Advertising/Marketing

Data shows rising interest in subcompact SUVs, CUVs

SAN FRANCISCO - 

If an “up” walked into your showroom or went by your dealership website searching for a subcompact model, new information from Jumpstart Automotive Media shows there’s a good chance that shopper was looking for the smallest versions of a CUV or SUV.

This week, Jumpstart Automotive Media released its monthly share of shopper interest data, which indicated subcompact SUVs and CUVs saw a 37-percent increase in interest across Jumpstart’s portfolio of sites in the first half of this year when compared to the first half of 2016.

Additionally, Jumpstart noticed the subcompact SUV/CUV segment ranked as the 11th most-shopped vehicle category in the first half of this year, jumping from 22nd.

“No other vehicle segment saw that much of a lift in this timeframe,” Jumpstart said.

Consumers researching and shopping for models such as the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and the newly launched Toyota C-HR (a top 10 most-shopped model on Jumpstart sites during June) drove much of this increase.

In addition to the HR-V and C-HR, the Kia Stonic, Hyundai Kona, Ford’s upcoming Eco Sport, which join already established models such as the Kia Soul, are among the “hottest vehicles of today and tomorrow,” according to Jumpstart.

The latest report also mentioned Toyota, Kia, and Tesla were the top brands shopped on Jumpstart sites during the first half of 2017. Toyota increased its brand share to 7.1 percent, (up 15 percent year-over-year) on the strength of the Camry/C-HR and its Hybrid models.

The Toyota Camry (up 56 percent), Camry Hybrid (up 84 percent), Highlander Hybrid (up 65 percent) and C-HR (up 728 percent) all saw significant gains versus the first half of 2016.

Kia raised its brand share to 3.1 percent, representing a 36-percent lift, stemming primarily from its new 2017 hybrid subcompact SUV Niro (launched in 2017), future model Stinger (that was revealed to public during this year’s auto shows), a redesigned Rio and shopper interest in the Soul and Sorento models.

While it still holds an overall small percentage of shopper interest across Jumpstart sites, analysts noted Tesla grew its brand share to 1.0 percent, marking a 122-percent spike with the Model X driving much of this growth (up 224 percent).

“New and redesigned models will often win the attention of car and truck shoppers, especially when new styles, features and performance are highlighted,” said Libby Murad-Patel, vice president marketing and strategic insights at Jumpstart.

“That being said, we’re keeping a close eye on the subcompact utility space, which offers a unique blend of versatility, comfort, value and functionality that appeals to a wide range of consumers,” Murad-Patel continued.

Other key shopping trends from the first half of 2017 included:

• Honda CR-V was the third most-shopped vehicle during the first half of 2017 after Ford F-150 and Ford Mustang.

• Toyota Camry (redesign) share grew 56 percent from Q1 2016, making it one of the top 10 most-shopped vehicles during the first half of this year.

• Ford Expedition (redesign) share rose 70 percent from Q1 2016, making it one of the top 25 most-shopped vehicles during the first half of this year.

• BMW 5-Series (redesign) share climbed 83 percent from Q1 2016, making it one of the top 75 most-shopped vehicles during the first half of this year.

• In June, launch vehicles Toyota C-HR and Volkswagen Atlas had the best months for share of interest. The C-HR cracked the top 10 most-shopped models, with a month-over-month interest growth of 179 percent. Atlas rose to the top 25 most-shopped models, with a month-over-month interest growth of 50 percent.

Study: Many dealers ineffectively measure success of ad campaigns

COLUMBUS, Ohio - 

Sixty-eight percent of dealers either aren’t effectively using or simply are not using marketing attribution to gauge the results of their advertising campaigns, according to a recent study by Clarivoy.

The marketing technology firm’s latest study, the 2017 State of Automotive Attribution Report, examines the current state and usage of marketing measurement among retail dealers.

Clarivoy's findings are based on an April survey of approximately 120 dealers.

“This is a glaring hole and effectively makes measuring marketing efforts and spending a guessing game,” Clarivoy chief executive officer Steve White said in a news release.

“Things have changed considerably with the state of marketing measurement, and we wanted to know how dealers are adapting to new measurement tools like Multi-Touch Attribution,” he said.

