Community

Share your automotive expertise

2 Write a Blog Post

Filed in: Marketing

[Breaking] Cars.com's Linda Bartman Responds to the Dealer Community

Linda Barman, Cars.com CMO, responded to the dealer community with an open and direct account of what has transpired over the past month with regards to the test email campaign.

First off, Linda apologized to the community for their lack of upfront communication with the dealers. She stated their goal is to continuously improve and innovate to create more value for both consumers and dealers. This is part of their core values and admitted that it's often difficult to balance the efforts directed to both segments. 

Linda also said they learned a lot from this test - most importantly the need to be more proactive and work with dealers to get more feedback and to share the results as well. (There are more than enough dealers who are willing to help in this capacity, the feedback Cars.com would be extremely valuable) 

Lastly, Linda shared the results from their test email campaign from the previous month. She said it was wildly successful; open rates for the emails were double that of the industry averages (40% vs. 21%) The majority of the value from these test campaigns was provided to the initial dealership to which the customer sent their lead. 

Cars.com's ultimate goal is to provide more value for consumers and dealers. More importantly, they are in fact going to stop the email campaigns. 

This experiement created some valuable lessons for both Cars.com and the dealer community. Just as dealers need to understand the power and strength of a connected community and the speed of information exchange, vendors must also recognize this phenomenon. It doesn't necessarily mean the information shared will always be accurate, but within the natural dynamics of our dealer ecosystem the information will be passed along - quickly. 

There is also a huge opportunity for dealers to improve their own internal lead management process. Up to 23% of all leads aren't responded to AT ALL. Dealers should be concered about what's happening under their own rooftops - they're missing opportunities as well. 

Let's all be sure we're working together the get the best information, from the best sources and ultimately make the best decisions around issues such as these. 

Thanks for sharing the update Linda, we look forward to hearing from you regarding the product development process happening at Cars.com! 

Watch Linda's video reply on the DealerAdvantage Blog.

Comments

This is exactly the response the community needed and deserves. Being on one side of the fence it's easy to forget that Cars.com has dual responsibilities... Dealers are 'happy' to fork over money to get leads but forget there is still a whole lot Cars.com needs to do to attract customers to get the leads and provide shoppers value in the first place.

Often times dealers are spending money with Cars.com instead of performing these activities themselves, which really puts you at their a 3rd parties mercy. This is why dealers HAVE TO take their own marketing more seriously and earn a healthy share of their own leads...Otherwise you are always at the mercy of a 'middleman'.

Kudos to Linda for the honest and timely reply before everything got completely out of hand.

May 2, 2013

There are allegations now that cars.com is reselling dealer inventory to dealer hostile websites like CarGurus! Any truth to this Linda?

May 2, 2013

I'm sure that took a lot of courage to "join the video discussions." So glad she shared!!

May 2, 2013

I have been told by a Cars rep that they send over a "skinny feed" to cargurus.

May 2, 2013

@David - any word on what their definition of "skinny feed" is...?

May 2, 2013

@Tim Dealers can opt-in/opt-out of the feed to CarGurus.

May 2, 2013

@Eric - I had the same question and was told "we send some of your inventory over but not all of it"

May 2, 2013

Tim, I'm the founder and CEO of CarGurus. I'm going to let Cars.com comment on their relationship with CarGurus. What I would like to comment on is your characterization of CarGurus as "dealer hostile".

In my prior life I was co-founder/Chairman of TripAdvsor - the largest online travel site in the world. We built TripAdvisor around the concept of information transparency - user reviews. Through the years TripAdvisor has grown to be an indispensable tool for hoteliers to market their properties to consumers.

Similarly, here at CarGurus we strive to bring transparency to the auto shopping experience. You might not know this but CarGurus has now grown to be the 10th largest automotive shopping site in the United States. Last month we had over 5.5 Million consumers use our service.

In addition to helping consumers, we strive to help dealers market their inventory to our consumers. We take seriously our obligation not only to consumers but also to dealers. Our shopping service is unique in how we rank inventory based on how far below the market it is priced – inventory with the most customer savings gets the highest ranking and exposure in our search results.

Let's be clear however, inventory market price validation is not a new concept. Our math modeling that automates the market pricing and inventory ranking is, but KBB, NADA Guide and Edmunds have been doing this in a manual data input form for many years. So we are no more "hostile" than these industry standard sites.

