For the extra-diligent, faithful readers of DealerRefresh, I know I promised everyone a sneak preview of the Market Intelligence Report this month, but I’m going to postpone it until next month. As you know, Jeff wanted me to talk about the cool things happening at Cars.com, but he also wanted me to dig even further into news and developments with our site and solutions that may be of interest to the DealerRefresh Community. With that in mind, I wanted to address some fluctuations you may be seeing in your Cars.com VDP counts, which measure how many page views your vehicle details pages receive.
Before I get into the details, I’d first like to thank everyone who reached out to us with questions. We understand the importance of reporting, and as I mentioned in last month’s blog post here on DealerRefresh, one of Cars.com’s top priorities this year is better aligning the experience on our site with how consumers shop used vs. new vehicles and how dealers operate those two areas of their businesses. Evolving our reports to reflect these site enhancements is a big part of that initiative – more on that in a few paragraphs, but as the guy here in Cars.com who heads up the day-to-day oversight of our dealer reporting, I think it’s great to know that our customers are engaged with their metrics and track performance so closely.
The fluctuations you may have seen in recent weeks largely consist of activity from “spiders and bots,” which (apologies for my inevitably-simplistic explanation) are automated software tools intended to index webpages and retrieve information, usually much faster than is possible manually. Search engines use data collected by these tools to optimize a user’s search experience, providing significant value to the consumer and increasing online visibility for brands. Some vendors in our industry also employ spiders and bots to gather information off of our site to better serve their dealer customers. And then there are also other companies and individuals that collect data for all sorts of other purposes.
Despite the upsides, one side effect of this activity is it can impact site metrics, whether you’re talking about Cars.com specifically or other sites like ours in the auto industry and beyond. Like any technology, spiders and bots evolve at a pretty fast clip, which is why we continually make investments to identify automated traffic and limit its impact on the reporting we provide.
The next wave of these investments, scheduled to go into effect sometime this summer, should take care of the fluctuations you’ve been seeing. After we flip the switch on some new software, your VDPs should stabilize, and the drop there will likely be accompanied by an increase in your lead conversion rates as automated traffic is eliminated. Metrics like leads, referral traffic to your dealership site and walk-ins shouldn’t be affected, as spiders and bots typically don’t take the time to fill out an online form, pick up the phone to call you (thank goodness), click through to your website or walk into your store. Your Cars.com rep will be able to talk to you about the impact on your metrics specifically, since bot traffic varies greatly by region and the type of data being collected.
Whether we’re talking about spiders and bots or the proactive efforts we’re making on the reporting front, I can tell you that everybody here at Cars.com is dedicated to providing dealers with valid, actionable data about their performance on our site. Given that, I do want to talk a little bit about the larger changes in store for your Cars.com reports, because I suspect that our tracking changes will be an intriguing topic.
The premise behind Cars.com’s new-car enhancements I shared last month is this: the selection criteria and process consumers go through to select a new vehicle is different than their consideration process for a used vehicle. Likewise, if you’re a franchise dealer, the process your dealership goes through to sell new vehicles simply isn’t the same as the one for your used vehicles, whether we’re talking about the real world or the virtual one. In a world where new cars are shopped for, marketed and sold very differently than used cars, our goal is to align our site with that landscape, from the shopping experience we provide for consumers to the advertising opportunities – and reports – we offer our customers.
You may have seen that your June Market Drive report now includes SRPs and VDPs for used inventory only, as new-car metrics will be reflected in the new-car Market Intelligence Report you’ll receive next month. I’ll discuss the MIRs in more depth in my next post, but the intent is to convey how a dealership’s performance with new-car shoppers stacks up against that of its competitors. We’ve also partnered with Dataium, a leading aggregator of internet automotive shopping activity, to provide key market trends and predictive data that can help dealers make more informed decisions about their forecasting, marketing investments and merchandising.
In both your Market Drive report and new-car Market Intelligence Report, you won’t notice a few things because they’re not there just yet, but they’re coming. Throughout the rest of this year we’ll be making continued improvements to the report (as well as reductions – what DON’T you like?), including pulling in other data sources from our business partners that can provide even more insight into your dealership’s performance. More on that to come, but in the meantime, I’m happy to share any information or answer any further questions on this point.
As always, your feedback is immensely important to our ability to do what we do even better, so please feel free to ask questions or make comments below or reach out to me directly at [email protected].