The idea of car dealers using alternative channels to broaden the reach of their inventory listings and increase their online presence is nothing new.
In fact, dealers have been using services like eBay Motors and similar portals for years — if not decades.
However, the online vehicle listing space is growing, meshing with social media and online shopping channels not traditionally thought of as automotive.
Take Facebook, for example.
In one of a series of dealer-related upgrades, Facebook is beta-testing an automotive inventory ad integration with CDK Global, a partnership that Facebook says will be the first one to include automotive inventory integration with Facebook ads.
“Dealers can now automatically and seamlessly connect their entire vehicle inventory to run AIA directly from their Facebook account,” a company spokesperson said in an outline of the upgrades shared with Auto Remarketing via email in August.
“For dealers who are using CDK for their website service, this will also automate the pixel implementation required for AIA,” the spokesperson said, referring to the acronym for automotive inventory ads.
In another upgrade, dealers can now manually create vehicle catalogs for auto inventory ads on Facebook instead of having to upload a data feed.
Now, the dealer just has to complete a form with the vehicle information to launch a catalog, Facebook explained in the outline of the upgrades. This will be especially helpful to smaller stores, the company said.
Another upgrade: Companies in the automotive industry will be able to have a unified catalog for automotive inventory ads and for Marketplace.
“We’re now enabling businesses in the automotive vertical (dealerships, portals, business-to-business software providers) to leverage a unified catalog to list their vehicle inventory on Marketplace and advertise on Facebook,” the company spokesperson said in the outline. “This is significant because it enables businesses to easily upload and maintain their inventory on Facebook in one place. Previously, the same business would need separate catalogs.”
Lastly, it was announced earlier this year that car shoppers who use the Facebook app now have access to free Carfax reports through a new integration between Carfax and Facebook Marketplace.
The Carfax reports are provided by select dealers on their inventory as a result of the new integration, which Carfax says will mean buyers have more transparency and confidence when they shop for their next used car.
With the Carfax/Facebook Marketplace integration, a free Carfax Vehicle History Report is visible to users whenever a Facebook Marketplace inventory provider who is also partnered with Carfax posts a dealer’s vehicles. Also, car buyers on Facebook Marketplace can filter search results by details shown in the Carfax Vehicle History Report.
In addition to these updates, Facebook shared two case studies of how dealers are utilizing its services:
New Rochelle Hyundai, for example, teamed up with Facebook Marketing Partner Dealers United for an automotive inventory ads campaign designed to improve lead generation. The three-month campaign spurred 65 car sales and 1,110 leads.
“With help from our Facebook Marketing Partner Dealers United and Facebook’s auto inventory ads, we now sell more new and used vehicles, and see more traffic to our showrooms and higher quality buyers that know exactly what they are looking for,” New Rochelle Hyundai president Jordan Daiagi Harary said on the Facebook Business page for the campaign.
“There is no better feeling than a simple sales process that picks right up where the customer left off online,” Harary said.
The study description on that page said Facebook automotive ads were being used to bring in fresh clientele.
“The ad format requires the dealership to upload its inventory and install the Facebook pixel, which logs customer actions on its website. Then the team created a Custom Audience of people who had already visited the site,” the page said.
“When potential customers received the ad, it would automatically display images of either the exact cars visitors had expressed interest in on New Rochelle’s site, cars similar to those they investigated on the site or cars that people like the potential customer had expressed interest in,” it added.
Additionally, the campaign took lists of visitors to the physical dealership and then retargeted them with inventory ads of vehicles in which they had expressed interest.
“New Rochelle Hyundai also crafted lookalike audiences from its website and dealership visitors, serving them dynamic ads that teed up relevant cars for each,” Facebook explained. “At the bottom of the ads was a call to action button, saying ‘Sign up for a test drive.’ Customers who clicked the button and filled out the form became leads in New Rochelle Hyundai’s customer relationship management (CRM) system for the sales team to contact.”
In another case study, Facebook shared how automotive inventory ads helped Faulkner Auto Group sell 5,013 cars at 25 stores in seven months. The AIA campaign also helped the store trim cost per vehicle purchase by 90%.
“Optimizing our advertising mix is extremely important to us. Obtaining detailed analytics from our advertising efforts that correlate to an increase in traffic to our dealerships is our primary objective,” said Faulkner director of digital marketing Neil Gandhi on the page for the campaign.
“Thanks to Mazama and Facebook, we have a professional, successful and measurable social media presence, which is very important to our automotive group as a whole,” Gandhi said, referring to the digital marketing agency Mazama Media that was involved in the campaign, as well
OfferUp gains automotive steam
Opening a web browser to OfferUp.com on Friday morning in August in the Raleigh, N.C., area reveals the following products for sale, among other items: an iPhone, tools, Playstation 3, earnings, a queen bed and, yes, a Chevrolet Silverado.
