Digital Retailing & the Crucial “Can I Afford It?” Consumer Moment

The promise of Digital Retailing is one where you as a dealership are able provide car shoppers with a buying experience that takes place 100% online. Ever since we launched Online Shopper™, that’s exactly the experience we’ve been working on providing for our clients.

But what if I told you that today, here in 2019, digital retailing isn’t about buying a car 100% online? It’s simply about answering a car shopper’s most important question: “Can I Afford It?”

The “Can I Afford It?” Consumer Moment: In Google’s Dealer Guidebook, they defined five specific “moments” that all consumers go through when shopping for a vehicle. This moment is crucial because 75% of shoppers won’t take the next step towards purchasing a vehicle (i.e. contacting or visiting your dealership) until they can satisfactorily answer this question.

The reality is shoppers aren’t ready to fully commit to buying a car online, and dealers aren’t necessarily ready to fundamentally change the way they do business.


But if you as a car dealer can equip your website with a digital retailing solution like Online Shopper™ to help consumers determine whether or not they can afford the vehicle they’re interested in, then you can dramatically increase your lead volume and sales.




Clients in the Online Shopper: Redline Case Study

In Q1 of 2019, we began to plot out our next case study for Online Shopper™ which would be the basis for our Most Valuable Insight presentation at the DrivingSales Presidents Club.

We identified 26 clients located in 22 different states that were using Online Shopper: Redline™, and set each one up to track website performance and Online Shopper™ KPIs for their first 60 days, to compare against the 60 days prior to activating Online Shopper™.

Of the 26 clients involved, 19 were import brand dealers and 7 were domestic brand dealers. The OEMs represented in the case study included Buick, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, Acura, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.



We analyzed a number of metrics to determine how Online Shopper: Redline™ was performing for our clients including Open Rate, Lead Rate, Total Website Leads before and after Online Shopper™ and Conversion Rate before and after Online Shopper™.



Online Shopper: Redline Open and Lead RatesOnline Shopper™ Open Rate: One of the first things we wanted to see is how often shoppers were clicking on the Online Shopper™ CTA located on the Vehicle Results and Vehicle Details Pages. What we found was that 7.3% of shoppers who viewed at least one VRP or VDP opened up Online Shopper™.

For those of you playing along at home, I highly recommend you track this engagement metric regardless of what digital retailing platform you use. By keeping track of this metric on a monthly basis, you can identify consumer behavior trends that could indicate whether or not people are becoming more comfortable with your online shopping experience.


Online Shopper™ Lead Rate: This metric represents the percentage of people who opened Online Shopper™ and got far enough along in the process to enter their lead information. In this case study, 24% of those who opened up Online Shopper™ entered their complete contact info to generate a lead for the dealer.

Now at this point you might be thinking to yourself “a 7.3% open rate and 24% lead rate…so what?”. I can totally get why you might think that. Heck, in full transparency that’s kind of what I thought when I first calculated the numbers too.

But when you’re applying those numbers to over 388,000 VRP and VDP views, the final results are more impressive than you think at first blush. Check this out!


Website Leads & Conversion Rate BEFORE Online Shopper™:

Looking at the previous 60 days of data before a client in the case study activated Online Shopper: Redline™ on their website, dealers on average received 194 sales-related website lead form submissions with a lead conversion rate of .55%. That’s just under an average of 100 website leads a month during the previous 60 days, which really is pretty good in the grand scheme of things.



Website Leads & Conversion Rate AFTER Online Shopper™:


Once our clients in the case study had all been using Online Shopper: Redline™ for 60 days, we looked at that data to see how their lead performance was affected. Dealers still received on average 163 traditional sales form leads submissions, but Online Shopper™ contributed an average of an additional 302 leads, bringing the average total lead volume over the 60 day period to 465. Additionally, the lead conversion rate jumped all the way up to 1.47% during this time frame.

I’m no rocket surgeon, but when comparing performance before and after Online Shopper™, our clients saw an average 190% Lead Volume increase and an 187% Conversion Rate increase simply by flipping the switch and providing their website visitors with a digital retailing tool that helped them answer that crucial Can I Afford It? question.

When looking at the data 60 days after our clients in the case study activated Online Shopper: Redline™ two things are abundantly clear.

  1. Online Shopper™ is a Lead Machine.
  2. Consumers are finding Online Shopper™ to be much more valuable than filling out a standard form and waiting for a response.

Online Shopper: Redline Before and After Results



If you listen to mainstream media and pay attention to all the positive headlines that are attributed to industry “disruptors” like Tesla and Carvana when it comes to a dealership-free shopping experience, you’d be led to believe that this is something that the majority of consumers have been clamoring for for years.

#SpoilerAlert: They haven’t.

That doesn’t mean we’re not going to get there as an industry sooner rather than later, but we’re just not there yet.

Let me explain.

When we launched Online Shopper™ in 2016, it was built to accommodate all aspects of buying a car from a dealer’s website. Everything from customizing payments with real-time bank rates, to uploading photos of your trade, shopping for aftermarket and F&I products, to even getting credit approval and scheduling a time for delivery — it was literally the entire car shopping experience brought online.

What we found over time though, is that while consumers loved the personalized shopping experience and being able to customize multiple payment scenarios is a real and meaningful way, less than 1% of those using Online Shopper™ uploaded photos of their trade or added aftermarket and F&I products to their deal. Not only that, shoppers certainly weren’t handing over their social security number and other personal information for a credit approval let alone scheduling a time to take delivery of a vehicle that they hadn’t seen, touched or smelled yet.

It was at this point where we decided as a company to streamline our digital retailing solution, and create two distinct editions of Online Shopper. Redline™, as featured in this case study, is a simplified version of the original Online Shopper™ that focuses solely on answering the “Can I Afford It?” question for the consumer, while generating a ton of new super-leads for dealers.

Online Shopper: Redline™ is a great entry point for dealers who have yet to embrace a digital retailing strategy, but still want to provide a superior website shopping experience. (The average 3x increase in leads without any training or additional software doesn’t hurt either.)



Our newest digital retailing solution, Online Shopper: Electric™, takes dealers one step closer to providing an full online buying experience by allowing shoppers to compare multiple vehicles side-by-side and have the option to set up unique payment scenarios for each individual vehicle. The addition of a digital garage also makes it easier for shoppers to access the deals they created from any device, at any time.

Online Shopper: Electric. Digital Retailing by Dealer InspireThe addition of the digital garage to Online Shopper: Electric™ means that dealers can now seamlessly bridge the gap between the online and offline experience. When a shopper enters your showroom, you can have tablets or kiosks at the ready so people can pull up their digital garage. This not only speeds up the in-store process, but it also allows your sales consultants to have a more collaborative conversation with their customers about the vehicles they’re interested in, instead of taking them all the way back to square one.

Conversely, you can take an experience that starts inside of your showroom, and turn it into an online deal by creating a digital garage for your customer and adding the vehicles you talked numbers with so they can easily access the information once they get back home.

Whether you’re just looking to get started with digital retailing with Online Shopper: Redline™, or you’re ready to embrace the next generation of digital retailing with Online Shopper: Electric™, our team is here to help you future-proof your dealership today. All you need to do is flip the switch.

If you need help deciding which edition of Online Shopper™ is right for you, just drop us a line and we’ll set up a time to connect with more details.

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Jason Stum
As the Director of Content Marketing at CARS, Jason draws from his hands-on dealership experience in Sales, Business Development, and Digital Marketing to lead a team in crafting actionable and insightful content for car dealers.

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