Online Vehicle Shoppers and Albert Einstein

October 7, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how and why vehicle buyers use the Internet to shop for and ultimately purchase vehicles.

In recent months, has published dealership survey data that shows 80 percent of online vehicle shoppers don’t call or e-mail a dealership after they’ve scouted units online—they just show up at your door (armed, of course, with their own findings on what constitutes a good deal).

Likewise, data shows that third-party and dealership sites are used far more often than search engines as online shoppers research and vet vehicles online (see Figure 4, at right). (Click on table to enlarge, use “back” button to return to article.)

Which brings me to Albert Einstein’s compelling quote: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

Think about it. We’ve all been told “everything is measurable online,” but we still don’t have a fully concrete view of how and why online shoppers travel back and forth between dealership and third-party sites.  Equally important is what the precise role search engines, and related search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts play in feeding the various online channels for vehicle shoppers and buyers and contributing to the ultimate goal, more sales.

Which leads me to a question: If a used vehicle buyer arrives at a dealership site after viewing a host of competing vehicles on, or a similar classified listing site, is this prospect of the same, equal or greater value than a shopper who enters a keyword, clicks a sponsored link or organic listing and ends up at dealership’s site?

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts and comments.