Multi-Touch Attribution Changes Marketing Decisions for Dealers

Following is a guest blog by Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies, Author, and Keynote Speaker.

 

Dealers who have been following the progress of the PCG Engagement Project have new tools to inspect the quality of their website traffic and smarter strategies to capture conversion on their website. Once standardized goals are installed in Google Analytics, dealers can take advantage of VistaDash’s automotive specific Multi-Channel Funnel template.

With one click, dealers can now see Assisted Conversions (Column B) in addition to the Last-Click Conversions (Column A) for common automotive marketing channels. This information is critical for dealers because their CRM lead source reports are not accurate. (read my previous article)

The Google Analytics Assisted Conversions report, enhanced with the VistaDash template dated 3-14-17, created a more informative lead management report for this dealer to show the direct influence of their marketing investments. For this dealer, their CoVideo communication platform (line 7) is working well to increase conversion. Did they know this for a fact?

Here is another example of CRM blind spots. In the dealer’s CRM it was reported that CarGurus (line 11) generated only seven leads (last-click attribution), but the platform also influenced nine other conversions: a total of 16 leads.

Without considering multi-touch attribution, dealers may fire their most effective marketing partners.

The VistaDash Multi-Channel template also shows Tier 1 and Tier 2 influence, which can be customized by market. The template shows paid search conversions, lines four and five, which has been a topic of discussion lately.

Line five breaks out conversions that were generated by purchasing the dealer’s name. You can see that approximately 50% of all paid search conversions were generated from the dealer’s name. This is not uncommon. The data confirms that the success of AdWords campaigns ride off the dealer’s other branding and advertising investments.

Enhancing Analytics With Third-Party Data

Keep in mind that Google Analytics Assisted Conversions report only documents influence that comes directly from another website. Recently I wrote about the partnership between Cars.com and Clarivoy that will enhance GA reports based on offsite data. (read article)

This type of innovation is exactly what the auto industry needs; clearer ways to measure marketing ROI and influence.

The good news is that VistaDash will be supporting Google Analytics multi-touch attribution reports and sales funnels, so the enhanced data from Clarivoy will be automatically made available for their customers in VistaDash.

What dealers find when doing audience overlap studies with Clarivoy and Transparency will shock them:

40+% of their vehicles sales are directly influenced by third-party classified websites and only a small percentage customers, who purchased a vehicle, actually visited the dealer’s website before arriving on their lot.

I will be sharing more data regarding these findings, along with other speakers, at the 2017 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC) in May.

Stop Firing Your Best Marketing Partners Based on CRM Data

When dealers start to measure the quality of website traffic and how they convert (or just walk in) they can make smarter business decisions to increase engagement and sales. The automotive community has to look at engagement, conversion, and sales data with a fresh set of eyes to stop perpetuating harmful marketing myths.

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

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.

Reviews Influence Car Shopping Decisions: Infographic

Understanding when and how online reviews are used can help to make sense of a complicated topic: do reviews influence car shopping decisions?  The answer is yes!  But, what are car shoppers doing with reviews?  What review types are they looking up?  We gathered this information and published it in our latest white paper “Car Shoppers are Judging You,” which can be found here in full.  However, we wanted to put it  in a more quickly digestable form, so take a look below and download the PDF infographic to learn what consumers are doing with car related reviews.

Car Shopper Use of Car Related Reviews

 

 

Winning with Used Car Shoppers

Cars.com has a unique, in-market ready to buy car shopping audience – with 29.7 million monthly visits in 2016 alone¹.  From our research, we also know that seven out of ten shoppers to Cars.com are undecided on what and where to buy² giving dealers a huge opportunity to influence car shoppers.

Now, how do you speak to car shoppers who may be interested in used inventory, specifically?  We worked with a third party research firm to learn more about just that to help you win with used car shoppers.

The used car shopper mindset is a practical one.  Car shoppers looking at used inventory are more interested in getting the best car they can for their money in a style that matches their ideal car³.

Vehicle Attributes

We asked used car shoppers what vehicle attributes were most important to them when shopping – reliability came back as the most important.  This was followed closely by vehicle value and “best fit” for their lifestyle³ (Figure 1).

Figure 1.  Dealer Walk-Ins Analysis, Placed Inc. 2016.

 

It seems that used car shoppers are more willing to compromise on features for a good deal and value in a used vehicle.  This is all great information, but when is the best time to speak to these shoppers to help them make a purchase decision?

Vehicle Consideration

We found that the window of influence is ripe at least one month before their intended point of purchase³ (Figure 2).  Note that the percent of people considering a used vehicle is much higher than the percent of purchasers. In part, this is because our location research only includes people that visit a dealership; used buyers from private parties, like Craigslist, did not show up in this study³.

Figure 2.  Dealer Walk-ins Analysis.  Placed Inc.  2016.

 

The key takeaway here is that while used inventory consideration increases towards the point of purchase, car shoppers don’t always buy from a dealership when they make their decision to buy.  This is why you need to learn when used car shoppers plan to buy to better influence their decision to purchase from you – at least one month out.

