Advertising/Marketing

Columbus Day shopping activity takes a downturn this year

CARY, N.C. - 

Columbus Day Weekend car shopping activity was down this year, according to new data from Cox Automotive brands Dealer.com and Dealertrack.

“Normally we see an increase in shopping behavior on holiday weekends, but on Columbus Day we saw a decrease,” Cox Automotive product analytics senior director James Grace said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing. “Last year we saw a similar trend for Columbus Day in terms of being down, but not as much as this year.”

This Columbus Day weekend, Dealer.com’s DataView saw a 5-percent drop in visits and a 1-percent drop in vehicle views compared to the six prior weekends, while Presidents Day and Memorial Day saw shopping activity go up by single and double digits, respectively, on Dealer.com dealership websites this year.

Grace said, “I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. It’s difficult for me to parse out how much percentage credit to give to all the factors, but first of all I think the hurricane and fires are definitely impacting those areas affected.”

As the end of the year approaches, the industry has struggled to create additional demand, according to Grace.

“We’re seeing OEMs continue to put a lot of incentive money out there. Inventories in terms of dates and supply are still quite high, so I think there’s been a pretty consistent push for serval months on getting additional demand out there.”

Grace suggests that the time of year is a key factor when it comes to car buyers shopping activity in October because consumers don’t typically see it as a car shopping holiday when faced with other expenses this time of year.

“With everyone going back to school at the end of the summer and families kind of adjusting to that period, there’s definitely some new expenses that come in during this time of year," Grace said. 

For the next Columbus Day weekend, Grace said local dealers can capitalize on the holiday by mirroring OEM advertising.

“When there’s an OEM or franchise dealer doing an advertising campaign, a lot of times its really wise for local dealers to sort of do their own advertising at the same time and sort of draft off of that larger national spend that’s going on," he said. “In this case, dealers are really going to have to focus on every sale, every opportunity, really measuring the quality of their efforts to finish the year out strong.”

Acura presents redesigned CPO site with new alert, sharing features

TORRANCE, Calif. - 

Acura has introduced a revamped certified pre-owned vehicle website, AcuraCertified.com.

The new completely redesigned site built to simplify the online CPO vehicle shopping process allows shoppers to compare vehicles and easily share their selections online, Acura announced Wednesday.

"With the booming growth in Acura Certified Pre-Owned sales and tremendous increase in online and mobile vehicle shopping, we are relaunching the Acura CPO site to offer users a more seamless and interactive experience," American Honda manager of auto remarketing, certified pre-owned Dan Rodriguez said in a news release.

"Based on input we received from our customers and dealers, we've reengineered our Acura site to make comparisons simple, and help shoppers make the best choice for a used vehicle."

In addition to a new vehicle alert feature for the most up-to-date vehicle availability, the new site now includes both a vehicle recommendations tool and an interactive payment calculator.

Two other key features on the new site include inventory alerts, where shoppers can create an alert to be notified when a particular vehicle is available and vehicle shareability, which allows visitors to share information about vehicles they are interested in with friends and family.

Tesla, Toyota among top 'talk-worthy' brands

NEW YORK - 

When it comes to social influence among automotive brands in the U.S, Tesla Motors and Toyota are a step ahead of many of their respective luxury and mass market competitors. This is according to Engagement Labs' latest TotalSocial ranking that measures brand performance among automotive brands in both face-to-face and social media conversations.

The recent analysis follows the company's first ranking in April. Brands to rank in the top 10 have earned the highest TotalSocial scores.

While Ferrari remains the top-ranked brand, within the last six months, Tesla has distinctly jumped ahead four spots to capture the No. 2 ranking, and Toyota climbed two spots to take third place.

Tesla’s social influence spike during the past six months, particularly offline, can be attributed to the introduction of its first mass-market car, the Model 3.

Though the Model 3 rollout included an opulent live-streamed launch party, despite having no advertising budget, Tesla has leveraged its image as an innovative brand, according to Engagement Labs.

"The automotive industry continues to perform better offline than on social media," Engagement Labs chief executive officer Ed Keller said in a news release. "The ability to drive consumer conversation offline and online has a powerful impact on sales, and automakers aren't yet harnessing the full potential of social influence."

