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Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com - Do We Really Need Both? What do YOU think? We`d like to know.

To the ADM Community Members,

 

I would like to get your thoughts in regards to this....... Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com - Do We Really Need Both??

 

Currently we are reviewing various 3rd Party sources and measuring the ROI with each of these vendors as we are exploring the possiblity of eliminating one or two and allocating these funds towards another vendor of choice. In other words, "Shaving the Fat" or nixing the weakest link.

 

Here`s the scenario; We generally have between 100 to 130 used vehicles in stock at any given time.

 

Now with AutoTrader we are a "Featured" dealer....... and see very little return on this investment as we only receive minimal(single digit) amount of leads and calls each month at the current plateau that we are on. On a very interesting note, when searching on AutoTrader for a particular vehicle, you are only searching on that one plateau. If you select "Premium Listings" and select "Low to High" pricing you only see those vehicles at the Premium Level regadless of price.

 

 

With Cars.com we see as much as 30 times the amount of calls/leads per month in their monthly reports. So why wouldn`t we as a dealer the "Cut the Fat" and beef up our Digital Marketing with Cars.com???

 

 

Why would we want to spend two & a half times more with AutoTrader to become a Premium Listing Dealer??? Will we actually sell that many more vehicles to justify this........ I highly doubt it. 

 

Also don`t you think many consumers are actually just cross-searching both of these used vehicles search portals??? We are probably getting the same consumer on both sites!

 

I realize every area in the country will produce different results that use these two vendors but I would like to know your opinion in regards to Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com  - Do We Really Need Both?

  

Thank you all in advance for your opinion.

Ken Beam

Marketing Director

Douglas Auto Group

 

 

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Comment by Mathew Koenig on March 19, 2013 at 9:09am

Ken, I had to get back in on this one because we were hearing some of this concerns back in 2009 with Cars.com when everyone saw a significant drop in customer contacts.

I was a Sales Training Manager for Cars.com and one challenge I had was "proving" the value of Cars.com when the lead volume was declining in a big way. At that time, in 2009, we shifted our focus to vehicle detail page views. In all sincerity, this shift had two purposes.

1. To protect the revenue that was coming in. (I'd be lying if I didn't say that was part of it)

2. To keep dealers from dropping a product that was still helping them sell cars.

VDPs to help give us an idea of consumer behavior...but...that's not the only factor. I don't disagree with Brian, but as a former dealer, I do know that I want more 'tangible' results.

Dealers have had Newspaper reps tell them "We get delivered to 400,000 homes so that's 400,000 people looking at your Ad" (BullS*t)

We've had Radio sales reps say: "We're the number one station with 400,000 listeners so you're in front of the largest audience.." (BullSh*t)

And it's that same thinking that lead us, at Cars, and the gang at AT, to focus on VDPs initially.

It matters more on Cars & Trader because people are on these sites looking for a vehicle and they aren't victims of interruption marketing like they are with TV & Radio.

At the end of the day though, if I pay AutoTrader.com $6,000 to advertise my 200 vehicles, that's a lot of money. For $6,000 I would expect more than 20 or 30 contacts from consumers.

Before I got rid of Trader or Cars though, I'd adjust my merchandising and see if results change at all.

Let's face it, just about every consumer looks on a 3rd party site these days and unless they type your dealership name in the search engine specifically, chances are, one of the third party sites lead them to your website...(I said chances are, I'm not saying it's definite).

The problem is this, do you drop $6,000 or more on "chances are".

It's been my experience that most dealers who drop Cars.com, regret it and come back because they see a decline in sales that's drastic.

I haven't met too many AT customers that saw a decline in sales UNLESS they were a Premium Dealer. 

In my not so humble opinion it always comes back to what my old GSM told me before he died: "Mat, if we make more money than it cost to run the ad; it was a good spend. If we don't; you wasted our F*$king money and after a few months of that you'll be fired."

If you make more than you're spending for the ad, it was worth it. If you don't , it wasn't.

In a business designed for profit, it seems like the only way to make a decision is to look at TRUE, TANGIBLE, MEASURABLE PROFIT - vs - Cost. 

The days of spending money on a 'necessary evil' died when we had the ability to measure ROI :)

On a side note again - I do think VDPs are a factor so I'm not trying to crap on what BP said; but I also do agree with you Ken, if you can't measure conversion from an Ad it's hard to feel like it was a good ad.

Comment by Ken Beam on March 19, 2013 at 7:35am

It`s as simple as black and white..... Your processes you utilize in converting your leads ultimately determine the effectiveness of your marketing dollars being well spent.

 

Paul Potratz gets it!

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 19, 2013 at 7:17am

Ken

I understand your comparison with Dealer A and B, and the focus on leads as a metric for success.  Selling more cars (A vs B), is a function of process more than pure leads.  That said, having more leads gives the dealer more opportunity.

The problem is that a large percentage of sales are from people who don't submit a lead before they showup.  So how are we supposed to measure the 50% of sales when they don't submit a lead?  

That's why looking at the types of clicks and what consumers are doing, like VDP views, is another metric to focus on to see if our websites, merchandising, and pricing is attracting the interest of stealth shoppers.

My challenge is simple.  Dealers need to look at how well their own budgets, website designs, and merchandising are generating VDP views and at what cost.  When they do that, it will give direction on how to generate more qualified traffic to their website that will generate more leads and serve the stealth shopper.

Comment by Ken Beam on March 19, 2013 at 6:57am

@ Brian - First off, your remarks come across a tad presumptuous in regards to this statement, "Of course, you know this, but are also a fan of stirring the pot, which is one trait we share in common". I am not stirring the pot Brian, I simply do not agree with your VDP theory at all.

