Best PracticesDealership Marketing

A New Way To Track New-Car Online Advertising Performance

Cars.com Updates with Nick Hummer

Tracking your new-car internet advertising performance

We’ve gotten great feedback on our site changes and enhancements to our franchise ad package so far (although more feedback, pro or con, is always appreciated). The new-car shopping experience on the site will continue to evolve through the rest of the year and into 2013, but in the meantime, we’re focusing on our reporting, particularly when it comes to the new vs. used shopping and selling experiences.

Before we get too far into this, everyone – do me a favor. If you work at a franchise dealership, open up your email and find your last email from [email protected]. If it’s not there in your Inbox, check your Spam folder. I’ll check for new #WWE #RAW1000 tweets while I wait.

Ok – assuming you found something, you’re looking at the Market Intelligence Report. If you didn’t find it and you’re a dealer that lists new cars on Cars.com, please contact your Cars.com rep right away.

Now, let me pose a hypothesis: for the dealers reading this who sell both new cars and used cars, I would guess that you run these two aspects of your business very differently. You acquire new cars differently from used, price them differently and manage your floor plan differently. You probably also merchandise them differently, and I suspect that your strategies for marketing them and maximizing profit per vehicle differ between the two as well. Your dealership’s location, value story and reputation also matter more – I’m sure many of you would tell me that your new-car shoppers care a lot more about your service department than customers shopping used.

So I ask you, in today’s online world, why are we still using used-car metrics, like SRPs and VDPs, as the primary method of measuring new-car advertising performance when the way you measure success overall is more about your make, your market and your share in that market? Why does our industry focus so intently on metrics specific to an individual vehicle on your lot when car shoppers – new-car shoppers especially – are also basing their decisions on your dealership’s brand and reputation?

We here at Cars.com wanted to find a better approach, so we set out to create a report just for new cars – one that is specific to the way you sell them, and one that offers more insight into how your prospective customers are shopping for them. The result is our new Market Intelligence Report.

Let’s break things down and take a look.

Shopper activity

Shopper activity provides insight into new car market trends for a particular make, which can be influenced by national or local advertising by the manufacturer. By including information about search volume specific to the manufacturer brand both nationally and locally, we hope to provide info that can help fuel conversations with your OEMs. Knowing that 6% of the local search activity on Cars.com focused on your brand when it received a 10% share nationally could be a good reason to talk to your OEM rep about incentives and other marketing support locally, for example.

 

Exposure and engagement

The metrics here represent a focus on your dealership’s overall exposure to Cars.com shoppers, as well as those shoppers’ interactions with your dealership’s information compared to the rest of the marketplace. Roughly speaking, this gives a dealer insight into how often their dealership’s brand and inventory is seen on Cars.com, as well as the level of interest their store generates with those shoppers. The idea here is that as dealers market and merchandise their store’s brand and reputation more progressively, such as by actively managing their Dealer Reviews and creating a pretty awesome Dealer Profile, their overall share of exposure and engagement will climb higher.

 

Turn, days’ supply and share of inventory

These stats are likely ones you measure in “real life” and inform pretty important decisions around everything from inventory management to marketing budget allocation. Our goal is to share how these stats translate on Cars.com with one key difference: we’re able to benchmark these stats against the rest of your market and nationally, which we feel is even more valuable than the numbers on their own.

 

Trend activity

You’ll also note new, forward-looking and actionable information about key new-car market trends. To get this information, we’ve partnered with Dataium, a leading aggregator of online shopping behavior and a pretty darn good predictor of consumer demand, as many of you who work with them are aware. The data in this section includes predicted consumer demand and trend forecasts for selected makes and models, provided at the national, regional and DMA levels. Our goal is to give dealers the ability to plan marketing decisions, such as incentives, promotions, merchandising and other elements, based on forward-looking data.

One thing you see repeated often in my explanation above is that the stats provided in the Market Intelligence Report include comparative information at the national and DMA levels. Ultimately, this is where we hope the Market Intelligence Report will shine. We want to provide a report that can not only tell you how you’re doing on Cars.com, but also tell you how you’re doing compared to other dealers who sell the same cars, both locally and nationally. We do realize there’s room for improvement, however, so before I return to tweeting about Zach Ryder…

I’ll pose this question:

What metrics should Cars.com be providing both to communicate advertising performance and also to help dealers make more informed new-car business decisions?

I’ll also share that we’re working on revamping our used- car metrics as well – any suggestions there?