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Update: July 19th - The partner that CarWoo! has selected is NOT Yahoo Autos rather they have selected AOL Autos. Read the full story: AOL and CarWoo! Partnership
On July 5th, Jason Stein Editor at Automotive News broke the story that that TrueCar ended its exclusive marketing arrangement with Yahoo Autos. The revenue sharing deal, which was announced in December 2011, called for TrueCar to pay a minimum of $50 million annually for three years to Yahoo!.
Yahoo guaranteed 10 million unique visits a month for its Yahoo! Autos page but it was clear that TrueCar was not seeing the ROI. The revised agreement, according to Stein, would allow Yahoo Autos to sign other companies and dealers to their platform.
The word on the street is the next inventory marketing company to step up will be CarWoo!
CarWoo! represents a unique platform for connecting consumers shopping for a car with local dealers. If you visit the CarWoo! home page, you will see a very simple design that encourages consumers to search for a car in their local market. CarWoo! has a dealer FAQ page that answers the basic questions about who they are, how they work, and how much it costs.
CarWoo! allows the consumer to shop anonymously and get offers from dealers. If the consumer accepts the dealer's offer, CarWoo! connects the two parties. Here is a quote from the FAQ Page:
"First, the buyer tells us what kind of car they want. Then, we go out and contact nearby dealerships on their behalf and start getting offers for them. Dealers get feedback from buyers on each offer and can interact with them through our website. If a buyer accepts your offer, we'll put you directly in touch with them and they'll come in to the dealership to complete the paperwork with their CarWoo! Claim Certificate."
The negotiation process between the consumer and the dealer is dynamic. Dealers can interact with the consumers using the CarWoo! marketplace multiple times until an offer is accepted. So, it is blind two-way communications until the consumer feels comfortable enough to reach out or accept the deal.
In some ways, this is similar to the Google Advisor for Cars program I recently wrote about that uses a proxy for calls and emails. The proxy protects the true email and phone number of the consumer. In the Google Cars program, the proxy only allows for up to six calls and six emails before the proxy is turned off. There is no limit that I am aware of for the CarWoo! marketplace.
I decided to shop for a Chevrolet Camaro near by office in Eatontown New Jersey, and after I entered the make, model, and zip code the following screen was presented:
As you can see there were many local dealers in the CarWoo! marketplace that were nearby. I will note that when I searched for a Toyota Camry, the closest dealers to Eatontown NJ were not presented in the "Best in Your Area" list.
CarWoo! presented dealers in New York as preferred choices which according the the site would imply that some local Toyota dealers have lower customer satisfaction scores in their marketplace. So it would seem that CarWoo! places a high value on how dealers treat consumers in the marketplace.
The initial screen suggests that I would be able to get the vehicle under MSRP, and presented me with a price range. The interface pre-checked a number of local dealers which I thought I could un-check if I wanted to narrow down my shopping choices.
Taken note that under the "More For Your Area" section, there were another 10 NJ dealers listed and pre-checked. This may be only an issue in highly populated areas like Monmouth County New Jersey.
CarWoo! must believe that if it doesn't cost the consumer anything, why not have many New Jersey dealers bidding for my business. However, I thought it would be a bit overwhelming for me to manage that number of email conversations.
I selected to receive quotes from 3 dealers and not 15 dealers. Of the 15 dealers listed, some were up to 45 minutes away and I would not want to drive that far to save a few dollars, other consumers may want that option. When I tried to submit my form, CarWoo! told me that I had to select another four dealers. Odd.
So it looks like CarWoo! wants to push as many leads to their dealer network as possible. This may not be a good feature because it forced me to pick dealers that I would never want to drive to. I will have to get some clarity on this feature from CarWoo!
In order to interact with the dealers listed in the CarWoo! marketplace, consumers will be required to create an account. As I filled out the screen, it produced an anonymous email account so that my true email would not be sent to the dealers. (see text in green)
The screen also guaranteed me that my cell phone number would not be sent to the dealers who will be sending me quotes. One advantage that I see is that for consumers who want to gather information on cars and not provide their cell phones, the CarWoo! marketplace may give me some satisfaction.
After I clicked on the green button, I immediately received a text message on my cell phone asking me to confirm that this was indeed my cell number.
Smart idea however I was not informed that I would be receiving a text message. I am writing this article at 5:00 am and I was initially bugged that someone was texting me this early in the morning!
As you can see from the screen capture below, the consumer is presented with their own dashboard which will show the cars that they have requested in the CarWoo! marketplace. Consumers can add additional cars that they want to price using the "Add Another Car" button.
The dashboard displays a message says that since I have a "Basic Package" at least three dealers will respond with quotes. I found this message odd. If I was requested to check off seven dealers, why would they guarantee only 40% would send me a quote. This of course will get some clarification once I sit down with the CarWoo! team for an interview at AutoCon 2012.
The dashboard will allow consumers to manage their email communications and bids from participating dealers. I'll be documenting what type of initial emails I receive from these dealers.
I've been contacted my some industry watchers asking if the CarWoo! marketplace would violate brokering laws in certain states. Since I'm not a legal expert, I can not answer that question. However, as CarWoo! raises its industry profile, I am sure that their business model will be under review by regulators and concerned parties.
I will follow-up this initial story of CarWoo! and Yahoo Autos in the coming days. A number of dealers that I work with are using the CarWoo! platforms so I will ask them to provide some feedback in the comments area of this post.
Look for news this week that will confirm that CarWoo! is indeed linking up with Yahoo Autos, which should drive more traffic to the CarWoo! marketplace.
Keep in mind that both TrueCar and CarWoo! will be exhibiting an speaking at AutoCon 2012 so you can get the latest updates on their platforms to assist dealers sell more cars. If you have not registered for AutoCon yet, make sure you take advantage of special pricing that ends on July 30th.
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Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Digital Marketing