Cross Shopping

Let’s take a quick look at cross-shopping by used car shoppers.  Used car shoppers highly consider CPO vehicles in their consideration sets³ (Figure 3).  Used shoppers are also more likely to trade up to CPO more so than new car shoppers³.

Figure 3.  Dealer Walk-ins Analysis.  Placed Inc. 2016.

 

Knowing that the window of influence for a used car shopper is about a month out from their intended point of purchase and that they consider CPO vehicles in their shopping journey is pivotal information in speaking to the used car shopper.  It’s up to dealers to best figure out how to target, speak, and influence used car shoppers.  Cars.com is here to help.

Our Marketing, Product, and Tech teams continue to make progress driving more meaningful, in-market traffic to our dealers – with the highest quality audience in the business. We will continue to optimize traditional lead delivery for our advertisers while redefining the future of value delivery with on the lot visits, multi-touch attribution, and other quality metrics.  We will continue to help you win not only with used car shoppers, but all car shoppers.

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

[2] Cars.com Consumer Metrics Study, December 2016.

[3] Dealer Walk-Ins analysis.  Placed Inc.  2016.

Looking At Dealer Review Behavior

Last week we discussed the value in your online reviews – how consumers use reviews and the role of positive and negative reviews.  It’s important to the dealership’s success to have a strategy in place to monitor and respond to all reviews.  Now, let’s dive into consumer behavior by looking at the number of reviews consumers want to see, how recent reviews need to be, and the devices used to read them.

What’s the minimum amount of reviews needed to influence a purchase decision?

Across categories, consumers want to read at least 4 to 5 reviews before making a purchase decision. We also found that one-third of consumers are wanting ten or more reviews to help them make a purchase decision. Think about it — what goes through your mind when you see a product or service with one review? Thoughts may range from, “It must not be good if there’s so few reviews” or “they must be new if there’s only one. I’ll keep looking.” The amount of reviews a dealer has available to consumers online matters — the more the better.

Customers think the same thing. Work hard to grow the amount of reviews for consumers to read, and keep them coming!

Those consumers who are frequent users of reviews expect more reviews than those who aren’t using reviews as often. Car reviews specifically are the second most useful type of review that we found, and car reviews have the largest amount of minimum reviews needed to satisfy consumers—with a mean minimum of 11 reviews being ideal to influence their purchase decision. Car dealership reviews are expected to have the same amount of reviews to be considered useful by consumers when choosing a dealership. If dealers have an effective online review strategy that prioritizes growing reviews, then this number shouldn’t be hard to achieve and it keeps fresh review content alive for an online audience.

How recent to do online reviews need to be to be deemed relevant to consumers?

When discussing recency, car reviews should be within the past six months to be considered useful. Across categories, however, consumers mostly accept reviews within 6 months to one year. Reviews within the past three months are ideal and are seen as having the most value.

Now, not everyone looks at the age of reviews, but for those that do, the more recent the better. Consumers want to make their decisions based on — practically — real-time information. Younger audiences, especially the Millennial generation, live in a world of instant gratification. If they can’t find what they’re looking for or don’t like what they find at a dealership, they’re likely to keep looking until they do. Dealers who don’t have enough recent reviews are going to lose in the marketplace when it comes to digital word of mouth.

Depending upon where a consumer is in their shopping journey, a review could be the catalyst to make a decision sooner. Dealers want to have their best and most representative foot forward to help consumers make that purchase decision — to buy from them.

What devices are consumers using to interact with reviews?

It’s interesting to see what devices consumers use to engage with reviews. You could assume that those who choose to write reviews on mobile devices are ‘in the moment’ and happy with their experience and want to write a review while it’s still fresh in their minds. On the reverse, they could have had an awful experience and want to vent. Either way, mobile is a means to review experiences and do it quickly. We found that 42% of consumers leave online car reviews via their smartphones.

In looking at dealership reviews, 34% of consumers leave them, but 47% of these reviews are done via smartphones — more than individual car reviews.

On the other hand, some consumers may choose a desktop to leave reviews. We found that because of the ease of use for some consumers or a lack of urgency to leave a review, a desktop may be more ideal for some consumers after purchase. For dealership reviews, we found that 78% of reviews are done on a desktop. We also found that 82% of car reviews written are done on a desktop as well.

For the largest purchases in a consumer’s life— vehicles and homes— they tend to use online reviews earlier in their research process compared to other purchases.

In any scenario, dealers need to create and execute a strategy to follow up with consumers after their purchase, asking for reviews of their experience to continue growing that digital word of mouth. Perhaps a consumer didn’t have a mobile device to leave a review when they were on the lot. Maybe the consumer meant to leave a review but forgot. Sending follow up emails, making phone calls, or sending texts can be a great way to continue growing dealers’ brands by asking the customer how happy they were with their experience and then asking for a review.

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.

