Advertising/Marketing

Autotrader joins Disney Pixar for promo with "Cars 3" cast

ATLANTA - 

Autotrader has launched a television advertising campaign with Disney Pixar's “Cars 3,” which includes a 30-second television commercial featuring members of the well-known cast that will debut on television during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on TNT.

"Collaborating with Disney Pixar's 'Cars 3' was a natural fit for Autotrader for more than the obvious reason of the spotlight our iconic brands share within the automotive space," Autotrader vice president of marketing Jessica Stafford said in a news release.

"Much like the Cars franchise, Autotrader shares a personal connection with people of all ages and at all life stages, and we feel this is reflected in the playful content we developed with the Disney and Pixar teams to further drive excitement for our brand and the upcoming premiere of 'Cars 3'."

The new commercial encourages viewers to find the car that best fits their lifestyle and concludes with the tagline – "Every car has a personality. Find the one that fits yours at Autotrader."

Autotrader said the ad targets key demographic groups such as such as Millennials, Hispanics and families.

Additionally, the campaign will be presented on Hulu, ESPN Deportes Radio, and Autotrader’s social media channels.

The 30-second commercial, titled "Every Car Has a Personality," is currently available on YouTube.  

Reynolds UK expands suite of retailing tools for dealers

BIRMINGHAM, England - 

Reynolds and Reynolds in the U.K. announced that it has expanded its suite of retailing tools for dealers.

"The customer-dealer relationship continues to change," Reynolds U.K. Automotive managing director Adele Feeney said in a news release. "Over the past several years, we have expanded our suite of retailing tools for dealers. These tools are helping dealers improve operating performance and provide a more engaging and efficient customer experience."

Most notable among the company’s latest set of solution additions is its new Contact Advantage tool.

Contact Advantage provides dealerships and OEMs with a comprehensive tool that manages complete sales cycles and allows them "to take their customers through the entire sales process – from model selection, color and specification configuration, pricing and order forms – all in one, simple-to-use, interactive process," Reynolds U.K. said.

According to Feeney, the new tool is available to all dealers, whether or not they use the Reynolds dealership management system.

"We believe Contact Advantage is the premier showroom CRM solution for keeping track of dealership leads and maximizing sales potential," Feeney added.

Other new retailing tools Reynolds U.K. has also recently introduced include Aptus Websites, Reynolds Integrated Telephone System (RITS) and iMakeNews.

Aptus Websites, a DMS-neutral website platform, allows dealers to connect with consumers at any time and on any device.

RITS, a dealership-wide, customer experience management system combines phone features with dealer's instant customer data from the DMS in order to create more effective phone conversations with consumers, according to Reynolds U.K.

iMakeNews is a digital newsletter that is designed to build customer loyalty and retail action via engaging content. The new tool also delivers unique ROI metrics which aim to help dealers understand consumers’ current buying decisions so they can influence their buying decisions in the future.

"For dealers, customer service has never been as important as it is now," Feeney said. "The customer now initially goes to a dealer's website before walking into the showroom armed with information and knowing what the competition is offering. Therefore, managing the entire sales process to create a rewarding customer experience at every touch point inside and outside the four walls of the dealership is becoming a necessity, not a luxury."

For more information about each of the retailing tools now offered by Reynolds U.K., visit www.reyrey.co.uk/DMS.

Autobytel’s Q1 revenue tops $37M, sets new record

IRVINE, Calif. - 

Dealership sales lead provider Autobytel generated record revenue during the first quarter, which the company said was primarily driven by the continued strong growth of advertising click revenues.

For the quarter that wrapped up March 31, Autobytel reported an 8-percent year-over-year increase in revenue to $37.3 million. That advertising click revenue spiked a whopping 152 percent, according to the company.

As a result, Autobytel indicated the company posted a net income figure of $0.5 million or $0.04 per diluted share during Q1. A year earlier, the company sustained a net loss of $0.7 million or $0.07 per share.

“The momentum from our record 2016 has carried into the first quarter,” Autobytel president and chief executive officer Jeff Coats said. “Our results were highlighted by another quarter of triple-digit growth in our clicks business, which is becoming a meaningful contributor to our overall financial performance.

“As expected, our lead revenues were down due to the effect of last year’s initiative to systematically reduce lower-quality leads supply,” Coats continued.

As of March 31, the company noted its cash and cash equivalents totaled $39.6 million compared to $38.5 million as of Dec. 31. Autobytel said its total debt was reduced to $20.4 million compared to $23.1 million at the end of last year.

Autobytel continues to expect 2017 revenue to range between $156.0 million and $160.0 million, representing an increase of approximately 4 percent to 7 percent from 2016.

