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.

Mobile Influence on Car Shopping: A White Paper

Car shoppers are interacting with dealerships on mobile. It doesn’t matter if it’s via an app or a mobile browser on their smartphones or even a tablet, consumers are finding dealers where and when they want to find them. This is significant for many reasons. As a dealer, it means there is a need to have a constant online presence that properly merchandises inventory, a need to have numerous methods of contact, and have their brand properly optimized for mobile. That’s a difficult task when the sheer volume of vehicles is considered along with the numerous touch points the Internet provides and the day-to-day operations of the dealership. But, many dealers do well with these efforts and those that do understand mobile are the most successful today.

Now more than ever, Dealers can take advantage of the shopping journey becoming more and more mobile. The influence of mobile on car shopping is manageable for dealers. As the prevalence of smartphones and technology grows, the ways by which consumers can communicate and engage with online dealers can only grow, too. This leaves huge opportunity for dealers to optimize their mobile presence and strategy to grow with car shoppers in terms of engaging with dealers’ brands and communicating back and forth.

With this white paper, we provide insight into the role that mobile plays in today’s car shopper journey. We also want to provide key takeaways for dealers to help them optimize their mobile presence to take advantage of how car shoppers utilize mobile in today’s digital world.

Click for our Mobile Influence on Car Shopping white paper for the full version and start taking advantage of mobile today!

5 Questions Dealers Should Ask in 2017

A new year means new opportunity to grow your business.  That means you can’t keep operating under the same mindset when it comes to setting goals, planning advertising, and evaluating metrics if you want to be successful in growing your dealership and continuing to move metal and servicing vehicles. It’s vital to your business to be open to change, to be ready to react to consumers, and to execute advertising to reach customers throughout their car buying and car servicing life cycles.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with 5 questions to ask yourself regarding your advertising strategy to grow your business in 2017.

Am I focusing on the right metrics to judge success?

We’ve already discussed the role that traditional metrics like email and phone call leads play in measuring the success of your advertising strategy on our blog, you can read that here.  But in today’s mobile-first world, traditional metrics don’t carry the same weight as they used to when evaluating your advertising strategy.  Indeed, they are helpful, but when you advertise online versus traditional media like TV and radio, the same metrics to measure success do not translate like they used to.  Sure, you can measure how many eyeballs saw your TV commercial, but when consumers choose to engage with you online, that is more powerful as it shows their interest in you.

Your task, look at your 2016 performance to determine where you were most successful and where you think you can improve.  How were consumers choosing to interacting with your brand online?  With Cars.com for instance, were more customers engaging with you while on the lot versus sending emails and did this result in more sales?  If so, what are you going to do about it?  How does that compare to the success of your TV campaigns or radio buys?  Ask yourself, do your engagement metrics online translate to the success of your other traditional media buys?  Your advertising plans need to cross all platforms to be sure, and when you sit down to measure the success of your plan, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when looking at metrics.

Am I placing my ad dollars in the right media so I can quickly react to my customers?

You probably have a process in place already to review your ad spend weekly, monthly, or quarterly.  That’s great.  But, have you thought about that how, now, your dealership and virtual lot are always online and available to customers to find.  When you sit down to review data and metrics, are your customers sending you signals via this data?  For instance, are customers always calling asking for more photos on your listings or are your engagement metrics showing movement on specific makes and models over others when on the lot?  If so, how are you highlighting this inventory?

Your task, when reviewing your ad plan, ad spend, and performance, can you make the necessary changes quickly based on the signals your customers are sending you to optimize your ad spend?  If customers are asking for more photos, can you quickly send them those photos or send them a video of the car in question encouraging them to visit your lot?  There’s no limit to what you can do and how you react to show your customers you’re listening – just do it quickly.

Does my advertising strategy speak to customers throughout their car shopping journey?

Every consumer that comes across your dealership and brand is in a different stage of the car shopping process.  Have you optimized your online presence to speak to customers in every stage of that journey?  We’ve discussed this in similar terms for consumers who walk on the lot, and the same is true for those customers who are online researching.  By creating content on vehicles and making it available via your own website, the likes of Cars.com, or on social media, you’re influencing consumers to engage with you more throughout their journey because you’re helpful throughout their process.  This is true for the consumer who’s just starting their research into makes and models all the way to the consumer showing up on the lot comparing specs on vehicles who’s ready to purchase.

Your task, create a holistic plan that provides information for every stage in the car shopper’s journey.  If you create content or ads that speak to these different stages and make it available at the right moment at the right time, you can influence customers from a short term mindset to a long term customer.  Show consumers the breadth of what you offer them throughout the car ownership lifecycle.

