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I recently attended a QualMeeting study that was sponsored by Cars.com where myself and 5 other Cars.com customers gave feedback on some new concepts that Cars.com. There was 5 products/concepts they presented to us after a series of questions they asked us, the most popular one being a "Push to Text" concept. Much like chat works online you would click a button that would present initiate a chat conversation while using there mobile site or app. The questions were concerning whether or not we would use the feature and to what extent would it benefit the dealership. It seemed like they were still deciding if this feature would capture customer information or if they would leave it optional like chat.
The other features were all mobile oriented ranging from push coupons to mobile app users to Dealership listing pages on the mobile site designed almost identical to the mobile Google Place pages. Which I think is a wise decision considering the familiarity being the advantage. This same page is where they would place the "Push to Text" button. The mobile dealer page would also consist of contact information, reviews, and possibly photo's of the dealership. It was a suggestion of mine to make the dealer pages as customizable as possible. Any way of being able to write our own message in or usable space would be a big factor on how much of a difference it would make. There were several other actions being considered for the mobile site or app were things like social tools, price comparison tools, dealer apps, and geo-fencing dealer messages. I'll share what I know about each but do keep in mind nothing was finalized and the release date was not stated, my guess from how they were talking was sometime this year.
Placed both on our dealer and vehicle listing pages a button to initiate a text conversation with a dealership. The feature one run almost exactly like their chat feature with having to be logged in on a computer and being able to accept the conversation there or accepting the text on a mobile phone. Like I said before they were still deciding whether to capture customer information when using the feature or leave the option to the customer. It seemed pretty straight forward to me and my obvious vote would be to capture customer information. They definitely were far enough along that I could tell the product was a definite, just not sure on the release date.
Adding social features through out the mobile site and app are going to come more into play as expected. They mentioned providing everything from a "Like" button for the dealership Facebook page to a "Share" button so that customers can share vehicle or dealer information easily. Another popular feature was a "Check-In" feature on the dealer page that I think would be tremendous. I realize it would most likely not be a highly used feature but the benefits are large would be worth having available.
Geo-Fencing Dealer Coupons
This was a very interesting path, utilizing geo fencing technology to push messages to customers via mobile app. It worked by allowing a dealership to have coupons be pushed to customers as they enter a specified radius of the dealership. The radius can be adjusted from 5 to 50 miles and can push a message either entering the area or both entering and exiting. This was controversial to the other participates in the QualMeeting, they were mostly worried on it becoming a messaging mess that would get the app deleted. I agree it is going to take a reasonable layout to prevent it becoming a nag. Never the less it would be a fantastic time to get a message in front of the customer as they drive around from dealer to dealer. I proposed the dealership be as involved as possible with the message and frequency of that message. This is particularly value able to those dealers that offer service as well as sales. It would be great to remind a customer they need a oil change while they are close to the dealer accompanied with a coupon. I thought this was very exciting to see Cars.com utilize new technology.
Flipping to the dealer side of the table they presented an app that is for the dealer. From what I could tell their main selling point to the app was a VIN scanner that could be utilized for both pricing and appraising. The product looked good but as most VIN scanners would only be as it worked. The main problem with this concept is they would only pull data from Cars.com and Manheim and not be able to compare the entire market. Still for a smaller dealership or for those dealers who have not yet joined us in reality, I'm sure it would come in handy. Other features on this app were what anyone would expect, access to analytics, inventory management, and custom trigger messages to better stay on top of photo's or pricing. Loved this product for those features alone, I manage 5 locations Cars.com accounts and having it easier to access would be great. Those that leave managing the accounts up to a sales manager would appreciate making the accounts easier to manage for the managers as well.
I'm still beating my head against the wall for not grabbing any screen shots but I wasn't expecting to see anything and when they did show us an actual image of a product it was short lived. At the same time keeping up with their interrogating conference call for an hour an half so that I can receive a $150 Visa card for participating was task in itself. I would love to answer some questions if anyone has any on any of their products, it would be way to much to try and cover anything but the main points in this post. Cars.com is a great channel of marketing but I do think they lacked some products, especially for the independent dealers. I'm glad, as I'm sure you all are, to see them really pushing the envelope to keep up with their Compton. I was given this opportunity from someone I've never spoke with before that came through my email. My rep had no knowledge of this offer to me but if anyone would like an extra $150 and some insight on what my be available to the market in the future, it wouldn't hurt to ask.
I think it is wise as a dealership to keep what the major 3rd parties like Autotrader or Cars.com will be doing so that you can use it to your dealers advantage. Making sure you have plenty of Cars.com reviews or pursuing text marketing now would be wise if it is going to be familiar to the customer a year from now. I also can help but notice how all the features were surrounding their mobile site and app. That's proof in itself, that the major advertisers are betting their chips on the mobile market. If your not making a difference through a mobile site, mobile PPC, apps, or text messaging then you should be.
Thank you and please make a post,