Social/Digital Media

New online review monitoring service for dealers launches

LAS VEGAS - 

A new online review monitoring service, LotRep.com, designed to help dealers accurately monitor and track online consumer reviews in real-time via multiple platforms, launched Thursday.

The site’s software allows dealerships to efficiently and effectively manage online reviews, according to the company.

"Online reviews have changed the way business is done in this day and age. We know how crucial these reviews can be to auto dealers and their customers, but up until this point, monitoring them all has been nearly impossible," LotRep.com founder Brian Lack said in a news release announcing the launch. "We want to make it easier."

LotRep’s slate of features include:

  • An all-in-one dashboard focusing on a review feed
  • The ability to track and monitor various online review sites such as Cars.com, Yelp, Edmunds, Dealer Rater, SureCritic, The Yellow Pages, Facebook and Google
  • An analysis of online reviews via statistics and reporting
  • A "Review Requester" that allows dealership representatives to solicit reviews from buyers via sms or email
  • A "trending list" on the main dashboard featuring rotating keywords and phrases trending on any monitored online reviews
  • A mobile app designed including the most commonly used tools
  • The ability to request reviews from customers

"By integrating LotRep.com into a regular customer service strategy at the dealership, auto retailers will be able to embrace online reviews as a key component to a strategic and effective business tool instead of a dreaded enemy," added Lack.

Access to LotRep.com is currently available free, at no cost for 30 days. For more information, interested dealers can visit, LotRep.com.

Cars.com names America’s favorite convertibles

CHICAGO - 

In time for end-of-summer shopping, Cars.com recently released a list of the most popular convertibles among consumers.

The site’s latest study on shopper's online activity revealed what convertibles are most popular and where in the U.S. shoppers are buying these models most. Turns out, being named as America's favorite was the Chevrolet Camaro.

And the state where convertibles are most popular is right in America's Heartland — Nebraska.

Using the site’s shopper data, Cars’ analysts researched the data to make its determinations, according to the car shopping site.

“There are 30 models categorized as convertibles that are currently available, which is 11.2 percent of all new vehicles on the market, yet convertibles only capture 0.8 percent of sales at dealerships,” Cars.com data analyst David Greene said in a news release.

“When compared to a segment like minivans, which has just seven models available and double the sales market share of convertibles, it is obvious just how aspirational the convertible segment is,” he said.

The convertible models to make it on the top 10 list range from affordable and more expensive options.

The top 10 most popular convertibles based on Cars.com site activity include:

1. Chevrolet Camaro

2. Mazda MX-5 Miata

3. Mercedes-Benz S-Class

4. Jaguar F-TYPE

5. Chevrolet Corvette

6. Ford Mustang

7. Porsche 911

8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

9. BMW 4 Series

10. Fiat 124 Spider

The top 5 convertible-loving states according to Cars.com site data include:

1. Nebraska

2. New Mexico

3. Connecticut

4. New York

5. Hawaii

“It’s no surprise that states like Florida, California and Hawaii made the most-popular lists,” added Greene. “They’re all among the wealthiest states as determined by household income, and of course the year-round sunshine in those states makes convertibles a sensible lifestyle choice.”

For additional information about the study, visit cars.com/news.

J.D. Power appoints 1st chief digital officer

COSTA MESA, Calif. - 

J.D. Power recently announced it has filled its newly created position of chief digital officer.

Chosen for the position is Bernardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a business, technology and product design leader who most recently served as managing director of strategy at Huge, a global full-service digital agency, according to the consumer insights provider.

In his new role, Rodriguez will be responsible for J.D. Power’s new product development, branding, marketing and mergers and acquisitions.

Rodriguez will oversee the design and content of J.D. Power’s digital interface with clients and consumers and report directly to J.D. Power chief executive officer and president Finbarr O'Neill.

"Bernardo is an accomplished business leader with proven experience to accelerate transformation of businesses through the development of data and analytics, strategic products and capabilities that drive growth opportunities," O'Neill said in a new release announcing Rodriguez’s hire. "Bernardo has the ideal background to integrate various data sources into a holistic view of the consumer.”

