Social/Digital Media

Carvana names Oklahoma City 30th market

OKLAHOMA CITY - 

Carvana has expanded into Oklahoma City, the online used-vehicle retail platform's 30th market.

“With the largest metropolitan area in Oklahoma and a growing local eCommerce landscape, we’re proud to reach our 30th market milestone in Oklahoma City,” Carvana founder and chief executive officer Ernie Garcia said in a news release.

After completing the online purchase process on Carvana.com, Oklahoma City customers can schedule home delivery of their vehicle as soon as the next day.

Customers who want the company’s fully automated Car Vending Machine experience can also visit Dallas, Texas, to pick up their vehicle.

“For a lot of people, visiting a dealership is stressful. We’re giving consumers an alternative option — making car buying fun, simple and stress-free,” Garcia added.

Carvana currently offers free, as-soon-as-next-day delivery to residents in 30 markets across the U.S. and has delivered vehicles to customers in 48 states, according to the company.

CarStory revamps solution to keep mobile shoppers & ‘skimmers’ on VDPS

CARY, N.C. - 

CarStory has released an enhanced version of its Market Reports that is designed to heighten mobile shopper engagement on VDPs, according to the artificial intelligence platform’s creator Chad Bockius.

“The main focus for this release was all about the design, in terms of the look and feel, but more importantly how we represent the analytics that we share and how to optimize Market Reports for mobile shopping,” Bockius said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing.

“Over three-fourths of consumers today are shopping on their mobile device — both on their couch and on the lot. And as a result of that, it has created a culture of skimmers.”

Because mobile devices have become the primary type of interface for a large majority of the population it is important to make mobile shopping experiences conveniently engaging, Bockius explained.

“They’re going to skim information quickly and we had to address that,” he said.

“We had to create an experience that allows consumers to access and consume the data the way that they want it. Which is just a reality of 2017.”

CarStory Market Reports is now fitted with added additional data elements, such as a feature on the Market Reports home screen where machine learning is used to automatically identify images, according to Bockius,

“Based on our research, we know exactly which images consumers want to see first, and we use that data and our machine learning to process those images to create a collage on the first screen of the Market Report. Which is not just a nice design element, but more importantly it’s giving information to the consumer,” Bockius explained. “It’s not giving them the information over text, it’s giving them information visually, so they can see what features the vehicle has.”

Bockius said CarStory offers dealers three benefits: more engagement, more leads and ultimately more sales.

“In our research, we have found that dealers who have employed Market Reports see a 60 percent decrease in bounce rate. And we have seen a 24 percent increase in lead conversion,” he said.

Bockius believes the dealer VDP should be the best resource for a consumer who is making that decision to buy.

“The more people that you are bringing into the door, the more you are going to be able to sell. If you can’t engage that consumer on the VDP, it’s the equivalent of having that consumer walk off your lot,” he said.

“We have brought all the critical research information directly to bare on the dealers’ VDP to keep those consumers engaged and tell the consumer the whole story, so that ultimately they can make that confident decision to buy.”

CarStory has the largest depository of inventory data in the industry, according to Bockius.

“It’s quite amazing, the amount of science and the amount of data processing that occurs to generate these reports, but at the end of the day our goal is to hide all that to ultimately create a simple summary that consumers can access right on that dealer VDP,” he said. “When we analyze the data, we are looking at a specific vehicle relative to the market competition in a local area. All of our data comes down to two buckets of data we have to sort and analyze the first is all of the market supply data or the actual inventory, so what is available for sale today — that’s part of the data.”

Bockius said consumer demand data, which covers a variety of things, is the second source of CarStory data.

“We look at what consumers are searching for, the vehicles that they are spending their time on, the vehicles they are cross shopping and the features they are looking for,” he added.

Bockius mentioned that Kevin Frye, eCommerce director of Jeff Wyler Automotive Family once told him that with CarStory Market Reports, he can become an instant expert on every car on the lot.

“You can imagine how difficult it is for any salesperson to know the specific, the whole story about hundreds of cars,” he said. "We automate that process for you, we can put that information right in your pocket and you can be an expert whether you’re talking to a consumer on the phone or on the lot instantly, and that is going to help dealers move metal,”

CarStory is completely free to dealers. For more information, about Market Reports or to become a participating dealer, visit dealers.carstory.com.

Florida Ford store involved with PERQ’s $25K promotion winner

INDIANAPOLIS - 

PERQ — a service provider that says it has experts in online consumer engagement and behavior to help dealers — on Wednesday announced the winner of its annual $25,000 FATWIN Sweepstakes. The recipient was a customer who shopped online through a Florida Ford store’s website.

Jose M. Hervis Garcia from Plantation, Fla., was selected from more than 171,000 eligible FATWIN entries. Garcia, his wife and two sons plan to put the money toward a house.

