Advertising/Marketing

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.

New Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book social media program provides advertisers real-time data

ATLANTA - 

Cox Automotive announced Monday the launch of a new social media audience extension product that employs anonymous website behavior data from Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com.

The audience extension product is designed to help OEM's and regional associations improve social media advertising efficiency, the company said.

Advertisers can use the behavior data from Autotrader and KBB when deploying highly targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram.

"Today's customers increasingly rely on online research before purchasing, and it's critical that our industry reaches them where they are and at the right moment," Cox Automotive product operations and social media director Adam Pavkov said in a news release. "This program gives advertisers the tools they need to get the right messages in front of shoppers when it matters most."

The program creates highly-targeted and unique advertising audiences for clients using real-time browsing behavior, according to Cox Automotive.

Car buyers are divided into different audiences based on their individual behaviors and preferences, such as specific make and model, in addition to location and demographic.

Advertisers can target their different audiences on Facebook and Instagram with their own specific message.

Honda Motor Company was an early user of the service.

"We're always looking for new ways to use data to make advertising more efficient and effective," said Dan Rodriguez, manager of Auto Remarketing Certified Pre-Owned at American Honda Motor Co. "This product has helped us more accurately identify in-market shoppers and narrowly target our messaging, and we're excited by the results."

Compared to other companies, advertisers using Cox Automotive's data for Facebook and Instagram campaigns reported on average 64 percent higher click-thru rates, 497 percent higher conversion rates with a 57 percent lower cost per conversion, according to the company.

Additionally, campaigns targeting conquest and segment audiences, show 39 percent higher click-thru rates, 175 percent higher conversion rates and 22 percent lower cost per conversion, Cox Automotive said.

Shopper interest in luxury sport, coupe segments on rise

SAN FRANCISCO - 

Car shoppers have recently shown increased interest in segments such as luxury sport, coupe, luxury sport sedan and large SUVs, according to Jumpstart Automotive Media’s latest shopper interest data report.

From July to August, across Jumpstart’s portfolio of sites, shopper interest in the luxury sport segment grew 28 percent; the coupe segment grew 15 percent; the luxury sport sedan grew 14 percent; and the large SUV segment grew 12 percent, according to the report.

For luxury sport vehicles like the Jaguar F-Type, shopper interest has risen by 51 percent so far this year.

And among coupes, the report found that shopper interest in the Toyota 86 rose 44 percent between July and August.

Since Q1 of 2016, when the automaker’s Scion FR-S model led all interest in coupes, Toyota has not led the segment, according to Jumpstart.

“This is the second straight month where Toyota has been a headliner in shopper interest for its vehicles in certain categories, with its C-HR Subcompact Crossover making the largest jump in interest for its segment in June,” Jumpstart strategic insights senior analyst Colin Thomas said in a news release. “The brand has done a remarkable job with vehicles recently, tapping into key performance and design attributes that shoppers are seeking today.”

Additionally, for the large SUV segment, interest for the Chevrolet Tahoe grew 26 percent from July to August, and so far this year interest in the Ford Expedition has increased by 44 percent.

Study: The desktop drives most car shopper calls to dealerships

CARY, N.C. - 

While car searches on mobile devices surpass those performed on desktops and laptops, because most consumers who make phone calls to dealerships shop on their desktops, automotive marketers should consider how they direct digital ad spend between both desktops and mobile devices, especially during the industry’s two peak sales seasons, says a recent study.

Shoppers on their desktops and laptops made up 54.8 percent of call conversions from dealer websites, while only 45.2 percent of calls come from visitors on mobile devices, according to a study on shoppers who make phones to dealerships by DT University, the educational and training center of DialogTech.

DialogTech said its DT University examined more than 1.1 million phone calls made to thousands of U.S. and Canadian dealerships from 2015 through August 2017.

During the two peak sales seasons, March to May and September to November the study found that gap between desktop and mobile generated calls is even greater.

Desktop shoppers drive both the most calls and revenue, according to DialogTech.

Below lists the percentage of how many more desktop and laptop calls dealerships received during peak sales seasons:

First Peak Sales Season

  • March: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • April: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • May: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

Second Peak Sales Season

  • September: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • October: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • November: 56.4% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

“There is no shortage of great marketing research on the importance of smartphones to the customer journey of every industry, including automotive,” DialogTech director of content marketing, Blair Symes said in an email interview with Auto Remarketing.

“At DialogTech, we've even published a lot of it. But in the rush to optimize everything for mobile, it can be easy to forget about the desktop. That's why it's important that marketers understand what devices shoppers use at each stage of the customer journey, including when they convert online or over the phone, and tailor their ad campaigns and customer experiences to generate maximum return,” he continued.

To increase ROI, the study encourages marketers to use data on what devices brings the most calls on each specific day to help direct digital ad spend appropriately.

