Social/Digital Media

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.

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
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