While Tesla has dominated in offline influence, Toyota has stronger online sentiment and online influence scores compared to six months ago.

Another brand to show strong online influence is Kia. Though the brand did not make the top 10 ranking, it currently carries the highest overall online score.

Though other luxury brands such as Audi and BMW, dropped two and three positions, respectively, overall luxury and sports car brands continue to dominate the list.

Meanwhile larger domestic brands such as Chevrolet, Ford and Jeep struggle to make the top 10, Honda remains in the top 10 even after dropping two spots in the past six months.

Top 10 most-searched vehicles in Autotrader history

ATLANTA - 

Coinciding with its 20th anniversary, Autotrader on Monday compiled a list of the 10 most-searched vehicles on its website since it was established in 1997.

Moving past the days of fliers and circulars to reaching shoppers now, attached to their smartphones, Autotrader has hosted more than 2 billion car shoppers during the past 20 years and featured more than 350 million vehicle listings. 

Looking back to when dealers had to use computer modems to upload inventory, the 10 most-searched vehicles on Autotrader include:

1. Ford F-Series
2. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
3. Jeep Wrangler
4. RAM 1500/2500
5. Chevrolet Camaro
6. Toyota Tacoma
7. Ford Mustang
8. Jeep Grand Cherokee
9. Chevrolet Tahoe
10. Toyota Tundra

This list is based on search history on Autotrader from July 2009 to July of this year.

“Autotrader invented online car shopping and constantly strives to re-imagine the category,” said Brian Geitner, president of Cox Automotive Media Solutions. “The transformation of our brand and the car shopping experience go hand-in-hand, and we’ll continue to adapt and enhance Autotrader as consumer behaviors and appetites change.”

Autotrader’s beginning coincides with the rise of the Internet era and its impact on how consumers received information. Paper-based vehicle listings were steadily eclipsed by a more convenient and up-to-date online inventory experience for both the buyer and the seller.

Video and editorial content, along with user-generated reviews and the introduction of Autotrader’s mobile app soon followed, helping better educate consumers looking to find and buy their next vehicle.

“We’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve,” said Chuck Nasiadka, director of pre-owned operations with Baglier Automotive in Butler, Pa. “We went online with Autotrader using a laptop and dial-up service somewhere between 2000 and 2001. I’ve placed my faith in the fact they were there first, they have the most knowledge in the space and shoppers still mention Autotrader the most.”

Complex algorithm helps Cars.com make 6 site improvements

CHICAGO - 

With more shoppers spending time online before ever arriving at the showroom, Cars.com highlighted the six improvements the vehicle listings site recently completed.

Cars.com explained that it has unveiled an improved search experience for its users, streamlined its search results pages, enhanced its vehicle inventory pages with rich visualization and expanded its suite of pricing tools with the launch of “badging.” The sleek new interface, updated search features and innovative shopping tools are designed for speed and personalization, enabling shoppers to quickly and easily find the right vehicle for their needs.

“Our real-time behavioral data and insights from nearly 20 years of consumer data enable us to deliver an experience that is defined by relevance for the user. Our goal is to help shoppers find the right car, at the right price, from the right dealership faster than ever,” said Tony Zolla, chief product officer at Cars.com.

“Our best-in-class user experience brings us one step closer to realizing our mission of transforming the car shopping experience to be more rewarding, emotionally engaging and frictionless,” Zolla continued.

The site’s advancements include:

—Powerful navigation: Improved search functionality and guided navigation to help users find the right vehicle faster.

—Re-launched inventory pages: Streamlined to better merchandise vehicles with bold photos and videos.

—Smart filters: Contextual filters help users dig deep to search inventory based on their needs and change dynamically in real-time.

—Best Match sorting: Powered by a custom algorithm that weights multiple factors to arrive at search recommendations relevant for each specific user.

—Improved compare page: Lets users better compare up to four similar models and find the right car for their needs.

—Badging: New badge icons on the inventory pages help provide more context behind why a vehicle is priced the way it is. Badging leverages machine learning to assess the closest comparable vehicle and considers vehicle features either in high-demand for the region or those that impact the price beyond year, make, model and trim.

The four badges include:

—Great Deal: which means the vehicle is priced significantly below market average

—Good Deal: which identifies cars priced at or slightly below market average

—Fair Price: for vehicles priced slightly above market average

—Well-Equipped: highlighting vehicles that include additional features that are affecting the price.

