Social/Digital Media

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.

Carvana expands into 25th market: Chicago

PHOENIX - 

The 25th market for Carvana is its largest one yet.

The online used-vehicle retail platform announced expansion on Wednesday into Chicago, the company’s first market in Illinois where an estimated 13 million consumers in the greater Chicagoland area can now could get free, as-soon-as-next-day delivery of any vehicle from Carvana’s 7,300-plus unit inventory.

“Chicago is our most populated market to date,” Ernie Garcia, founder and chief executive officer of Carvana, said in a news release. “Not only is it the northernmost market we’ve launched in, it’s home to the third largest population in the country. We can’t wait to show them the new way to buy a car.”

As a part of its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for its initial public offering this spring, Carvana elaborated about what it takes to expand into another market. After opening Atlanta in 2013, Carvana opened two markets in 2014, six in 2015 and 12 in 2016. Earlier this year, the company made moves into St. Louis and Philadelphia on its way to reaching the 25-market threshold.

“Our growth in retail units sold is driven by expansion into new markets and increased penetration in our existing markets,” Carvana said in its SEC filing. “We define a market as a metropolitan area in which we have commenced local advertising and offer free home delivery to customers with a Carvana employee and branded delivery truck.

“Opening a new market involves hiring a market operations manager and a team of customer advocates, connecting the market to our existing logistics network and initiating local advertising,” the company continued. “Each new market has typically required approximately $500,000 in capital expenditures, primarily related to the acquisition of one to two branded delivery trucks, a multi-car hauler to connect the market to our logistics network, and furniture, fixtures and equipment in a local office space.

“As a market scales, we may elect to build a vending machine in the market to improve fulfillment and further increase customer awareness,” Carvana added.

One of the primary ways Carvana broadens customer awareness is through its noteworthy car vending machines. If customers prefer to pick-up their vehicle personally, they can opt into Carvana’s “Fly and Drive” program where Carvana will subsidize $200 of airfare to a car vending machine location in the Texas cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston or San Antonio as well as Nashville, Tenn.

“Each new vending machine has required $4.5 million to $5.5 million of capital expenditures, depending on the number of stories in the vending machine tower and local market conditions,” Carvana said in the SEC filing.

To date, Carvana said it has delivered vehicles to customers in 47 states. The rundown of markets where Carvana now operates includes: Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Hampton Roads (Va.), Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Richmond, San Antonio, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington D.C., and now Chicago.

“Our capital- and headcount-light expansion model has enabled us to increase our rate of market openings in each of the past four years,” Carvana said in the IPO paperwork.

To thank the early adopters in Chicago who purchased a vehicle prior to Wednesday, Carvana said will fully refund any delivery fee paid.

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.

Cancer & AIDS research foundation to honor Facebook auto director

NEW YORK - 

The T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research has announced that it will honor Facebook's U.S. Automotive director Stephanie Latham at the Women of Influence Awards and Luncheon next week.

Latham, a breast cancer survivor and passionate supporter of the cause, will join five other women in accepting their awards during the foundation's fifth annual event at the New York Plaza Hotel on  May 12 at 11:30 a.m.

“The awards celebration honors six outstanding women who have achieved tremendous goals in both in their business and personal life and will benefit ovarian and breast cancer research,” the foundation said in a news release. 

Latham joined Facebook in 2011 and in her current role as head of its U.S. Automotive team, she works alongside marketers and agencies to forge solutions across platforms that boost brand awareness in efforts to sell more vehicles.

She also held leadership positions on Facebook’s Retail, Financial Services and Restaurants teams before leading on the Automotive team.

Prior to joining Facebook, Latham served as the executive director of Account Service at the Barbarian Group, where she managed the GE, CNN and Google accounts.

Latham received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.

She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter.

For more information about the 2017 Women of Influence Awards and Luncheon's other honorees and to obtain tickets for the event, visit tjmfwomenofinfluence.org.

EVOX Images releases new edition of VR app RelayCars

RANCHO DOMINGUEZ, Calif. - 

EVOX Images has launched the 6.0 version of its free virtual reality app RelayCars, which features an expansive and high-quality VR automotive library that allows users to tour the interior and exterior of more than 700 vehicles with Samsung Gear VR.

Since its inception, the app has been downloaded more than 900,000 times, according to EVOX.

“We are excited to bring consumers the most comprehensive automotive VR application on the market and enhance the way people buy cars,” EVOX chief executive officer David Falstrup said in a news release. “Our goal is to make you feel like we just put you in the driver’s seat of your favorite car. RelayCars 6.0 features coverage for every model in our vast library, giving consumers access to an unprecedented number of vehicles, completely free on the app store.”

Through six different virtual showrooms, the app lets users explore more than 700 make and models that have been on the market since 2015.

EVOX utilizes its 360-degree imaging to power its new virtual reality technology.

Currently, it supplies automotive imaging to more than 20,000 dealer websites and the top automotive websites, according to the company.

“Within the past year, the EVOX VR team has extended technology offerings with the introduction of showrooms, virtual cinema, vehicle configurator capability, VR product clinics, and more,” EVOX said. “These new virtual shopping features will benefit dealers by building customer engagement and driving store traffic.”

RelayCars 6.0 is now available on the Oculus Samsung Gear VR Store.

To learn more, visit evoxvr.com on your smartphone, and view with Google Cardboard and similar VR mobile headsets.

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