For the last six weeks we have been analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and dealer performance across Cars.com, Dealer Inspire, and DealerRater. In our last update, we were able to report that the rate of decline in dealer leads and sales had slowed to a stop, and we used our algorithm to predict the beginning of a sales rebound with a 10-day sales projection.
Today we are pleased to report that our projection was accurate within a very close margin of error, and that we are continuing to see strong signals in our data to make another positive projection for dealer sales over the next 10 days.
While things are still far from back to normal, the continued upward trend indicated that we are heading in the right direction. Let’s take a look.
Powered By Roxanne™ The following data insights are powered by Dealer Inspire’s patented Roxanne® attribution pixel, which tracks all key events anonymous shoppers take on Cars.com, DealerRater, and over 3,500 Dealer Inspire websites nationwide, providing a significant sample size of approximately 65 million monthly shoppers.
SALES PREDICTION VS. SALES RESULTS
By tracking shopping and sales activity across the entire CARS network, forecasting on future consumer behavior is becoming possible. Using various leading indicators and input sources, we’ve used a neural network to model future sales performance. In our last report on April 13, we charted a relatively significant increase in nationwide sales over the next 10 days into the future. Because DMS reporting data is a lagging metric, we needed to give it an extra week to be sure, but the results are in.
4/13/20 SALES PREDICTION RESULTS
Roxanne™ Consumer behavior types of Website Bounce, Window Shoppers, and Engaged Shoppers.
Above you can see the trendline from mid-February (before COVID-19 impacted consumer behavior) until the back half of April when we expected sales to begin rebounding. Zooming in to that period will give us a better look at development.
With an R^2 value of 0.93, that’s pretty dang close. By looking carefully at not just consumer behavior as a whole, but at the Shopper Classifications* identified by Roxanne®, we’ve been able to identify certain key behaviors that, when taken in aggregate, provide a powerful modeling platform not just understanding existing consumer behavior, but predicting future behaviors as well.
While this is an extremely exciting step in understanding the inner workings of the automotive industry’s market forces, it can’t be overstated that without large market upheavals like national shelter-at-home mandates, we would never be able to inspect our models and challenge assumptions like we have over the past several several weeks. While we all face uncertainty, with some irony it’s precisely that uncertainty that has given us more insight than ever before.
What Are Roxanne™ Shopper Classifications Again?
Digging deeper than lead activity, we are able to measure the intensity of on-site shopping behavior by monitoring granular shopping actions — such as viewing and clicking site elements that indicate intent to purchase — with our patented Roxanne™ Event Tracking. Each anonymous visitor is then classified into a type of shopper, giving our team and partners a view into what percentage of their traffic is likely to purchase soon.
THE SIGNAL IS GROWING STRONGER
As we look forward, we’re continuing to see signs of consumer enthusiasm for near-term car buying as some of our most important metrics across CARS are on the rise.
CARS DATA PULSE
Dealer Website Traffic, Cars.com Traffic, and DealerRater Review Volume
From more interested shoppers entering the market on Cars.com, to more serious shopping behavior on dealer websites, to more engagement and reviews on DealerRater, there are more consumers entering and moving through the sales funnel towards our local dealers.
DEALER WEBSITE LEADS (NATIONWIDE)
4/30/20 Dealer Inspire NetworkSites
A key callout here is leads: submissions are picking up across dealer websites across the country, further indicating that hopefully, especially with Memorial Day around the corner, buying activity will grow in the near future.
PREDICTING THE NEXT 10 DAYS
But we also want to see what the near-future might hold after the success of our last forecast. Taking all of these inputs into our modeling algorithms, we have a new projection charting the first few weeks of May.
NATIONAL SALES MODELING [+10 DAYS]
4/30/20 National Auto Sales Forecasts, powered by Roxanne®
While perhaps not as dramatic as the previous period, the data still clearly indicates the industry is continuing in the stages of a rebound — which is supported by Roxanne’s strongest leading indicator for vehicle purchases: Engaged Shoppers — those buyers who we see across networks are in the final stages before making a purchase decision — are up +5.35% WoW across all of DI sites.