"In addition to our intelligent search engine and efficient user experience, we continue to roll out new pricing tools so consumers are confident they're paying a fair price and getting the best deal based on their needs,” Zolla said. “With our new Badging icons we wanted to provide more than just a standard price rating.

“By calling out specific vehicle attributes that may be impacting the price and weighing additional factors such as supply and demand, we are able to produce some of the most accurate pricing context on the market while helping consumers understand not just the ‘what,’ but the ‘why' behind a price,” he continued.

“This helps car shoppers, but it also enables local dealers to be more transparent with their customers, show value beyond price and, ultimately, close the deal quickly and efficiently,” Zolla went on to say.

Jumpstart enters new advertising partnership with VehicleHistory.com

SAN FRANCISCO - 

Jumpstart Automotive Media has a new exclusive advertising partnership with VehicleHistory.com, the company announced Tuesday.

The auto research website utilizes over 42 million data points and records to provide consumers with automotive research information and content on U.S. vehicles.

On the site, visitors can find automotive research, reviews and free vehicle history reports (VHRs).

“Shopping for a car is one of life’s biggest decisions, and the vast amount of information on the Internet doesn’t make it any easier. By providing consumers the unique combination of research, reviews and free VHRs, VehicleHistory.com is taking some of the uncertainty and inconvenience out of the car-buying process,” Jumpstart chief executive officer Nick Matarazzo said in a news release. “As we continue to look for new ways to add more value to our advertising partners, this partnership is a natural fit.”

In addition to filed police reports on specific vehicles, when available, VehicleHistory.com also offers consumers images of any damage a vehicle has incurred.

“Jumpstart has strong OEM and dealer relationships and is a leader in the marketplace for developing unique, custom, high-performing marketing programs. They continue to elevate the digital auto shopping experience, and this consumer-centric approach will be a huge win for our audience,” Jennifer Mitchell, chief executive officer of VehicleHistory.com, said. 

Dealer.com introduces Autotrader, KBB site optimization to personalize dealer content for shoppers

ATLANTA - 

Dealer.com announced Thursday it has unveiled a new website experience optimization that personalizes content for car buyers based on individual shopper behavior across Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.

The new data integration is designed to help dealers deliver personalized shopping experiences online in a way that saves time and money, according to the company.

Using shopper behavior data from Autotrader.com and KBB.com, the new product deploys inventory and fixed ops marketing content, specials and assets automatically on the site.

"The leading consumer sites have succeeded by creating a highly personalized customer experience that anticipates what they want, and consumers today are expecting that experience from every company," Dealer.com senior director of website and platform products Bob George said in a news release.

"Our new integration will provide dealers with an essential asset to remain competitive amid the challenging sales outlook and evolving consumer preferences. Experience Optimization generally results in click-through rates two to two and a half times higher on personalized content than on non-personalized content," he explained.

This month, the new automated technology will be featured at the Driving Sales Executive Summit Innovation Cup Product Showcase in Las Vegas, beginning on Oct. 22.

CarGurus joins CDK Global Partner Program

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - 

CDK Global announced Thursday CarGurus has joined its partner program to allow dealers using CDK websites to gain exposure for their inventory on CarGurus.com and access leads from the site.

As a CDK Global Partner Program participant, CarGurus reporting will be integrated into the CDK Dealer Command Center.

The company said the integrated solutions will be first available to dealers early this month.

"We are excited to be able to offer our dealers more leads and more inventory exposure through CarGurus based on our new integration," CDK Global product officer of consumer-facing products Max Steckler said in a news release. "The CDK Customer Cloud becomes that much more powerful in being able to deliver more targeted and personalized messaging with the addition of CarGurus data."

CDK will integrate CarGurus' anonymized, aggregated data in its suite of automotive digital marketing personalization solutions.

The integration will amplify CDK’s ability to create personalized shopping experiences and cross-site consumer behavior attribution.

Dealers with CDK websites can target personalized content for shoppers who previously visited CarGurus on their own websites.

"Car shoppers rely on CarGurus for transparency and validation, and we are excited to be working closely with CDK Global to enhance that experience," said Marty Blue, CarGurus senior vice president of business development. "Through our relationship with CDK Global, we’re able to unleash even more power to assist shoppers and drive dealers' business results."