The Value in Your Online Presence & Reviews

Dealer Reviews are more important than ever in today’s “go-online-first” world. The vast majority of consumers begin their research and shopping journeys online. In fact, consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential.

Today, online resources carry more weight in consumers’ minds as compared to more traditional information sources because of the speed at which information is updated and made available for consumption. If you’re an advertiser, spending more of your time and energy in digital will pay off more in reaching and gaining share with consumers because of the speed at which the online marketplace moves.

Specifically, reviews play a pivotal role in consumers’ minds by helping them decide how they will proceed in their shopping journey after looking up a product or service and analyzing how other consumers felt about their experience. Over 90 percent of consumers who shop online, regardless of product or service, say they use online reviews¹. That’s significant! Online reviews aren’t going away, and how you react to online reviews will greatly impact your standing in consumers’ minds.  Let’s take a look at some data.

How do Consumers Use Online Reviews?

Consumers use online reviews for half or more of new purchases. Reviews are influential. But, to what degree? Well, a large majority feel that online reviews are helpful and almost half would avoid a purchase without them, in general.

Dealers need to understand the extent to which online reviews influence purchase decisions. It makes sense that in our digital culture today, younger consumers use reviews more compared to consumers 55 years and older, but older consumers shouldn’t be ignored in an online review strategy. If a dealer doesn’t have online reviews, they are effectively ignoring the younger, Millennial generation with significant buying power.

“Eighty percent of Millennials said that they plan to purchase a vehicle in the next five years. At 80 million strong, and with more than $200 billion in annual buying power, there are plenty of sales to be generated from Millennials².”

What Review Sources do Consumers Trust the Most?

Consumers trust reviews from experts and from others who have purchased the same product they are interested in as the most influential.

From our study, three quarters of consumers trust expert reviews, and nearly as many trust reviews from other customers. The level of trust in experts and other customer reviews is on par with family and friends as sources.

Advertisements, whether online or through other media, are not as trusted. It is interesting here, though, to note that men, parents, and frequent review users are more likely to trust advertisements for making a major purchase — those sources by TV, radio, newspaper and other traditional media — with 25% indicating as such compared to 73% trusting expert reviews.

We recommend dealers have a process in place that highlights expert reviews on the makes and models they carry that will reinforce their own brand and get consumers talking. Dealers should also highlight reviews provided by customers who have previously purchased from their dealership. Doing so can help reassure potential consumers they are making the right decision in choosing the dealer they are researching.

How do Consumers Feel about Negative Reviews?

Negative reviews not only provide a look into how perceived poor experiences are handled at a dealership, but they can also highlight a pain point that may need addressed in the dealership’s own sales, service, or operations processes — an issue that may not have been apparent before. But, responding to negative reviews and showing other consumers that you’re willing to do what’s needed to make consumers happy after purchase can greatly improve your digital word of mouth and credibility in the minds of future consumers—setting you apart in the marketplace.

We aren’t done talking about dealer reviews.  Stay tuned to our blog for more on the role reviews play in the car shopping journey in the coming weeks.  All content, unless otherwise cited, comes from our own research in partnership and with execution and analysis by an independent third party, Versta Research.  We performed a quantitative survey of 503 recent and prospective car buyers from November 3 – 15, 2016. Our sample was carefully sourced and screened from a large national research panel.

[1] Review Usefulness and Recency, Cars.com, November, 2016.
[2] Millennial Car Shoppers, CDK Global, 2015.

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.

Cars.com and Clarivoy Partner to Upgrade Google Analytics and Support Dealer Growth

Attribution is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers today and that is no different for our advertisers — particularly dealers. From one store independents to large, multi-store dealer groups, the challenge of understanding which touchpoints are influencing consumers throughout their car shopping journey is universal.

The attribution conversation is one that we continuously have with our customers — and today, that conversation is about to change.

Today at NADA, Cars.com and Clarivoy announced a partnership that will move the conversation beyond first and last click attribution to answer the question dealers have been asking about their marketing investments: are they working?

Through Clarivoy’s native Google Analytics integration, Cars.com customers will now be able to see a multi-touch view of the influence their marketing efforts have in today’s multi-touch world.  Cars.com will be making our data available and transparent via Clarivoy, providing our customers the ability to see the influence Cars.com has on consumers throughout the car buying journey.

To date, Clarivoy’s dealer customers have described their native Google Analytics solution as “game changing” and “stunning.” In fact, Clarivoy took home Driving Sales’ 2016 Innovation Cup for “Most Innovative Solution.”

We are proud to partner with Clarivoy, as well as other attribution providers, to drive the industry forward, through an attribution solution that will help dealers understand how their marketing investments are impacting sales…for every turn.

As Steve White, founder and CEO of Clarivoy said, “When you think about multi-touch attribution, you have to give credit where credit is due.”

We are confident in the role Cars.com has across the car buying journey and are sponsoring a two-month trial for select customers – contact Clarivoy to upgrade your Google Analytics today.