At Huge, Rodriguez collaborated with Fortune 100 companies on the design and execution of product and brand strategies.

He led projects such as developing a digital transformation and experience strategy for a $12 billion Canadian telecom company, a product strategy for a $30 billion global financial institution, and a small business segment digital strategy for a $120 billion U.S. telecom company, according to J.D. Power.

"I have always admired the spirit of innovation that J.D. Power brings to the industry through its continued technological advancements and unmatched data and analytics capabilities,” Rodriguez said. "I look forward to bringing my digital expertise and vision to my new role and contributing to the future successes of J.D. Power."

Additionally, Rodriguez has also served as the chief digital officer at Kaplan Test Prep and managing director at Accenture, where he headed the firm’s North American Digital Strategy Practice for telecommunications, media and technology.

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.

Avis makes renting a car easier with new Amazon Alexa skill

PARSIPPANY, N.J. - 

Avis Car Rental has come out with a new skill for Amazon Alexa, giving consumers a new way to book their next car rental in today’s evolving digital age.

Avis’ integration with Amazon Alexa will allow customers to both book and manage car rental reservations via Amazon voice-controlled artificial intelligent personal devices like Amazon Echo. This will be available by the end of August.

The company claims it that is the first car rental brand to offer the innovation.

Avis is set to showcase its skill for Alexa-enabled devices at the Global Business Travel Association Convention this week.

“We are constantly looking for ways to make the customer’s experience more magical,” Avis Budget Group chief innovation officer Arthur Orduña said in a news release. “We have our mobile app, which allows renters to manage their entire experience from their smartphone at approximately 175 locations globally, and now with Alexa integration, we will provide them with yet another way to engage with us seamlessly thanks to transformative digital technology.”

Avis’ new skill for Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices lets customers book a rental reservation, review reservations and request e-receipts of past rentals.

Customers can make voice commands such as “I need a car at La Guardia Airport at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.” And Amazon’s voice platform will manage the booking process through secure integration with Avis.

The new skill is also designed to utilize travelers’ preferences which are stored in their Avis Preferred profile.

Preferences include preferred cars and options such as SiriusXM, GPS devices and coverages.

In related tech news from the company, the Avis mobile app has  been recently fitted with new features that include a wider variety of vehicle options, fuel and parking options, courtesy bus tracking, rental receipts and the “Find My Car” tool.

The “Find My Car” feature works with connected cars and shows consumers the exact location of their rental car located at all times.

The Avis mobile app is currently available at about 150 locations globally, according to the company.

Toyota, Kia & Tesla named top shopped brands

SAN FRANCISCO - 

Toyota, Kia and Tesla are the brands that online consumers are shopping for the most this year, according to Jumpstart Automotive Media's latest shopper study released on Monday.

Jumpstart’s June Path to Purchase report highlights the vehicle segments, makes and models that captured the largest share of online car shoppers during the first half of 2017.

Toyota's overall brand share increased to 7.1 percent, a 15-percent increase over the past year. The Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and C-HR each saw gains of 56-percent, 84-percent, 65-percent and 728-percent, respectively.

This year, Kia raised its overall brand share to 3.1 percent, a 36-percent increase compared to June of last year.

In addition to its popular Soul and Sorento models, much of Kia’s popularity stems from its recently launched new 2017 hybrid subcompact SUV Niro and its redesigned Rio model, according to Jumpstart.

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

Additionally, though Tesla has an overall small percentage of shopper interest on Jumpstart sites, its brand share has risen to 1.0 percent, a 122-percent increase for the growing U.S. brand.

With a sizable 224-percent increase in interest over the past year, Tesla’s Model X has impacted much of its overall shopper interest growth, according to Jumpstart.

U.S. brands dominate Autotrader's latest Hottest Cars list

ATLANTA - 

Autotrader’s newly released Hottest Cars for Summer 2017 list names the current 10 most-searched new, used and certified pre-owned cars on its site.

