Dealership MarketingIndustry News & Trends

Cobalt Delivers A Personalized Consumer Experience Online


Car dealers have been promised that Big Data will be enhance their businesses yet for the most part, there have been few products delivered at the automotive retail level. Dataium was one of the first companies to offer car dealers insights based on the millions of data points collected by Dataium from Internet car shoppers.

Today, we are starting to see the other retail products emerge that leverage Big Data. This weekend, I was very excited to see in action an enhancement to Cobalt’s Flex Websites for GM dealers, which creates a Personalized Consumer Experience powered by Cobalt’s Intent Engine.

If you are a regular user of you know when you visit their homepage, it suggests products for you to purchase. It does this by using a data warehouse to analyze your previous clicks, views, actions, and purchases on Amazon so that you are presented a personalized experience. Amazon’s customization is based on actions on their website, but what if the data set could be enriched with offsite data?

Cobalt’s digital platform can personalize the shopping experience by capturing a specific shoppers intent from Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Cobalt has a powerful data warehouse of consumer actions from the GM digital network. Cobalt has analyzed and organized massive amounts of data to provide consumers with a personalized website experience. Their data set includes all digital advertising clicks, banner impressions, organic search queries, vehicle views, lead form submissions, and interactions with any GM website property or ad campaign run by Cobalt.

How Cobalt Creates A Personalized Consumer Experience

Once a consumer visits a GM website or interacts with a digital advertising message, the consumer is tagged (without exposing any personally identifiable information) with a digital cookie. These cookies are used to connect a consumer’s actions across a series of GM related websites. When a consumer reaches a GM dealer’s website, the Cobalt Flex Website technology can leverage the consumers shopping behavior to instantly change the home page and create a better shopping experience – one that matches what the shopper wanted, when they wanted it.

You can see this in action yourself! First, clear your all your cookies from your browser. Once you cookies are cleared, you can follow along with this example of a consumer shopping experience.

Go visit and take a look at the current home page experience. What you will see is the experience when you are an unidentified consumer – they do not yet know anything about you. This normal homepage is shown below:


cobalt-adLet’s say that a consumer clicks on a display ad, run by a GM Tier 2 advertising campaign for the 2013 Chevy Malibu, which takes them to a Malibu promotion page, which also lists local dealer inventory.  (see example on right)

A popular Chevrolet Tier 2 website is

Please visit this site, and when asked, enter in zip code 98057, and search for a 2013 Chevy Malibu.

When you search for a Malibu, you will be brought to a listing page similar to what is shown below:


After viewing a list of Chevy Malibu vehicles in the area, go ahead leave this website. You do not need to click on any vehicle to visit the local dealership Good Chevrolet, but notice that they are in the list of local dealers.

Since you visited this Tier 2 website, it has dropped a cookie in your browser. This cookie knows which vehicle(s) you looked at on this website. Now, if you go to a local Chevrolet dealer website, the home page will be customized to feature the Malibu and default the Malibu in the inventory search box.

To see this in action, go visit and take a look at the home page experience. What you will see should put a smile on your face! As you can see from the screen capture below is that the home page has been personalized.


The “hero” image in the homepage slide show starts with a Malibu. The model carousel starts with a Malibu. The inventory search box defaults to a Chevrolet Malibu. You can see the personalization in this example and it is just the start of what Cobalt will be bringing to their Flex Website platform to improve the consumer shopping experience.

Keep in mind that this personalization is not just based on previous visits to the dealership website. It is influenced by all actions that they take in the GM website network and any GM ads that are presented online. This is a concrete example of how Big Data will be changing the online shopping experience.

The good news is that all GM dealers have this personalization capability on their Flex Website platform. Cobalt is testing the impact of the website personalization and will be sharing their findings in the near future with GM dealers. Personalized Consumer Experiences are being turned on in phases, so not 100% of visitor traffic may see this feature. As the technology is fluid, Cobalt plans to increase its usage based on the performance it delivers through careful A/B testing.

Big Data will not only change the online shopping experience but it has the potential to customize initial lead responses and dealership communications via CRM integration. I’ll have more on that topic as CRM vendors come to market with Big Data integration that provides dealers with “actionable” data that will change the way they will communicate with customers.

Where do you see Big Data changing the Automotive online marketing landscape?

Brian is the founder and PCG Consulting Inc. Brian offers consulting services to assist car dealers develop the strategies, processes, and reporting n...
  • D
  • August 3, 2013
Robby, kidding about what?
great piece. I love this concept, BUT isn't it going to be a case of who pays the most gets the follow-on ads? will ford or chevy ads get precedence for someone who visited both brands. what I LOVE is companies looking for a competitive edge and trying to use 2013 logic from other industries to maximize sales opportunities