“Looking ahead, we expect to continue reinvesting in our business to drive sustainable, long-term organic growth and further solidify Autobytel’s position as a leader in the digital automotive marketplace,” Coats said. “We also expect to continue to enhance our internal lead generation capabilities and invest in new traffic sources to maximize the growth potential of our clicks and used car businesses.

“In fact, we expect our used car business to make significant headway this year as we seek to position our revamped usedcars.com site to become the premier used vehicle destination for consumers,” he continued. “But most importantly, in 2017 we will remain committed to providing our dealer and OEM customers with high-quality, high-intent car buyers.”

Stream acquires WorldDealer

MALVERN, Pa. - 

Stream Companies, an integrated traditional and digital marketing agency in Tier 3 automotive, recently acquired WorldDealer, another integrated advertising agency and automotive website company.

With the acquisition, Stream explained that it adds a number of key agency accounts and more than 100 websites to FullThrottle, its performance website platform specifically made for dealers. Paul Accinno, founder of WorldDealer, will assume the role of executive vice president of dealer development and continue to work alongside clients helping them grow their business through integrated marketing and advertising.

“We knew right off the bat that this partnership would work based off of our similar visions and goals to bring an integrated advertising approach to dealerships across the nation,” Accinno said.

Stream co-founder David Regn emphasized the firm is looking to set itself apart from other agencies with its results-driven philosophy to generate and retain auto dealers to increase sales and profitability. Now with the WorldDealer team on board, Regn explained these thought leaders will continue to exceed their clients’ expectations on a larger scale.

“We are very excited to add the WorldDealer team and all their clients to the Stream Companies umbrella,” Regn said.

WorldDealer will continue to operate out of the Pittsburgh office with plans to expand its footprint in the Midwest, according to a news release.

Former Lithia Motors exec fills new LotLinx VP role

CHICAGO - 

On Monday, LotLinx announced that it named a senior vice president of channel strategy to lead major initiatives aimed at expanding the company’s presence in the car dealer market.

Chosen for the newly created position is Mark Conner, who most recently managed a team of 60 marketers for Lithia Motors.

“Under Mark's long and skillful leadership as assistant vice president of marketing, Lithia grew to be the highest performing publicly traded dealership group in the U.S.,” LotLinx founder Len Short said in a news release.

“I am confident Mark will be a tremendous asset toward the growth of our award-winning product suite of technologies. He is an auto marketing maven, bringing a deep knowledge and passion for the retail car business that will add significantly to our ‘dealer-first’ operating mission.”

At Lithia Motors, Conner’s leadership significantly influenced the group’s marketing approach, and he played an integral role in doubling its store footprint over the past seven years, LotLinx said.

In his new role, Conner has been tasked with leading all of LotLinx’s efforts to serve larger dealer groups.

LotLinx said Conner brings expertise in understanding how to scale best practices across a multi-rooftop dealer group, as well as an in-depth understanding of how car dealers drive ROI.

Jumpstart begins exclusive ad partnership with CarStory

SAN FRANCISCO  - 

Jumpstart Automotive Media announced an exclusive ad sales representation agreement with CarStory’s website and app, which matches car shoppers with vehicles using patented technology and datasets.

“CarStory is a rapidly growing, mobile-first experience that is focused on streamlining the car shopping process, which aligns with our strategy. They deliver the ‘whole story’ about a car and digital advertising supplements this story and helps continue the narrative to make the consumer’s discovery process more efficient," Jumpstart chief executive officer Nick Matarazzo said in a news release. 

The CarStory website and app leverages data and analytics to provide customers with the information they need to make educated car-buying decisions.

CarStory uses patented technology and industry-leading analytics to facilitate a search process that results in a confident purchase decision. It said it currently has a network of more than 6,500 participating dealerships across the U.S.

“We feel it’s important to help match consumers with the right car and we do this by facilitating a faster, more efficient discovery process,” CarStory CEO John Price said. “Our partnership with Jumpstart strengthens our strategy of delivering the best data to an in-market shopper at the right moment and gives brands the opportunity to better demonstrate value, increase engagement, and sell more cars.”

If committed, dealers 'could replicate' online car retail

CARY, N.C. - 

Seeing an industry disruptor like Carvana file for an initial public offering isn’t necessarily something that gives Mark O’Neil pause.

Such momentum by an online retailer is perhaps a sign that consumers are heading toward the ecommerce route.

Getting away from the profitability aspect, folks gravitate to entities like Carvana “because they offer a process that addresses the pain points in the selling process,” says the Cox Automotive chief operating officer.