Clarivoy found that only 30 percent of dealers report being satisfied with how they currently measure their data.

When asked, “Which vendor categories need the most blind faith as to if they are working?” Forty percent of dealers told Clarivoy display ads and 38 percent said third-party listing sites.

According to the study, most dealers rely on in-house reporting and/or vendor reporting (68 and 64 percent, respectively). 

“The display ad answer is a little curious as, set up properly, they should be easy to measure,” White said. “However, the third-party listing site answer is not that surprising.

“The actions a consumer takes following a visit to a third-party listing site and viewing a vehicle of interest can vary over an entire spectrum of possibilities. They could submit a lead on the third-party listing site, call a phone number, bounce to the dealership’s website and convert there, call the dealership or simply show up,” he said. 

“The effectiveness of a third-party listing site can be far from black and white in terms of measurement. And, more often than not, attribution depends on proper sourcing by the salesperson or last-click attribution models — both of which have huge gaps in accuracy,” White explained.

When it comes to attribution tools, 46 percent of respondents said they would prefer a multi-touch attribution solution because they believe that last-click fails to report accurate sources, according to Clarivoy.

Additionally, Clarivoy found that 59 percent of dealers want attribution solutions that include the ROI contribution of each marketing channel.

Fifty-seven percent want analytics that provide actionable insights, 48 percent desire a transparent view of a customer’s full purchase path and 41 percent look for both reporting accountability and accuracy.

To view the State of Automotive Attribution Report study click here.

4 Questions with Len Short of LotLinx

CARY, N.C. - 

In the latest installment of the annual Power 300 issue of Auto Remarketing, we go behind the scenes with some of the leading companies in the used-car space and their top executives with a few Q&A features.

Next up in this series is Len Short, founder and chief executive officer at LotLinx. The emailed Q&A is below: 

Auto Remarketing: What advice would you give to dealers on using big data to help navigate inventory management and wholesale purchases?

Len Short: Until now most of the technology available to dealers has been centered on what I would call “supply side data.” This means it’s been heavily centered around inventory trends.

Inventory levels, turn rates, pricing and volume — it’s all important, but only half the story.  And it tends to be restricted to a rear view that looks back at what has happened versus looking forward to what will happen.

We are a lot more interested in data from the “demand side” of the equation. Specifically, the volume, shopping actions and intensity of in-market buyers. Because it’s demand that will move the market. Pricing trends and inventory turn are a result of demand, not a leading indicator.

There are significant new technologies we have built to sense and respond to buyer demand that has had a significant impact to gross profit and inventory turn acceleration.

AR: How much more challenging is it today than it was 10 years ago for a dealer to get traffic to their website?

LS: What has happened in this market over the past 10 years is an exponential multiplication of available traffic. Media companies have been busy at work manufacturing clicks, especially in the automotive category.

These are the challenges of our time. Lots of crafty digital media hackers creating fake news and fake clicks. The challenge for the dealer, and all of us, is to sort out what’s real.

Traffic isn’t the issue; quality is. We are seeing an ever-increasing dilution of digital media, and frankly, an epic waste in most dealer's digital budgets. The goal for the dealer is to find the platforms that, by their design and model, block the click-bait and deliver real buyer shopping actions. 

This is a big issue. Outside of payroll, advertising expense is a dealer’s single largest cost of sales. And as we all know, digital is the lion's share of every dealer’s spend. So it’s easy to blow your margin and your business on bad digital media decisions.

AR: What are some of the latest trends in car-buying that impact your business the most?

LS: I wouldn’t say “latest” here, I would say “accelerating.”

The trends that impact a dealer’s business, and by extension our business, are a continued acceleration of the move to digital. More specifically, the move to mobile as the foundation of the buying process. Dealers have had to invest heavily in keeping up with the evolving consumer, and many ask “are we there yet?”

Frankly, as a whole, we aren’t. The lack of sophisticated mobile shopping offerings and engagement platforms is staggering, and it's another source of significant cost to the dealer. I had a dealer tell me once: “Do you know what the internet has been for us, Len? It’s been 10 years of three guys a day coming through my door with another $3,000-a-month thing I’ve got to buy to make it work!”

