Industry News & Trends

Will AutoTrader Build An Exclusive ZMOT Data Network?

Will Dataium Revolutionize Automotive Digital Marketing and the Role of CRM?

Part 2 – click here for Part 1

I’m confident that Dataium executives have seen the golden opportunity to change the way marketing decisions are made in our industry. They are sprinting to create the largest and most powerful network of consumer behavioral data to become a market leader of this emerging industry. logoIf the Dataium “cloud intelligence” database is the richest available, OEM’s will be compelled to license their feed to enhance their marketing strategies. CRM vendors will want Dataium consumer data feed to create more powerful CRM processes.

Does Dataium have any competitors today? It looks like they have a head start but being first does not guarantee the largest market share in the long run. As I looked at the opportunities in the automotive industry, could Autotrader build a similar model to create greater enticements for dealers to use their newly acquired products and services? and subsidiaries may be playing nice with data aggregation companies today but what if one day they stopped? What if they used their end-to-end digital automotive products and services to offer a compelling set of business intelligence tools that a dealer could not afford to ignore?

If Autotrader decided to compete with Dataium, how would this impact the quality of Dataium’s network? Since Dataium does not own websites, do power players limit their upside potential?

Let me suggest why Autotrader may want to build their own consumer intelligence model…

Dealers are not easily compelled to change their website platforms and cringe at the thought of changing the CRM or DMS system. What if Autotrader gave
them a large financial incentive, by offering intelligent CRM functionality, to make that painful short-term change acceptable? Could new business intelligence tools inside of VinSolutions CRM create hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits per store? I think so.

Autotrader Digital Assets, a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, which also owns the Manheim Auctions, has recently made a number of strategic acquisitions. Little details have been shared on their strategy but the Dataium presentation connected the dots for me.

Autotrader has recently purchased Kelley Blue Book, vAuto, and most recently VinSolutions. If you look at the rich data that could be data mined from and and then leveraged with vAuto and VinSolutions CRM the potential is enormous.

The potential for a private Autotrader data network is even greater when you consider that Cox Enterprises owns a number of very large newspapers and media outlets. Each of these digital affiliates collects data on consumers that visit their websites. With millions of visitors coming to Cox owned websites, why wouldn’t Autotrader consider competing with Dataium?

So, if they leverage the data that they have and want to transform the automotive industry, this “fantasy” would only be missing two pieces.

Autotrader Needs a DMS Platform They Control

Autotrader is missing a DMS platform that would connect dealership financial data to sales and marketing data from the Internet. The two major DMS providers are Reynolds & Reynolds and ADP/Cobalt with a number of smaller companies in the market.

ADP/Cobalt is clearly creating a robust digital marketing platform. ADP/Cobalt has made massive strides to develop a stronger platform with enhances services to meet the needs of dealers. Their accomplishments have placed them in the top recommended website providers for 2011.

It would be hard for me to believe that Autotrader would consider an ADP relationship based on the momentum that the ADP/Cobalt marriage has produced.

Reynolds & Reynolds has been strangely quiet from a digital marketing services perspective. Their website technology and marketing tools have lagged the marketplace. Could R&R be resting on their DMS laurels?

I have the least insights into Reynolds & Reynolds, but from industry veterans I asked, an Autotrader deal would seem unlikely.

dealertrack logoThat leaves DMS companies that have smaller market share but promising technology and leadership. DealerTrack has been on their own acquisition spree lately gobbling up website provider eCarList.

DealerTrack has a “market pricing” tool (AAX), which competes with vAuto. This adds some complexity to a potential marriage. A partnership with Autotrader may be appealing to DealerTrack to jumpstart their market share and to take advantage of dealers that have little loyalty to ADP or Reynolds & Reynolds.

Let me state that dealers have strong reasons not to change their DMS; it’s disrupting to business operations. However, if the benefits of a VinSolutions CRM system powered by ZMOT data deliver an unfair competitive edge to dealers on an Autotrader integrated marketing platform, ADP and R&R better have a new client retention strategy.

The Autotrader Data Network

If the DMS issue was resolved and all parties worked to create a data integration strategy, it is likely that Autotrader could shake up the automotive industry. In an ideal world, Autotrader would offer rich data sets and tools to offer dealers from the start of the car sales process all the way to the final sale and into service retention.

For used cars, the Autotrader platform would have data on Manheim pricing and then make sure that dealer cars are properly merchandized on Autotrader and VinSolutions websites using market-pricing tools.

Consumers who visit Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, a VinSolutions website, or any number of websites in the Cox Enterprises network could be tracked, consolidated, and rolled-up into actionable information in the VinSolutions CRM product.

When this network is completed, it would create strong competitive advantages for dealers. It will also create a very compelling case for OEM’s to consider Autotrader as a recommended platform for franchise dealers.

If such a product were created it would make a strong case for dealers to uproot their DMS and CRM systems. There are no truly compelling products on the market today that would motivate a dealer to change their DMS. Business intelligence tools may be the killer app for established DMS providers unless they offer similar functionality with partnerships with Dataium or similar companies.

