I appreciate everyone's feedback (a lot,) but I can't help but think many of you aren't quite getting what I'm saying. I'm not saying that I think Autotrader is valueless by any means. We've long been conditioned to understand that trackable sales aren't the way to measure Autotrader's (or any classified site's) success or failure. Lots of folks see a car they like online, and then contact is by other means. I'm on board with that.
ZMOT is an interesting idea, though it almost feels too much like "just spend a ton of money plastering your cars and name everywhere, and everything will probably work out eventually." Almost like TV or radio advertising. I'm not sure that it's a particularly useful concept, even if it is interesting.
My concern is trying to measure the effectiveness of Autotrader vs Cars.com with the best metrics we have – and as far as I can tell, those best metrics are SRP's and VDP's. Or, given the difference in measuring SRP's, just VDP's. By that measure, Cars.com gives me many more VDP's for less money. I was trying to see if this is a common occurrence, or if everyone just accepts that they "have to" be on Autotrader, and that's that.
We don't "have" to do anything but die and pay taxes. A dealer once told me that "half of my ad budget is wasted but I don't know which half". In my descriptions, I have a strong call to action. I would much prefer a phone call than an email. Phone calls, with my system, are often not sourced properly. I have also found that many AutoTrader customers click through and their emails and phone calls are then sourced to the website. I can justify the AutoTrader expense from my ROI report and I was both premium and Alpha.
Rob, don't take offense when people don't agree with you on DealerRefresh, it would be worthless if everyone had the same opinion and point of view.
But with that being said - it's still a good point. Is it merchandising only that determines your success on a site like AutoTrader?
Thanks Jeff. Yesterday was my first day. I haven't been able to address all the issues or identify all the problems. I have more than marketing issues to address. My job isn't just to ramp up the internet department but used cars, also.
I can't tell you how pleased I am with the staff of these two stores. The GM is a prince. He told me, "just tell me what you need, I just want to win". The facilities are remarkable (we have a putting green in the customer waiting area ...anybody jealous? ). One store uses eCarlist and the other is in the middle of being converted to vAuto. I can't touch the descriptions on that store until the install is complete. I have started working on the descriptions on the other. We have an ancient ILM but we are getting DealerSocket in February. They are running about 7 to 10 days to market. A forth of the cars are without pictures and they set the prices with a dart board. If it was a well oiled machine, they wouldn't have hired me.
I have learned that there is a huge difference in the cost of AutoTrader and Cars from Texas to Arizona.
<UNCLE JOE RANT>
IMO, AutoTrader and Cars.com have FAILED to make their business accountable for the fees they charge. They have FAILED to challenge themselves to improve their platform that will increase their revenues.
AT and Cars.com see traffic on their pages, but, they can't think of a way to send a dealer a visible up. IMO this is completely un-acceptable.
Why aren't they trying new ideas to create ups?
For example, I am the designer and project manager for my indie website. 65000 visits monthly is my audience. EVERY single digital marketing expense I make MUST SELL MORE CARS ---and--- I need to show proof! My car shopper audience size dosent grow much, but, I need more leads, more phone calls and improving traffic metrics EVERY MONTH.
To produce these gains, I need to be constantly looking at data and research (example: Is Your Dealership Website Chat Used or Abused?) trying to get into the shoppers mind and give them what they want. This 'work' is the lifeblood of digital marketing and is done by all major players like Amazon, Zappos, CarMax, Ebay, PriceGrabber, TripAdvisor, etc...
LET ME ASK YOU ALL...
When can you remember either AT or Cars.com seriously testing their layouts to help produce more leads for it's dealers? If these 2 players were seriously worried about pleasing its dealers, you'd see them running Split testings (aka A/B testing) where brand new "touch points" would pop up on pages, or totally new layouts would appear. THE RESULTS OF THESE EFFORTS would be more ups.
AT & Cars, don't tell me that the LAME AND USELESS Computer Generated VIDEOs is your answer. If you look at your engagement stats, you KNOW these videos SUCK. I am talking about real, rollup your sleeves geeked out optimization efforts like this one Autotrader and Cars.com need a link to a dealer website
One last word to AT and Cars.com management.
Don't let the hard work of your sales team (who do all the hard work for you) be your score card. Get out of the board room and Challenge yourselves to find optimization consultants (like the savant of Shopper Sciences - Who we are, John Ross) and dare to open a new door to new opportunities.
Its your mission to providing the best product for shoppers and your dealers. If you did upgrade your platform and become more important to shoppers, then dealers would see more ups. More ups mean more price increases.
Layers of management isolate the top brass from outside players who's innovative ideas challenge the status quo and MAKE EVERYONE UNCOMFORTABLE. The top brass needs more creative thinking (or creative thinkers)!
</UNCLE JOE RANT>
p.s. Blog post?
Appreciate the comments and couldn’t agree with you more on the importance and value of our sales team. But I’ll disagree with you on your statements about failure to improve our platform. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically in the past few years, and I think we’ve innovated extremely well to address these important shifts in consumer behavior. For instance we seen users shift away from email as a primary method for of lead generation, opting to remain anonymous in their shopping activities. In the past two years, not only have we modified the more details pages, but we flipped to a guided navigation that allows users to redefine the search within the actual results. We embraced the advent of chat as another conversion tool for our clients and launched dealer reviews to help consumer get insights into the sales and service operations to help decide where to buy. Perhaps most importantly, from our consumer research we started launching mobile properties on virtually every platform including most recently the ipad, all which are designed to help enable shoppers to take confidence with them into the stores. And important to note, the conversion path on our mobile properties all have unique SRP to VDP conversions which we individually monitor and manage for improvements (Mobile now accounting for over 20% of our total site traffic and one of the ways we tend to outperform on conversion and volume of VDPs in my opinion.) Lastly, while we don’t publicize these tests for obvious reasons, we are currently running A/B versions of our more details (VDP) on the main site. Expert further innovation there as well. As always, happy to hear suggestions or questions directly…..I can be reached directly at email@example.com.
Thanks for being part of the conversation. It sure means a lot to hear form you, and it says a lot about Cars.com and your efforts in helping the dealer community and willingness to listen.
First, may I offer up a soft under hand pitch and say that I'm glad you've replied. TY. Now let's get to the meat and sell some cars!!
Split testing & optimization is nearly invisible and because of this, we can't see your efforts. It would be good business that you find a way to communicate updates and feedback to your subscribers. May I suggest that you pick someone on your side to become the "Matt Cutts Guy" and become the point man for you. If you educate and influence your power subscribers, their opinions can move an industry.
That being said... You write:
My platform has had no major changes over the last 4 years and yet my total lead count is up YoY. If I dig in and isolate a single form and look at it YoY, I can see some forms that are off & others that are unchanged (none are up). So, the results are off Year over Year but the new forms I've added net me big increase in email based leads.
You educate your dealers to make efforts to create more leads. We take more pictures, write custom descriptions, and we signed up for that #~$!*( stitch video tool. WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR US? Speaking from the subscribers point of view, I sincerely have yet to see any proof that you've made any effort to really CHALLENGE your layout.
Challenge is a strong word. I'll get specific.
Where is the new SRP? Where is the new High Def images (it's not 2004 any more!)?
Off the top of my pointy head, How about:
- a "Request more pictures" button, or
- "What's your a tradein?" button, or
- "request sale price" button, or
- "email you when this price drops" button,
- or "Check Availability" button, or...
What of your on page phone optimization work? I see nothing here.
I see you've made a tool to refine searches, but, that dosent address creating more leads. I want Cars and AT management to work YOUR platform as we work your platform.