Am I allowing customers the opportunity to engage with me when and how they want?

If you haven’t faced it yet, consumers want to engage with you on their terms.  Given the integration of media across platforms thanks to the Internet, your online presence needs to be seamless to properly speak to your customers.  Your photo and video capability – vehicle photos and information to your commercials – need to be consistently available and up to date regardless of the platform or screen size a consumer chooses to use to engage with you.

Your task, when creating video or photo content, be sure to allow for everything you create to be consumed across platforms and devices.  So, make your TV commercials available on your website in a mobile friendly form.  Create a process to respond to email leads with more engaging photo or video content to influence consumers when you reply.  There’s no end to what you can do or the access consumers have to engage with you, or your competitors if you haven’t thought through all the ways consumers can engage.

Am I optimizing my dealership for the mobile world?

We’ve already said that you need to be mobile to engage with consumers and allow them to choose when and how to engage with you.  But, if your dealership’s content isn’t optimized for mobile screens – phones and tablets – you’re missing out on key opportunities to influence consumers to choose your dealership.  There’s more to this than just optimizing your advertising content.  When you think about how you engage with online advertising content, you don’t always appreciate the popups or lengths of ads you have to sit through when your ultimate destination is to shop or research a product.  Be sure to know your audience and give them customized options – maybe the option of choosing an ad to watch or asking them to follow your social media after completing an ad – giving consumers options can encourage them to explore your dealership and vehicles more fully.

Your task, review your current advertising content and ensure that it is optimized for the mobile world not just in viewability, but in allowing consumers to choose how they consume your content.  Be sure to train your sales teams on mobile and its usefulness for a unified voice in dealing with customers via mobile.

Understanding that a one-size-fits all approach to your advertising spend doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to allocating dollars to traditional media, social media, and third party partners like Cars.com is vital to being successful in 2017.  Now is the perfect time to align and integrate your internal processes at the dealership to maximize your mobile presence, recognize that consumers expect to engage with your dealership and brand on their terms, and to create content that is informative and engaging that can be viewed across platforms.  You have plenty of partners in the automotive space that help you speak to consumers and help you influence them to purchase regardless of where they are in the car shopping journey.

Predictive Behavior on Mobile: The Importance to Your Dealership

Consumers are interacting with dealerships on mobile.  It doesn’t matter if it’s via an app or a mobile browser, consumers are finding dealers where and when they want to find them.  That’s important for many reasons.  As a dealer, it means that there has to be a constant online presence where inventory is properly merchandised, dealer information and contact information are readily available and consistent across platforms, and proper dealer branding is maintained.  That’s a difficult task with employee turnover and inventory turn (the good part).  But, many dealers do well with these efforts and those that do understand mobile are the most successful today.

This is evidenced in how dealers are currently spending their ad dollars in 2016.  The below data comes from the 2016 Auto Outlook: Thinning of the Media Pack study by Borrell Associates¹.  It’s no surprise that digital is taking the majority of ad dollars away from traditional media sources.  It makes sense – consumers are on mobile, place dollars in digital.

newusedmedia

So, let’s take a look at what we know about using mobile before showing up to the lot, and why it’s so important. Consumers will show up on the lot when they want and with varying degrees of information at their fingertips.  Dealers didn’t necessarily know how consumers heard about their dealership or what level of research they performed before showing up unless they physically asked them.  But now, dealers have access to this information without needing to ask.

A while back, we launched our Lot Insights report that shows the number of visitors on and around dealer lots who accessed Cars.com from their mobile devices.  This was revolutionary at the time by showing the value of being online and what is happening on a dealer’s lot.  This also led to understanding consumer behavior on the lot and what behaviors mobile consumers exhibited prior to showing up – valuable information.  That’s what we are getting into here.

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 onto a dealer’s lot, and more than half of those visited additional dealerships based on what they found via their mobile devices².  These are significant nuggets of information.

One can infer from this that based on auto shoppers’ online research, they found something about a dealership that brought them to the lot, but they want to make sure they are getting the best dealer for them and will continue to shop options while on the lot.  The way they compare options and the behaviors they exhibit are what differs across their preferred method of engaging with mobile.

Users of Cars.com’s responsive site differ from users of the iPhone App and those differ from the Android app.  That is to say, users of these mobile methods definitely engage with dealerships via mobile, but what our research has found is that they interact with different parts of dealers’ information differently².

bydevice

For instance, the top two pages accessed by mobile auto shoppers are the Used SRP and VDP.  After this, we see New SRP being access by iPhone app users, and VDP photos for used inventory being accessed by Mobile Browser and Android app users.  The activities performed the most frequently on Cars.com mobile platforms include the homepage, used inventory, new inventory, and our calculator as a whole².

