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Until a year ago, Trent Waybright measured the success of his digital ad spending at Kelley Automotive Group by how many shoppers filled out form leads on inventory or contacted one of the group’s six stores by phone.

Not anymore. Today, Waybright, director of used vehicle operations for the Fort Wayne, Ind., dealership group, is all about VDPs.

That’s shorthand for a vehicle detail page, an online listing of a specific vehicle in inventory, complete with its description, photos and vehicle identification number.

By using advanced inventory software, Waybright can predict when one of his used vehicles is about to sell based on how many people click into its vehicle detail page.

Not enough VDP views, and Waybright lowers the price until views accelerate. Then, when his vehicle has considerably more views than comparable vehicles of competitors in his market, boom, a customer walks into a Kelley store, usually unannounced, and buys the car or truck.

“Back in the day, we based our return on investment on the number of form leads we received,” Waybright said. “Now our goal is to get as many VDPs on our cars as possible.”What makes vehicle detail page views so valuable is that they represent shoppers deep in the purchase funnel, said Dean Evans, CEO of LotLinx, a startup that uses technology to automatically move shoppers on third party Web sites to dealer websites.

Evans said shoppers who have done their general research and have begun to look at individual vehicles online are about to buy.

Moreover, dealers can use the traffic data to better gauge shoppers’ intent and price vehicles accordingly.

Vehicle detail page views “are the Holy Grail of efficient digital marketing,” Evans said.

Indeed, the pages help cut steps from vehicle purchases. In the past, online shoppers often signaled their interest in a vehicle by contacting the dealer via email or filling out an online form before visiting the dealership. And if the shopper leaves, Wile wants it to be for another vehicle on the dealership group’s website.

The Riverside, Calif., group of five stores is on pace to sell about 5,500 new and used vehicles in 2014, Wile said.

LotLinx is helping Walter’s capture and keep shoppers on its vehicle detail pages, Wile said. LotLinx works by embedding code in the inventory dealers display on third party shopping sites, such as AOL and Yahoo, so that when shoppers click on the inventory, they are taken to the vehicle detail page of a dealer’s website, Wile said.

Moreover, the dealership group, which sells Audi, Mercedes Benz, Smart, Porsche, Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands, puts consumer reviews on its vehicle detail pages so shoppers don’t have to leave the pages to get that information, Wile said.

Since Walter’s started with LotLinx about 18 months ago, vehicle sales at the group’s stand alone used car store have increased from an average of 40 to 60 per month to 70 to 80, he said. Overall vehicle sales at the group’s stores are up 16 percent year over year.

Wile said LotLinx also is an efficient way to market. Shoppers clicking to a vehicle detail page from LotLinx cost about half the $6 or more it costs the store when a shopper comes from a Google ad or a link that Walter’s buys, Wile said. Evans at LotLinx said the going rate today is $4.

Art vs.

His goal, using vAuto’s Listing Logic tool, is to gradually reduce the prices of his used vehicles until those prices attract more views for his inventory than that of his rivals.

He said vehicle pricing then becomes based on the science of the data rather than the art of his estimates.

Waybright said his vehicles consistently sell for about 95 percent of the prices of rivals’ comparable vehicles. But he says the group sells its vehicles faster.

And it nets more on used vehicles at the lower prices because of higher sales volumes, higher sales in finance and insurance, and lower marketing costs. Waybright said he has all but eliminated spending for Google paid search ads and the dealership group has dramatically reduced its budget for TV and radio advertising.
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