Connecting site visits to sales is how TrueCar makes its money.
Brian Skutta, TrueCar's executive vice president of dealer sales and service, said the site has been devoted to a direct-attribution model since its inception.
But TrueCar's billing model, which charges dealers for sales even if a consumer visited multiple shopping sites, has come under fire from the likes of AutoNation Inc. in recent years.
When a consumer generates a lead on TrueCar or one of its 500-plus affiliate partners, the site tracks them. When the deal is closed and becomes a "sold record" in a store's reporting system, TrueCar matches the lead to the transaction through a process it calls sales matching that taps into store data.
While some may doubt this technique, Skutta said TrueCar's closed loop model opens opportunities for the site to consult with dealers on the performance of their listings. This can include examining lost sales, defined as people who came through the TrueCar system, were introduced to a dealer but decided to buy at another store.
Skutta said TrueCar can use its sales analyzer tool to track all of a dealership's sales down to the ZIP code.
"What we're doing is tracking consumer behavior before our site and while in our site," Skutta said. "We're also tracking the dealer's lead-handling processes, and then we put the aggregate of those three together to be able to go back and talk to the dealer on how to be better and convert more sales."
Skutta said the industry is still trying to get its head around attribution, especially when gauging the quality of site visits. Some dealers are putting more emphasis on first-touch attribution, while Skutta said others focus on who touched a consumer last to figure out which sites had the biggest impact on a shopper's decision.