When consumers show up on the lot, however, it’s not immediately clear how they engaged with a dealership beforehand, so we’ve broken down the most predictive behaviors of mobile auto shoppers.  We know that most shoppers are looking up inventory and dealership information.  Mobile browser users engage with the calculator for quick payment calculations on the lot.  And, app users interact with favorites, comparing cars they previously saw online to vehicles they are seeing in real-time, a big bonus of mobile².

Furthermore, based on our research, we found that a significant portion of those mobile consumers that send an email lead or a phone lead showed up to the dealer’s lot within 30 days (indeed for all lead and contact types).  That’s significant.  But, these types of leads aren’t the only way consumers interact with dealerships.  A large swath of mobile auto shoppers were texting a dealer, reviewing dealer information, reviewing a CarFax, looking at special offers, saving vehicles to favorites, and looking at dealer reviews².  All of these are in the top 10 predictive activities that consumers perform on Cars.com before showing up to a dealer’s lot.  The biggest takeaways we found, though, were that auto shoppers are accessing driving directions, the dealer map, and reviewing CPO inventory predominantly before showing up on the lot.  These best distinguished auto shoppers who are intending to visit a dealership from causal browsers on Cars.com.

behaviorsbyplatform

Knowing that behaviors by platform differ for consumers is helpful when you consider how to influence them to make a purchase.  Looking at what lead and contact types were performed the most – like driving directions or a dealer map – outside of the classic email and phone leads is another great indicator of consumers showing up on the lot and engaging with dealers online.  It’s also another way to gauge success and reaching an audience by reviewing how consumers choose to engage with a dealership.  Getting them on the lot is the first part.  The rest is up to the dealer.

[1] 2016 Auto Outlook, The Thinning of the Media Pack, Borrell Associates 2016
[2] Behavioral Analytics on Mobile, Cars.com, Q3 2016

Importance of Mobile: Infographic

Check out our latest infographic on the importance of mobile – what consumers do on a dealer’s lot and some of the predictive indicators that they will show up on the lot.  Click to view in full.

mobileinfographic

mobileinfographic1

mobileinfographic2

3 Essential tips for communicating with mobile car shoppers

Mobile shoppers have high expectations and fleeting attention spans. Consumers may receive hundreds of emails per week – and many read most of them on a smartphone – quickly and effectively communicating your dealership’s message is essential to avoiding getting lost in the shuffle. The speed and quality of your dealership’s mobile response can make or break a deal, so always keep these three tips in mind:

mobile ebook holding phoneSpeed Wins

Mobile shoppers are often en route to or already at a dealership actively shopping on their mobile device when they contact the store. A quick, truly helpful response, regardless of communication channel, has the potential to turn a passing window shopper into an in-store customer.

Sharpen Phone Skills

Click-to-call functionality encourages shoppers to call rather than email when they’re using a smart device to shop. And because mobile shoppers may contact the dealership for a wide variety of reasons – anything from verifying directions while on the way to checking vehicle availability – make sure the entire frontline team is trained and available to answer inbound calls.

Tighten Up Email

Whether a shopper sends an email from a desktop or a smartphone, it is safe to assume your response will be read on a mobile device. Account for this by designing all emails to be easy to read across devices, and don’t be afraid to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Simply asking staff, friends and family for feedback on how emails show up on their respective devices can help you understand what your customers are seeing, inform email formatting decisions and increase conversion.

For more mobile marketing tips, download our ebook, Navigating Mobile Marketing

Let’s Chat: How to Stay Flexible When Communicating with Mobile Shoppers

dealership sales process, communication preferences, lead handling processAll things being equal, most dealerships prefer to have potential customers contact them on the phone or submit an email lead before visiting the showroom – and it’s obvious why. Connecting directly with shoppers lets dealerships control the sales process and provides an extended opportunity to market to customers, even beyond the point of purchase.

But it usually doesn’t work that way.

Half of consumers don’t believe there’s value in contacting a dealership prior to visiting, with most citing it as an unnecessary step in the car buying process. Others prefer more private means of communication like chat and text messaging. What’s more, increased smartphone ownership across all demographics has only extended this gap, forcing dealerships to adapt.

Reconciling defined sales processes with new consumer trends can be difficult, but rather than push customers to communicate in ways that might be uncomfortable to them, it’s important to work with your team to meet shoppers on their own terms.

