Tag Archives: online autos

Angie’s List Adds First ‘National’ Vertical: Classic & Custom Cars

Following the success of eBay Motors with special classic and custom car restoration verticals, other sites have pitched their own tents to get a piece of the $2 billion annual business, including AutoTrader and The New York Times. Now comes Angie’s List.

Angie’s List, based in Indianapolis and boasting over one million members, actually has some street cred in the auto world by sponsoring the Indy 500. It says the classic/custom car restoration category is worth $2 billion a year. “Custom and classic car owners will go to the ends of the Earth to find the one person who can bring their baby back. We’re going to make that trip easier,” says company namesake Angie Hicks, in a press release.

What is especially unique about the new Angie’s List service is that it isn’t locally oriented. While the site has some national and regional categories, such as bathtub restoration, Classic and custom car restoration is Angie’s first full scale national vertical. It is also the company’s second standalone vertical, following Health, which launched in March and now has 200 categories.

“There are tons of forums, classified ads everywhere you look, and lots of talk in garages around the country about individual specialists and companies that focus on restoring vintage vehicles,” said Hicks. “We’re going to do what we do best and gather that great consumer experience at a site where anyone can easily find just the person they need for the specialty work they need done.”

Kuni BMW Leverages Local/Social: 4,690 Facebook ‘Fans’

For those that doubt that social media can play an effective role in local business marketing, check out Kuni BMW, which is based in Beaverton, OR. The dealership has a headstart with its nameplate – BMW owners are well known for their sense of community. Many still flash each other’s headlights when they pass each other.

But what Kuni has accomplished by tying community events with Facebook and YouTube stands as a case study.The Facebook page alone as 4,690 fans, and many active users. Conversations are generally centered around all kinds of BMW lore (new models, classic cars, international BMW marketing, etc.).

The community tie-ins are what capture my attention. Recently, posts have featured promotion, reportage and photo galleries of Kuni’s “Greener Days and Wine Tasting” party, featuring many area wineries (“fine wines, fine cars”). There has also been an auction of a $35k BMW on behalf of the American Diabetes Association; a $250 gift certificate to Portland’s BlueHour restaurant; and drawings for $400 bottles of wine (a recurring theme that obviously appeals to Portland’s large wine-tasting community.) Many of the events are on video and posted to YouTube.

Hidden in all this is an obvious opportunity to sell advertising and placement to other local area businesses. If you are a high end restaurant owner, what could be better placement than being marketed to the proud BMW owner community?

JD Power: Auto Dealers Rapidly Adding Social, Mobile Media

JD Power, at its annual Automotive Roundtable in Las Vegas last week, laid out a convincing case that Internet and mobile marketing has made major headway among local auto dealers. While digital media comprised just seven percent of all auto spending in 2008, JD Power projects that it will jump to 22 percent by 2011.

“More creative methods of marketing will need to be demonstrated, requiring more effort than ever seen in the past,” said the researcher, which noted that 19 percent of online auto shoppers first log on to dealer sites, 41 percent go to manufacturer Web sites, and 40 percent visit third-party automotive sites.

Mobile is likely to be a big part of the boom in digital marketing for autos. The most useful mobile features include ad listings, payment calculators, maps and directions and dealer contact information. JD Power advises dealers to ask shoppers whether the email is for a mobile device so it can extend mobile-only offers.

Social media is also a major component. By integrating user-generated content and capturing “real-world” consumer opinions, marketers can improve their brand’s credibility among consumers. Strong digital content often spurs discussion among social media users, which can achieve a widely expansive reach among the target audience. Social media networking Web sites, such as Facebook, have greater reach among new-vehicle prospects than online search engines or portals-such as Google and Yahoo.

“Social media is now shaping customer expectations in any and every way,” said JD Power VP and GM Chance Parker, in a statement. “Listening to social media is increasingly on people’s radar screens and people are scrambling to understand it. It’s not enough simply to count the buzz, it is important to understand what that buzz really means to your brand.”

Centro Sees Upturn with Growth of Regional Advertising

Centro, the media planner that tries to “simplify the entire local online media buying process for agencies and media partners,” took a hit from auto advertising last year. But it has continued to grow overall, thanks to gains in regional-and-political advertising.

The 112 person, Chicago-based company now has 11 regional offices and was named to Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies with $82.2 million in verified revenue for 2008. Four or five more regional offices are slated to be opened in the next 12 months.

CEO and Founder Shawn Riegsecker says automotive advertising has been down 25-30 percent for Centro, which has worked closely with General Motors and others to place local advertising. But the company more than made up for it with the boom in its regional-and- political advertising .

“Regional is just starting to take off this year and next,” he says. It is “the fastest growing segment.” Expectations are “we will grow it in the triple digits.”

Riegsecker aknowledges that regional advertising continues to have its pros and cons. On the pro side, these advertisers will be “the best advertisers in the next three-to-four years,” based on their compounded growth rate. On the con side, they typically have smaller budgets, and they need more help and more extended services. But that’s really a plus for Centro’s business, which provides a comprehensive software solution, he says.

On a category-by-category basis, the biggest gains are coming from government and politics; financial; insurance; and Energy/Utilities. “Insurance is up significantly Year over Year,” says Riegsecker. He also explains why financials are shown to be up in a terrible year. “Regional banks weren’t hit quite as hard” and see opportunities to pick up new customers,” he says.

Political advertising, meanwhile, has become a real bread-and-butter category for the company, now accounting for up to 15 percent of revenues. Riegsecker says the company has transitioned from the 2008 campaign, where it handled advertising for Obama, Clinton and McCain, to the present advocacy-driven environment, which is largely driven by health care and green initiatives. Next year, it will be back to elections again, as 37 governorships will be decided in the mid-term elections.

