The Biggest Black Hole in the Dealership

March 31, 2009

Ask any dealership manager how many cars they have delivered, gross profit made, customer satisfaction ranking and they will most certainly have an immediate answer. Well managed dealerships can usually also cite key indicators of results such as how many ups, phone calls, internet leads, etc. There are, however a couple of metrics that virtually no dealership manager can cite off the cuff, and yet, they are some of the most important predictive indicators of all in determining the dealership’s success.

Take the test yourself by attempting to answer the following 4 questions

• As of this day in the month, how many page views has your dealership received on the primary third-party website that you use?
• As of this day in the month, how many detailed page views has your dealership experienced? (At this point would you like to have a lifeline, no such luck)
• What’s your ratio percentage month-to-date of detailed page views (DPV)?
• Do you even know what ratio is to be expected as the norm?

If you don’t know, don’t feel too bad you are not alone. But, it is time that you know because these metrics are completely predictive of your dealership’s sales success.

It might surprise you to learn that two dealerships of the same brand, in the same market, within miles of each other, and advertising on the same third-party website have dramatically different results, measured by page views and DPV. For example, as of the 20th of the month, Dealership A may have 140,000 page views with 3,500 DPV, a conversion rate of 2.5%. Dealership B on the same day of the month may have only 83,000 page views with 6,557 detailed pages views, a DPV conversion rate of 7.9%. Can you tell which dealership is having better results? Can you cite the reasons why one dealership has so many more page views but many fewer detailed page views? Do you know what factors under your control influence the number of page views and detailed page views that your inventory receives?

Some of the factors that drive these numbers may include:

• The number of vehicles in your present inventory and the percent that appear online on any given day
• The types of vehicles, i.e. year, make, model and equipment
• The number of vehicles online without prices
• The number of vehicles online with prices that are not current or not competitive
• The number of vehicles online without odometer readings
• The number of vehicles online that don’t have photos
• The number of vehicles online with multiple photos and/or video
• The number of vehicles online with standard data-dump equipment and descriptions, i.e. power steering, power brake, etc.
• The number of vehicles online with compelling, rich and interesting descriptions
• Whether your dealership takes advantage of space to provide limited comments on the search page
• Whether your dealership uses spotlight ads
• And many, many more

Management of these and other relevant factors are drivers of the key metrics I reviewed at the beginning. They are every bit as much about merchandising vehicles online as arranging your physical lot and being sure that the vehicles are lined up straight and clean. Let’s be clear, this is vehicle merchandising 101 in the 21st century, stop thinking about it as digital marketing. The metrics of page views and DPV deserve every bit as much recognition as how many people walked into your dealership or called by phone. Take a new look at your rep from the companies that manage and/or display your vehicles online. They hold the answers as to what you need to do to drive more page views and DPV. When your number of page views and DPV goes into a slump, investigate the situation with every bit as much intensity as you would when you’re closing ratio unexpectedly drops.

I would like to start a crusade of knowledge. Knowledge about page views and DPV. I propose that we create a standard of measuring page views and DPV as a percentage of the number of vehicles in inventory. For example, if you have 1,000 page views in a day with 50 vehicles on-line that equates to 20 page views per vehicle or 20 PVPV. This normalization will allow every dealer in the country to compare their page views on an equal basis without regard to the advantage held by those dealers with a larger number of vehicles. The detail page view remains the straight percentage as it doesn’t matter how many vehicles are involved. I would like to enlist the support of every progressive manager and third-party solution provider concerned with helping dealers improve their vehicle sales. Please let me know your thoughts and whether you’re on board with the crusade.