We work with a number of the top 10 national dealer groups and many, many smaller dealers. Why do these dealers work with us? The answer is quite simple. We help them sell a lot of cars. What is unique about our platform from a dealer standpoint is that the leads we do send on to dealers close at the very highest rate (to a sold car) because over 95% of the leads we send to dealers are for inventory that the consumer thinks is a great deal. Leads from our site are from very serious buyers.

Be it TripAdvisor, Zillow in real estate or CarGurus in Autos, information transparency is good for consumers and merchants. Consumers love information transparency and merchants love "serious" shoppers.

And let's also be clear about the fact that dealers run their own businesses. They can and should price their inventory as they see fit. In fact a dealer may have a valid reason for pricing their inventory above the market. Just because KBB or CarGurus says a car is priced over the market, there is nothing that says a dealer has to sell the car at a lower price.
The only downside to pricing your inventory above the market is you might lose out on some shoppers who migrate elsewhere.

Hope this helps clear up why CarGurus is not "dealer hostile."

May 2, 2013

Every month, my paycheck is affected by the monthly expense my dealership pays Cars.com. For pre-owned advertising, Cars.com is our best 3rd party online used car referral source, and also one of the few vendors that are eligible for co-op credit with BMW.
While I agree that Cars.com could have communicated better to the dealer community and perhaps offered more transparency in the data collection process, I also believe their decision to stop this practice was unfortunate. While many raised valid concerns, nothing could be proved as being as "devastating" as many proposed. While much of the debate could be proven right, it was largely based on hearsay. This was the proverbial "witch hunt."

Hearsay has led to a major loss for those of us that work in dealerships. Many of us launched a major and unfair offensive against a company that has a track record of placing the dealer's interests at the very core of their products. While every business must inherently have some type of self-serving interest(we are all in business to make money after all), the draconian allegations made against Cars.com were downright egregious.

In the end, our community should not engage in activities that only cause a rift between dealers, advertisers, and OEMs. This will only result in vendors choosing to stifle innovation, or even worse, vendors will choose to engage in non-transparent activities and avoid the "hostile" feedback of the industry. While I've been an open critic of many companies, including Cars.com, I've always tried to maintain a fair and balanced perspective that was representative of all available information.

May 1, 2013, in my opinion, is a day that will live in automotive marketing infamy.

May 2, 2013

Well said Jeremy. Unfortunate but I agree.

May 2, 2013

Comments 1 - 10 of 17

You must be logged in to comment

Login Create an account

Add your comments:

   

DrivingSales News' Recent Posts

Related Posts

  • Does Social Media Really Sell Things?

    For some time now we have put a lot of focus on social media. We have quite a few different types of things that we do on social media. We highlight communty events, post sold cars, deals of the week and have contests as well. We have also just started to use it to promote service work as well. We have often wondered if it truly helps. Well I got my answer to this last evening in a very different kind of way. Several years ago I started running avidly. Once I did this I started following different running groups on Facebook. This gave me a lot of tips but also informed about a lot of races that I could spend MONEY on. During this time the Facebook advertising gods figured out that I like to run as well. Then I began to get all kinds of running event ads. Well one particular one caught my eye. It is a series of obstacle races called Spartan. I decided that I had to try one...by the way they are pricey. I quickly became addicted to them and have done 6 of them around the country. So ...Read post

  • Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Directory Listings

    Have you ever wondered how search engines like Google work? How do they decide which ranking your dealership will receive for a given set of keywords? You may be aware search engines use algorithms to determine search rankings. These algorithms are a form of artificial intelligence, which are constructed to mimic the way humans think, and return the best results for the user’s search in a matter of a couple milliseconds. Nobody knows exactly what logic is used, but it is rumored more than 3,000 attributes construct a local ranking algorithm. Today we’ll dive into one of the top influencers of local search ranking, directory listings management. What Are Directory Listings? Let’s start by explaining what directory listings are. Simply put, they are entries across the web that identify your dealership. They are typically made up of components like dealership name, phone number, address, and website URL, and are used so consumers can find your business. Think about your dealershipRead post

  • Igniting Ideas – Fueling Collaboration

    Dealers across the country report over 50,000 new car sales each day. Each sale represents the end of a customer sales journey. Over weeks – or even months – each customer conducts research, interacts with brands, and ultimately moves through the process of completing the sale. Dozens – if not hundreds – of dealers, OEMS, vendors and companies influence the customer along the way. For example, in the media alone, competing advertising messages impact the customer at each level:  OEM, Dealer Association, and individual dealership. The path to purchase is complex, and yet, it all comes together. One sale at a time. The complexity of our cross-tier community sparked the idea for this column. My goal is to building a community where people in our industry can come together and strengthen collaborative relationships across the tiers - especially between dealers and OEMs. This column is quite literally meant to spark conversation, ignite ideas, and fuel collaboration. What wi...Read post

