Your Most Valuable Customer: The Walk-in Shopper

Walk-in shoppers are a sizable and important audience. According to recent research conducted by Cars.com, 43 percent of car shoppers don’t contact a dealership before walking onto the lot via traditional “lead” methods, meaning that about 4 out of 10 shoppers have narrowed their vehicle search without ever contacting a dealership.  And, these walk-in shoppers are valuable: two-thirds of them make a purchase within 72 hours of their on-the-lot visit, and 40 percent buy within the same day.

The prevalence of walk-in shopping is a challenge and a catalyst for dealers to adopt multi-touch attribution to maximize marketing effectiveness.

Walk-in traffic has always been a challenge to quantify. I suspect that the number of consumers who walk on to the lot to purchase vehicles will create stress an industry whose key systems to gauging sales process and marketing effectiveness (CRM, Google Analytics and dealership management systems) are already antiquated.

 Walk-in Traffic and Multi-Touch Attribution

Walk-in shoppers are influenced by a number of touch points, ranging from organic searches to reviews and third-party sites such as Cars.com. Armed with a wealth of research, they’re visiting dealers’ lots confident that they don’t need to engage with a dealer ahead of time. Consequently, dealers need to use multi-touch attribution strategies, not just last touch attribution or traditional lead metrics, to understand the value of their digital marketing.

However, dealers continue to invest in tactics that support last-click/single-source attribution and are not even necessarily driving sales. For example, in 2016, more than 50 percent of  dealerships’ digital spend went to promoting their website via paid search and display (according to eMarketer). As I wrote recently,when our dealer customers listen to inbound phone calls that originate from branded paid search terms, they realize that close to 90 percent of these “leads” are not leads at all – they are recovery searches for post-influence service. The industry needs to move away from metrics that support last click/single source to advertising that wins with consumer preference and walk in traffic

Winning with the Walk-in Consumer

The walk-in consumer is a great opportunity of sales for the dealer community. To turn walk-in consumers into customers, dealers need to understand their motivations and behaviors. Our data paints the picture of a ready-to-buy shopper  who uses their devices to determine what, where and from whom to buy. They’re using their mobile devices on-the-lot to make smarter decisions:

  • 64-percent use smart phones to compare vehicle prices.
  • 51-percent compare vehicle makes and models.
  • 41-percent read reviews.

Dealers need to train their sales teams to understand how to engage with walk-in shoppers, – and assume that all walk in traffic are consumers who have spent time online researching their future vehicle purchase.  Walk-in shoppers are engaged and ready to talk prices and details about makes and models, and a large number continue their research online while at the dealership’s lot.  Sales associates should understand what key review sites like Cars.com are saying about the vehicles, the dealership, and sales people

On-the-Lot is the New Normal

Dealers need to face a hard reality: their lead data is incomplete and CRMs and Google Analytics currently only support single source attribution. Dealerships that rely solely on last-touch attribution and “internet” lead data to make advertising decisions are missing a sizeable and growing segment of on-the-lot customers — and these are customers who are more than likely ready to make a purchase.  To this end, our industry needs to become literate in the digital experiences, expectations and needs of walk-in consumers to best work with the growing legion of walk in traffic.

Smartphones Are Used More than Desktops and Laptops

According to our study Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, smartphones are used for nearly half (46%) of online car shopping activities¹. Desktops or laptops are a close second, being used for 41% of all online activities¹. Tablets are a distant third, being used for only 13% of online car shopping activities¹.

This shows a shift in the way consumers interact with the world today, not just in car shopping. Not long ago, desktops and laptops were the primary method of surfing the Internet and shopping online. With the advent of higher quality digital, mobile technology, consumers are allowed to shop online on their own terms.

Dealers that recognize the role mobile plays in consumers’ lives will be the most successful in moving metal. This is why it is important to think from a mobile, digital perspective when creating an advertising strategy. Optimizing vehicle inventory to be seen on smartphones— along with the necessary merchandising—is key to engaging car shoppers and influencing them to choose one vehicle or dealership over another. It should be no surprise, then, that Millennials are the primary users of smartphones in car shopping. This generation has grown up with technology and has quickly adopted a mobile mindset when it comes to interacting with the world and consuming entertainment, information, or shopping online via their smartphones.

We know the role smartphones play as the device of choice in car shopping, but what actions are car shoppers performing? Smartphones are especially the device of choice for viewing maps and directions to the dealership, deciding which dealerships to visit, and reading dealership reviews. This makes sense — using a mobile device while in transit to help navigate to their dealership of choice. This also means that car shoppers have made a choice and researched enough to be satisfied to choose a dealership’s lot to visit.