The company looked at search volume from January to the end of May and found that American consumers currently favor domestics.

Autotrader editors found that nine of its 10 most-searched models are from a U.S. brand.

More specifically, SUVs and pickups are trending, in particular, taking eight out of 10 spots on the list.

"Summer has a kind of patriotic, nostalgic feel and it’s a good time to shop for a car. Shoppers looking for American vehicles should check out our list of Hottest Cars for Summer 2017, since many are popular names made by domestic automakers," Autotrader executive editor Brian Moody said in a news release.

"Of course, the trend away from sedans is in full swing, with the majority of the most-searched vehicles on Autotrader being trucks and SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler. Notable exceptions are performance coupes like the Chevy Corvette and Ford Mustang,” he said.

Autotrader’s Hottest Cars for Summer 2017 List:

1.         Ford F-150

2.         Jeep Wrangler

3.         Chevrolet Silverado 1500

4.         Ford Mustang

5.         Ford F-250

6.         Chevrolet Corvette

7.         Toyota Tacoma

8.         Jeep Grand Cherokee

9.         Chevrolet Silverado 2500

10.       Chevrolet Tahoe

Currently, Autotrader has over 3 million vehicle listings from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners, according to the company.

For additional information regarding the Hottest Cars for Summer 2017 list and Autotrader editorial commentary on the vehicles featured click here.

How marketers are tackling budget & format challenges

CARY, N.C. - 

No matter what size screen consumers might be seeing the promotional message, securing budget is the current biggest concern for automotive marketers, according to a recent study.

In today's ever-evolving digital landscape automotive marketers must capitalize on every opportunity online to engage shoppers to remain competitive, making it a challenge to decide which aspects of marketing to direct ad dollars.

As a result, 40 percent of auto marketers named securing budget as their top concern when asked by GetResponse for its recent study, Email Marketing and Beyond: Global Industry Benchmarks.

GetResponse created its research report in partnership with Holistic Email Marketing, an email marketing consultancy.

Their findings are based on a survey of 2,510 email marketers who belong to a range of industries.

The study also found that the automotive industry has one of the lowest click rates among the group of 18 different industries evaluated.

At 18 percent the average click rate reported by automotive marketers is the second to lowest, followed by the internet marketing at 13 percent.

The average click rate across each industry is 3.9 percent.

The auto industry is first when it comes to using automation, and travel marketers were found to use it the least.

Seventy-three percent of auto marketers say they do and just 46 percent of those in the travel industry.

Additionally, only 11.80 percent of marketers are using lead scoring and 17 percent of automotive marketers were found to.

Where to market?

The desktop is where the auto industry receives most of its traffic.

A total of 65 percent of the industry's traffic comes from desktops, according to a recent study by ContentSquare examining the user experience of customers.

The company’s study, "Solving the Automotive Industry’s Ecommerce Challenges," also suggests that marketers focus on visuals to engage consumers online. It found that of the shoppers it surveyed, 40 percent of them interact with the visuals on product pages.

For example, on pages with visuals about new technologies, they recorded traffic increased by 127 percent, according to the study.

While the desktop is important, the same shoppers also use their mobile devices to shop, so marketers must focus on winning the consumer mobile moments too says Dominion Dealer Solutions director of managed marketing services Amy Peck.

“Mobile has changed the way consumers search and shop, and has put a huge emphasis on local SEO, near me searches, for example.”

“In the automotive industry, a lot of time is spent talking about managing local SEO website, headers, tags and keywords. Often, dealers ignore areas that have a huge impact on their SEO.”

She said another thing to keep mind is how voice search will affect traffic. Online searchers via artificial intelligent virtual assistant devices such as Amazon Echo are becoming popular for consumers.

“Typically, voice searches are longer tail searches asking for more information. It is critical that a new or used-car dealership’s website content is conversational- always looking to answer questions consumers may have about the dealership,” Peck added.