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See You Later Autotrader!

Discussion in 'Online Dealership Marketing Support & Best Practic' started by jberna, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. jberna

    jberna Member

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    After a full year year review of Autotrader vs. Cars.com vs. my tier 1 digital advertising it was apparent that Autotrader was costing 2-3x more per opportunity (calls/leads) compared to Cars.com and our other tier 1 advertising. I do not and will not subscribe to the notion that Autotrader or any 3rd party site produces large amount of showroom traffic. I brought in the Autotrader reps under the condition that I would not go over anything but cost per opportunity. However they tried to convince me that this was a not a fair way to review their product and my review didn't include the showroom traffic. My rebuttal was that all things being equal Cars.com, Autotrader and our tier 1 ads would produce within a marginal variance a relatively similar amount of showroom traffic however I was spending 2-3x more per opportunity with them. Aka you are charging too much! (If anyone went to NADA and saw their booth you can see where the extra profits go. Not to mention all of their recent acquisitions, advertising etc.)

    During the meetings they tried to call my bluff and said if you don't like it go ahead and submit your 30 day cancellation notification. One meeting they walked out after 5-10 minutes because I refused to buy in to the fluff. Keep in mind we are a 10 store account spending serious money with them. I called the Autotrader regions sales director who defended the reps and again wouldn't budge at all.

    So I did what they advised and what I have wanted to do for years. I cancelled all 10 stores. I am reinvesting the money in tier 1 and very excited to see real results. I have been with Moore and Scarry since last year and have created a plan that should help me forget about Autotrader all together.

    Never before have I seen a vendor that thinks we are here for them to the level I did over the last 2 months in dealing with them.
    4 people like this.
  2. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    Do you/did you have any "impression" comparisons or analysis? As in, "My inventory was viewed X times" on AT vs. Cars?
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  3. jberna

    jberna Member

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    I measured it at it's simplest level cost/opportunities.
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  4. Jerry Thibeau

    Jerry Thibeau New Member

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    My company listens to 2000 calls a month from various dealers across the country and I can tell you that we are hearing AutoTrader an awful lot when salespeople ask, "how did you hear about us?" AutoTrader is second only to dealer website. Cars.com is 5th on the list. In my opinion, this will cost you sales. The question is can you generate them in other ways. We started tracking this data 2 months ago. Take a look at the graph below:

    Advertising.jpg
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  5. JillB

    JillB New Member

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    You sound like I'd probably walk out on you too!

    In all seriousness, each will perform differently for different markets. I have found that through my own Google Analytics though, Cars.com typically balloons their numbers significantly. We run similar reports but run it as cost as a percentage of gross. If your salespeople aren't sourcing your customers on top of the hard leads you're getting then you're not even close to being accurate.

    Is cars.com selling out your vehicle detail pages? We had to cancel our contract recently due to this. They're putting competing dealer banner ads on vehicle detail pages, and you have to pay more to reclaim the space that should have been yours in the first place!
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  6. JQuinn

    JQuinn Super Moderator

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    Very interesting, Jerry. Kinda gels with my perception that Autotrader, while a viable automotive venue, is not as close to bottom-funnel shoppers as dealers would like.

    You can't argue that a whole-lotta people "shop" on Autotrader. Whether it's consumer behavior or AT's set-up (or combo of both) that limit traditionally measurable results, "Shoppers" seem to step away from AT before becoming "buyers;" something "else" gets inserted in the middle there.

    Does that mean Dealers should step away from AT? More likely, I thing the conversation needs to lean toward bottom-funnel pricing vs. the cost (& premise) of branding.
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  7. jberna

    jberna Member

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    Jerry are your numbers based on a human asking and sourcing or based on technology? I included all calls from phone tracking plus all leads in case you thought I only included logged traffic.

    In addition, number of calls for a source is only half of the equation. If you are paying 2-3 times more per opportunity it doesn't make sense. Also, every market is different. Our group receives more than 2500 tracked (w/ technology), monitored and measured calls (in our market) each month. As you can also see in your graph dealer website is #1.

    Another argument out there is that customers will go to your site after they see your vehicle on Autotrader and come in through another source. You can track the majority of these as referrals, but there will be those that come through as a direct traffic, SEM or SEO separately.

    At the end of the day I made the decision to go against the grain and choose to dominate in one medium rather than being average in another. Also, Tier 1 gives you much much more flexibility as well as a more holistic focus. You can drive traffic for all profit centers not just used cars.
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  8. bzweifel

    bzweifel New Member

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    you forgot to mention, "All of the people we push to your website, that is our goal afterall." :tiphat:
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  9. jberna

    jberna Member

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    Another factor to consider is conversion of 1st party leads vs 3rd party. You wont need as many to replace 3rd party...
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  10. eddyshaf

    eddyshaf Member

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    It never ceases to amaze me that there are still people in our industry who try to value the impact of an online advertising partner with only one or two metrics. Never in the history of the car business has it been so incredibly inexpensive to advertise your used car inventory...never. And yet people who used to spend $5K a WEEKEND in the dang newspaper get all bent out of shape when they see a bill for $5K a month for the opportunity to get your name and inventory in front of where, by conservative estimates, 85% of shoppers look for cars! It boggles the mind!!