Be Present To Win

When it comes to emerging communication channels, the biggest opportunity – one that’s often missed – comes from simply being present. If your dealership isn’t available to customers through chat, text and other mobile-centric platforms, it’s missing out on a growing audience of car shoppers. To get started, take inventory of the communication channels you have at your disposal, including the text and chat features available on Cars.com, and assign members of your team to start managing the ones that are most relevant. Work to be “online” every single day.

Account For Alternatives

If a shopper prefers to have an email or text conversation instead of calling your dealership, by all means let them. Being overly aggressive or insisting to switch mediums (i.e., “You’ll have to call us”) can drive would-be buyers away and promptly end conversations. As an alternative, build new steps into existing sales processes to account for all types of communication. That way, you can audible on the fly while continuing to build rapport with shoppers.

Track Conversations Across Channels

It’s common for shoppers to bounce between research tools, dealership contacts and communication channels in the weeks leading up to purchase. For example, an individual may begin a chat conversation on Cars.com, reach out the next day over text, and then finally call the dealership a week later before visiting. By monitoring conversations across channels through a CRM tool or other system, your dealership can track interactions, cut out redundancies and provide a more personalized buying experience.

Though not every process can change, keeping consumers at the forefront of decisions and respecting communication at every step along the way will ultimately lead to happier customers and long-term success for your dealership. For more mobile communication tips, check out our recent blog post, 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate.

How to Work Against the Clock to Drive Showroom Traffic

2-phone-watch-path-copy

Whether it’s a countdown of days until the end of the month or minutes needed to reply to an inbound email, in automotive, the clock is always ticking. When communicating with customers, timeliness matters, and failing to set up processes that ensure prompt, informative follow up to customer inquiries can put your dealership in jeopardy.

Real-time Expectations

Consumers are quick to the draw. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 95 percent of text messages are read within 15 minutes of being received, meaning replies to chats, texts and emails your dealership receives should generally come within a matter of minutes, not hours or days. By responding promptly, you show consumers your dealership is listening and available, which can go a long way to establish relationships.

A related study reported by Harvard Business Review shows a similar trend. The research, which was conducted prior the major boom in smartphone adoption, highlights a steep drop in conversion when businesses fail to respond to customer inquiries within the first hour they’re submitted. It implies that the likelihood of having a meaningful sales conversation is tied to how fast a representative can reach out to answer questions and share information.

While the bar is set high, don’t be discouraged if your dealership falls short. Instead, work to make small improvements to response time, tracking your success on a weekly or monthly basis.

Benchmarking Success

However, before benchmarking your store’s lead handling and communication processes, look to understand the composition and structure of your team. Do you have a fully staffed BDC or does every salesperson field customer inquiries directly? Are team members provided smartphones to engage during off hours? Is there a dedicated staff member to handle weekend emails and chat messages? Is there a CRM system in place to track and manage conversations across communication channels?

By answering questions like those, you can set goals that are aligned with your dealership’s true capabilities. If you see an opportunity to provide additional resources or restructure workflows, take it.

Quality First

Finally, remember that speed matters, but a quick response is only as good as the quality of the message. Rather than choosing one or the other – speed or thoroughness – work to balance both; an immediate yet irrelevant reply will only damage your chances of building relationships with prospects. Conversely, by showing potential customers you’re there for them and willing to provide a timely, personalized experience, you’ll set yourself apart from competitors and boost showroom traffic for the long haul.

To learn more mobile communication best practices, check out our recent article, 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices to Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate.

Between the Lines: Why It’s Important to Read Every Customer Inquiry

1-email-on-phone (3).pdf

Between working the showroom floor, handling paperwork and keeping up with other dealership responsibilities, finding time to give your full attention to each and every text message, email and chat customers send your way can be a daunting task. And getting a response can be even more of a challenge.

But to have your replies read, you’ve got to be relevant, and that starts with diligently reading customer inquiries.

When a consumer reaches out and you ignore their questions or reply with a generic template, you forfeit an opportunity to build a strong, lasting relationship. Conversely, if you go above and beyond what’s expected, you set your dealership apart from competitors and lay a foundation for long-term success.

Take this example:

Hi, is this 2013 Ford Fusion still available? What can you tell me about its condition? I’m considering making the trip from out of town and I want to make sure I’m not wasting my time.

It’s the type of message that dealerships receive every day, yet one that often leaves customers without the answers they’re looking. The reason? It’s easy to skip over important details in the process of crafting a speedy response. However, by taking a little extra time to read between the lines, you can hit the key points that matter most to shoppers.

