EStara Integrates Lead Gen; Auto Dealers Sound Off

Click-to-call technology provider eStara announced today that it will integrate a lead generation feature to its Click Suite for Local Search Platform, known as Form to Phone.

This will be primarily geared toward auto dealers and third-party auto Web sites and will allow them to respond quickly to online lead forms that online shoppers fill out. Dealers will be prompted by phone and e-mail to contact these leads in hopes of response times and ultimately increasing conversions.

This is particularly conducive to autos, where there is a demand for hot leads, when buyers are near the end of the purchase funnel and are looking for specific inventory and dealers locally (real estate possesses some of the same characteristics and could be next). Here, competition is tight and time is of the essence. The question is, how will dealers adopt and utilize such a tool?

From the Source

At Vehix’s annual online auto sales summit held last month in Deer Valley, Utah, an online panel of real-life auto dealers provided their thoughts on what online tools they are realistically inclined to use and, generally, what auto dealers are looking for.

The panel members in particular skewed toward the progressive end of the adoption scale. Overall, they embraced the idea of better lead gen tools to attract more qualified buyers but felt that many dealers still don’t see the light.

“Some dealers drop everything for that customer that walks in the door, but they won’t answer the phone or pay attention to electronic leads,” said Norm Kester, sales manager of Salt Lake City-based Strong Volkswagen. “For people that come in the door the closing percentage is about 16 percent, but with online leads the closing percentage is much higher. These customers are more knowledgeable and more armed to buy a vehicle. If we get back with them right away, it’s a better prospect than a person walking in the door.”

Rueben Muinos, business alliance manager of Los Angeles-based Galpin Motors, agreed.

“Dealers are great at selling people in the store but aren’t great at getting people in the door,” he quipped. “You can get a quick sense of how good a dealership is by going on to their Web site. If you don’t see a phone number, that’s a first sign. If they do have a lead gen feature, submit an inquiry and see how long it takes them to respond.”

Where We Need to Go

This general adoption could be evolving, and eStara’s data point to attractive ROI possibilities with online lead gen. The 12-month pilot program for Form to Phone was tested with Autobytel and boosted average qualified leads 52 percent for the 165 dealers that participated and it caused conversion rates to double when compared with call tracking. Autobytel has since added 950 dealers to the program, according to the press release.

Vehix is also doing interesting things with lead gen. Its new interactive TV product, demoed at the summit and profiled in a past post, will bring in qualified leads via television. Here the purchase funnel from brand exposure to local search can be accelerated considerably. Specifically, it allows viewers watching a live TV ad to “telescope” in using their remote to a Vehix module where they can browse local dealers and inventory and also submit leads. It will be interesting to see this play out.

There are a lot of factors here, including user preferences, dealer adoption and, importantly, younger generation user trends. David Metter, CMO of Baltimore-based dealer group MileOne, believes auto dealers need to be more progressive in reaching car buyers of any age where they are and where they are going.

“I spent a lot of time looking at the iPhone because I know that’s where we are going to have to reach consumers. We’re going to have to text consumers, not e-mail them,” he says. “I also know we’re going to have to build a dealership in Second Life. There are going to be a lot of dealerships that fall off the face of the earth because they aren’t open to this new stuff. I can’t wait to see what’s next, and I never thought I’d be building dealerships in a virtual reality world.”

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Related: More on Second Life and local marketing here.

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