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Car Shoppers who Research the Best Cars Online Telephone Dealers

Despite the well-publicized shift in automotive digital advertising spend to mobile, most phone calls to dealerships are still generated by consumers shopping on their desktops and laptops, not their smartphones, according to a new study published today by DT University, the educational and training center of DialogTech. That trend is even more pronounced during the two peak sales seasons for dealerships in North America. The study should cause automotive marketers focusing primarily on mobile to reconsider how they allocate digital ad spend.

 According to eMarketer, digital advertising made up 56% of all media ad spend for automotive manufacturers (Tier 1) and 66% of all media ad spend for dealers (Tier 3) in the US in 2015. That year the automotive industry in the US spent over $7.4 billion on digital advertising, a number that is expected to nearly double to $14.1 billion in 2020.

So why are people still calling dealerships when researching online? The conventional explanation for this is the smartphone: people who engage with digital ads and visit websites on their smartphones contact businesses by calling. Calling is the easiest conversion path for smartphone users — it’s far more efficient than trying to fill out a form on your tiny smartphone screen and wait for hours or days for the dealership to call or email you back. So it stands to reason that smartphone shoppers want to call.

A study by Google supports this idea. It found that 39% of consumers who used their smartphones in the vehicle shopping process called a dealer.

What’s more, when DT University analyzed the outcomes of millions of phone calls to dealerships from automotive website visitors captured by the DialogTech voice management platform, we found that callers purchased a vehicle 10 times more frequently than people who filled out a web form.

The DT University study, which examined data from the DialogTech voice management platform on over 1.1 million phone calls to thousands of North American dealerships, found that:

  • 54.8 percent of call conversions from Tier 1 (manufacturer/OEM) and Tier 3 (local dealership) websites are from shoppers on their desktops and laptops
  • Only 45.2 percent of calls come from visitors on mobile devices

The gap between desktop- and mobile-generated calls is even more pronounced during the automotive industry’s two peak sales seasons from March to May and September to November:

First Peak Sales Season

  • March: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • April: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • May: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

Second Peak Sales Season

  • September: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • October: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • November: 56.4% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

The study also found that shoppers who call a dealership purchase vehicles on average 10 times more than consumers who fill out a form on a Tier 1 or Tier 3 website, making calls more valuable conversions to generate from digital advertising campaigns.

“The DT University study should be an eye-opener for auto manufacturers and dealerships,” said Alain Stephan, SVP of Analytics Services at DialogTech. “When you ramp up digital ad spending during peak sales seasons, don’t forget to target desktop shoppers – they drive the most calls and revenue.”

DT University (DTU) is the official educational, training and thought leadership center of DialogTech. The mission of DT University is to educate marketers on how to generate more customers and revenue from voice and the call channel. F