Selling a car is not about running a flashy ad and hoping for the best – it takes a well performing website to convert interest to a purchase. Here's how conversion rate optimisation can help.For decades the auto industry has relied on above-the-line advertising to engage and convert potential buyers. Since the advent of websites where consumers now research and compare car brands and models before they step into a dealership, however, there's a whole lot more the automotive sector can and should be doing to pull people over the line.Nine in 10 customers will engage with a website before buying a car, according to Google's report 'The Car-Buying Process', and customers will visit a showroom an average of just 1.2 times before making a purchase. What this means is that if you can get a website visitor to go to a dealership, you're going to significantly increase the chances that that visitor will become a buyer.What can CRO do for the auto industry?Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of testing a range of experiences to find which combination provides the best results. These correspond to desirable user actions, for example turning visitors into leads and leads into sales.Because of the high cost of buying a new car, most people want to see and interact with the vehicle before purchase. The key conversion auto brand websites need to make, then, is to get website visitors to go to a dealership and the way to do that is to offer a test drive.The auto industry is notorious for providing feature-rich descriptions of its vehicles in a manner that can be alienating for buyers. The way models are presented can cause decision fatigue – results from CRO testing contributes to better choice architecture, helping visitors select the most suitable vehicle and, most importantly, move them more decisively to book a test drive.Test for a test driveSo how can CRO help convert people browsing on your website to test drive prospects? A luxury auto brand came to us to improve their website conversions. In our initial discussions with the brand we discovered a lack of focus on conversions – no one on its website team had 'conversions' as a KPI. Secondary to that, while dealerships expected the brand team to acquire leads, they were sceptical of the leads that came through the website. It was therefore key to secure qualified leads.Over the best part of a year with this brand, we studied the complexity of buying a car and have come to understand auto buyers. Through our tests, for example, we discovered that visitors did not really understand the differences between the 10 series the brand offered. The lack of search filtering options meant customers had to click through several pages before they would land on a models page to identify the cars in a series. This was an impediment to their decision-making, which stopped them from selecting a vehicle and booking a test drive. When we changed the way cars were filtered, it resulted in a 970% uplift in conversions.
To address this, we drew upon our knowledge of choice psychology. The resulting architecture allowed users to understand each series by viewing an example of a car in that category, and that helped them to make a quick assessment about which car they were likely to find suitable. We also supported this with choice structures that explicitly marked vehicles as 'Best family car', 'Best for city' and so forth. It meant they could then quickly proceed to a models page where they were more likely to convert as a test drive prospect.
After one week of testing a control home page against our alternative, results showed we assisted 8.65% more people to find a suitable car immediately, as opposed to needing to navigate to a separate car menu. In addition, 5.47% interacted with the filters on the new element, and 4.85% of visitors used the 'Explore More' button to go to a series or models page. It proved that showing a comparative range upfront helped funnel customers to a specific page quicker. That contributed to a massive 32% of those visitors booking a test drive.Sale of the yearAnother conversion trick we employed was to tap into customer fear around scarcity to encourage them to make a decision within a set timeframe. The brand's EOFY sale was a perfect opportunity to compare how scarcity and framing could work together to boost conversions.The control page announced there was an EOFY sale and pushed some of the features of the brand's vehicle services. The variation page had a little more detail: we quantified the value of the savings (we were not permitted to quote a dollar figure as this differed from model to model, but we were allowed to say it was 'equivalent to the GST') and we also added a specific date (June 30) when the sale would end. The variation page also displayed a range of models so that customers were enticed to choose one to examine more closely.The combination of choice architecture, acknowledging scarcity, and framing through presenting specific vehicles meant the variation page attracted twice as many conversions as the control page.Those in the market to buy a car are not as obsessed with makes, models and features as the auto industry seem to think, considering the way information is currently presented on many brand websites. While vehicle specifications are an important inclusion, the priority should be to support consumer decision-making. Not only does this help the user, it also makes it more likely they will visit a dealership for a test drive, increasing the probability of a purchase. And that's just the hub caps on the hot rod in terms of what CRO can do for the auto industry – we're looking forward to testing more.