According to the study, desktop and laptop shoppers drive more calls during the week, while mobile shoppers make more calls on the weekends.

The study also suggests that dealerships pay closer attention to callers because on average, shoppers who call a dealership purchase vehicles 10 times more than consumers just who fill out a form online, according to the study.

DialogTech said it collected its phone call data from its voice management platform, which tracks, millions of calls generated by automaker and dealership website visitors across North America each year.

Former KBB CEO’s goals as Vast board member

CARY, N.C.  - 

Before he joined the board at Vast this summer, Paul Johnson had the chance to re-connect with the company about a year ago.

Johnson, who was at the helm of Kelley Blue Book from 1999 to 2012, had known the folks at Vast from his KBB days. In fact, Vast — which many may know now as the parent company behind the CarStory Platform — had powered KBB’s The Trusted Marketplace when it launched in 2009.

As Johnson began to understand the Vast’s current work, some seven to eight years later, he said:  “I was just blown away when I learned that they had some 200 million vehicles with VINs attached in their database going back to 10-plus years, and then something around 1.6 billion photographs attached … to all of those pieces of inventory.”

Johnson said he was impressed by the sheer numbers of data points at Vast, and how they are utilizing that data when it comes to machine-learning and artificial intelligence.

“To me, that’s hugely exciting,” he said. “And I think it’s going to continue to have a huge impact on the industry, and I’m just thrilled to be able to help provide some input into how you leverage those products to help dealers and help consumers in their car-buying and -selling process.”

CarStory utilizes what it says is the largest database of inventory and shopper insights in the industry. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, the company helps consumers and dealers in decision-making.

When asked about the future of the company and how Vast and CarStory might impact the car business, he said while it might be challenging to say exactly how, “the only limit is the imagination” when it comes to Vast’s insights and analytics.

Johnson sees the potential for the company to move beyond reporting and into marketing prediction.

Vast follows some 200 million cars entering and exiting the market and tracks wide swaths of new and used cars actively being sold, plus it engages with roughly 15 million in-market shoppers each month, Johnson said.

Those data points encompass vehicle supply, speed of sale, time of return to market, pricing and consumer demand.

“I think what the future looks like is a company that has incredible analytic capabilities, and I think the evolution is going to be bringing products to market that help share the market insights, really to help dealers buy and sell cars more effectively; give them insights to help their decision-making process and really complement what dealers are doing,” Johnson said. “They do it very well today, but I think this could … exponentially help their businesses.”

In a news release announcing his appointment as a board member, he said: “I have seen first-hand the way data can impact every aspect of the automotive ecosystem. The CarStory platform combines proprietary data, artificial intelligence and mobile-first experiences.

“It is extraordinary for one company to be so strong in all three areas. The combination delivers a unique market perspective for both consumers and dealers. This makes the CarStory Platform one-of-a-kind, and I’m excited to help bring it to the rest of the industry.”

During the phone interview, Johnson delved further into those three areas.

Although nearly everything in today’s society is shifting toward mobile, much of what dealers utilize today are desktop tools, he said, but Vast has been able to transition that functionality, analytics and speed to mobile devices.

“That’s a huge step in itself,” Johnson said.

But when Vast’s analytical elements, machine-learning and database work together with the mobile piece, he said, “their capabilities just become stronger and stronger.”

And with the photos Vast has at its disposal, the company can determine how a vehicle is equipped through photos.

“As the machine learning continues to go through the databases and the vehicles and the pricing and the pictures and the equipment, it just gets more powerful,” he said.

And then to get this to a mobile device in milliseconds, “is pretty incredible,” he added.

In his role on the Vast board, Johnson will be focusing on product development and how the company’s endeavors can benefit the industry. He will work on go-to-market strategy and how Vast can leverage their assets and capabilities (both in terms of analytics and development).

“The key thing is, how do you make this information actionable? Dealers and OEMs and the consumers, they have so much information already, but it can at times be so difficult to digest. And if it’s not actionable, then it really isn’t valuable.”

Beyond his time with KBB, Johnson’s time in the automotive tech side of the business is deep.

He was involved with LotLinx early on and was a board member previously; he currently is an investor. Johnson is also currently with NabThat and had previously worked with Cargigi. Outside the car business, Johnson is on the board at NavigatorCRE. He’s also invested in a fintech company.

One thing these companies have in common is that they are information- and data-based and are also tech related, he said.

The companies he has worked with have also found “gaps” that they can utilize their capabilities to fill. Johnson aims to bring the strategy know-how, he said.

“What I like to be able to add is that strategic perspective to say, ‘OK, here’s the market; here’s the opportunity; here’s our capabilities; now how do we take advantage of all that?”