The high prevalence of use of dealership reviews on smartphones also shows that consumers may be cross-shopping competitor dealerships while on the lot. Auto shoppers want real-time information. We know from our own research that 63 percent of auto shoppers were still researching dealerships after showing up at a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².

We can’t discuss the role mobile plays in the car shopping journey without understanding the role that desktops and laptops play as well. Desktops and laptops are especially the device of choice for viewing vehicle colors/360 vehicle views, completing credit applications for vehicle financing, and using build and price vehicle tools.

Device Usage in Specific Car Shopping Activities

Figure 1.  Car Shoppers Are Judging You, February 2017.

 

Essentially, desktops and laptops are used for those tasks that may seem more laborious to the consumer — providing detailed information via online forms or more video-heavy experiences — that are deemed easier to perform with larger screens and keyboards.

Desktops and laptops have their place, and when used, one could assume that consumers are highly focused and engaged when giving in-depth information in this way.

Screen size can also play a role in collecting various types of information, and it could just be a preference amongst some car shoppers to use desktops and laptops in some cases. We see here that most consumers are searching dealership inventory on their desktops and laptops. Car shoppers may be in their early stage of shopping, wanting to choose vehicles, review specs, and incentives to later compare vehicles and move to their mobile device.

In any scenario, smartphones are a key touch point for car shoppers with any dealer’s brand.  It’s these mobile touch points that influence the car shopper and drive them to action – sometimes literally driving them to the dealership’s lot.  Keep this in mind the next time you do a review of any advertising strategy or a reallocation of advertising funds.  Placing emphasis on a mobile presence can pay off significantly.

 

[1] Mobile Influence on Car Shopping, Cars.com White Paper. February 2017.

[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 2016

Cars.com Recognized with “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” Award

Cars.com is proud to be the recipient of AUTO Connected CAR News’ award for Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web.  AUTO Connected CAR News’ annual Tech CARS Awards winners are determined by consumer votes. This recognition reflects our commitment to delivering superior experiences to consumers while delivering quality metrics and results to our advertiser customers in a mobile-first world.

Mobile-First Mindset

Cars.com is the first and only third-party website in the automotive space to go mobile responsive. The massive endeavor, which allows for a seamless site experience across devices, has paid off. In addition to receiving “Best Car Buying or Selling App Experience or Mobile Web” award from AUTO Connected CAR news, Cars.com ranked highest in overall satisfaction among third-parties in J.D. Power’s 2016 Automotive Mobile Site Study℠* (October, 2016). And, according to App Annie data, our app is a consumer favorite in the US with 10% more iOS and Google Play downloads in 2016 than its closest car sales app competitor.

Mobile-First Metrics

As consumer behavior drives change in the industry, Cars.com has also revolutionized measurement tools for car dealers and manufacturers. According to our “Mobile Car Shopper Survey,” more than half of consumers use their smartphones on dealership lots to get more information¹. With the launch of our Lot Insights report, we put a stake in the ground demonstrating the importance of mobile attribution for dealers. The first-of-its-kind report, which uses geo-fencing technology, allowing dealers to track and analyze mobile car shopper behavior on or around the lot.

“We’re on a mission to evolve how we measure value in the automotive industry,” said Brooke Skinner Ricketts, CMO, Cars.com. “Our Lot Insights analytics and reporting is a great first step, but we’re not stopping there. Mobile accolades like this create momentum behind our efforts as they prove the changes taking place in our space. We will continue to lead with a user experience that aligns with modern car buying behaviors and provides our advertiser customers better understanding, reach and influence.”

With mobile momentum continuing to build, we’re just getting started. To deliver quality, in-market shoppers to our advertisers, Cars.com will continue to innovate to provide the best consumer experience across devices while delivering results for our advertisers…for every turn.

Click through to read more about the winners here. 

¹ Mobile Shopper Study, VerstaReserach, December 2016

Is Google Analytics Your #1 Competitor?

The following is a guest blog by Steve White, CEO and Founder of Clarivoy.

Consumers have gravitated to the Internet for – well – just about everything. So, when it comes to digital marketing, it’s more important than ever for marketers to know what’s working and what’s not. Everything from SEO, to content, to social media and display ads contributes to the lure which brings consumers into dealership showrooms.

