Recently Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter and Senior Vice President of Commercial Strategy Darren Haygood talked with CBT News about how Cars.com is becoming a stronger growth partner to dealerships by applying technology and launching new products. The dialogue shed insight into how Cars.com is evolving from “purely a lead provider to a marketing partner” to dealers, in Alex’s words. Both Darren and Alex discussed why the recent launch of the Cars.com Salesperson Connect™ product taps into a changing dealership marketing mix that places importance on people. Following are some highlights of the conversation. Read on to discover why Cars.com recently defined the new 4Ps of Automotive Marketing™ as product, price, place, and person. And check out this video for the complete conversation.
How Cars.com is evolving: from lead provider to marketing partner
Alex: [My focus is] helping dealers shift their thinking about Cars.com from purely as a lead provider to a marketing partner. Dealers are closing internet leads at around 7 percent — maybe at best, 10 percent. And they are basing their marketing decisions based on their success rate of that low closing percentage. When you talk to dealers about their closing rate on physical traffic –people who come into their dealership – the closing rates are 30-to-40 percent for sure.
We’re using mobile to really unlock how people are shopping today. With our geo-location tracking, we’re measuring the arrival of people to the physical dealership. It’s the highest quality lead, it takes the least amount of work on behalf of the dealership staff, and we think that’s where the industry is moving because certainly that’s where the consumer is going.
Darren: I don’t know of a single business development center director or ecommerce director that wants to get more leads. They’d rather have a higher quality opportunity and fewer of those quite honestly so that they may be more efficient in their work effort.
What sets apart Cars.com: empowering people
Alex: we’re a technology company that is focused on empowering local retailers through technology. Our most recent innovation is based on the notion that people buy cars from people. People want to trust an individual who will help them navigate through all their needs. We launched Salesperson Connect to help consumers not only find the dealership and car they’re looking for, but ultimately to start a facilitated transaction with an individual working in the store. Using the power of people and profiles, allowing users to identify who they want to work with, and connecting with them online is ushering in the next wave of human connections through technology.
What we really like about Salesperson Connect is that we’ll take the top salespeople and promote them on Cars.com. So we’re rewarding them for the very behaviors that dealers are trying to instill in their people – to compete and differentiate on great experiences.
Darren: One dealer has the same inventory as another. Why does one dealer sell more than the other? It’s always because of the people. Salesperson Connect allows the dealer to cast a spotlight on the best of the best who work at the dealership. We’re going to give those salespeople an incentive to stick around because the more reviews they build, they’re going to create this great profile that more consumers will want to engage in. We want the experience to be better for the consumer, and we want to deliver innovative solutions that solve real problems for our dealer partners.
Reviews are the new attribution
Darren: instead of driving more leads that you measure in a CRM, if you go back to your sales people and you see the reviews build, every one of those reviews is a proof point of attribution – that the consumer engaged and started on the platform to pick that person came in and had an experience, which is why they turned around and left a review for that salesperson. It’s a way to challenge our dealers to think differently about how they measure and define success.