  • Availability – The customer’s most immediate concern is whether or not the vehicle is still for sale. Be upfront and answer the question directly; however, add value by providing additional context. (e.g., Yes it is, and we also have five similar models I’d be happy to show you; No, but we have a dozen vehicles similar to this you may find fit your needs.)
  • Condition – In addition to availability, the shopper is concerned about the vehicle’s condition. For these types of open-ended questions, work to get beyond simple superlatives like “good condition” or “clean vehicle.” Highlight specific features and tell the story of the vehicle. (e.g., The vehicle’s Titanium wheels glisten and the upgraded entertainment system sounds crisp. It’s a reliable one-owner vehicle with complete service records.)
  • Dealership Experience – The last statement in the example shows an opportunity for the dealership. Because the customer is “making the trip,” call out the dealership’s in-store experience and dealer reviews. (e.g., We have people come in from all over to see us, and that’s due to our commitment to exceptional customer service. I encourage you to take a look at some of the recent Cars.com reviews our happy customers have shared.)

What about templates and auto responders?

Scripts, talk tracks and automated responses have their place, but they should never come at the expense of honest person-to-person communication. If you have an auto responder or automated email campaign set up at your dealership, make sure it enhances your sales process, not detracts from it. For example, an auto responder is helpful for confirming the receipt of a form submission or a message to a general inbox (e.g., info@ABCmotors.com), but it doesn’t answer specific customer inquiries or questions. More importantly, if your auto responder details a specific next step (e.g,. A vehicle consultant will contact you within the next 2-4 hours) you’ve got to deliver on it.

Related: 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate

By taking the time read every customer message – across all communication channels – you’ll set your dealership up to create lasting relationships and ultimately win more sales.

6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate

Mobile-Communication-Tips-Featured

For a long time, dealers and their sales teams only had to remember three words when they picked up the phone: “Get ‘em in.”

Looking for a price? Come on in. Need more information? Give us a visit. Confirming inventory is on the lot? Stop by to be sure.

It’s an adage we still hear on occasion, and one that’s left an indelible mark on the way the industry interacts with customers. Yes, the “get ‘em in” mentality may have sold cars in the past, but such a one-sided approach to communication can do more harm than good with today’s modern, mobile-minded car shoppers.

From text messages and emails to website content and digital ads, the world is now dominated by mobile-focused communication. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population owns a smartphone, and that has radically shifted consumer preferences and expectations.

However, with change comes opportunity. Use these six tips to get the most out of your dealership’s mobile communications and help drive more traffic to your store.   

1) Read the situation

Communication is a two-way street, even in a text or email conversation. By ignoring specific questions or simply sending a generic template in response, you frustrate customers and put any chance of a relationship in jeopardy. There’s a place for scripts, talk tracks and structured responses, but they should never come at the expense of genuine person-to-person interaction.

2) Be Prompt

Answer emails, phone calls, chats and text messages as fast as you’re able to without sacrificing quality. Minutes and seconds matter but not if rushing leads to a poor response. Consumers typically respond to incoming text messages within 15 minutes of receiving them. Strive to beat that benchmark at your dealership, especially for real-time communications like chat and texting.

3) Respect Preferences

If a shopper prefers to send a text or an email rather than calling the store, by all means let them. Being too aggressive or insisting to switch methods of communication (i.e., “Just call us.”) can drive shoppers away and turn conversations sideways. If your sales process calls for a conversation to progress from email to phone to an in-store visit, for example, build in alternative steps for consumers who indicate a preferred communication method.

4) Share Content

Offer relevant, mobile-friendly content that enhances the customer’s shopping experience. For example, if a customer mentions they’re driving in from out of town, share a link to your dealership’s positive dealer reviews to help reinforce their decision; if a prospect has a question about a specific vehicle feature, text a photo or short video to show it off first-hand.

5) Empower Your Team

Technology is always evolving, so take an open approach to training your team. Make sure everyone is comfortable handling all communication channels rather than delegating mobile communication to only one or two people at the dealership.

6) Keep a Holistic View

To consumers, your dealership is one entity. Regardless of whether a shopper interacts with your brand in person, on a smartphone or from a desktop computer, they expect consistency. Take a unified approach that stretches across all channels to ensure there’s not a disconnect when customers step on the lot.

Related: Why Mobile-Only Shoppers are Changing Car Sales

By tailoring your customer interactions to meet mobile shoppers on their own terms, you can do wonders to set your dealership apart from the competition and drive sales.