for directions, hours, or immediate contact information.

1471 Inline 02

To optimize for mobile shoppers, the team at Park Place redesigned its mobile site so users could place a call to the sales team, schedule service appointments, or get directions with one tap. On average, the team is seeing over 15,000 directions-related visits per month and 12,000 click-to-calls per month.

Measure what matters to the business

Search remains the most commonly used research tool when buying a car.3 To make sure it was getting in front of the right people, Park Place partnered with technology provider CDK Global. Together, the teams decided to bid more for shoppers who had recently conducted a car-related search and were in the market for a new car. They also bid to reach mobile shoppers by applying mobile modifiers across the dealership’s search campaigns.

"One in five people that click on our paid search ads end up visiting one of our dealerships, which just proves to us that we are putting our ads in the right place."

Next, Park Place shifted the way it measured its automotive marketing. For instance, at its Lexus dealership, rather than focusing on lower-funnel metrics, like lead forms, the team set its sights on the metric that truly mattered to their business — visits to the dealership — using Google’s store visits. “With Google store visits we’re now able to see how many people we’re actually impacting that are making it to the dealership,” said Gibson. “One in five people that click on our paid search ads end up visiting one of our dealerships, which just proves to us that we are putting our ads in the right place.”

Other auto dealers — and retailers in other industries — can learn from companies like Park Place. Improving digital touchpoints not only gives shoppers a seamless experience, it can prepare them for visits to showrooms and stores. In other words, adjusting the online experience to be more accessible and useful can drive offline results. And it builds customer relationships that extend beyond the storefront.

Inside the purchase journey of 3 deal-seeking shoppers