“This is one of the best parts of my job — watching dealership customers deploy interactive website experiences that consumers are engaged in and get value from. We devised the $25K sweepstakes to incentivize the consistent provision of quality data by consumers – which translates into higher conversions for our dealership customers,” said Muhammad Yasin, director of marketing at PERQ.

“On behalf of the PERQ team, we’re pleased to congratulate the Garcia family and wish them well as they start a new adventure in a new home,” Yasin continued.

The company said the drawing illustrates the effectiveness of PERQ’s FATWIN Trade Appraisal Plus solution. Garcia, who had visited multiple dealership websites, landed on the Sawgrass Ford website and was able to quickly go through the interactive Trade Appraisal Plus experience, answer a few questions, and get an estimated trade value for his vehicle.

As part of the process, Garcia entered the sweepstakes — and the rest is history. Now Garcia and family are shopping for a new home, and the dealership has a very happy customer.

“You always see these types of sweepstakes, but you never expect it’s going to be you or your customer that is going to be the beneficiary,” said Rob Baker, Internet sales director at Sawgrass Ford. “It’s a delight that you can put that type of happiness into someone’s life.”

Baker said the entire team at the dealership presented the oversized $25,000 FATWIN check to Garcia and his 8-year-old son.

“The money helps a lot,” Garcia said. “The kids know that this money is going to improve their lives. We are all very happy. I want to thank PERQ and Sawgrass Ford for this opportunity to find a new home.”

Shift’s free BMW contest open for entries

SAN FRANCISCO - 

Online used-car marketplace Shift has announced that next month, the company is set to gift one California resident any BMW listed on Shift.com (provided the vehicle is priced at $20,000 or less) as part of its current California BMW Giveaway contest.

Californians interested in entering the contest can visit the Shift Facebook page, where on July 10 the grand prize winner will be announced as well.

Contestants must be over the age of 18 to win and entries will be accepted until July 9, according to Shift.

In addition to the grand prize, Shift has collaborated with Navdy, Turo and YourMechanic to give dozens of participants partner prizes on June 26.

“We are excited to announce our BMW car giveaway,” Shift chief executive officer George Arison said in a news release. “In just two years, Shift has become the No. 1 seller of used cars in the Bay Area and BMW has consistently been our number one selling car. This contest is our way of saying thank you to our loyal customers.”

Additionally, the contest's grand prize winner can also opt to apply $20,000 towards the purchase price of any BMW they choose.

Helion tests 125 dealership employees with ‘spear phishing’ cyber scam

TIMONIUM, Md. - 

Helion Automotive Technologies has a new data security warning for auto dealerships because in recent weeks spear phishing hackers have been busy planting malware inside of social media posts designed to lure employees of organizations to click on the post.

Dealership employees are ideal targets for spear phishers looking to grab Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and bank account information, according to Helion.

"This is the same spear phishing scheme that hackers have been using successfully in targeted email messages for several years now," Helion president and chief executive officer Erik Nachbahr said in a news release. "The problem is that although most employees have been told and know not to click on emails from people they don't know, they don't think twice when it comes to clicking on a message or offer in their Facebook feed. They are more trusting in a social media environment."

If employees take the bait of hackers and click on infected links, malware can be downloaded onto the employee's computer compromising the entire organization's network, the information technology solutions for auto dealers said.

Helion recently conducted a phishing test at an auto dealership by sending emails to 125 employees where three employees took the bait. When prompted by the website the email drove them to, they entered both their usernames and passwords.

If the attack were in fact real, the consequences could cost a dealership thousands, Helion said.

"That test was a good sample that revealed auto dealerships are very vulnerable to this type of attack and need to do a better job at educating their employees," Nachbahr said.

Nachbahr’s tips for preventing a spear phishing attack:

  • Instruct employees to never click on links in social media posts and messages from their computers or personal devices while at work
  • Require employees to change their network login passwords every 90 days
  • Encourage employees to keep social media profiles private and don't accept friend or connection requests from people they don't know
  • If employees receive a phone call, email message or social media message from a banking institution, vendor or other entity that asks for personal information, do not give this information verbally or via email, but contact the institution directly
  • Get cyber liability insurance, which covers costs associated with a data security breach and loss of data
  • Regularly apply software updates to Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer and all software applications on every PC

Used-car shoppers spend bulk of buying process online

CARY, N.C. - 

Used-car buyers who shop online spend 62 percent of the car-buying process there: online.

That's according to Cox Automotive’s latest Car Buyer Journey Study, which examines consumers’ car-shopping behavior during the car buying process and how they use their time.

Cox Automotive found that during the chunk of time car buyers spend online, they research and shop across multiple devices, creating multiple marketing opportunities for dealers, according to the company.