It certainly feels like that. A constant stream of vendors telling you you’ve got it wrong. But in fact, the opportunity for smart dealers to gain an edge by making simple improvements has never been greater.

AR: What do you see as the biggest challenge for your company, and what is its primary focus to maintain and/or grow its influence on the automotive industry?

LS: Education. We knew right from the start that dealers are smart, savvy players in a tough business.

A lot of people come from outside the car business and start preaching to dealers, and all too often its feels like they’re talking down at them. Telling them they are doing it “all wrong.”

What the outsiders miss is that they are the ones that are clueless about what really drives the car business and that they would, in fact, quickly become roadkill if they had to walk in a dealer’s shoes for a day.

Now, certainly there are things dealers can learn from outside the car business, but you need to gain their trust to start that conversation. That's where we try to start. With true respect for the dealer and his/her business, and a good dose of humility about how we can help them.

It takes time. And you can only succeed if you love the car business. We love the car business and the people who make it great, so it's easy for us to be patient.

PCG becomes newest NIADA National Member Benefit partner

ARLINGTON, Texas - 

PCG Companies recently became the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s newest National Member Benefit partner, and now provides discounts to association members.

NIADA members can receive discounted rates on PCG's suite of online specialist certification courses and its library of published works, and they also have access to digital marketing packages. 

"This end of our business is moving at lighting speed, driving much confusion, uncertainty and new challenges to our members," said NIADA senior vice president of member services Scott Lilja in a news release.

"PCG's resources will certainly help address many of those daunting yet immensely lucrative opportunities."

In addition to the online courses and marketing packages available via the National Member Benefit program, PCG also offers a variety of marketing and training services designed for dealers in the independent market.

"From our experience working with independent dealers, we realize they require a different level of digital marketing and education services than large dealer groups," added Glenn Pasch, PCG chief executive officer.

"We are excited to work alongside NIADA to be able to provide those services, and are proud to be a National Member Benefit Partner," he said.

New website plans to offer free vehicle history reports

LAS VEGAS - 

A new website is set to launch on Tuesday that aims to provide free vehicle history reports that are supposed to include title records (including mileage), accident records and potential title brands.

Officials from VinCheck.Info explained that they can offer this information to consumers since their advertisers will be covering the cost.

VinCheck.Info is looking to meet the needs of buyers who want to run a VIN check on their own as well as those who want to compare results with data obtained from sellers. The site insisted results are based on data compiled from various industry sources, non-profit organizations and government agencies including the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

VinCheck.Info also said its mission is “to make comprehensive vehicle history reports available to as many consumers as possible by offering these services at no cost.

“The web-based service believes in empowering consumers to use the latest data delivery technology for protection from fraud and unsafe vehicles, and to help prevent the resale of stolen cars,” site officials continued.

VinCheck.Info added that it also plans to offer VIN decoding as well as a license plate lookup tool soon at no cost to consumers.

For more information, visit www.vincheck.info.

Car buyers increased online research means less dealership visits

CARY, N.C. - 

Consumers' grasp of more online vehicle research channels than ever means fewer dealership visits because car shoppers depend on digital resources to educate themselves, according to Netsertive’s latest survey on U.S. car shoppers’ buying patterns.

The digital marketing technology company’s Automotive Shopper Path to Purchase Survey found that 67 percent of respondents only visit up to one to two dealerships before making a purchase.

While 45 percent of consumers know which brand of car they want when they begin their research, 34 percent say they don’t know which dealership they want to buy from and look to online resources for guidance.

The most popular channels for research are consumer reviews, local dealer websites and search engines, according to the survey.

Additionally, the study also found that almost 50 percent of car shoppers use mobile devices to conduct their research before buying.

This highlights dealer’s need for mobile-optimized websites in order to remain competitive and attract these customers, Netsertive said.

“The automotive industry is extremely competitive, especially now that buying decisions are increasingly made before customers visit a dealership,” Netsertive chief executive officer and co-founder Brendan Morrissey explained in a news release.

Netsertive’s study examined more than 500 U.S. consumers using Google Consumer Surveys.

For additional information about the Automotive Shopper Path to Purchase Survey, visit https://www.netsertive.com/new-study-finds-car-buyers-visit-fewer-dealerships/.