NATIONAL SALES MODELING [+10 DAYS]
4/30/20 National Auto Sales Forecasts powered by Roxanne®(detailed)
Our models aren’t showing a statistically-significant change for almost any state except 4:
2. West Virginia
All other state models predict no statistically significant changes to sales volume over the next 10 days.
Both the reports and models are encouraging, but we’re still in the early stages of understanding the extent of this rebound. While signs point to a surge due to Memorial Day Sales Events and pent-up demand, it will not be an easy road returning to pre-covid levels — so it’s critical that dealers adapt their digital strategy and customer experience for this environment long-term. And insight on how we might do that comes from our friends at DealerRater®.
Note: In our next blog we will review the results of these sales predictions and fine-tune our modeling to project the following week.
DEALERRATER®: THE REVIEWS ARE IN
As a Data Scientists, quantitative data sets allow us to infer stories, but analyzing qualitative data lets us unpack stories that are already being told. With the backdrop of COVID-19 a key connection between dealers and customers was abruptly shut off: beginning March 20th and for a period of approximately 5 weeks Google suspended review submissions through Google My Business™. DealerRater® however never stopped collecting, and has posted over 56K reviews for dealers in the last 30 days alone, providing a third dimension for us to measure not just overall industry activity but consumer sentiment. As expected, DealerRater review volume nicely mirrors the trends we see from Cars.com and Dealer Inspire national traffic:
DEALERRATER REVIEW VOLUME
National Automotive Reviews
But a powerful insight comes when we consider what consumers are actually saying in those reviews. To better understand how the Coronavirus is impacting the consumer experience at dealerships, we filtered through the 80K+ reviews left by customers since February and the early days of COVID-19 to see what key ideas, if any, were emerging among car-shoppers.
Drilling down into the data, the vast majority of dealers who are providing online solutions during COVID-19 appear to be doing it the right way — and customers are grateful — as positive reviews related to COVID related-terms outstrip negative reviews nearly 30 to 1:
When we look closely at the most commonly used terms in those reviews, the themes are clear: customers are focused on delivery, cleanliness, and overall safety measures.
While it may seem like a no-brainer, as our industry adjusts to home-shopping behaviors we can’t forget that the customer’s driveway is the new showroom experience, and the moment of home delivery is just as crucial for building long-term loyalty as any in-store delivery process. While most are doing it right, it’s critical we all inspect the expectations we’re setting with shoppers across our digital platforms.
Just because delivery isn’t happening on our lots, doesn’t mean the experience is outside our control.
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING.
While we all can afford to be cautiously optimistic about the coming weeks, we still have a long road ahead of us until the active shoppers and sales get back to pre-coronavirus levels. Together, we have to adapt by executing more of the car buying process digitally for the foreseeable future. This is a critical time to focus on:
Being digitally visible to in-market shoppers with strong merchandising, giving consumers the details and vehicle photography to make confident decisions online.
Providing shopping tools that allow consumers to easily go deeper into the buying process from home, including quickly narrowing their search and determining their personalized payment plan.
Being available to home shoppers with the ability to walk them through the vehicle and the buying process remotely, whether over the phone, texting, or video chat.
As your partner, we are here to help future-proof your dealership for uncertain times like these. Do not hesitate to reach out to our team to discuss deploying strategies and solutions that will work for your dealership’s approach to serving customers over the coming weeks and months.
Dealer Inspire, a CARS company, is a leading disruptor in the automotive industry through our innovative culture, legendary service, and kick-ass website, technology, and marketing solutions. Our mission is to future-proof local car dealerships by building the essential, mobile-first platform that makes automotive retail faster, easier, and smarter for both shoppers and dealers. Headquartered in Naperville, our team of over 600 work friends is spread across the United States and Canada, pushing the boundaries and getting **** done every day, together.