My intentions for starting this thread were to reach out to dealers to find out what their experiences were with AutoTrader.com vs. Cars.com. It was not to be a Brian Pasch VDP Promo thread. 

However I will offer one (& only one as I don`t have time for this all day) rebuttal to Brian Pasch;

Brian,

I guess we agree to disagree on what business metric to use to evaluate marketing dollars spent on websites. Paul Potratz says it quite well here. The business metric that should be used to evaluate whether marketing dollars are spent properly is conversion rate, not website clicks. Think about it rather simply. Dealer A & Dealer B both spend the same marketing dollars on Cars.com, ATC and their own similar websites. Dealer A has substantially more clicks on these websites but sells less cars than Dealer B. Is Dealer A's marketing dollars with Cars.com, ATC and his website better spent because he has a lower cost per VDP than Dealer B? In my world, the answer is no. The better spent marketing dollars are the ones that translate to conversion of leads. 

I'm not saying impressions and clicks aren't an important variable in the marketing equation. They of course are vital statistics in gathering information on the amount of traffic flow you're getting to your websites you've invested into. However, using website clicks as the benchmark for determining the effectiveness of marketing dollars spent is, IMO, misguided. At the end of the day, cash is king and money in-house from marketing initiatives is the truest benchmark of marketing dollars being invested properly.

Ok everyone let`s stay on track with the topic of this thread; TO ALL DEALERSHIP EMPLOYEES; Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com  - Do We Really Need Both? 

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 17, 2013 at 6:54pm

@Ken I just wanted to say that you dismissed my inclusion of the cost per VDP that dealers invest in each month for their own website.  

Your question in this blog post assumes that these two websites are not better than what dealers can do on their own websites.  My contention, is that when dealers evaluate their own marketing dollars and the cost per VDP view, that they are kicking the wrong dog.  

What you should be asking in this post is: Which advertising investments/strategies used by dealers on ADM have a better cost per VDP than Cars.com or Autotrader.com?

It would be a shame to foster a discussion that says that both services are not a viable combination for dealers to sell more cars without a discussion on who/what platform is doing a better job at turning dealers into VDP factories.

Maybe the dealer community is not ready to look in the mirror of their own website analytics!

Dealers who do, often don't spend much of their times thinking that Cars.com or Autotrader.com deliver a shitty ROI....and as a disclaimer...there are some markets where Cars.com or Autotrader.com may not have a cost per VDP that is less than the dealer can generate.   In those cases, the question is valid but in my work...90% of the time, the dealer's own marketing budget generates VDP views at a significantly higher cost.

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 17, 2013 at 6:42pm

@Ken  Of course there are exceptions to the rule.  I highly desirable car can sell with low VDP views but over the hundreds of cars that are in a dealer's inventory, you have toe create a business metric that allows dealers to sell more cars "on mass" than comparing the sharpshooter success model that you cite.

Of course, you know this, but are also a fan of stirring the pot, which is one trait we share in common. 


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Comment by Mathew Koenig on March 14, 2013 at 11:48am
Ken I think you already know your dealership situation better than anyone else could possibly know it right :-) you're the guy who has to work there every day, so you know if ATC gets it done or doesn't.

I might be a little bit biased because of my days with cars.com but I've always felt that ATC was a great tool but that its geared large dealerships with large inventory in a fat wallet to make sure they place in premium listings.

There are obvious reasons for this, more inventory means more visibility. If you have a larger inventory typically you're able to spend more money to market that inventory, so the ATC model, from what I've seen, Is basically designed only to provide success if you're paying for the top-tier exposure.

That said, there is an exception to every rule, but common sense says even if you have the best inventory if you're showing up in the second tier on page 3 nobody's going to see it anyway right?

At the end of the day if you don't have visibility nobody will be able to contact you because they don't know your vehicle exists.

I cannot recommend in good conscience that you drop anybody because I don't work at your store, what I can tell you is that our product provides calls to action that will help you track ROI and increase quality opportunities by giving you a phone number from the consumer was looking at your ad. If you're interested in getting more opportunities from the ads that are visible to consumers and have more VDP's check us out at www.konig.co
Comment by Ken Beam on March 14, 2013 at 11:33am

@ Tim Elliott - The AutoTrader Rep -You say things such as, "what you stock matters on ATC more than on Cars.com because they don't have tiered listings"

You also say,"What truth I educate Dealers to is your success today has a lot more to do with what you stock then showing up on featured or premium on ATC" - 

Question: I have a 2011 Jetta SEL with only 10,000 miles for $15,000 and I`m a Featured Dealer on ATC. Tim Elliott has has the exact same 2011 Jetta SEL with 40,000 miles priced at $18,500 on his lot and he`s a Premium Listing Dealer guess what??? 

My "Superior INVENTORY" will not show up in a search unless the potential customer drills down to the bottom of the barrel to Featured Listings to find my Jetta. Doesn`t the AutoTrader Search Process run contradictory to your statement "what you stock matters on ATC"? 

 

Comment by Ken Beam on March 14, 2013 at 11:12am

@ Matthew - "Depending on your inventory size/mix, it may not be a viable option for you" - Matthew this is exactly my point in regards to using AutoTrader.com - Your inventory mix & volume may not garner a suitable ROI from AutoTrader`s "PREMIUM LISTING" Price Tag. 


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Comment by Mathew Koenig on March 14, 2013 at 6:33am
Sorry for the typo on cars.com in paragraph 1. I fat fingered my iPhone.

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