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Saturday, July 28, 2007

What Can Be Done to Improve Website Leads?

We’ve done websites for car dealers across the country, and of course we have several clients in our local area as well. The different approaches by two local dealerships has given us a unique look into how much a website design really impacts the amount of leads generated from the dealership website.

These two dealers, we’ll call them Dealer 1 and Dealer 2, are comparable on most levels. They both spend a lot of money on marketing. Both use the same 3rd party classified sites (Autotrader.com, Cars.com, AutoMart.com, AutoExtra.com, and a couple of smaller sites). They also use the same magazines to advertise locally with similar multi-page spreads. Even the inventory and customers are similar – they both sell in the $7k-$15k range, have the same number of cars on the lot, and both do mostly sub-prime finance. When Dealer 1 seemed to be doing so much better than Dealer 2 as far as website leads, it warranted a closer look.

When Dealer 1 signed up with us over a year ago they didn’t have a lot of input into their site design. They wanted to trust our expertise and see the results. We did a very simple design, easy to navigate, always 1-click away from inventory, and a very short credit application.

Dealer 2 was the exact opposite. This dealer was adamant in the design and features he wanted on his site, even though most were against convention, and certainly against our recommendations. Their site has been more of an ongoing project – constant changes requested, seemingly new features added every couple of weeks. It’s truly become an endless pit of feature-creep. A prime example of what can be done as opposed to what should be done.

Upon a recent evaluation of leads and overall statistics, here’s what was uncovered. We literally went through every lead ever generated on each site to clean out things such as multiple inquiries and bogus leads. We wanted to do an apples to apples comparison, so accurate data was necessary. Here’s what we found:

Visitors on Dealer #1 site only spend half the time of visitors on Dealer #2 site.

Bounce rates for Dealer #2 are twice that of Dealer #1.

Dealer #1 receives 1 good lead for every 22 website visitors (4.5%). Dealer #2 receives 1 for every 91 visitors (1.1%).

So what does all this mean? One way to look at it is that Dealer #1 has a site which doesn’t confuse visitors (lower bounce rate), they’re able to find what they’re looking for easier (lower time spent on site), and the calls to action make customers more apt to submit leads.

Dealer #2 has a site which isn’t nearly as user-friendly, has a lot of content that customers don’t care about, and lacks the necessary calls to action which help generate leads.

This all goes back to what I’ve said before on other posts. Just because something can be done, that doesn’t mean it should be done. Car dealers by nature want to do things their own way, but not listening to the people you pay to help you can cost you a lot in the long run.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating study, could you post the links to the sites for an educational analysis between design and usability stats?

Jake said...


Since the original post here, Dealer #2 read the comparison and gave us free reign to rework his site, so the original site is no longer available for viewing. He was amazed once the redesigned site went live, because he went from receiving a few leads here or there to receiving several times that amount...and the change was literally overnight. Dealer #2's site can be seen at http://www.planetauto.biz