A total of 53 percent of all respondents who shop online use multiple devices when shopping, such as both desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets.

Eighteen percent strictly used mobile, according to the study.

Among those who go online, a breakdown on their usage on each device:

Desktop/Laptop: 79%

Smartphone: 56%

Tablet: 32%

Again, car shopping on multiple devices means multiple marketing opportunities for dealers, Cox Automotive said.

Dealers have an opportunity to create unique ways to communicate a consistent overall message with content specifically designed for each device that consumers use, according to the company.

Car shoppers are getting introduced to the dealership before they actually go to the dealership, Cox Automotive's Scott Hernalsteen said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing.

“After they’ve done all their research online, they’ve made a pretty solid decision,” said Hernalsteen, who is Cox Automotive Media's senior director of research and market intelligence. “So even though they’ve entered the process undecided, by the time they get done with their online work they have a really strong idea of what they’re going to purchase — three-quarters of the time they do purchase from the dealership what they were intending to purchase.”

The study suggests that marketers maintain an integrated marketing strategy because third-party sites are the most-used site of any online resource.

Used-car shoppers spent 65 percent of their total amount of time online visiting third-party sites, while they spent only 12 percent on dealership sites.

“The third party sites are doing a good job delivering the information that they need,” Hernalsteen said. “While the numbers are lower for dealer and OEM sites, they’re still incredibly important to the process.”

Here is how used-car shoppers are spending their time online:

Third-party sites: 65%

Dealership sites: 12%

OEM sites: 6%

Search: 10%

Other: 7%

Cox Automotive commissioned the 2017 Car Buyer Journey Study through IHS Automotive and surveyed a total of 2,175 car buyers who purchased a vehicle within a year prior to August 2016.

Live video platform delivers walk-arounds at home

CARY, N.C. - 

An on-demand, live video platform developed by Los Angeles-based startup DropIn, gives dealership product specialists a tool that brings customers to car lots and showroom floors — without the shopper having to leave home.

“Nobody wants to come down to the dealership and be sitting in the chair and feel that high pressure anymore — those days are over,” DropIn chief executive officer Louis Ziskin said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing.

This month, DropIn began onboarding new dealer clients following the closing of its product’s pilot program, which launched in December.

“Customers shop about 26 dealer websites before they engage with the tools that are on any of those websites, such as text, live chat help, lead forms, contact forms and phone calls,” Ziskin said. “They do their shopping, they’re pretty well-informed. But while they don’t want to talk to a salesman or engage with any of the tools there, they do on many occasions want to see if the car is actually there — they might want to see the car.”

Additionally, DropIn has added a CRM linking tool to its product. “For known customers where anonymity is not the case any longer, they can either send a text or an email with a link,” Ziskin said. “That video call can then can be initiated from an email, from Instagram, from Craigslist — from anywhere that product specialist wants to post it.”

If a call is missed, the CRM will notify the product specialist to reestablish contact with the customer.

Ziskin said an added benefit of adopting DropIn is dealers can also use the product within their service departments.

“Car dealers have always had the problem of ‘how do I give the customer a service walk-around, I’m not allowed to have them in the shop. My insurance doesn’t allow it, I just simply can’t have them there,’” Ziskin explained. “Now, the service specialist is able to put that link and attach it to the estimate and tell the person, ‘If you want a live service explanation, click here.’”

When the customer clicks the link, the video call is initiated and goes right back to that service specialist who can give the customer a walk-around in the shop that has no liability because the customer is not physically in the shop.

“You’re able to explain, ‘You need brakes and this is why, you need a new fan belt and this is why, you need new tires and this is why.’ The customer can now, in real-time, say, ‘Well, can my tires last another couple hundred miles, do I really need to really replace this now,’” he said.

When a customer receives just an estimate and maybe a picture, many of their questions don’t get answered. “So the estimate absorption rates are about 50 percent,” Ziskin said.

Dealers who have piloted DropIn within their service departments have self-reported a 25 percent higher estimate absorption, according to Ziskin.

“The closing rates are self-reported by the dealers themselves; the only thing we know is that there was a video call, and we know if they made an appointment during the call or if the lead form was filled out after the call, but we don’t know whether that converted to a sale,” Ziskin added.

“Our numbers are reported by the dealerships themselves as far as conversion to sale. They obviously have an incentive to downplay those numbers because they want our product cheaper and they’re still reporting anywhere from 20 to 30 percent closing,” he said.

Former Dominion exec joins LotVantage

TAMPA, Fla. - 

With the motivation being on empowering OEMs, LotVantage recently announced the addition of Dave Yeargin as vice president of strategic initiatives.

