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I am not sure the folks at Edmunds.com would want you to remember, but most dealers still recall back in October the advertisement Edmunds launched on YouTube, entitled “Absurdity of Haggling” which, with no disguise, belittled car dealers by showing a grocery clerk trying to gouge shoppers on items such as bread and squash. Dealers quickly recognized this and tagged it in social and conventional industry media, and, after briefly trying to defend the campaign, in the end the Edmunds apologized for offending dealers and took it down.
I was surprised to not see an industry press discussion of, quite possibly, how little regard the Edmunds organization had for dealers in general by conceiving the ad to begin with, and, indeed how little they think of a dealer’s intelligence level, that is, how they thought they could get away with such an ad campaign to begin with, without dealer outcry – in an attempt to generate consumer vehicle leads that, in turn, they sell to their dealer clientele.
In any event, if there was even a question as to the disregard Edmunds holds against the “dealer’s collective wisdom,” it is put to rest with their latest dealer campaign, offering “FREE” two way texting capability for their dealers, “CarCode” with their “Sometimes the best things in life are Free” offering.
Now, a two way SMS texting platform is not very expensive to offer and maintain, especially the very limited system that Edmunds is advertising to dealers. In full disclosure, I am the mobile advertising specialist for a company that provides this mobile service, and we, like many other legitimate mobile focused vendors in the industry, provide a way more feature filled offering, for only a few hundred dollars a month, “all you can eat” price. But, providing this service does cost something (Edmunds recently bought a technology provider company to get the underlying platform rights to offer this service), both on a set-up and continuing basis, and Edmunds is not charging anything (and recently advertising this “free” offering in very expensive trade media) so doesn’t that make any reasonable business savvy dealer ask “why?”
How many of you out there still think you can get “something for nothing” from a major industry third party lead provider? (Remember when a few used to dip into your DMS to provide you “free” inventory listings…we all know how that ended up…then they sold your own customer generated leads back to you… or your competitors.)
The motives for offering this free service became clearer to me after I read the disclaimer language that comes with every customer lead text “opt in” message, see the screenshot below –
Keep in mind, that language, outlined in yellow, has nothing to do with any Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) legal disclaimer, but rather, has everything to do with Edmunds alerting your Web site texting prospect, at opt in, that the text communication between them and the dealer (their vehicle of interest, the dialogue, even the opt in itself for a two way text communication and their cell phone number information), is available for Edmunds and its service providers to use and solicit as they see fit.
Okay, I don’t have to connect that many more dots do I?
Edmunds makes their primary revenue on consumer vehicle leads. As a dealer integrating their new texting platform, in going to your Web site and hitting the “Text” button and subsequently opting in (that is, the consumer lead that you just paid for as your own Web traffic), just gave Edmunds the legal right to their information, their vehicle of interest, their cell phone number, and their “opt in” to be contacted by text (from Edmunds). So, as Edmunds, I just noticed your prospect texted your store on a new Ford Focus, I’m in the business of selling third party leads, why don’t I send out a solicitation to that prospect directing them to any dealer’s Ford Focus inventory (that is, if the dealer pays me for the privilege)… better yet, why don’t I find a way to monetize that information and sell that prospect and lead information back to you, the dealer… You see what I mean, this “FREE” texting platform provided by Edmunds, may end up costing you plenty, if you let them provide it.
Not to say that Edmunds will use the information in this way or even intends to, but it sure does look like they covered themselves and they clearly have the legal right to take your Web site prospect information in this way, and use it to their advantage. The prospect has “opted in” to conduct a text communication with you, the dealer, and in the process, has given away these information rights to Edmunds.
Again, really, how many major industry vendors look to give you “something for nothing”?
I’m willing to bet that once dealers see through these conditions, and their eyes are opened, they will be willing to pay a few hundred dollars a month for a more robust texting platform where they control, completely, the prospect information and vehicle of interest, and not have to force the prospect to turn this information over or even disclose this information to any company whose primary income is derived from being a third party lead provider, in order to initiate a text conversation with you. It just makes sense, you spend a lot of money to get your own Web traffic, why would you force your prospects to give all access and information on themselves to a third party lead provider, just to text with you? Just to forgo the negligible expense of owning your own texting prospect information.
As a dealer, do you want to own that prospect information, or give it up to large third party vendor for a negligible cost savings?
Check it out, and let me know what you think!