Currently, the single biggest asset digital marketers use to determine marketing effectiveness is Google Analytics. Many look at Google as an independent, unbiased third-party where they can get accurate measurements of what is actually driving activity to their websites and converting into sales. Sadly, they are wrong. Here’s why:

Google slowly and indirectly crept into the auto industry, similar to how it dominated every other industry — through pay-per-click advertising. Google then developed a department specifically dedicated to the automotive industry, which has been around for about the past five years. This is because between auto manufacturers, third-party listing sites, lead providers and dealers, the auto industry is very lucrative for them, which naturally drives their motivation to favor attribution that makes them look good. It also justifies the huge budgets some dealers put into pay-per-click.

In my opinion, Google Analytics is the #1 competitor to third party sites and digital vendors. The reason is that Google Analytics’ settings, by default, are configured for last-click attribution. And where do most clicks come from? Either organic or paid search results. It doesn’t matter if the customer saw your vehicle on a third-party site, then later did a search for the dealer’s name and clicked on the link (organic or paid), guess who gets credit for that click? You got it, Google.

One of the biggest issues for most dealers is that they simply do not have the time or available resources to pay attention and measure attribution properly. Therefore, they take the easy route and use the default Google Analytics setting for their marketing decisions. It is imperative that you upgrade your Google Analytics configuration so that you can get a more accurate picture of all your marketing investments. I promise you any time or money spent is a wise investment.

It takes quite a bit of knowledge, and time, to properly setup Google Analytics with every touchpoint, conversion form and social media ad to register and attribute properly within Google Analytics. Frankly, most dealerships just don’t have those resources. Perhaps they have an Internet department filled with Internet managers. But what I see across the industry is that 99% of those positions have pay plans that revolve around sales – not digital marketing. This forces Internet managers to choose between doing the activities that make them money (sales), and those that don’t. In the end, the only attribution source with data that shows if that dealer’s marketing is working or not is Google Analytics and the CRM. Thus dealers end up making poor decisions regarding their marketing tactics and spend.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Pay-per-click and SEO efforts are certainly vital and can certainly perform well if properly executed. However, accepting everything that Google’s reporting platform tells you as fact is like accepting ANY vendor’s reports as fact.

In the end, Google is simply one of your vendors and, like most vendors, the reporting is configured to benefit them so as to justify your investment in their services.

You would be wise to stop taking Google Analytics reporting purely on face value as a 100% accurate measurement of online marketing results. Google isn’t an independent, third-party. They’re a vendor selling a service just like any other… and their reporting should be viewed with the same micro-inspection that you give any other vendor’s reports.

For more information, click through to the original posting here and for more from Clarivoy, a marketing technology firm specializing in unified, unbiased business intelligence.

January Voice of the Consumer

Cars.com continues to be the place to go for car shoppers looking at cars for sale.  In January of 2017, 88 percent of Cars.com visitors were specifically doing just that.  We continue to gather feedback from Cars.com visitors to further influence our site’s growth and offerings.  We also ask visitors what they specifically find helpful in using Cars.com.  Among some of the most helpful features of Cars.com are search filters, vehicle merchandising, and reviews.

 

We are happy to hear all of the above, especially that reviews are helpful to our visitors.  As of February, we have 3.6 million reviews live on Cars.com with 50 percent of those coming from DealerRater.com, a Cars.com company.  It’s important to note that our acquisition of DealerRater.com allows us the ability to syndicate dealer reviews to various other platforms.  This includes other vendors like AutoTrader and Kelly Blue Book who also feature DealerRater.com reviews on their own websites.

We continue to listen to our visitors to improve our website functionality and offerings to help them find the vehicle that’s right for them using all the information they can at their fingertips.  When we help visitors win, we help our dealers win by better connecting car shoppers to the right dealer.

Cars.com Internal Data, January 2017.

Vehicle Pricing Tools: From Transparency to Trust

Understanding what motivates car shoppers and their needs is critical to win in today’s competitive marketplace. As consumers move through their car buying journey they are looking for information to make informed decisions on what to buy, where to buy and who to buy from. Increasingly, one of the top concerns for any car shopper or vehicle owner is price – or how much to pay.

In December of 2016, we saw 55 percent of car shoppers researching price on Cars.com and 54 percent actively comparing vehicles¹. Knowing that we could meet the needs of consumers and our dealer customers alike, we set out to further enhance the shopping process through vehicle pricing tools. The goal? Keep consumers engaged on the site and facilitate a quicker path to purchase with dealers – all while building trust between them from the start.

Today, Price Comparison Graphs are available on Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) to provide more context around the price of a used car or new vehicle. Factors such as trim, mileage, and certification are also taken into consideration on the price of a vehicle in a particular market. Local vehicle price comparisons are determined through sampling of all cars within 100 miles of the location of the vehicle and for used vehicles, comparison mileage and CPO status are also displayed.