    Who freaking cares if your advertising spend is dominated by one of the players in the internet space??!!?? Look at the traffic - there are 2-3 times more unique visitors to AutoTrader.com each month as compared to Cars.com - of course they can command a larger price.

    Read some articles about ZMOT, take a look at some of the articles and data by Brian Pasch related to attribute tracking on visitors to your own website, and let me know how shutting down AutoTrader does for you in 2-4 months...:goodbye:
    7 people like this.
  11. Stefan

    Stefan Active Member

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    I gave our 30 days last week.

    I used a number of things while making my decision:In house surveys, monitoring leads, phone calls, traffic to our websites, vAuto conversion and lack of AutoTrader advertising in this market.

    In House survey

    Q: While searching for a car, did you do any online research or shopping? YES NO If YES ...Please take a few moments to indicate which websites you visited.

    IHS.jpg

    After 12 months, 25% or less ( 25% Lexus Store, 18% Toyota, Mazda KIA) of the customers that purchased cars from us has visited AutoTrader. One intresting thing was that 82% of the same customers have also visited Cars.com. Are we really missing out?

    Leads: on average 10 leads per month.

    Phone Calls: 15 calls per month

    Traffic to our websites:

    AT.jpg

    Lack of AutoTrader Advertising

    Every time when I ask vendors What else do you suggest we do so we better perform on your website? take 50 pictures, write descriptions in Russian cut the price... what else...the answer seems to be: wait, i got this new product... spend more money ( done that ... last year we purchased almost every Alpha available in this market, i know Alpha its a Branding product, and we noticed ZERO increase in leads, calls, traffic to the website or any change in the answers given by the sold customers) !!!

    Great... AT - how about you spent some more money to bring more people to your website... we don't control that... Atlanta does. What ever!

    Was this the correct decision? Time will tell.
    4 people like this.
  12. jberna

    jberna Member

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    The problem with all of the statistics is that they bog down decision making. The reason these statistics exist (from Autotrader) to so they can show value to their product. That's how dealers are waking up one day paying 6-7k a month for something that should be way less expensive. I am all for digital advertising (look at my title) but it has to be at the right price. This overall notion that dealers have to use the two big 3rd party sites to be successful is ridiculous. Fear of loss is greater than the fear of gain I guess.

    Really read some articles on ZMOT (I have by the way)...How's about cutting out the middle-man I'm sure there are a few articles on that!
    2 people like this.
  13. Chris Cachor

    Chris Cachor Active Member

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    My 2 cents is Autotrader is over-sold.
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  14. yagoparamo

    yagoparamo Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, they did it to themselves while they had that gap of years in between them dominating the market and Craigslist coming into play.

    BUT--you should also set up your advanced Google analytic and check your funnels, that will give you a much better view of where the traffic comes from.
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  15. Jerry Thibeau

    Jerry Thibeau New Member

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    It's based on having the salesperson ask the customer. We teach this in our phone training.
  16. Jerry Thibeau

    Jerry Thibeau New Member

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    Here's another interesting data point that we collect. Every time a call comes in, we listen to see if it's a "New Vehicle, "Generic Used" or "Specific Used" call. 73.7% of all calls that come in are on a specific used vehicle. Where do you think people are seeing this stuff? Not on the manufacturers website, that's for sure. 13.7% of the calls are on generic used cars and 12.6% on new vehicles.

    More_Info.png
    When we sign on a new client, I am amazed at how many people get talked out of not coming in versus appointed. Jberna, How would your dealership perform if I mystery shopped your store? On a scale of 0-5 how do you think your rep would score on our Phone Ninja PSI score evaluator?
  17. jberna

    jberna Member

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    I would need to see your scoring system to answer that accurately. I use a 20 point scoring system that is used for monthly CRC rep reviews in our own database that we track over time. We have been in the 60-65% conv. to an appointment but with so many agents skills vary from rep to rep. Calls route via an ACD to agents using priority routing so agents that convert better get more calls. Seeing as all Hubler Auto Group sales calls go to the centralized call center I would say we would do better than average say 4 on your scale. Unappointed calls get TO'd to a supervisor.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
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  18. ddavis

    ddavis Well-Known Member

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    Jerry, I would agree with your figures. I can't tell you how many times that I have asked someone that was sourced to my website, where they saw the car and was told AutoTrader. They see the car on AutoTrader and then click through to my website.
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  19. Alex Snyder

    Alex Snyder Administrator Staff Member

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    One of (if not the) largest sales forces in the industry did this.

    The problem is Autotrader is too high up in the purchase funnel to drive significant traffic toward a lead, phone call, or a visit to an easily trackable website. It also brings a lot of online "tire kickers."

    At the end of the day two things caused all the dealers' frustrations:

    1. The idea that they can charge newspaper money for digital
    2. A massive sales staff on quotas

    Pair these together and you have promises and perceptions that weren't accurate. The need for a sales staff to sell and to sell at higher prices than what others were charging for digital ads.

    However, I have to give ATC credit for changing some of their ways. It wasn't that long ago we were fiercely debating them religiously on DealerRefresh:

    AutoTrader.com Pricing???
    Have you been blitzed by team AutoTrader yet?
    3 people like this.
  20. yagoparamo

    yagoparamo Well-Known Member

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    I think CL is in big part responsible for the loss of that perception. How can you fight free?
    That sparked the buy outs last year of KBB, VIN, Hnet, VAUTO, etc.
    1 person likes this.

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