The company indicated Yeargin will assist in the growth of LotVantage’s Brand Manager customer footprint, with a particular focus in the powersports vertical where he has participated for the past 20 years.

LotVantage’s Brand Manager is a complete digital marketing solution that can help OEMs seamlessly market their promotions and advertisements to consumers through their dealers’ social media channels.

“LotVantage is excited to bring on a veteran in the industry with Yeargin. As our OEM Brand Manager continues to grow, Yeargin will play a vital role in our strategic partnerships,” LotVantage president and chief executive officer Matthew Brown said.

Previous to joining LotVantage, Yeargin served as director of strategic initiatives at DX1, a dealership management software division of Dominion Enterprises. Dave was co-founder of ZiiOS, one of the powersports industry's first cloud-based dealership management solutions, which was subsequently acquired by Dominion Enterprises in 2010.

“I’m passionate about delivering solutions to the industry to improve profitability using advances in technology. LotVantage provides a complete set of solutions for inventory marketing and social media. I’m extremely honored to join the team on their journey,” Yeargin said.

Prior to the time with Dominion and ZiiOS, Yeargin was an owner of two multi-line powersports dealerships in the early 2000s, learning firsthand the needs of the powersports industry. These experiences have uniquely prepared Dave for this position with LotVantage.

“Yeargin’s addition to the team will expedite the growth of LotVantage and our OEM Brand Manager,” said LotVantage vice president Jim Jabaay. “We look forward to the leadership, experience and knowledge Yeargin brings to the team.”

Edmunds introduces new Amazon Alexa skill

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - 

Edmunds has introduced a new Amazon Alexa Skill for voice-enabled access to Edmunds' automotive content, which creates a source for Edmunds data within the Alexa Skills store that goes beyond a computer or mobile device, the company announced on Thursday.

"The freedom to simply ask questions to find relevant information about a vehicle is an invaluable asset, both in the short term when shopping for cars and on an ongoing basis once purchased," Edmunds chief digital officer Phil Potloff said in a news release. "We love how tapping into the power and convenience of natural language with Alexa brings Edmunds content to life for our users and underscores our commitment to innovation that brings increased value for shoppers and owners."

Using Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based voice service, allows users who access the new skill to easily research, shop and keep tabs on vehicle options.

Edmunds said its new Alexa Skill delivers both high-level overviews and in-depth reviews of specific vehicles’ safety, driving and powertrain information.

Alexa is also capable of answering questions about a wide range of vehicle specifications, such as miles per gallon, cargo space, horsepower and basic warranty details.

Edmunds’ Alexa Skill can provide the MSRP for any vehicle and give device users information regarding local inventory and current lease deals.

Additionally, Alexa allows drivers to keep track of their current vehicles’ recall information and maintenance schedules.

"Car owners can ask Alexa what their car is worth and immediately learn the real-time Edmunds True Market Value for their car, or ask when their next oil change is due," Edmunds said.

Edmunds' new Alexa Skill will work with any Alexa-enabled device, such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets.

The skill is free and available now. For more information and a list of the skill's supported requests and intents, visit www.edmunds.com/alexa.

New car site uses quiz to match shoppers with best ride

GREAT FALLS, Va. - 

Car-ED, a new free tool for consumers in search of their next car purchase, officially launched this week.

"After decades working for automobile manufacturers, we decided there had to be a better way for people who don't spend all day thinking about cars to find a simple list of vehicles that best connect to their behaviors," Car-ED co-founder Kevin Joostema, said in a news release. "Our goal is to offer a fun, easy service to anyone asking the question that comes up so often in our line of work: 'What car should I buy?'"

Car-ED's lifestyle-based online questionnaire uses a proprietary algorithm designed to pick up behavioral patterns and identify a short list of vehicle options that best fit each induvial shopper.

Following the quiz of 11 questions, Car-ED provides users manufacturer website links for each vehicle named on the short list of recommended vehicles.

"Car-shopping sites assume that everyone starts by knowing basic information about what kind of car is right for them, but we think the conversation should start one step sooner," Joostema said.

The new site is designed to be a trusted source for shoppers who are looking for unbiased advice and guidance rather than information based on sales and other market concerns, according to the company.

"The cool part is that the system might know you better than you know yourself," Car-ED co-founder Andres Valbuena said. "If you keep an open mind about makes and models, you may be surprised at how close the suggestions match to you."

Additionally, through a program called Car-ED Community, the company said that it plans to give away a small number of cars to people in need based on nominations each year. 

"There are too many new options for people to keep up with, so they usually gravitate to what they know." Valbuena added, "But the truth is, the right car for you might come from a company you've never considered before. We want to help make you aware of the alternatives."

Valbuena and Joostema founded Car-ED this year. For more information about the company and its mission, visit www.car-ed.com.