Figure 1.  Price Comparison Graph of Used 2015 Ford F350

The need for pricing transparency when making a sizeable purchase is not limited to the automotive industry.  When buying a home consumers turn to Zillow or Trulia to understand the market value of a home and what they can expect to pay based on the home’s location, features, and history.

This level of transparency has become a consumer expectation when it comes to making major purchase decisions – including cars — and one that we will continue to innovate against in the coming year to drive quality engagement to influence car shoppers. Deeper Feature Comparison functionality is currently in development, which will incorporate additional qualifiers such as drivetrain, engine cylinders and transmission into the Price Comparison Graphs.

By providing consumers transparency through Vehicle Pricing Tools, as well as DealerRater reviews, we aren’t just creating connections between consumers and dealers — we are building lifetime value and trust from the start.

 

[1] Cars.com Internal Data, December 2016.

Mobile Consumers Turn to Cars.com During Super Bowl

Last night’s Super Bowl where the New England Patriots triumphed over the Atlanta Falcons was historic. Not only because of the game itself, but because of the advertisements.

The Super Bowl has been the holy grail of advertising since Apple launched the MacIntosh in 1984. Today, just as many people tune in to see the ads as they do to watch the game. It’s a “tent pole” moment for any brand — including auto manufacturers – as advertisers spent upwards of five million dollars for a 30-second commercial during this year’s game. But, what’s more important is how a brand’s big Super Bowl moment translates into next moments of engagement online.

During the big game, we monitored traffic and search lift in real-time and compared the results to averages of the four prior Sundays.  The results are in and they show the influence the Big Game has on consumers as well as the significant role that Cars.com plays as a leading destination in the mobile consumer auto shopping journey:

During the game, nearly 60 percent of visits to Cars.com came from mobile devices on game day.

  • The nine auto brands with commercials during the game averaged a seven percent lift to their brand pages on Cars.com and a 238 percent lift to pages of specific models that were advertised during the game.
  • In the eight minutes following their commercial, visits to Alfa Romeo pages on Cars.com saw a staggering 1,179 percent increase in comparison to the same time period prior to the airing of their spot — a sign that their Big Game investment was highly impactful.

Brand model pages also experienced significant search lift, particularly from mobile devices which increased by 1,074 percent for the brand models that were advertised during the big game. When compared to Cars.com traffic over the four prior Sundays, automotive brands who advertised during the Super Bowl saw the following lifts to their advertised model pages:

  •  Alfa Romeo Giulia – 7,320%
  • Audi S5 – 1,391%
  • Buick Cascada – 424%
  • Buick Encore – 59%
  • Honda CR-V – 35%
  • Kia Niro – 497%
  • Lexus LC 500 – 861%
  • Lexus LS 460 – 888%
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT – 910%

It’s a significant investment on the part of auto manufacturers to advertise during the Super Bowl, and the resulting boost in traffic by make and model validates their choice to do just that. In 2017, we will continue to build a platform to create these influential audience connections — and in turn drives sales for our dealers — for every turn.

Interested in seeing the full press release?  Click here.

NADA 100 Recap

Cars.com had a great time at NADA 100 this year.  The industry has seen tremendous change over the last 100 years and Cars.com has enjoyed being a partner in growth for the local retailers for amost twenty years.

As a partner in growth, Cars.com is always keeping an eye on the changing modern consumer behavior and how we can support dealers win in their local marketplace.  At NADA, we shared new insights on mobile shopping behavior to help dealers capitalize on the new opportunities to connect with the modern consumer.  Cars.com also announced a new Attribution solution with Clarivoy to help dealers make data-driven advertising decisions with the full picture of their advertising performance via their Google Analytics dashboard.

Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter said it best, “2017 is the year of efficiency.”  We are moving forward with our partners to grow efficiency in working together and in connecting car shoppers with the right vehicle, dealership, and sales person.  We saw this on the NADA expo floor, which was jam-packed with long-standing digital advertising partners as well as a high number of new companies.

What stuck out to us was the common message that dealers need to partner with companies who understand today’s modern consumer and with those who will do their best to grow dealers’ ROI in new, innovative ways.

Take a look at some of the good times below to see how Cars.com and DealerRater partnered with those dealers in attendance to discuss what’s new with us, everything we have available to dealers, and how to better our partnerships in 2017.

Cars.com event staff take some time for photos with the band Fitz and the Tantrums who performed at the Cars.com event party at NADA 2017 in New Orleans.

Cars.com sales team members review our Lot Insights reporting and answer other questions from those dealers in attendance at NADA.

Dealers who came to NADA had the chance to speak with trained Cars.com sales team members to learn more about Cars.com solutions and our unique, in-market car shopping audience.