Overstock.com launches vehicle buying & financing platform

SALT LAKE CITY - 

One of the consumer-facing websites known for offering discounted furniture, rugs, bedding, electronics, clothing and jewelry is getting into the car business.

On Friday, Overstock.com announced the launch of the beta version of a new online vehicle-buying platform, Cars by Overstock. Site officials highlighted the full-service platform can help customers navigate every aspect of the vehicle-buying process, including research, purchasing, financing and protection plans.

Financing and insurance options are available through Ally Financial and CarCheq.

The site indicated data and editorial content for in-depth automotive research is provided through a partnership with TEN: The Enthusiast Network’s award-winning automotive brand MOTOR TREND.

Once their research is completed, customers can search Cars by Overstock’s database of nearly 4 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles from thousands of dealers across the country before negotiating directly with the dealer, in some cases in complete anonymity.

Another beneficial feature of the platform lets customers easily browse and purchase high-quality vehicle protection plans for qualified new or used vehicles from trusted warranty providers, including plans for their current vehicles.

In addition, the Cars by Overstock platform can provide financing and refinancing tools so that customers can find competitive financing options for almost every budget and credit situation. The platform will also include comprehensive insurance offerings in the near future.

“We designed Cars by Overstock to provide the most full-service online car-buying experience available,” said Patrick Byrne, Overstock’s chief executive officer and founder. “Our process enables a consumer to conduct superb research efficiently, enter into negotiations, purchase warranty plans, and obtain financing.

“With Cars by Overstock, we’ve provided a safe and fair platform for both consumers and dealers from a trusted brand with nearly two decades of experience helping customers use technology to find exactly what they want, for less,” Byrne continued in a news release.

Scott Bailey is president of automotive at TEN: The Enthusiast Network.

“This partnership is a groundbreaking solution to deliver MOTOR TREND’S automotive data, research, content and insight to a new audience, in a new format,” Bailey said. “Going beyond the traditional retail elements that Overstock.com does so well, we’re excited to bring a wealth of content that in-market shoppers can utilize to enhance the auto shopping and research experience.”

Officials went on to mention the new service can give consumers the flexibility to negotiate a deal on their own terms, in some cases in complete anonymity, creating an easier and pressure-free vehicle-buying experience.

Additionally, the service is meant to empower both consumers and dealers by minimizing the time it takes to complete a vehicle purchase.

“Consumers will always have the ability to contact the dealership directly if they choose a more traditional experience,” the site said.

Cars by Overstock is currently housed as its own tab on Overstock.com.

For more information, or if you are a dealer that would like to become part of the Cars by Overstock network, visit cars.overstock.com.

BMW iVentures leads Shift's $38 million Series C funding

CARY, N.C. - 

Online car retailer Shift has landed a $38 million round of Series C funding led by BMW iVentures.

Making the announcement on Wednesday morning, Shift said the round also included new investors DCM Ventures and G2VP, and previous investors DFJ, Highland Capital and Goldman Sachs Investment Partners.

BMW iVentures partner Christian Noske is now on Shift’s board of directors, with DCM’s Jason Krikorian and G2VP’s Brook Porter joining as board observers.

“We are interested in technology companies that challenge the status quo and build products that help improve transportation options for consumers,” Noske, the BMW iVentures partner, said in a news release.

“Buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases most people ever make and we appreciate that Shift is committed to making this experience not just good, but great,” Noske said. “It is obvious that with Shift's proprietary technology, world-class team of engineers and forward-thinking workforce, the company is set to become a leader in the used-car market.”

The company said over half of its customers are between ages 18 and 35. Nearly three-fourths of those using the loan piece of the platform fall into that age group.

Shift said this resonance with millennials has helped drive its success, noting that it is the “leading seller of pre-owned cars” in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Given those trends, Shift is looking to expand to new markets, and part of this funding will be used to do exactly that. The company also plans to invest further in technology and adding to its team.

It currently has operations in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the Los Angeles and San Diego regions, with an engineering hub in  Washington, D.C.

This is not the first time Shift has worked with a more traditional auto industry player like BMW. 

It was announced in December that Hertz would use Shift’s online vehicle sales platform to sell its fleet vehicles directly to consumers.

In June, Shift announced a BMW giveaway contest, revealing the winner earlier this month on Facebook. 

