May 05, 2011
Case Study

Consumer Marketing: Turning online traffic into offline action leads to 50% conversion to sale

SUMMARY: A strong and well-trafficked website is a great marketing and sales tool, but sometimes closing the sale requires a visit to the brick-and-mortar location. The trick is turning website visitors into in-store visitors.

Read on to learn how one B2C marketer launched an incentive pilot program that turned qualified website traffic into in-store prospects and converted online traffic into customers.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Put yourself in these shoes. You have a strong Web presence, but you are also a brick-and-mortar, and your product -- say an automobile -- almost always requires a visit to the store from the prospective customer to close a sale. How do you turn website visits into in-store visits?

The Suburban Collection, a group of automobile dealerships in Michigan and Florida, has a large Internet footprint with 29 websites for dealerships selling cars from 28 manufacturers, and has social channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This Web presence creates plenty of site visits to its various dealerships, but getting potential customers out from behind the computer screen and into the showroom for a test drive was an area Marketing wanted to address.

Find out how the Suburban Collection successfully turned website visitors into showroom customers.


Daniel Boismier, Internet Director for the Suburban Collection, decided the way to meet this marketing challenge was to offer incentives to Web visitors that will spark a trip to the showroom floor, or in some cases an actual test drive.

He decided to run a pilot program through four of the company's websites, chosen based on which dealerships were most interested in trying new marketing ideas. He said, "We typically pilot four stores at a time before we move towards a group roll out."

He also added he had two concerns going into the incentive pilot program:

o People might respond to the incentive with no intention to purchase a car, but only to claim the offer

o Website visitors showing enough interest to receive the incentive might already be prepared to come to the dealership and possibly make a purchase

Step #1. Add an incentive to get the prospect into the store

The call-to-action on the overlay was either a simple showroom visit, or in some cases an actual test drive. Each dealership chose its particular call-to-action. The incentive to spur this call-to-action was a choice of three gift cards.

The options were varied, but typically included a MasterCard debit gift card and a gas card along with store, restaurant or other cards selected to appeal to target demographics.

Each store chose its card options, which included:

o $10 MasterCard
o $50 MasterCard
o Starbucks
o Target
o Walmart

Boismier stated, "For example, the Scion brand will offer the iTunes [gift card] because that demographic is heavy into music."

And he explained why website visitors were given three options, stating the choice is there, not because one gift card might be more attractive to the visitor than another, but because he believes more than one choice makes the offer more attractive to the visitor because it gives them a feeling of control.

When that visitor becomes a lead, they are given an online code to take to the dealership when fulfilling the offer for their incentive.

Step #2. Capture the lead

In order to turn a website visitor into a prospect, you need some basic contact information on the lead.

Suburban Collection added an overlay on specific Web pages -- new and used car inventory lists -- that defined shopping behavior by the visitor. This overlay included text with an incentive offer, and more importantly a form field to collect visitor information.

The form was very simple with only five fields:

o First name
o Last name
o ZIP code
o Phone number
o Email address

Even if the visitor minimized the overlay, it remained at the bottom of the page. Once the visitor filled the form out and submitted it, the form disappeared from the page, even if the visitor returned to the site at a later date.

When the form was submitted, the information was immediately sent to the dealership, and the potential customer received a "thank you" email. Once the web visitor completed the form, the offer had an expiration date -- ten days from the time of submission.

Step #3. Reach out to the prospect multiple times

The team added functionality to the website, provided an incentive offer, and grabbed a new lead to be converted into a customer. The next step was to engage in a mini-lead nurturing program given the short time before the offer expired. When the potential customer shows interest, give them every opportunity to follow up on accepting your offer.

The first touch from Suburban Collection was an automated email acknowledging receipt of the submission, thanking the Web visitor for filling out the form. If the form was filled out during normal business hours that prospect received a second email within 15 minutes. This drove fulfillment of the offer by asking the prospect when they wanted to receive their gift, providing contact information for the dealership, and including a note that if the prospect didn't respond there will be a follow-up confirmation email.

If there was no response, a third email went out after five days, reminding the prospect that the offer was soon to expire.

Boismier stated each potential customer received at least three email touches from submission to the offer expiring.

Step #4. Leverage your business partners

In Suburban Collections' case, these partners were pretty well-known sources. For example:

o Ford
o Chrysler
o Honda

The company received inbound leads from these sources, and it applied essentially the same incentive program to these leads as it does the website visitors.

The specific offer was targeted based on demographic information, because often these auto brands will send leads to more than one dealership.

Taking address information, like the ZIP code, Suburban Collection offered a prospect who lived near one of Suburban's dealerships a a $10 gift card offer, whereas a prospect who lived closer to a Suburban competitor might receive a $50 gift card offer. Just like the prospects arriving from the dealership websites, these leads had to actually visit the showroom to fulfill the offer.

Step #5. Remain nimble and respond to changing real-world conditions

The idea might be great, the pilot test is ready to run, but something outside your control throws a wrinkle in the plan. Always be alert to changing conditions and react accordingly.

In Suburban Collections' case, that changing condition was hard to miss -- the earthquake that devastated Japan in March.

The company was preparing to roll out a program involving its Subaru dealership and the Michigan Humane Society that was going to be a variation on the original incentive pilot program. The offer was going to be a donation to the Humane Society in exchange for the showroom visit.

This campaign was to include a pay-per-click budget with pet and animal-based keywords in the ads, and web visitors going to a landing page highlighting the Suburban Collection supporting the Michigan Humane Society would find the offer on the page.

After filling out the form and fulfilling the offer, Suburban Collection was going to donate $25 to the group.

The disaster in Japan has put this program on hold because Suburban Collection was actually running out of Subarus to sell.

Once the supply chain picks back up, the company intends to implement this offshoot of the original incentive program.

One result of this marketing effort is that Suburban
Collection plans to test incentives in other marketing areas. With this program website visitors had to exhibit buyer behavior by visiting inventory pages, but the company also develops other leads from its website through prospects seeking additional information or submitting trade-in offers. Suburban handles these leads by calling them and setting up in-store appointments.

The test will split these leads into two groups: one group will receive the standard confirmation call, and the second group will receive the incentive program offer.

All prospects in these two groups are possible customers who didn't receive the offer through the website overlay or through auto brand provided leads.

Around 50% of prospects who completed a test drive through the incentive program actually purchased a vehicle. Boismier said he would like to see if he can get the incentive group closer to 65%.

o The program has grown from the four-site pilot program to 15 Suburban Collection dealership websites, and is continuing to expand into 2011

o In the first six months of the program, a over 15% of leads created by the overlay incentive completed a test drive o Of those prospects who completed the test drive, 50% converted to a purchased automobile

o In the last quarter of 2010 the test drive figure grew to almost 37% while the conversion-to-customer remained close to 50%. The normal "show" rate for internet leads is 25%

o Cost-per acquisition for one dealership (Toyota) in the program are $27-per-lead and $159-per-sale

Useful links related to this article

1. Overlay with form field
2. Overlay after form completion
3. Initial response email

Suburban Collection

HookLogic (vendor for Suburban Collection’s incentive program)

Members Library -- Email List Reactivation Incentives: Gift cards vs. whitepaper vs. nothing

Entice with Incentives to Drive Traffic to Website

Lead Generation: How your peers optimize the lead

Members Library -- Analyzing Customer Motivation to Create Campaign Incentives that Resonate

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