CDK makes video marketing tech provider new program partner

URBANDALE, Iowa - 

Flick Fusion Video Marketing announced Tuesday that it has joined the CDK Global Partner Program to offer dealers SMARTFLICKS, its full-solution video marketing and hosting platform.

Flick Fusion is now part of a marketplace made up of around 300 partner companies that offer more than 400 different applications for auto dealers.

"Many dealers now realize that videos are not something to just post on your website, but an essential part of an integrated online marketing strategy that will increase the informational and emotional value of the dealership’s online content across all digital touch-points," Flick Fusion chief operating officer Tim James said in a news release. "The integration with CDK allows more dealerships to take advantage of our dynamic video marketing and hosting platform."

SMARTFLICKS automates the entire video production and distribution process so dealers can easily make inventory videos and personalize video e-mails and customer testimonial videos.

The platform is designed to deliver videos that fit shoppers’ needs at the right time during the car buying process. It monitors the activity of dealership videos and tracks individual shopper’s behavior.

Using shopper's activity, SMARTFLICKS can instantly cue relevant video content and integrated marketing messages.

KIA makes UnityWorks certified video advertiser

MINNEAPOLIS  - 

UnityWorks has been named KIA’s latest certified video advertising provider through the brand’s KIA Digital Certified Solutions program to provide turnkey, dealer customized video campaigns featuring model-specific creative for Kia models via Double Click, YouTube and Facebook advertising platforms.

The campaigns are specifically designed to target “in-market” auto intenders who are within a 25-mile radius of a dealership, according to UnityWorks.

“One of the reasons why we selected Unityworks was based on the exceptional results that we achieved from our test campaigns last spring in select markets across the country,” KIA Motors America digital planning manager Amber Ewell said in a news release.

“During that time we received view and click rates that were well above industry averages, and Google search interest for pilot dealers increased by 59 percent year-over-year. Not only was it highly effective in reaching auto intenders, but it was very cost-efficient too,” she explained.

UnityWorks’ packages include dealer-customized model video ads, a selection of campaigns on media platforms such as DoubleClick, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram and a Full Line Kia Video Showcase to serve as the primary destination for click-through action within a dealer’s site.

“We’re delighted to partner with Kia and their dealers to offer an end-to-end, multi-platform video offering that nicely complements search activity, reaches prospects on their mobile devices, and will help drive more traffic to dealer websites and ultimately more retail sales,”  added Tim Copacia, UnityWorks executive vice president.

CDK adds SpinCar to partner program

NEW YORK - 

SpinCar announced Monday that it has joined the CDK Global Partner Program and is now part of a marketplace made up of 300 partner companies that offer more than 400 different applications for auto dealers.

“We are very excited to be a part of the CDK Partner Program as we continue on our mission to provide innovative tools and services to automotive dealers,” SpinCar chief executive officer Devin Daly said in a news release. “This program allows CDK dealers to experience our product suite to its fullest.”

In addition to its Mobile Capture Application, which is designed to boost photographer efficiency and promote higher inventory coverage, SpinCar’s 360-degree Walkaround has delivered dealerships and OEMs 42 percent more leads on average and increased consumer engagement by 56 percent, according to the company.

“We’re pleased to continue expanding the CDK Partner Program with SpinCar’s platform,” said Howard Gardner, CDK Data Services vice president and general manager. “SpinCar is a welcome addition to the Partner Program’s group of vehicle merchandising applications.”

For a full list of vendors and applications currently available through the CDK Global Partner Program, visit cdkglobal.com/partners.

Dominion approved for new Mazda digital advertising program

NORFOLK, Va. - 

Dominion Dealer Solutions is now an approved vendor for Mazda North American Operation’s (MNAO) new Digital Certified Dealer Website and Advertising Program.

Franchised dealerships can now enroll in the Mazda Digital Certified Program and choose from one of Dominion’s selection of website and digital advertising packages.

Dominion’s three website packages include Essential, Excel and Eclipse.

Mazda dealers can also select from different website accelerators such as: My Payment’s lead generation tool, fully-managed search engine optimization, fixed ops content and monthly custom display banner creation.

In addition to a reporting dashboard for various analytics data, the website packages come with a designated digital marketing manager who oversees the needs of Mazda dealers and works to resolve any issues.

“Not only are our websites responsive, but so are our people,” Dominion director of OEM partnerships Ryan Kelly said in a news release. “Dealers appreciate the white glove treatment they receive, the high level of customization, the marketing coordination and cross-product collaboration they get from our seasoned automotive veterans.”

Additionally, MNAO dealers enrolled in the Digital Certified Program can select from Dominion’s digital advertising programs such as: Essentials Search, Eclipse Search with Remarketing, Elite Search, Social Predictive Inventory, Social Dynamic Retargeting and Social Fixed Ops Lifecycle.

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