“It should be one more indication to the larger dealer community that if offered the opportunity to improve the process, the consumers are going to move to the retailer that offers the improved purchase process,” O’Neil said in a phone interview last week. “It doesn’t scare me, because honestly I think any dealer could replicate, if they’re committed to it, that same process.”

The dealer may not go the same route as Carvana has with things like vehicle vending machines, “but they can clearly the replicate the transparency and ease of transacting very easily,” he said.

“And I think more and more will,” O'Neil said. “I think as competition comes in and they see people moving to competitive models; dealers are very savvy local entrepreneurs, and if they sense there’s an opportunity in their market or they’re losing share in their market by not doing something, I think they’ll jump to it.”

In comments from O’Neil shared ahead of his speech earlier this month at the Automotive Forum in New York, he said that clicking a button to buy a car is not only the route that the auto wants to go, it’s also the route it should go.

“Click to buy is definitely where we want and need to go in automotive,” O’Neil said in the comments shared in a news release. “Success in retail can only be achieved by giving consumers options that enable the buying experience that they want.”

And that’s the heart of it, he said: it’s what the consumer wants.  For most any other transaction a shopper makes, the online option is available.

“We are, as a society — and I’d say all generations — getting used to transacting retail purchases digital,” O’Neil said by phone.

Given the “friction” involved in some steps of the car-buying process (like the trade-in), many consumers would rather conduct parts of the process outside of the dealership. And if provided the chance, “”they’d wholeheartedly embrace it,” he said.

That speaks to their need for a self-directed process where they complete steps of car-buying in the order of their choosing.

A five-step process

Of course, buying a car (online or otherwise) is complex with a lot of moving parts, as O’Neil outlines below. There needs to be:

—A real, actual payment lined up

— Pre-approval from bank

— A “genuine” presentation of all the F&I presentation options, like protection plans, prepaid maintenance, key protection insurance and so forth

— A determination of how trade-in will come into play (i.e. figuring out how money-owed or equity will be considered as part of the deal)

— A method to handle paperwork digitally

At the moment, O’Neil said Cox Automotive is able to handle the first four of the five steps. By year’s end, it will start rolling out complete digital signature capabilities. They can provide that in-store through signing on a digital signature pad in a store, but in fourth quarter they’ll launch the capability to do it via keyboard.

“And I think once that whole seamless process exists — let’s think like Amazon checkout now — then I think we’ll see the adoption,” he said

One hang-up with complete digitization is with state departments of motor vehicles paperwork. Digitization of that paperwork is not universally available across the U.S.

“Because of DMV restraints, getting everything electronic — every single form — is just not going to happen for multiple years, but for most consumers, that’s completely acceptable,” he said. “I would say the vast majority of digital retail contracting for the next few years are going to have some part of the paperwork being signed the old-fashioned way,” largely because some state smay not have their DMV forms ready digitized.

It’s possible to automate most dealer and lender forms, he said. Digitizing DMV forms is something that Cox Automotive will have to “feather” into the solution over time.

Learn from other industries

In the aforementioned comments in the New York speech, O’Neil cites entities like Amazon, Domino’s, Rocket Mortgage and Zappos that have used technology to make a more efficient, transparent, customized and enjoyable buying process.

Cox Automotive argues that doing the same in automotive could bear similar results.

So, what can the auto industry learn from folks who have succeeded (or, conversely, not succeeded) in digital retail?

“I think the learnings from all these folks are, it needs to be intuitive. Whether you’re buying eyeglasses or ordering pizza, there’s no one there to guide you through the process,” O'Neil said. “So, you need to make sure you design your technology in a way is self-evident; it’s intuitive (for) the consumer to figure out themselves.”

The online option, he said, also has to provide additional value for the buyer. In other words, it has to save them time, be transparent and be self-directed/flexible. 

Dominion introduces video marketing platform for dealers

NORFOLK, Va. - 

Dominion Dealer Solutions announced on Thursday that Dominion Dealer Specialties has introduced LiveLot, a fully responsive video marketing platform that supplies auto dealers with full-service video marketing strategies and tools.

On the LiveLot mobile app, dealers can make and publish vehicle inventory videos with custom voiceovers, vehicle walkarounds and customer testimonials.

“In the past several years, the car buying process has transitioned from the brick and mortar showroom to the virtual showroom. In this more competitive environment, it is imperative that automobile dealers take full advantage of any opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and drive prospects to their physical locations,” Dominion inventory solutions general manager Shane Marcum said.

The new platform's dealer portal allows them to manage all of their video content in one location via a live dashboard that includes in-depth analytics for both consumer engagement and individual vehicles. Dealers can also build customizable landing pages for each of their videos.

