Delivering a Consumer Experience Online – The 5 Key Steps 

Mar 7, 2024
The Autotrader Team

The next great phase of the automotive consumer experience is happening online. Your buyers are not only purchasing online, but they’re also making intelligent decisions about payment plans, researching competitors, and weighing their options. And they’re doing it all in a matter of minutes.  

The good news is—if you’re smart—you can have an important role in this journey from the very first moment using insights and data from connected technologies and solutions designed to deliver the best-in-class consumer experience.  

Delivering the digital promise of a faster, more convenient experience for your buyers is within reach for any dealer looking to modernize. And when you follow the following five key steps, that are pillars for delivering an extraordinary online experience, your future will include higher quality leads that result in higher profits and increased business.   

#1: Build a Strategy to Capture More Leads  

More of the car shopping process is indeed moving online. But capturing a virtual shopper isn’t as simple as publishing or updating your website and waiting for your next buyer to offer up their information.  

Car shoppers are leaving hints about their intentions in various ways and it’s up to intelligent data and insights to connect and decipher who and what to do with that information. According to the most recent Car Buyer Journey study from Cox Automotive, 57% of those surveyed visited a third-party site without visiting an OEM site.1  

What does this ultimately mean to your business and marketing strategy? There’s no more room to sit back and passively wait for your next buyer to hand over their information. Dealers need to build a strategy focused on taking the data and insights from third parties like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book and turn them into actions to take. That their solutions and team can act on easily and swiftly. 

How much of a difference could those third-party listings sites possibly make? Consider this: Autotrader attracts over 29 million unique visitors each month. How many additional car shoppers would you like viewing your listings? Build a strategy around that and align your business objectives with the partners that can deliver. 

#2: Measuring Quality in a Quantity Focused World 

Once you set into motion the right strategy mix of tools and digital marketing solutions needed to drive higher volume to your listings, you’ll notice that not all leads are created equal. Although quantity is typically a focus, quality should be the true measure. 

There’s a stark difference in leads more likely to convert vs. leads that simply clog up your sales pipeline. So, what’s the primary driving differentiator? Smart data. Take for example Cox Automotive’s vast treasure trove of first-party shopper data drives nearly twice as many purchases to dealerships than any other third-party listing site. 

Chasing a few bad leads here and there may not seem like a big deal… until you do the math. Let’s say two salespeople working on 200 bad leads per month, at 10 minutes per lead, making calls, sending emails, videos and texting. Add it up and you’ve just wasted 16 hours of their time per person, every single month. Now look at what that looks like over a calendar year and you’re looking at 192 hours – that’s close to 5 full work weeks! 

Be sure to set up metrics and have discussions with your marketing team and leaders at your dealership or within your organization to discuss why quality vs. quantity should be your goal and map out how you’ll reach that. 

#3: Connect with Digital Consumers with Powerful Personalization  

As the old saying goes… It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Now layer in and how the message is received when it comes to marketing around any large purchase decision—especially one as big as your next car.  

Personalization in digital marketing matters to your car shopper. Before you even begin building your strategy, make sure you have a partner by your side willing to work just as hard to understand your unique business goals, to provide personalized solutions and give expert guidance. At Autotrader, we’re constantly innovating our consumer experience to attract and retain more qualified, ready-to-buy shoppers and deliver higher-quality leads that close. 

2 Source: Autotrader and Google Analytics January – August 2023 

Here are some insights revealed in the annual Car Buyer Journey Study to help you with delivering an experience with personalization which ultimately increased consumer satisfaction levels even more. Consider this a check list for you and your team to strategize around how to be the one that stands out to the consumer: 

Everyone has data – first party, second party and third party – but what are you doing with that data to activate it and turn it into actions you and your team can take to drive profits? That’s the key to data, use it to personalize your interactions and show you know who the shopper is, what they want, and you are the one they should do business with.  

Data and insights should reveal actions you should take, especially when it comes to how to personalize your marketing strategy. When you do this, you’ll have the ability to tailor the experience based on what the consumer is showing you they prefer and prioritize.  

With increased cross-shopping happening due to affordability hurdles many of today’s shoppers are facing, it’s important to remember you can use personalization to not only capture new shoppers to you and your brand, but also to re-conquest previous customers and retain existing ones. Make sure to stay in front of your customers, in the right way, at the right time. Remind them why you are their dealer of choice… because you KNOW them! They already like and trust you – so build off that. If you lost some clients over the past few years, reach out to them showing you still know and value them and are ready to deliver the personalized experience they both want and deserve.   

#4: Deliver the Digital Retailing Experience that Drives Shoppers to Purchase  

As more of the deal becomes digital, the car buying experience will become faster and more personal for your buyers. (That’s the goal, at least.) Miss the mark at that, and your buyers will go looking for a smoother, easier experience somewhere else—and quickly!  

Fortunately, on-line deal building has been a bonus to businesses as 90% of dealers surveyed claimed digital retailing has positively impacted at least one area of their business. As you unlock new digital paths, each new solution should pull shoppers deeper into the purchase funnel to drive faster, smoother and even more profitable deals. 

#5: Leverage the right experts and partners to accelerate profits  

Leveraging the right partners is essential to amplify your digital presence. Be sure to align your partnerships with experts that can show with data (and results!) active in-market car shoppers are on, active and engaged on their sites. Saying it is one thing, but showing results in the form of consistently accelerated profits is another thing – the thing you should be most focused on. 

Third party sites have proven they weather the changing conditions in the marketplace. In the most recent Car Buyer Journey study, it was discovered in the data that buyers are 57% more likely to visit third party sites exclusively without having to visit the OEM sites, especially among Used buyers.  

So stay in front of consumers on third party sites because that’s where they are, and they’re entertaining different brands, different makes and models, and different types of vehicles than they might have originally intended. 

It goes without saying, having the right experts and partners in your corner can make a huge difference in driving business. Enhanced dealership marketing solutions from Autotrader crush the competition resulting in higher profits than the closest competitors. It’s possible to reach farther, close faster and profit more when you lean into automation, digital retailing and solutions designed to deliver quality leads. 

For the Road Forward 

When you deliver, meet and exceed today’s consumers’ expectations by creating a more personalized shopping and buying experience, you end up with more sales-ready leads for your sales team. It’s a win-win!  

At Autotrader, we’re constantly innovating our consumer experience to attract and retain more qualified, ready-to-buy shoppers and deliver higher-quality leads that close.  

Discover how Autotrader can help you connect with today’s digital consumers and capture more leads, delivering the automotive experience that drives ready-to-buy shoppers further down the purchase path in this guide: The Difference Better Leads and Higher Profits Can Make for Your Dealership: Experience that moment when you close more leads with 36% more profit. 


1 2023 Car and Buyer Journey Study 

2 Comscore data, Autotrader and traffic combined, Jan to Aug 2023