Autotrader Needs Marketing and Education Strategy

Dealers are just starting to understand that their advertising and marketing budgets must go under significant review. Progressive dealers are moving a significant portion of their budgets to digital strategies that can be measured.

Dealers are just learning about the importance of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and how review websites are impacting their sales and marketing investments BEFORE a customer ever contacts the dealership.

The potential that the Autotrader network offers or Dataium business intelligence tools will be limited by dealer education and confidence. The benefits of rich data are based on an understanding of ZMOT. The transformation of business rules and processes based on rich data automation will not be without skeptics.

Will these companies create a strategy that a dealer can understand?
Will the presentation be convincing enough for dealers to uproot their DMS systems?
Will dealers have confidence that the implementation will be well supported?

I have the opportunity to educate thousands of automotive professionals a year and communicating new digital concepts is not without unique challenges. Companies that will be offering new automotive business intelligence tools must develop a consulting and training strategy to accelerate market opportunities and market share.

Does The Autotrader Network Put In Play? is a smart company. Last year they purchased EpikOne, a company that specialized in metrics strategies, media measurement and user experience optimization without much fanfare. has significant market share and they have not been sitting idle during the Autotrader buying spree.

Will the potential for a powerful AutoTrader data network create new alliances with major website players and,, or the Automotive Advertising Network (AAN)?

Will companies like ADP/Cobalt and Dominion Dealer Solutions expedite the integration of their individual technology platforms? What about the powerful stand-alone website providers on the market today?

Many questions and too few answers are available at this time! What you can count on is that PCG Digital Marketing will be keeping dealers apprised of the latest developments in search marketing, website technology, and digital marketing strategy.


Great Article. Very education insight. Thank you. 
This idea has strengths and weaknesses.

Lead submission is REQUIRED to make this work. 3% of our visitors submit a "trackable" lead, 97% remain invisible. 

Lead Quality?
We all know we only close a fraction of shoppers that submit a lead, which leads me to ask, just how good is this lead submitting shopper any way?  Has anyone done an indepth study of the quality or close-ability of the shopper that submits a lead?  They are the visibile minority, but what is the the FINAL closing ratio of this group (vs the silent shopper).

Adding more layers of invisibility dilutes the idea further.  Of those that do submit a lead, we
know they have multiple platforms to surf the net (phone, work, home,
etc), all we can track is shopping activity to that device that
submitted the lead.



The concept lives or dies on the strength of the network.  Auto shoppers
are super-stealth and they demand to not be seen.  I don't see it, but,
if there is a reservoir of contact/browser data that can be connected
to the auto shopper, then I see upside. had best be careful. All they're selling is a trusted brand. 
KBB has earned the ability to ask for contact info, People trust KBB. 
KBB must not get caught with it's hand in the cookie jar, reselling it's
traffic data to other parties (including those evil dealers).

BP, I see the crazy leverage if this data made it to the CRM level, but
from my desk, the upside is limited due to the small amount of shoppers
that elect to become "visible".  From AutoTraders perspective, pitch
that muted upside against the possible PR blowup of a 60minutes expose'
on this.  Risk is real and enormous for AT. The reward would have to be
  • B
    Brian Pasch
  • September 21, 2011
As a side note, Dataium has digital fingerprinting technology that matches data intelligently without needing a cookie system.  You are correct the majority of visitors don't submit a lead but if the "network" includes websites outside of autos, the submission rate increases. Think of all the web properties that have forms, contest, etc. that could be in the Cox media empire.For dealers, they could creaste contests or giveaways that consumers have to register for to qualify and get some basic information in the process to increase match rates.  Rethink your charitable giving to include an online component that offers local projects financial assistance if they register, qualify, and get their supporters to vote for the project. 
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • September 22, 2011
Interesting article Brian. Way to map it out.

I get excited at the thought of tying consumer shopping and social behavior into customer relations and marketing management programs.

I do remind myself that all the traceable consumer behavior data could cause privacy issues in the future. Though from what I have read, it's only a hand few of people in government that's really complaining.
  • J
    Jerry Thibeau
  • September 22, 2011
It's like having the other teams play book!  Nice work Brian!
Great overview Brian - the unified data platform we've all desired is (hopefully) closer to becoming a reality.
  • A
  • October 21, 2011
Great article!  Bear in mind that there are many data-driven digital agencies that track web users' behavior and service more than just the auto industry (there were several at the JDPA Roundtable).  Dataium, however, has some unique angles given their close automotive focus.

Even if AutoTrader goes the closed/proprietary network route, there is an even bigger slice of the ADM market that will still benefit from Dataium.  One of their big battles in the short run is to get cooperation from the largest digital marketing services providers (achem,, for example) that do not want to expose their sites to 3rd party intel.  Whether that is because they want to create their own intel services, negotiate for more control and/or prevent the exposure of potentially under-performing sites (I am not suggesting that sites qualify, btw), the largest firms will need to decide if they want to do nothing, partner with Dataium, or create a "coopetitive" venture.