“Our new feature-rich video offering, LiveLot, virtualizes the traditional selection and presentation steps of the 'road to the sale' and acts as an integrated part of the customer’s virtual showroom,” Dominion inventory solutions associate product manager Shelley Hoffman said. “By helping auto dealers with the shopping process, our video offerings drive prospects to the dealership lot who are engaged with the dealer’s sales team and ready to negotiate and close.”

Additionally, Dominion said each video is personally designed to maximize reach and enhance customer engagement. 

For more information regarding LiveLot's offerings, visit www.drivedominion.com/livelot.

Car and Driver opens website to dealer listings

SAN FRANCISCO - 

Car and Driver is now giving auto dealers the opportunity to place their inventory listings in front of an estimated 12 million-plus monthly online visitors through its website’s new inventory listings product that matches its online content and vehicle search capabilities with a dealer’s inventory.

“This product marks the beginning of Car and Driver’s evolution from an enthusiast-focused news and reviews website to a complete decision-making resource for in-market auto shoppers,” the automotive content brand’s partner, Jumpstart Automotive Media, said in a news release.

The new listings product not only gives dealers a platform to share listings on Car and Driver’s site that yields more than 12 million unique monthly visitors, but it also allows dealers to own all messaging, ads, and links on their vehicle detail pages.

“In turning ourselves into a true service for car shoppers and enthusiasts, we become a connection point between the consumer’s automotive curiosity/desire and the car itself,” Car and Driver editor-in-chief Eddie Alterman said. “While the function of our site is changing, our mission remains the same: to deliver the most useful, honest, and entertaining information about cars.”

Car and Driver’s new offerings are exclusive to the brand’s website and will be sold through Jumpstart’s dealer sales team, according to the marketing and advertising solutions company.

“Taking a mobile-first approach, we have completely re-architected the website. We’ve also doubled our editorial staff and increased the scope of topics to cover more of today’s trending topics such as technology and environment,” Josh Searcy, Car and Driver chief product officer said.

Car and Driver’s evolution is in response to the disruption in the online auto marketplace; it’s about accommodating the ways people actually want to shop for cars online. We’re incredibly excited about how far we’ve come and what’s still yet to come in making the auto shopping experience more complete for our audience.”

Additionally, according to Searcy, alongside the suite of auto shopper tools now available — such as pricing and inventory — Car and Driver is currently developing a new buyer’s guide section that provides 9 in-depth categories for each make and model, as well as reviews.

TIME’s TheDrive.com adopts new tool for ‘digital-first’ car buyers

NEW YORK and DETROIT - 

The website of the multi-platform brand ran by TIME’s content and creative collective The Foundry — TheDrive.com — has added a new research and shopping page named SHOP, which instantly gives users access to the latest new and used-car data and connects prospective buyers with nearby dealers.

Currently, the new digital innovation integrated across The Drive’s network can offer car buyers data and online pricing for more than 300 makes and models.

“This initiative starts with the user’s needs at the core. With this new car research platform, users can start by reading feature articles about cars and car culture, then go from imagining themselves behind the wheel straight to pricing models and connecting with dealers,” Eric Goeres, general manager of The Drive, said in a news release.

“It’s car enthusiast catnip — doubly so for those in-market.”

On SHOP, not only can users find detailed information regarding vehicles’ make, model and trim, they can also both browse inventories and manage any of pricing and quote requests, according to TIME.

The newly integrated platform was built in collaboration with automotive digital media company Detroit Trading.

“We worked closely with management and brand leadership from Time Inc. and The Drive to develop an industry-leading automotive portal for its audience,” said Pete Bonner, co-Founder and executive vice president of Detroit Trading.

“We feel this new online resource, combined with real-time phone support from our Detroit-based segment specialists, will make the process of shopping for a new vehicle responsive, informative and, most importantly, fun! We work on a lot of cutting-edge projects at Detroit Trading, but we’re especially thrilled to be part of the exciting things happening at TIME and The Drive.”

TIME said The Drive users have access to an average of 4.5 million units of used vehicle inventory and one-click connections to an online dealer network spanning all 50 U.S. states.

“The deal comes at a time when the American auto industry just posted a record year in sales and is increasingly technology driven, with consumers doing more research online than ever,” TIME said. “The Drive pursues a younger, more mobile, more affluent audience with its broad scope of “new enthusiast” editorial coverage—an expansion of traditional horsepower, reviews and wrenching automotive journalism that includes future tech, policy, aviation, infrastructure, design, gear, military and entertainment and celebrity coverage.”

The Foundry launched The Drive in 2015, it publishes a wide range of editorial content to a mobile audience of young, tech-forward auto buffs, according to TIME.

The Drive YouTube channel has almost 2 million subscribers and its videos average 5 million views each month.

X