CarGurus is readying a suite of digital marketing products that will more strategically connect the 37 million unique consumers that visit its online automotive marketplace each month with the websites of dealers who list vehicles for sale on CarGurus.com.
The group of “real-time performance marketing” products is set to debut in January, said CarGurus president and chief operating officer Sam Zales, during an interview at the company’s inaugural Navigate automotive conference, held Oct. 22 -23 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
“We are packaging this incredible set of tools, some of them are already in the market today, in a suite of digital marketing solutions that help dealers more efficiently acquire new customers,” Zales said.
Almost 400 dealers and dealership managers from the U.S. and international markets such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy, attended the conference.
Zales said real-time performance marketing utilizes display ads on CarGurus.com that dealers can use to brand themselves. Its audience retargeting feature sends specific vehicle inventory ads to consumers visiting non-dealership and social media sites, after they have searched for vehicles on CarGurus.com.
The strategy also includes paid search which means that dealers who list vehicles for sale on CarGurus.com have access to the same technology and data the company uses, Zales said.
“Our company is focused on more than a billion key words in our algorithmic traffic acquisition efforts — we’re providing that same tool set to our dealers to allow them to find a consumer in their local market to come directly to their website using paid search,” he said.
Delivery program gains traction
Zales also noted that the company’s vehicle delivery program, started in 2018, is gaining momentum.
The program is particularly beneficial to consumers who live in low-density population areas and are shopping on CarGurus.com for vehicles, especially vehicles that are considered less mainstream, he said.
Without the delivery program, consumers in those areas would likely get a very limited number of search results.
But with the vehicle delivery program, searches yield inventory of local dealerships and that of dealerships located outside of those markets and are willing to deliver vehicles to consumers’ locations, often at competitive prices, Zales said.
In addition to giving more inventory choices to consumers, the program is a win for dealers who can put more eyeballs on their inventory and sell more vehicles in more markets, said Langley Steinert, CarGurus founder and chief executive officer.
“It allows (dealers) to address a bigger market, ship vehicles into a different market and still make a good margin on a car you ship into a different area,” said Steinert, who spoke about the program during a fireside chat presentation during the conference.
“Carvana is a customer, Vroom is a customer, but I think a lot of dealers are embracing this.”
Steinert also pointed out that moving a vehicle from one market to another is no small task. Not only should the move must make economic sense to the customer and the dealer, the vehicle delivery experience for the customer is key and must be a good one, he said.
Citing drivers dressed in say, “khakis and a nice polo shirt,” and who facilitate a quick documentation process, Steinert said Carvana and Vroom, are delivering “a flawless customer experience that is game changing” and their “customers are blown away because it’s such a great experience.”
Expanding pre-approved financing
Tom Caputo, CarGurus chief product officer, during his presentation, said the company added a second lending partner, Westlake Financial Services under a program that allows CarGurus consumers to apply for and get pre-approved for financing all online.
The company launched the credit application program with Capital One in May and has made it available to about 12,000 dealers who do business with CarGurus and Capital One.
Caputo said the program with Westlake is “live” with about 1,000 dealers and in the coming weeks, will be rolled out to CarGurus dealers who do business with Westlake.
“By the time we have this scaled up, we anticipate that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the vehicles on our site will have the ability to go through a pre-approval,” he said.
“We think it’s providing real value to consumers, but also allowing dealers to engage with shoppers who are deeper funnel and (it’s being done) in a way that we know preserves the (finance and insurance) opportunity.”
Women making a difference
CarGurus also took time during the conference to recognize women attendees in leading roles at dealerships and other sectors of the auto industry by providing them a networking platform during its “Women of Navigate” dinner and reception.
The women’s gathering was “recognition of how many women in our industry have a made a difference in our business,” said Zales. “It helps us to think differently and take new perspectives.”
Diversity is critical and a cultural priority at CarGurus, he added.
Jen Welter, the first woman to coach in the National Football League, was the reception’s keynote speaker.
Disrupters and marketing prowess
Zales said the inaugural Navigate conference is part of CarGurus’ mission to disrupt the car shopping experience by offering consumers transparency and guiding them to the dealership for “long-term success.”
Daymond John, one of the stars of ABC TV’s “Shark Tank” and founder of the FUBU fashion line, and Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool and a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz USA, were invited to be keynote speakers for the conference because their business philosophies share some common elements with CarGurus, Zales said.
Zales said John is a disrupter who exemplifies brand awareness and innovation, understands the consumer experience and has the ability to connect people and create transactions.
Kawasaki, who was an employee at Apple when the company launched its Macintosh computer, possesses digital marketing prowess and deep knowledge of how use multiple marketing channels, Zales said.
“What Guy represents for both buyer and the seller is ‘how do you utilize those online digital marketing techniques to find those consumers and connect to them and transact as efficiently as possible’?” he said.
“Part of that is knowing every consumer has their own choice for how do they interact with the seller of a product or service. We’re helping (dealers) figure out is how do you meet that consumer in the marketing channel that is most effective for them.”