Facebook is more than the world’s largest social network – it’s also becoming a platform to connect its 2-billion strong community[i] with local dealerships. And a newly launched Cars.com product, Social Sales Drive™, is helping dealerships turn those connections into sales.

Social Sales Drive utilizes a team of managed chat agents and proprietary artificial intelligence chatbot technology to power conversations with consumers and capitalize on off-hour shopping via Facebook Messenger. The product addresses a previously unmet need: it’s not always been easy for dealerships to communicate with potential customers on Facebook via Messenger. Social Sales Drive’s chat functionality addresses this need by managing queries from shoppers after they find a dealership’s vehicle on Marketplace.

Beta testing showed more than 50 percent of car buyers on Facebook Marketplace wanted to interact after business hours.[ii]

Cars.com is launching Social Sales Drive at an opportune time for Facebook, dealerships, and shoppers. Facebook relaunched Marketplace in 2016 to connect individual buyers and sellers akin to how Craigslist and eBay operate. Within two years, 550 million people across 51 countries were using Marketplace each month (compared to 55 million people who visit Craigslist monthly).[iii]

With Marketplace achieving rapid growth, Facebook has expanded access to select partner merchants, and Cars.com has been instrumental in this expansion. In the fall of 2017, Facebook opened up Marketplace for automotive retailers through third parties such as Cars.com. In doing so, Facebook made Marketplace a platform to search for dealerships’ vehicles using filters by vehicle and location.

Social Sales Drive intends to turn those Marketplace searches into qualified leads for our partner dealerships, while providing 24/7 managed chat coverage to ensure no lead opportunity is missed. Here’s how it works:

  • Cars.com feeds a dealership’s used car inventory to Facebook Marketplace.
  • A consumer visits Marketplace and searches for a car.
  • The shopper reaches out to the dealership via Facebook Messenger or click-to-call from the vehicle’s VDP.
  • “Ana Bot,” a proprietary AI-powered chatbot and 24/7 managed-chat support, gives shoppers real-time answers to their vehicle inquiries. Consequently, dealers do not miss an opportunity to connect with consumers after hours to sell more cars.

Early adopters of this new solution are seeing very favorable feedback. For example, Kevin Jamiel, sales manager at Chuck Nicholson Mazda, said:

“I’ve wanted to take advantage of Facebook Marketplace for some time, so when Cars.com offered to get all our inventory up and manage chats on our behalf, I was very interested. The managed chat functionality does an amazing job of getting shoppers’ basic information and then handing them off to us, so we don’t have to sit in front of a computer answering Facebook messages all day. We sold 10 cars in the first six weeks using this product. We love it!”

On the other hand, consumers get access to:

  • Inventory from dealerships vetted by Cars.com.
  • Dealerships themselves a lot more conveniently than would be possible if shoppers tried to use Facebook Messenger without AI-powered chat.

Social Sales Drive is one more way Cars.com is extending the value of our two-sided marketplace on to Facebook. Earlier this year, we launched Cars Social, an advertising product that enables automotive dealers to reach a new and unique audience of in-market Cars.com shoppers on Facebook and Instagram.  Cars.com invites dealers to enroll in Social Sales Drive here.

 

[i] Statista, Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 1st quarter 2018 (in millions)

[ii] Cars.com internal data, June 2018.

[iii] CBT News, “Why You Should Pay Attention to Facebook Marketplace for Autos,” April 11, 2018.