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How Autobytel Leads the Way in Proving the Value of its Third-Party Internet Leads

The first automotive website of its kind quantified the value of the leads its clients receive from with credible data that points to the need for dealers and OEMs to increase emphasis on CPO programs, do more to differentiate their brand and treat every consumer as a conquest opportunity.

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  • Determine the number of leads that converted to sales and the source of those leads
  • Provide clients with data on consumer cross-shopping behaviors


IHS Automotive, driven by Polk – Market research to show value by quantifying the ROI for dealer and OEM clients


  • Credible lead conversion performance data points to the need for both dealers and automakers to:
    • Increase emphasis on their CPO programs when following up on online consumer leads
    • Do more to differentiate their brand from the competition
    • Treat every consumer who goes online as a conquest opportunity

Autobytel Proves Value in Third-Party Internet Leads

Since it launched in 1995 as the first automotive website of its kind, Autobytel ( has connected tens of millions of consumers with automotive dealers and manufacturers. Autobytel provides dealers and automakers with quote requests (leads) from in-market consumers while helping potential vehicle buyers make an informed purchase decision.

Autobytel needed a way to quantify the value of the leads its dealer and OEM clients receive from and its affiliate partners. However, using incomplete and inconsistent data from OEMs and dealer groups, the team at Autobytel struggled with how to accurately determine the number of leads that converted to sales and the source of those leads.

Autobytel wanted to provide its clients with solid data on how consumers research vehicles and their cross-shopping behaviors. The team needed a credible, third-party source of data that is respected in the industry. Therefore, they turned to IHS Automotive to match state vehicle registration data with leads and provide lead conversion reporting on an ongoing monthly basis.

Credible Data Leads to Reliable Reporting

In-market consumers that visit request a price quote for the vehicle(s) they are considering by completing an online form with their contact information and expected purchase timeframe. This information is sent to dealers for follow up by their sales teams.

The alliance with IHS helps Autobytel demonstrate value by quantifying the return on investment for its dealer and OEM clients. Each month, IHS matches state vehicle registration data to Autobytel consumer leads and produces detailed reporting showing the percentage of shoppers converting to buyers over a 90-day period. The reports show the purchase type (new or used), make and model of the vehicle(s) that consumers intended to buy and the vehicle they actually purchased. For example, Toyota’s reporting would show the number of consumers that planned to buy a new Toyota and the percentage of this group that bought a new Toyota, a used Toyota or a new or used vehicle of another make. For dealers, the reports show sales lost to other dealers so they understand their missed opportunities and can adjust their strategy to convert more leads to sales by using IHS’s fact-based information.

The reports show OEMs and dealers a comprehensive picture of consumers’ cross-shopping behaviors; purchase timeframes and new-to-used vehicle shopping patterns. Knowing the data comes from a credible source provides the confidence to act on the information in the reports.

Our clients know they are looking at objective, DMV-based data and they appreciate the consistency, credibility and insight we can now provide every month that documents the quality of our leads and guides them to improved sales.

Jeff Coats,
CEO and President, Autobytel Inc.

Auto dealers lose sales to same-make and competitive-make dealers. The lead conversion reporting helps dealers understand how they are performing on both fronts, and provides insights to help them strengthen their lead management practice and drive process improvements. For example, a dealership losing sales to a same-make competitor might realize the need to strengthen its sales process and do a better job of positioning its competitive advantages (“Why buy from me?”) so that it becomes the local dealership of choice. Lead conversion reporting showing lost sales to a dealership of a different brand could indicate the need for the dealership to place more emphasis on “selling the brand” in its sales process.

Some dealers are often surprised to learn the number of consumers that intended to buy a new vehicle, but ended up buying a used one. Therefore, dealers with a good inventory of Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles should expose the customer to a used vehicle during the sales process.

OEMs Learn How They Compare to the Competition

For auto manufacturers, the lead conversion reporting shows how successfully a particular OEM converts online leads compared to the competition. Automakers also learn where they are losing customers and where they are able to conquest consumers that intended to buy another brand − valuable insights that can help shape brand messages and online positioning. Internally, Autobytel can also use this data as part of its quality process to ensure OEMs have the right mix of lead sources to fit their budget and ROI objectives.

Top 6 Brands for Overall Lead Conversion(submitted a new vehicle lead and bought any new or used vehicle)Subaru, Hyundai, Toyota, GMC, Honda, Buick
Top 6 Brands for Brand-Specific Lead Conversion(submitted a new or used vehicle lead and bought a new or used vehicle of that brand)Subaru, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Buick
Top 6 Brands for New-to-Used Lead Conversion(submitted a new vehicle lead and bought a used vehicle of any brand)Mazda, Kia, Dodge, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet
Sample of Key Findings from Autobytel Lead Analysis (Q1 2012)

Reporting Drives Actions

For dealers and auto manufacturers, the IHS reporting provides credible data to show lead conversion performance and quantify their investment in Autobytel leads. The findings can also help shape improvements to lead management, online advertising and dealership sales process training programs. For example, the data points to the need or dealers and automakers to:

  • Place more emphasis on their CPO programs when following up on online consumer leads: Nearly 46 percent of consumers who planned to buy a new vehicle bought a used car or truck instead.
  • Do more to differentiate their brand from competitors: More than 55 percent of consumers who intended to buy a new vehicle from a specific brand actually bought another make (either new or used).
  • Realize that every consumer who goes online is a conquest opportunity and advertise the brand’s strengths accordingly: Just 30 percent of consumers who bought a new vehicle purchased a new vehicle from the brand for which they submitted a lead.

Autobytel Website (
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