The marketplace — where, as the above list would indicate, folks can buy and sell a variety of goods locally — was launched in 2011 and is designed to provide “the simplest and most trustworthy way for people to buy and sell in their communities,” according to the company.
In a phone interview earlier this year, OfferUp director of product management Andrea Moro said the marketplace began seeing significant growth in its autos category, which has now consistently been one of the top three categories for OfferUp.
They focused on private sellers of vehicles at the beginning, but “as a natural extension,” dealers began posting cars, Moro said.
That caught the eye of OfferUp, because it happened organically and without any real marketing or sales plan around it, he said.
So, the company pondered, “What can we do to make dealers very successful on the platform?” Moro said.
Thus, the launch of OfferUp Automotive Dealer Program, which allows dealers to tap into tools to help facilitate lead generation from OfferUp. Through the program, dealers have a verified profile and access to solutions letting them list their inventory feed directly via their DMS providers, boost exposure of that inventory to shoppers and communicate with shoppers through a host of tools, the company said in a news release.
OfferUp Autos debuted last year as a means to “to reduce the friction in the car buying and selling process for millions of users,” the company said. “In addition to dealer-focused tools, the program helps buyers find the best deals nearby and connect with independent sellers and dealers instantly and anonymously.”
In general, shoppers on OfferUp can learn more about sellers through their ratings and engage with them in real time, typically through a chat function, Moro said.
If a shopper ends up buying, he or she can choose to meet to pick up the item or have that item shipped.
With cars, specifically, the shopper browses the listings to find cars available locally from either private parties or dealers, Moro said. The shopper can start a conversation either through instant message or chat. Dealers can also choose to have a click-to-call function to initiate the conversation.
Dealers can have their Google reviews imported to the platform or build up OfferUp-specific ratings over item.
As far as inventory, those feeds can be automatically integrated into the platform or the dealer can choose to post inventory manually.
Asked about the competitive set to OfferUp in automotive, whether it’s the Craiglists or the purely automotive platforms like Vroom, Carvana, Shift etc., Moro said it is “a bit of them all.”
It certainly is a growing space for sure.
“There are so many new solutions and channels … we have found a way for consumers to connect to sellers that is emerging and strong and widely adopted by millions of users,” he said.
“We’re riding that wave to make sure that as this opportunity (that) provides us a different way of connecting with dealerships exists, that we’re best at it,” Moro said. “There’s also other channels and other ways to do that. We’re definitely monitoring everybody.
“Ultimately, we want to be the place where dealers can get the best return on their time and their investment when sourcing leads for their own business. And so that’s (what) we’re going to work for in the next years.”
OfferUp announced in June it had expanded the work it does with car dealers.
The OfferUp Autos program has added partnerships with marketing services, inventory management systems and dealership management system providers – meaning dealers using those providers will be able to post vehicles on OfferUp through respective platforms.
The partners include the likes of Hammer, MotorLot, LotVantage, Dealerfront, DealerSync, Detroit Trading, Auction123 and AutoSweet, OfferUp said.
Those dealers will also be signed up for OfferUp’s Verified Auto Dealers program, which acts as a resource for dealers to expand their digital reach and manage leads from the OfferUp marketplace.
“More than 44 million people use OfferUp annually to buy and sell locally and we see millions of views every week from people looking at listings in our Cars & Trucks category,” Moro said in a news release.
“Verified dealer listings are promoted across the OfferUp platform and are specifically designed to drive more traffic to the showroom floor. In addition to our current dealer-specific features, our team is constantly expanding our offering based on feedback from our current customers,” Moro said. “Our Top Lead indicator, for example, allows dealers to identify more serious inquiries and sell more cars.”
The company continues to augment its dealer group with the aforementioned dealer inventory and marketing partner additions and Top Lead Indicator. Additionally, OfferUp is now allowing buy-here, pay-here dealers put a “Verified Low Credit Financing” tag on their profiles along with “Call for Details” tags on vehicle listings instead of prices.
“OfferUp Autos has been an amazing resource because all of my salespeople can access our leads in real-time with quick access from a single user login,” Paul Kochman, general manager at R&B Auto Center in Fontana, Calif., said in a news release. “We’ve also seen better ROI for our third-party internet advertising, so all-in-all, we’ve been elated with our overall success.
OfferUp also recently became a Bronze-level National Corporate Partner of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.
“OfferUp has revolutionized the local digital marketplace landscape, ensuring a trustworthy and transparent selling and buying experience,” NIADA senior vice president of member services Scott Lilja said in a news release.
“Along with major new investments in machine learning lead generation tools and customized BHPH member dealer solutions, OfferUp is truly on the cutting edge of the digital and mobile auto retail marketplace — a tremendous new resource for our member dealers,” Lilja went on to say.
Staff writer Nick Zulovich contributed to this story.