Attribution is an important ingredient in effective automotive digital marketing. Knowing which campaigns and strategies are actually getting people to convert and buy shows you where marketing dollars are getting the greatest return, and helps you plan strategically. But while attribution tools and options are evolving and improving, today’s automotive marketer still faces a number of challenges figuring out which touchpoints are most effective in converting leads and making sales.

Where to begin? With definitions, of course.

What is attribution?

When we talk about attribution, we are typically referring to one of three interrelated things:

  1. Traffic Attribution. This refers to understanding which sources are bringing the highest-converting traffic to your website: organic search, ads, social media, etc. This is usually tracked and measured in Google Analytics.
  2. Lead Attribution, or understanding the exact offer a lead converted on. Knowing this data can help you see which of your lead capture forms- on which sites- are most valuable. This data is logged and measured in your CRM. 
  3. Sales Attribution. Ultimately, this is the number that matters most- what touchpoint made the customer actually close the sale? It’s also the hardest to track.

In fact, every aspect of accurate attribution- that is, understanding how your marketing sources are performing- pose a number of challenges. Here’s why:

The challenges of accurate attribution

Setting up Google Analytics can be difficult

First of all, setting up Google Analytics to track your traffic sources can be complicated- although doable. Brian Pasch has written extensively about this problem- see here, for example-  and is even putting together a conference to address it. Getting these numbers in order can help dealerships get a clearer picture of what is happening with their traffic.

Single-touch attribution is not really accurate

Rare is the customer who converts or makes a sale based on a single interaction. Instead, shoppers will do something more like this: search for a particular vehicle in their area, see an ad for your dealership website, click it, arrive on-site, and then bounce. Then, they’ll return to your website because of retargeting, but get distracted and leave. Finally, they’ll come back on their own to check your prices, and then convert on a chat tool.

So which source gets the credit for this lead?

Because it is not clear that any one of these interactions was the deciding factor for this customer, most companies have moved away from single-touch attribution- that is, giving all the credit to one source- toward multi-touch, where multiple interactions are taken into account. For a great introduction to multi-touch marketing attribution for auto, check out this helpful article  by Renold Liu on DrivingSales. Renold also walks you through how to use your Google Analytics to measure attribution.

Multiple conversions are seen as negative, when they are actually positive

Typically, when it comes to lead attribution, the first conversion gets credit. But what if a customer converts a second time? In addition to the fact that duplicate leads are generally underappreciated for the gold mines they are, it makes little sense to give no credit to the source of a lead’s second- or third!- conversion.

Think about it: let’s say one salesperson calls a lead. The customer declines to come in for a test drive, but a few weeks later decides to come in, and calls and sets an appointment through another salesperson. Is that second salesperson considered useless to this process- even worse, would you fire them because they didn’t make the first contact? It’s ludicrous when you think about it. So why would you “fire” a tool that provides a second conversion? With people doing more car-buying research than ever on your website, you want that second engagement. Every opportunity to move leads down the funnel is valuable.

Relatedly, this type of winner-takes-all thinking also encourages competition between different lead sources: each one get all the credit or none, even if each one has assisted the customer and brought them closer to buying.

So is attribution valuable at all?

Even with all of these challenges, attribution data is still important and valuable for strategy. It’s just helpful to look at the data with an eye towards trends rather than absolute winners or losers: which sources or tools typically bring in leads and sales? Which ones perform well overall, and which ones don’t?

What actually seals the deal for customers is complicated, and difficult to attribute to an exact touchpoint. Joe Webb’s analysis is useful: think of attribution as a means to track sources’ influence, rather than a straightforward way to pick a winner.

Thinking differently about attribution

This broader view of attribution goes into how we think about about our new artificial-intelligence powered lead capture platform, Falcon. Because Falcon sends your CRM rich information about your leads’ buying process- number of visits to your site, pages viewed, time spent on each page, for example- you have a clearer picture of each customer’s interests and can help them move forward more effectively, without having to decide which touchpoint was most important. Additionally, your CRM receives information not only from the first conversion, but from any follow-up ones, to get an even better picture of how customers progress on your site.

But what we really take pride in is our approach that multiple conversions are a goal. With so much car research done digitally today, the more steps you can help customers do online, the better. That’s why Falcon offers immediate follow-up interactions after first conversions. So for example, someone who submits a lead on a vehicle special is prompted to set up a test drive on the spot, and then automatically gets directions to your showroom. Someone who uses a trade-in tool gets an estimate as well as an opportunity to set up a professional appraisal. Instead of tools fighting with each other, one tool provides intuitive, seamless, and continuous opportunities to engage, convert, and move the buying process forward. It’s a way to bring the whole buying journey together, from research to conversion to sealing the deal in person- taking into account, and encouraging, many touchpoints along the way.

Check out this video to see how seamless follow-up interactions can be:

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