  • Stock Photos vs Actual Photos on VDPs

    Many dealership websites opt for the clean, professional look of stock photos.  While this practice might work well for promotional materials, automotive dealers should try to use actual photos on VDPs (Vehicle Description Pages) whenever possible. Inventory often needs to make it onto a dealership site before there is time for photos to be taken.  In this case, many will choose a stock photo or a "coming soon"-type image rather than no photo at all.  While this might be an acceptable temporary solution, a dealership should always attempt to get actual photos of their merchandise on their website for all VDPs. The single biggest "selling" factor on the VDP is the initial photo that loads on the page.  If this photo is a stock photo rather than an actual photo, the customer will only have a generic idea of what the vehicle may look like, rather than how it actually looks in terms of color, condition and features.  When photos of the actual vehicle load, it significantly builds tr...Read post

  • Why are dealers not completing their staff pages with photos?

    This is just a short rant, but I see this all the time.  If you go to a dealer's website, and look at the "Meet our Staff" page you might see something like this:  A single name and phone number, and possibly an email address, with a big black silhouette where a photo should be.  Sometimes there will be just a single person as a contact, sometimes you can see multiple black silhouettes filling the page.  How have you not gotten around to adding a photos yet?  My guess is that some dealers do not think that is important.  I think this sets the stage for how you view digital marketing.  One of the ground rules to succeed in digital marketing, is to treat digital customers the same as "real world" customers.  Don't give them less service, don't wait to respond to them, or treat them as any less important than customers who stop into your dealership.  Having photos on your website is part of this as well. It is hard enough to establish a personal connection with someone by email...Read post

  • Canadian Dealership’s Reality TV Show Comes to DrivingSales Event

    At DrivingSales we advocate that dealers operate transparently to cultivate trust with their customers. You cannot get more transparent than have a nationally broadcasted reality TV show in your dealership. Ride Time in Winnipeg, MB (that’s in Canada for you southerners) was the backdrop for the reality show The Bargain Brothers on Business News Network (BNN). Two brothers Andrew and Doug MacIver are the stars and owners of the dealership with their family making up a large portion of their staff. Needless to say having the camera running all the time in a family owned dealership makes for some interesting moments. However, the self declared “Bargain Brothers” see their dedication to telling their story through TV and social media as a way to stay in the forefront of their customers’ minds. “Branding is a point of differentiation for every dealership,” says Andrew MacIver. “It's how you're perceived in the local market and often tells the tale of how you do business. W...Read post

  • Do Press Releases Still Have SEO Value?

    The quick answer to the question is not so much anymore. These days press releases are branding, validation, and credibility tools for companies, not SEO tools.  Quite simply it means PR firms are shifting the focus of how they utilize press releases for their clients.   Companies have been utilizing press releases for over 100 years.  Initially a press release was a way to get information to the news media.  They were rarely seen by the public and were not created to be an advertisement. The point was to get the media’s attention about a story or news worthy event gets them to write about it. To accomplish this, organizations had to write a release that had real news value.   The Internet, along with media channels, blogs and social networks, has changed the press release landscape.  Company branding, pushing content, infographics and press releases became a tool in the SEO arsenal. This shift led to a glut of releases that were no longer “real news,” but promotional c...Read post

  • Recipe for Success: Mixing Technology with your BDC

    We live in exciting, crazy times--and these times have drastically changed the way we sell and service cars. I was in High School in the early 90’s, still using a typewriter, and taking notes with pen and paper. Cell phones were just becoming more common, and the first text was sent in 1992.  Today there will be 36 billion texts sent worldwide. In just a little over 20 years, this technology has literally exploded and dramatically shifted the way we communicate. Things have changed. And the automotive industry has been greatly affected by these changes. According to an article in Strategy&, just a decade ago electronics and technology accounted for less than 20% of total costs spent in the industry. Today, it is at least 35% or higher, and 90% of all new features deal with technology--more specifically telematics. It is easy to assume much of what we do will be digitized, automated, and technologically enhanced. There are new tools created every day which help with many of o...Read post