AutoTrader.com’s Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center rolled out to the market a little more than three months ago. In that span, site officials highlighted four significant improvements that already have been unveiled as now more than 500 BHPH dealers nationwide are leveraging the platform to reach buyers in their specific market.
In a recent phone conversation with BHPH Report, Brett Kelly, the director of independent dealer business at AutoTrader.com, began by highlighting the microsites dealers can launch when they become a Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center user, which is free through May 31.
“The original plan was we were going to offer several templates to choose from so dealers could somewhat customize their space,” Kelly said.
“Actually we’re implementing a new technology where on the microsites the dealers are going to be able to just very simply with a couple of clicks full customize their microsite space,” he continued.
“That’s exciting because they merchandise and put their value story out there on the microsite, if they want, they can choose to make that microsite their own website. And that’s without any of the AutoTrader or Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center branding,” Kelly went on to say.
Kelly also insisted that AutoTrader.com is not out to pillage the business away from any local website provider an operator might be already using. Rather, he hopes dealers use the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center as another outlet to reel in potential buyers, especially if the store’s online exposure is limited.
“There are a lot of dealers who are happy with their current website provider, and that’s fine. We offer ways to direct consumers to their website,” Kelly said.
“I’m by no means trying to tell the dealer that they should use us instead of their website provider. But for dealers that are looking for a good alternative or who don’t have a website right now, this makes a very easy, very user friendly and very effective way for them to market their dealership,” he continued.
“The good part is because it’s connected with the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center, when they go into our back-end tools they can manage their inventory. They put in their down payment of the weekly payment on the car. That instantly goes through to their microsite,” Kelly added.
Inventory Upload Capabilities
And speaking of inventory management, that’s another enhancement to the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center. Kelly mentioned AutoTrader.com now established the infrastructure so dealers can upload their inventory to the site from any major management system.
“From the ease of use perspective, we now have a full functioning data load system on the back end,” Kelly said.
“What that means is dealers are going to be able to send us inventory regardless of who their inventory provider may be,” he continued. “That was something important to the industry because dealers don’t want to have to input their vehicles at all these different places. Whoever their inventory provider is they can use it and set up a feed for it to come into the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center.”
Once that inventory is populated with the information dealers want to highlight such as down payment or biweekly payment, Kelly explained that the work AutoTrader.com leading into the launch earlier this year made it simple for operators to make adjustments as inventory ages or market competition changes.
“A lot of the website providers use a general template to make a cookie cutter website. Our tech team from scratch wrote new code that essentially allows the dealer to edit their microsite on the fly and in real time,” Kelly said.
“Dealers can go into their editing view of the page, and they can drag on the page where they want their photos to be. They can drag where on the page they want the map to the dealership to be. They can double click on the text to edit it. They can do all of these things,” he continued.
“And as soon as they do, it instantly updates and shows up on their site. It’s very cool. I’m excited that we’re bringing it to market,” Kelly went on to say.
At this point, that’s when Kelly was reminded about why AutoTrader.com’s Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center is meant to be different from all of the other offerings the site gives to dealers.
“We know in the BHPH market, dealers like to advertise and display their inventory to consumers by down payment and payment. The funny thing is if you go out there in the world and you look at all of these other dealers’ websites, they don’t actually have a provider that allows them to list their inventory like that on their own website,” Kelly said.
“This is cool new value proposition that we’re putting out there for dealers because they’re going to be able to display their inventory actually the way they want to display it without those technical limitations,” he added.
Enhancements for Potential Buyers
Kelly emphasized that the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center was built with what he called a “responsive design.” No matter how a customer might be viewing the site — on a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or smartphone —the user will have an enjoyable experience, according to Kelly.
“Whatever device it is, we have it set up where the page reformats itself to fit the device the consumer is using. That’s very important in this market,” Kelly said.
“You think about all the people who might be using the AutoTrader iPhone app. The reality is this market isn’t an iPhone app type of shopper. This is a mobile Web browser shopper, and in many cases maybe even prepaid mobile smartphones. That’s why we set it up that regardless of device, the page formats itself into the Web browser,” he continued.
“Should the dealer choose to make the microsite their main Web page, it also has this adaptive and responsive design. It’s all optimized to appear organically in searches,” Kelly went on to say.
And since website rendering was so important to AutoTrader.com’s launch strategy for the Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center, site personnel have placed even more efforts into ensuring this operational element functions correctly.
“From the git-go, the site was really built with strong optimization,” Kelly said. “But we’ve actually doubled down on our efforts over the past 30 days to really super tune that optimization. We’re going to see more activity and presence on Web searches because of that optimization.”
Measuring Site Performance
While site optimization and ease of uploading inventory are important, Kelly acknowledged BHPH operators will want to know whether their connection with AutoTrader.com’s Buy-Here, Pay-Here Center is generating some measureable impact. Kelly stressed that the company has introduced this solution to market with some “pretty simple” measurement components.
“The dealers can count and view the emails that have been sent to them. We provide every dealer a toll-free call tracking number for free. Throughout the site, that toll free number shows. When the consumer calls it, it redirects to the dealer’s main phone number. The dealer can monitor the activity they get from those calls,” Kelly said.
“The dealer can go in with the dashboard and show them their most popular cars based on what consumers have been viewing and also show them their least popular cars,” he continued.
And Kelly said that popularity metric might be most useful for BHPH operators.
“Generally speaking when something shows least popular cars, that’s not necessarily because someone didn’t want them,” Kelly said. “It’s usually means something is wrong with the merchandising of them. They either didn’t have a good description. The pricing is missing or there’s no down payment information. They don’t have photos.
“There’s generally a consumer for every car. It’s really a matter of how that car is presented,” he continued.
“We have these back-end tools mostly for the purpose of the dealer being able to see what the consumers are doing in relation to them and then react through the merchandising to optimize what they’re doing,” Kelly went on to say.