In April 2017, CarGurus — still a private company at that point — launched its first-ever mass-media ad campaign, aiming to drive awareness among the general public.
“We want to get people to think first and foremost about us as their shopping destination when buying a car comes to mind. And I think that’s something we have work to do on,” chief executive officer Langley Steinert said during an interview last June in his Cambridge, Mass., office.
“We have a huge audience already,” the CarGurus CEO said, adding that the goal is to push awareness.
“We’d like to be as synonymous for car-buying as buying a book on Amazon or buying music on iTunes.”
An initial public offering and a year later, CarGurus appears to have taken major steps towards that end.
According to audience metrics in the comScore Media Metrix Multi Platform ratings for March, CarGurus earned the following distinctions:
- Largest Automotive Shopping Site: Total unique monthly visitors (comScore Media Metrix Multi Platform, March 2018, U.S., Automotive)
- Most Mobile Traffic: Total unique monthly mobile visitors (comScore Mobile Metrix, March 2018, U.S., Automotive)
- Most Visited Automotive Shopping Site: Total visits (comScore Media Metrix Multi Platform, March 2018, U.S., Automotive)
- Most Engaged Shoppers: Average minutes per unique visitor (comScore Media Metrix Multi Platform, March 2018, U.S. [competitive set includes CarGurus.com, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, and TrueCar.com])
- Most Shopping Time Spent: Total minutes (comScore Media Metrix Multi Platform, March 2018, U.S., Automotive)
During the first quarter, CarGurus increased total worldwide user sessions by 39 percent year-over-year, Steinert said during the company’s earnings call last week.
It was up 37 percent in the U.S. and 68 percent in international markets.
The number of total worldwide monthly unique visitors was up 36 percent year-over-year (up 33 percent for U.S., 64 percent for international markets).
“We’re particularly proud of our growth relative to the overall U.S. automotive segment, as measured by comScore, as our audience grew at more than double the growth rate of the total automotive segment,” Steinert said during the call.
“Our U.S. growth has outpaced the market since 2015 and allowed us to gain consumer market share,” he said. “Over the course of that trajectory, we’ve evolved through various phases in dealers’ eyes.
“We began as a new entrant, emerged as an interesting disruptor and more recently became viewed as a market leader,” Steinert said.
Putting an emphasis on “unbiased transparency” has allowed CarGurus to provide what it says is the “best consumer experience,” which has in turn driven the company to the top of the leaderboard for monthly visits, shopping time spent, average minutes per visitor and mobile audience, Steinert said.
“Q1 marked an exciting new milestone for CarGurus in the U.S. when we also became the leader in total monthly unique visitors,” he said. “So we’re proud to say today that by key comScore metrics, CarGurus is the leader, with the largest and most engaged audience of car shoppers in the U.S.
“We’re winning the consumer,” Steinert said. “We’re the audience leader.”
This is also helping CarGurus when it comes to its dealer numbers.
There were 26,261 paying dealers in the U.S. utilizing the CarGurus platform at the end of Q1, up from 22,081 a year earlier. That figure was also 1,139 more than the number at the end of 2017.
“As Langley described earlier, our continued growth of paying dealers in the U.S. is driven by the growing volume of connections to our in-market car shoppers, our improved brand awareness among consumers and the clearer messaging of our value proposition and strong ROI that we delivered dealers,” chief financial officer Jason Trevisan said during the call.
During the Q&A portion of the call, Trevisan would go on to discuss the marketing efforts in further detail.
CarGurus began brand spending at the beginning of the third quarter 2017, with a lot of the effort last year being “testing,” he said.
“This year, as we’ve seen the results of those early this year, we’ve been encouraged. The things that we’re measuring are our aided and unaided awareness via consumer surveys conducted by us and by third parties, direct URL traffic and branded search and branded organic search,” Trevisan said. “All of those are on pace with what we expected to see given the amount of spend.
“We’re also seeing a rising tide effect in our paid search — even unbranded paid search — as more people are familiar with our brand name when we’re showing up in results. So, it’s creating a tailwind there as well,” he said.
“And you heard us say that we are reinvesting a meaningful portion of the revenue upside that we generate already and expect to generate and some of that going’s into brand, because we’re excited about it,” Trevisan said. “We’ve always felt that we were well-positioned because we had very low awareness but a sizable audience, and really strong consumer satisfaction, because of our consumer-centricity. And we’re starting to see that play out.”
CarGurus launched a new TV ad campaign during the first quarter, which was “performing well,” he said.
“And we’re starting to move from simply generating awareness of our name to actually starting to articulate some of the benefits to the consumer and ways that we’re different from our competitors,” Trevisan said.