CarGurus uses proprietary technology and innovative data analytics to help car buyers shop its more than 5 million car listings.

The company said its site currently attracts over 23 million monthly unique visitors in the U.S.

Autobytel highlights corporate rebranding and name change

IRVINE, Calif. - 

Autobytel is evolving as a provider of digital automotive services to connect potential vehicle buyers and dealers by changing its name.

Effective next Monday, the company that started 22 years ago will be known as AutoWeb.

In connection with this name change, the company’s stock ticker symbol will change from “ABTL” to “AUTO” on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Trading under the new stock ticker symbol is anticipated to commence next Monday, too.

Autobytel president and chief executive officer Jeff Coats reflected on how the dynamics of reaching in-market shoppers has changed since the mid-1990s.

“When Autobytel was founded in 1995, the era of digital leads and clicks was in its infancy,” Coats said. “In fact, telephones and newspapers were still the primary source of communication between dealers and consumers.

"More than 20 years later, in a market dominated by the Internet, we’ve become a leader in the digital automotive landscape,” he continued. We believe the rebranding and name change to AutoWeb better aligns with our operations and corporate strategy, particularly as we look to further expand our Internet leads and clicks businesses.”

Affinitiv marks first year with new exec team, end-to-end marketing solution

CHICAGO - 

Since combining four companies a year ago, provider of marketing and technology services Affinitiv announced Tuesday it has finalized its executive team and will soon introduce an integrated platform that offers dealers an end-to-end marketing solution.

Last year, the merging companies included DPS, Peak Performance, OneCommand and TimeHighway.com.

Additionally, since then, Affinitiv has also acquired WSA Solutions, a provider of wireless service-tablet software to auto dealer fixed ops departments.

Affinitiv’s new solution is designed to keep car buyers connected to their dealer up until their next purchase.

“We know your customers. We know what they like and what they respond to. We know where to find them and how to drive them to find you," Affinitiv executive chairman Scot Eisenfelder said in a news release. "Making the sale is just the beginning. Creating a connected customer for life requires a whole new approach.

"To increase customer retention, dealers need to get past using tactics like oil change coupons to draw in customers. Our platform helps dealers understand what works and doesn't work from a communications standpoint, to keep their customers engaged and committed," Eisenfelder continued.

In addition to Eisenfelder, on the heels of celebrating the company’s first anniversary, Affinitiv has brought aboard Adam Meier, Stan Megerdichian, Hans Bodine, Jillian Slagter, Karen Dillon and Kevin Winter to its executive team.

The executive team

Eisenfelder is a 25-plus year automotive market veteran, according to Affinitiv. Prior to Affinitiv, he held positions such as senior vice president strategy at AutoNation and senior VP of product management, strategy and marketing at Reynolds and Reynolds.

Meier has been appointed chief operating officer. He has nearly 12 years of experience as chief finance officer and as a board member at Brandmuscle where he led the acquisition of four companies.

As executive VP of OEM relations and strategy, Megerdichian will focus on bringing the latest technology solutions to current OEM partners, as well as forming new OEM relationships. Most recently, he was president and chief executive officer of Peak Performance Marketing Solutions, which he founded in 1991.

Bodine has been appointed executive VP of sales. Previously, at Cars.com, Affinitiv said he helped to build a successful team of experts over more than 18 years.

Slagter will serve as chief people officer. She brings 20 years of HR and recruiting experience to her new role. Most recently, she spent 11 years at Nielsen as vice president of HR.

Dillon has been appointed executive VP of service scheduling. She has over 30 years of experience in the auto industry in various sales, marketing and executive positions, according to Affinitiv. And in 1984, Dillon became president of TimeHighway.com.

Winter brings more than 15 years of experience both developing and managing automotive sales and service CRM programs for OEM clients to his new role as Affinitiv chief client officer. Most recently, he work for Epsilon where he served eight years. Prior to Epsilon, he also worked for R.L. Polk & Co, according to Affinitiv.

In the past year, Affinitiv said it has garnered preferred relationships with a dozen OEMs, including: BMW, Kia, Lexus, Chrysler, Volkswagen, MINI, GM, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Audi, Volvo and Maserati.