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Click-to-Call: 5 Surprising Insights About the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry is no stranger to click-to-call advertising, where there is an estimated $4 billion spend on Google call extensions. And with the automotive industry expected to spend $44 billion in advertising this year, according to a Schonfeld & Associates report cited by Ad Age, it is vitally important that this money be put to good use.

With 48 percent of all searches for car dealers coming from mobile devices, this industry understands the value of tying online behavior to offline actions. Data from Google show that 60 percent of consumers who perform mobile searches regarding parts, service or cars will make a phone call. However, the vast majority of purchases are not made online or on the phone, but in the store, face to face. There is a huge opportunity for automotive service providers and dealerships to optimize every step of the customer journey — from the initial search all the way through walking into the store and finalizing the sale. Knowing when and where to make a few small changes will end up saving you money on ad spend and making you more money on the sales side.

The Marchex Institute, a team of marketing analysts and data scientists who study online-to-offline attribution, examined hundreds of thousands of phone calls from mobile devices to both automotive service shops and dealerships to reveal the following surprising stats:

1. Ten to 20 percent of your search spend is wasted due to unanswered phone calls, according to our research.

We’ve all been there. You pull out your mobile, do a quick search, find exactly what you want, click the call button and wait. And wait. And wait. Nobody answers. You get frustrated, hang up and call the next business in search results. How often does this happen? More than 20 percent of all phone calls to auto dealer sales departments go unanswered, disconnect while on hold or hang up when transferred; and more than 10 percent of all calls to service or repair shops go unanswered.

From the industry perspective, this interaction is just as frustrating, especially taking into account the billions that have been spent in an effort to get the audience to connect. They’ve hired someone to place their mobile search ads, they’ve optimized their keywords and bids to find and reach the best audience, and their ad is effective enough to have achieved the desired goal of getting the prospect to place a phone call. To lose such a prospect is a double punch to financials. You’ve lost the ad spend and the potential sale.

The silver lining: By knowing when these failures occur, and which shops or dealers do the best job, you can optimize every aspect of the customer journey to make each transaction a smooth one.

2. Know your inventory. Consumers are generally calling about specific makes and models.

It pays to be in the know. Having an encyclopedic knowledge of your inventory isn’t a necessity, but it certainly helps. Callers coming from a mobile search have been doing their research. They know what they want and what they don’t want, and when they get your business on the phone, they want to get down to brass tacks. By having the details at your fingertips when the phone rings, your staff will have a better opportunity to answer questions efficiently and present upsells or alternate options. Knowledge is power; level the playing field by having just as much knowledge on your end as the folks calling you have on theirs.

3. Which demographic uses click-to-call? Millennials!

If you’ve been investing all of your digital efforts into the online buying experience to attract a younger demographic, consider shifting some of your thinking to offline interactions. Compared to the general population, consumers who call directly from mobile search ads are younger. In fact, Millennials are most likely to use the click-to-call feature, and 47 percent of all callers are under 44 years old, according to our research. Millennials, and their younger siblings, Generation Z, will make phone calls on nearly every make and model in 2016.

4. There is a big training opportunity for your service department. Our research shows that in more than 60% of phone calls, an appointment is never tried!

By looking at the data, it’s easy to understand why an automotive business might shy away from dedicating more resources to phone calls. There exists a completely reasonable assumption that because callers statistically aren’t making appointments at the dealership, little effort should be made to set appointments for the dealership. However, two out of every three sales prospect/new business calls had no appointment attempt, and when an attempt was made, reps were successful in setting that appointment one in three times.

This is a huge opportunity to break out of the mold and adopt new techniques that will allow the sales team to be proactive in engaging prospects on the phone, to gain a greater understanding for what the caller is looking for, and ultimately, to set up a time for them to come into the showroom. There also is an industry push to create Business Development Centers, or BDCs, which take all inbound calls and make all outbound appointment confirmation calls. This movement towards BDCs is a positive step to address appointment setting issues.

5. Understanding the online-to-offline purchase journey can transform the ROI of your digital advertising program

When you dive into the data from your click-to-call programs to improve your end-to-end experience, you can achieve a significant lift in business. You can improve keyword optimization, landing page and website functionality and how your representatives behave on the phone. Every step of this process is an opportunity to gain a new customer or lose them, and you want everything firing correctly to take advantage of the opportunity.

For brands that the Marchex Institute has examined, media efficiency can improve by more than 30 percent through effective measurement and attribution programs. This is relevant for both sales and service campaigns. Analysis of your data is a powerful tool, and you owe it to yourself and your business to utilize it.

What can you expect from getting great at both media analytics and sales analytics? The Marchex Institute expects that there is a much as $100,000 per month for leading auto manufacturers in upside by improving the online-to-offline consumer journey. Having a perfectly tailored strategy to the needs of your business will allow you to capitalize on all of those previously missed opportunities.


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