“BMW is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic car brands in the world, which truly makes this a pinch-me moment for the entire Shift team,” Shift founder and chief executive George Arison said in a news release. “We are also honored to have DCM and G2VP join us with such significant participation in this round.

“Over the past two years, we have improved and adjusted our model with the same mission in mind: to provide customers with a better car buying experience by providing an unprecedented level of transparency and test drives delivered to their door. We could not ask for better partners than BMW iVentures, G2VP and DCM.” 

This news also follows fellow online car retailer Vroom announcing a $76 million round of funding on Thursday. That brought its total equity funding up to $295 million.

Vroom said in a news release that this Series F round was led by “certain funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.”, which was joined by prior investors L Catterton, General Catalyst Partners and PICO Venture Partners.

LotLinx launches 2 new AI-driven consumer experience products

CHICAGO - 

To generate more high-quality conversions for car dealers, LotLinx has expanded its VS product suite with two new CX solutions designed to enhance and customize the customer experience, the company announced on Thursday.

The new products include CX - Photo AI and CX - Amplified Mobile Pages. Both have been equipped to extend VIN-specific consumer engagement and stimulate more profitable digital advertising campaigns, according to LotLinx.

“The auto industry is constantly evolving, particularly with the shift from traditional ad spend to digital campaigns and outreach,” LotLinx founder Len Short said in a news release. “With these new consumer-oriented products, we’re taking a ‘dealer-first’ approach with solutions specifically designed for dealers who are faced with increased days-on-lot metrics. This is an exciting step forward for our company.”

CX - Photo AI can boost underperforming ads with optimized stock photos using artificial intelligence, and CX - Amplified Mobile Pages offers dealers mobile-friendly VIN landing pages optimized to drive high-value conversions.

“Because today’s online car shoppers are 90 percent more likely to view an ad that contains an image, and will wait just 3 seconds for a page to load before abandoning, the logical next step for LotLinx was to release the consumer experience-oriented CX suite,” the digital advertising technology company said.

Photo AI was created to both formulate more relevant and visually appealing ads for viewers and detect when ads are running without an image, according to LotLinx.

“As global consumers rely more on smartphones for their shopping, AMP delivers faster, conversion-enhancing pages, allowing dealers to make the most out of mobile,” the company added.

Additionally, LotLinx recently expanded its VIN-specific solutions for Facebook to include VS - Lead-Enabled Retargeting and launched the LotLinx TURN platform earlier this year.

Cox Automotive Media Solutions outlines digital marketing strategy series

ATLANTA - 

Cox Automotive acknowledged today’s retail landscape moves faster than ever. And if dealerships and other industry participants are not out front, everyone can risk falling behind.

Reflecting its position as a leading provider of products and services for automotive dealers and car buyers, Cox Automotive on Monday announced the launch of Nextology, what the company highlighted as an exclusive, future-forward digital marketing strategy series presented by Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book and Dealer.com.

Utilizing a fast-paced interactive format and exclusive insight culled from its category-leading network of consumers and dealerships, Cox Automotive explained that Nextology events will foster deep connections with leading digital marketing strategists and experts as well as other top dealers. The events will combine dynamic working sessions, data-driven keynotes and strategic consultations, all in a premier setting with overnight accommodations provided.

“The Nextology series will be underpinned by our deep understanding of and relevance to our clients' day-to-day marketing and operations challenges,” said Brian Geitner, president of Cox Automotive Media Solutions.

“We’re excited to create a new level of value for our clients by delivering direct access to Cox Automotive and media executive leadership as well as internal subject matter experts in a consultative, collaborative and collegial environment,” Geitner continued.

The company noted attendees will also learn about and demo new and emerging products from the automotive industry's leading digital marketing platforms.

The Nextology series builds on Cox Automotive’s commitment to dealer education. The company has hosted events in dozens of markets across the country, bringing insights and best practices to more than 2,600 attendees representing 1,600 dealers.

Following a successful launch in Miami last month, the next event will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston on July 19 and 20 and will feature a keynote address by Geitner. Additional dates will be announced later this year.

For more information about Nextology programs, visit dealer.com/events/Nextology or to register for the Boston event, go to this website.