There has been plenty of controversy about cars.com and other vendors taking dealers inventory and feeding them to some really nasty anti-dealer sites such as cargurus.com. I believe that Jim Ziegler has done a great job standing up for the automotive retail community by fighting for what is right. I am seeing dealers cancel cars.com left and right while others just stay neutral about it and ignore the drama.
The question is “should you cancel cars.com?”
I have a very open minded thinking pattern about this topic. While I personally do not like what they were doing with sending customers other dealer’s inventory for less price and the fact that they have been pushing inventory without authorization to other third party sites I have to question dealers how they are monitoring these sources. Gone are the days where you can just “set it and forget it” with the service that third party vendors are providing. This needs to be proactively managed on a daily basis. Internet Managers must have a process for tracking their email leads, phone calls, conversations with customers for individual sources.
Every morning, you should be getting emails from cars.com with a call tracking report of the previous day’s phone traffic. How do you use it? Check the CRM and make sure the calls were logged. Listen to the calls. Make sure your people are doing their jobs so you can monitor your ROI. Do the same for email leads. Also, look at how much traffic these third parties drive to your site as well as how long these visitors stick with your site. This is in essence like “Mad Science” but this will tell you if you need to fire your third party vendors. It maybe a painstaking task that you spend 1 hour a day on but it is important to scientifically know how it working with you.
My strategy is simple, “if your pricing your inventory right and your getting good hits then your lead management process should work hand in hand with that to get more of these leads in the door”. However, if the dealer is not being competitive in the market place then this strategy will hurt them.
I have watched some of these leads come in recently where the consumer mentions they were on cargurus.com but they still come in. I am in no way saying cargurus.com is a good thing as I personally have a had a run in with an internet lead from them that they claimed the car was priced unfairly but yet we still sold the car to that same lead because we built value and worked it. If I am a dealer and I will allow them to exist I will aggressively work to make sure I am competitive and gaining market share.
If you are not getting the traffic you need and getting beat by the competition on these sites then it is time to fire these inventory listing companies because they are not doing anything to help you. I believe that cars.com is not going to go away because of how they positioned themselves in the market. I have found that most dealers believe that they need them and that will always keep them afloat. So my suggestion is that cars.com and these other companies position themselves as being equally friendly to their dealers and their consumers. “Stop biting the hand that feeds you!” Meanwhile, dealers need to properly manage their vendors and hold them accountable. At the end of the day most vendors are true partners if the relationship is being managed properly.