Dealix Guarantees Its Leads are Good

Quality guarantees are the name of the game in 2009. On the consumer side, ServiceMagic and Idearc Yellow Pages have guaranteed the quality of work for their advertisers. Now, on the advertiser side, Cobalt’s Dealix is guaranteeing the quality of the leads they provide to auto dealers.

Lead quality has been a major sore point in the business, as dealers complain that the leads they’ve been sold are often sold to multiple players at once and also may be based on old information (i.e. car owners may have already made a purchase). Even when the leads are good, dealers often end up paying for leads they can’t use if they accidentally dial bad numbers, etc.

Dealix EVP and GM Anna Zornosa says that her team realized that there was “a lack of confidence” in the leads that Dealix and rival companies were offering – in Dealix’s case, for an average price of $20 each. “This is going to change the game. We’re going to back it up,” she says.

Dealix’s pledge guarantee assures that leads represent an “active, in-market, and motivated” adult with a working phone number. It also promises that it is not a duplicate, and that Dealix will give out first dibs on the lead, ahead of competitors.

The way Dealix’s guarantee works is that the company provides dealers with access to its extranet, where it sends out leads and confirms their validity, using TargusInfo’s leads verification service. If leads are acted on and don’t get a response within a reasonable time, Dealix simply takes it off the bill under its “hassle free” promise. The company’s stats show that most leads are acted on within three days.

Failed leads don’t necessarily mean cash back. Generally, they just open the way to send out another “good lead” since most dealers are buying subscriptions for a set number. Eighty percent, in fact, have a cap on the number of leads they’ll take.

Ultimately, Zornosa expects the leads program to boost Dealix’s volume, since it provides incentives to dealers to get to the leads early and often. The company already processes 300,000 leads a month, she notes.

The program will also provide “real time information on where problems exist” in the leads cycle, says Zornosa. Problems will be readily apparent in areas where there is a pattern of lead failure.

The program should also help reinforce the most progressive dealers. While 25 percent of auto dealer sales now come from Internet leads, says Zornosa the best dealerships are getting 40 percent of their sales from the Internet.

DriverSide, RepairPal Engage Local Repair Shops, Car Owners

Auto Repairs are a $150 billion part of the U.S. economy, but leads and advertising for auto repair shops remain relatively underdeveloped – even though fewer than 30 percent of U.S. drivers can claim a trusted mechanic. Seeking to change all that are two companies that register cars and make repair and service recommendations : RepairPal and DriverSide.

RepairPal is mostly focused on providing expert and unbiased information and delivering its “AppointmentsPlus” leads for scheduling repairs. The company has partnered with players such as Cars.com, AutoNation and AAA. It also just announced a partnership with The Automotive Services Association, a trade group. It also has a longstanding relationship with the Automotive Services Council of California.

DriverSide’s focus is on getting car owners to build free “online garages” for each registered car, where they can receive information on repair estimates, ask a mechanic, find a mechanic, find parts, and alerts on recalls, etc.. The site has formed key partnerships with companies such as eBay Motors and Precision Tuning, and will soon have 700,000 garages. Advertisers buy monthly lead package programs,with leads priced at different rates, based on categories.

As of today, DriverSide is also providing an online diagnostic tool based on what owners see, smell, hear or feel.” If the site can virtually diagnose the problem, it offers advice for how to fix it, including ‘how to’ videos. If the problem requires professional work, DriverSide will recommend local mechanics and tell the user how much they should pay for the service.

“A hundred dollars spent in proactive car care can save drivers thousands in repair costs down the road,” says DriverSide.com CEO Jad Dunning in a release. “Our site is designed to be a resource for car owners who want to keep their cars running and in good condition, but need a little help along the way. We save drivers both time and money through every step of car ownerships, from purchase to repairs, insurance to accessories.”

Idearc’s EveryCarListed.com Debuts ‘All Video’ Car Listings

EveryCarListed.com, a 25 person car portal quietly acquired by Idearc in February, has formally rolled out its new look-and-feel. It includes an unprecedented effort to provide videos of every car on the site.

The site currently has two million car listings, with one million listings already attached to videos. The site will be “all video” by the end of the year.

The site also includes consumer reviews, auto news, and manufacturer video, but the differentiator is the push on the all video listings. Given the logistical difficulty of acquiring video for millions of car listings, the “enhanced” video is computer generated, patching together composite photos, and informed by vertical information numbers. The technology can use up to 32 pictures sent in by a dealer.

To my eyes, the video quality is as good as “real” video shot by videocams. There are no obvious cut-and-paste issues. The technology also enables customized audio, and a photo gallery.

The ECL site offers free basic listings, which it heavily emphasizes in marketing materials (although the other auto sites also have free, non-featured listings). Its primary business model is based on AutoTrader/Cars.com-like bronze/silver/gold monthly subscription packages for dealerships.

A top-of-the-line package in Los Angeles costs $2,600 per month and patches together all the synergies of the Idearc relationship. It includes the video enablement; featured listings on top of the page; a half page ad in the local Idearc (Verizon) Yellow Pages; a premium listing on Superpages.com; and two direct mail pieces a year, using Idearc Direct Mail. Dealers that pitch their service departments as well as their new and used cars will have their repair work covered under Verizon’s “SuperGuarantee” program.

The outreach to service departments, in fact, might be the best path in for Idearc sales people. Service departments tend to be better Yellow Pages customers. Otherwise, less than one percent of dealer marketing is typically aimed at Yellow Pages. per NADA.