Cars.com Trade Marketing staff work the booth to help visitors learn more about us and provide insights into Cars.com events and speakers.

Jamie Oldershaw – Senior Vice President of Product for DealerRater, Alex Vetter – CEO of Cars.com, and Gary Tucker – CEO of DealerRater, take the time to pose for pictures at the DealerRater booth at NADA.

A Full Campaign Strategy and its Importance in Reaching Today’s Customer

Every dealership wants to leverage their advertising strategy to reach the most customers and influence them for the best price.  Many dealers rely on agencies to help them achieve their sales goals and hire individuals within the dealership to oversee and monitor their advertising success.  But, do you have a full campaign strategy in place to reach those customers?  We previously discussed the 5 questions you should ask yourself when planning your advertising strategy for 2017, but what’s the value in creating a robust full campaign strategy?  You’ll reach more consumers more times and in more places.

What do we mean when we say ‘full campaign strategy?’  Essentially, we mean that you need to utilize a large mix of media – the likes of TV, radio, print, social, online display, online video, email, mobile, and even connected TV.

Consumers want to engage with you on their own terms.  In our connected world, that often times means that the bulk of your strategy should be in digital media to place your dealership and your brand where consumers can find it when they want – to engage with you 24/7.  Doing so reaches across demographics, not just the Millennial generation today.  When you’re utilizing digital properly, you gain a higher quality, more engaging audience because you can better analyze data on what consumers do online and with your brand.

Indeed, digital is also more affordable and provides you the reach you need to speak to your consumers.  When you advertise in traditional media, it’s often too expensive to reach the full audience you want as many times as you want.  This audience is also not guaranteed to be in-market and ready to buy car shoppers.  Digital does offer you the quality audience you seek and ability to target that audience with specific messages to consumers throughout the car buying and car servicing lifecycles.  In this case, buying digital banner ads on websites your audience frequents in your area or on third party sites like Cars.com that provide vehicle information, editorial content, and search capabilities yields better results for your buck.

But, when you advertise at the local level you can create a campaign that focuses less dollars on TV and radio and move them to digital that directs consumers to your digital properties supplemented by advertising on websites your target audience is known to visit.  Additionally, digital partners like Cars.com support that message and provide an extension of your brand from one medium to the other with the added integrity and trust of their brand.

That doesn’t mean that traditional media doesn’t have value when strategically used.  Indeed, broadcast or cable TV shows, sporting events, and games are great ways to keep your brand front and center.  Having a call to action to go online to engage with your brand is key – every medium can support the others.  To give you an example, starting out 2017, Cars.com is placing messaging in front of sports fans via NFL games where we will appear on in-game highlights, live streaming, and their online news being featured on the NFL mobile app.  Growing that messaging, Cars.com will appear on FOX Sports GO, Foxsports.com and FOX Sports Chatter.  Throughout this messaging, we’ll drive consumers to Cars.com to engage with our dealers and help consumers research vehicles, dealers, and vehicle service options.  This is a campaign blend of digital with traditional media to reach a large swath of consumers.

One key piece of a full campaign strategy is Social Media.  This allows you to be in a bit more control of your brand message and allows you to directly speak to your consumers.  A social media strategy can be as simple as sharing photos of customers who purchased their new car from you or announcing photo contests to sharing your latest sales at the dealership.  Social is also great for sharing experiences and reviews – both positive and negative – where you can show what your dealership stands for and the customer service you strive to provide.  You can supplement your social strategy with engaging consumers be creating an email campaign.

Cars.com is also taking advantage of one of the most newsworthy events of January, the NFL playoffs.  Cars.com will present five post-game/press conference videos and will be on both @NFLonFOX twitter and Facebook accounts furthering our brand presence – a strategy that any dealer or OEM can achieve either locally or nationally.

You’re most likely familiar with all of this, but what is connected TV?  You probably know what it is but don’t realize you do.  Connected TV includes devices like Apple TV, Roku, SmartTV, Xbox and Playstation.  These are phenomenal ways to reach younger, in-market Millennial car shoppers.  This brings us back to an engaged consumer.  Traditional commercials within a TV show can now be skipped, but for those tech savvy consumers who use a connected TV device, you still have the ability to reach them, engage with them, and drive them to your brand online.

This is a short intro into the need of a full campaign strategy to reach consumers, engage with your brand, and drive them to your lot.  Ask questions of your agencies to ensure your campaign is driving results for you the way you want because, again, you want to reach the most customers as many times as you can and where they will be. Be on the lookout for Cars.com when you’re catching upcoming NFL games in January.