Just before its recent float on the stock market, Auto Trader found itself the subject of a news story in The Times which suggested its web traffic wasn’t quite as good as had previously been reported. According to analytics analysts, Eagle Alpha, web traffic to Auto Trader had fallen 19% year-on-year. Similar Web – another online, third-party tracking service – also observed the decline.
The timing of this news report could’ve been better and whilst many people will look at the report and question why the big focus on web visits, the fact is that Auto Trader’s float price and subsequent equity will be significantly affected by the number of web visitors it gains. If it were a shop that is haemorrhaging customers, it’s not like the investors would be queuing up to splash their cash on it – same goes for a web-only business.
Of course, Auto Trader has hit back at these claims, citing the huge rise of mobile and tablet users (via its app among other access points) as well as the fact that just 34% of its visitors access the site via a desktop machine. In fact, Auto Trader maintains that compared to FY 2012, FY 2014 saw a 46% uplift in total visits.
As it is, Auto Trader has floated at a decent price and this hiccup doesn’t seem to have had any negative effect. But it does raise a point, and that is the importance of web traffic as currency worth fighting for.
Many businesses both within and outside of the automotive sector keep their web statistics away from prying eyes with as much protection as they would afford their annual accounts. It is therefore little surprise that the reaction to the outing of these less-than-complimentary figures was both swift and robust. But is this a precedent that might be repeated over and over in the coming years? – A consumer-facing company, looking to float, being undermined by claims of declining web visits, and therefore consumer interest?
Thing is, the concentration on visits as the key metric is, in some ways, misguided. Of course, more visitors is a good thing – it’s brand exposure and reach. However, it is also nothing without that other golden egg: Conversion.
Conversion is the rationale behind our own web platform, NetDirector Auto V10, aiming to increase it across mobile and desktop devices thanks to its core architecture. It focuses on conversion because whilst having a huge number of visits is like waving machine gun about, a stellar conversion rate is like wheeling out the radar-guided missiles. And the best way to convert web visitors is to encourage them to do so with strong calls to action, and providing them the means to do so through web tools. For example:
- New Car Model Reveals (30 second branded new car videos) increase page conversion by up to 84% in practice
- NetDirector CAP Valuations converts 200% more page visitors to leads than a contact form
- Page optimisation efforts have increased the conversion of our NetDirector Service Booking module by over 62%
- Live Chat can deliver 10-25% of a group’s total leads… We could go on.
For now the battle lines reside in easy-to-digest analytics data such as web visits, but this is like trench warfare compared to the battles that are yet to come. If businesses and commentators are going to play on web stats to undermine another organisation or bolster their own, it’s probably better that they move onto a more precision-targeted battlefield and focus on the stats that really matter.
To Auto Trader’s credit, they too turned the focus away from visits and onto delivering leads. With numerous other classifieds snapping at their heels, though, it remains to be seen whether this is maintained in the long-term.