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Linda Pesonen

Linda Pesonen President

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Dealer-OEM Alignment from Independent 3rd Parties? Absolutely!

[uh-lahyn’-muhnt]  A state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, etc. with a common cause or viewpoint (Dictionary.com). It sounds easy enough. Yet, aligning over 16,000 dealers in the U.S. alone—individually and collectively in the form of dealer associations—with dozens of manufacturers they represent, is no easy task.

Today, I’m taking an “outside-in” approach to alignment, with an eye on the consumer experience. How? By focusing on the key role independent research sites play, how they can help foster collaboration between dealers and OEM’s, and ultimately, how a more aligned strategy can make for a more seamless customer experience. Let’s begin….

Why independent research sites in the first place?  It’s simple – They. Matter. Independent sites play a key role in the research phase of a car purchase. Consider these facts…

  • Nearly all auto shoppers research online prior to buying.
  • According to C+R Research, shoppers turn most to sources that are both helpful and trustworthy.
  • Shoppers find independent research sites to be among the most trustworthy sources, second only to their own previous experience with a vehicle. 

*C+R Research:  The Digital Influence:  How Online Research Puts Auto Shoppers In Control

While shoppers may use many online sources, independent research sites were the most-cited source of influence – online OR offline*.

So…how can independent sites help bridge the gap between dealers and OEM’s?  Let’s take a look at how one particular site impacts the marketplace and builds bridges.

With over 31 million unique monthly visitors and growing, Cars.com is one of the key 3rd party sites. “We have a unique perspective on shopping behavior throughout the journey and across tiers. We have extensive data on what consumers are doing and what the process looks like. We leverage those insights to help both OEM’s and dealers work together to influence car shoppers,” says Elaine Richards, Vice President of Channel Development at Cars.com.

A strong omni-channel presence on a site like Cars.com can help Tier 1 and Tier 3 drive efficiency through coordination of campaigns such as a single-model launch, incentive promotion, or a seasonal event. In fact, 3rd party sites can help coordinate and layer messaging so that the right message is delivered at the right time to the right shopper.

Incentives are just one of the many examples. “We know that shoppers are ‘incentive attentive’” continues Ms. Richards. “They’re very focused and very interested. We help dealers understand the importance of their personalized incentives and how best to present those on our site, layering them on top of national and local OEM-based incentives. That’s just one of the many ways we help dealers leverage OEM incentives while at the same time differentiating themselves locally through intelligently executed messaging in areas that drive brand consideration.”

By their very positioning as research tools, independent sites offer a wealth of insight on patterns, trends and buyer behavior. This information can help both dealers and OEM’s as they plan and deliver targeted advertising, messaging, and content.

In addition, independent research sites are often a conduit of communication channels between dealers and OEM’s. Third party sites, especially those with a locally-deployed sales staff across the country, provide valuable “voice of the dealer” feedback to the OEM’s. “OEM’s are universally and continuously interested in what we’re hearing from dealers in the field” Ms. Richards explains. “We talk with and support so many dealers that we’re able to see patterns, shifts, and themes. We share that voice of the dealer to OEM’s, even when the feedback is negative; either way, it’s valued. Similarly, we’re happy to be the conduit for communication from OEM’s to dealers, too, where we can be.”  

There are many benefits in working collaboratively and deliberately across independent research sites. It’s clear that utilization of key third party insights provides a more informed approach to serving customers online. Aligned cross-tier campaigns create a seamless customer experience through coordinated messaging and consumer choice as shoppers self-direct their online research process.

In an area of the business that is often planned separately, why not rally around the customer journey as the shared common cause, and drive business in a way that’s consistent with consumer shopping patterns? 

Third party research sites helping you develop a competitive edge in the market—and helping you sell more cars – now that’s uh-lahyn’-ment!

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