Dealer Inspire offers an inclusive environment that celebrates collaboration and thinking differently to solve the challenges our clients face. DI is committed to giving back to its communities and providing opportunities for employees to do the same. Our shared success continues to lead to rapid growth and positive change, which opens up opportunities to advance your career to the next level by working with passionate, creative people across skill sets.
Check out the top five reasons employees love to work here, and why you should too:
1. We Take Time to Focus on You
Our success has been built by the hardworking people here at DI. Each of our employees has the grit and determination needed to solve any challenges they face. We take the time to mentor each of our employees and help establish their strengths and weaknesses so that we can manage and support each individual effectively. DI offers several opportunities and events for employees to further add to their careers, such as employee trainings, and programs like GROW, which allows employees to explore different career paths. We also host a Summit twice a year where everyone comes together to help educate, align, and work on a shared vision.
2. You Will Be Challenged
When working in the automotive technology industry, change is inevitable, and with change comes challenges. Dealer Inspire views every challenge as an opportunity to innovate our products and overall efficiencies. If you are looking to challenge and push yourself, DI is a great place to do so. Employees encourage each other every day to come up with new ideas and provide innovative strategies for clients. Our employees are always pleased with the work they do but never satisfied mentality, even when it comes to our products. We are always working to adapt and improve.
3. We Have Fun
DI has a steady work hard play hard mentality. Here at DI, we like to get things done, but we also love to have some fun. Luckily, DI offers a wide variety of ways to get involved and have fun, inside and outside work, including soccer, bowling, and softball leagues. DI is also a remote-friendly workplace. So friendly, that every Friday, all employees are allowed to work from home, which is awesome, but the only thing more awesome than working from home is working while surrounded by dogs, because those who choose to come into the office on Friday’s are welcome to bring their dogs in for DI Dog days.
4. We Invest in the Community
We appreciate the Naperville and Chicagoland communities and how supportive they have been as we continue our success, so we do what we can to help give back to them. We run several different programs to help give back. Programs like InspireU, which is a one-day digital marketing competition that helps nonprofits by working with students to help them design and build real digital marketing campaigns. We also have a large philanthropy team, which is dedicated to helping our local partners, such as Loaves & Fishes, and Aurora Strong.
With programs like Refuel, we give back to both the communities and employees at once. Refuel is a special one-day event that brings inspirational speakers and coaches to Naperville to give back and help everyone reach their personal goals. Here at DI, we understand how important it is to give back to our employees and thank them for the incredible work they do. We offer our employees a wide variety of personal benefits, including tuition reimbursement, for those employees who wish to further their education, a fully stocked kitchen and fridge in Naperville, a flexible work environment, full benefits, 401k plan, employee stock purchase plan, and many many more!
5. True to Our Tenets
The core of who we are and the values that define us can be summed up by the five tenets, and every day, we strive to align our actions and everything we do to match those five tenets. Those tenets are Communication, Innovation Transparency, Learn and Give.
Do you feel like your skillset and drive is a match with our company and culture? Click below to discover more about the exciting employment opportunities that are available at Dealer Inspire.
Wow, what a year! From being acquired by Cars.com in February of 2018, to the multiple platform and product improvements we rolled out the past 365 days – join us as we take a look back and chart our growth in our never ending quest to be the essential digital platform partner for your dealership.
Jan 12, 2018 – Meet Ana Bot
To kick off 2018, we introduced our A.I powered chatbot, Ana, into Conversations℠. Ana has an ever growing set of skills including the ability to greet shoppers, answer questions, capture leads and even provide trade-in estimates.
Since coming online, Ana has been saving our clients tons of time by answering many of their customers questions on her own – freeing up BDC and Sales teams to focus on other sales, service and retention related activities.
February 14, 2018 – Cars.com Acquires Dealer Inspire
Early on in 2018, it was announced that Cars.com had acquired Dealer Inspire. This union created a dynamic duo that is now able to drive digital dealer solutions forward by providing the most comprehensive set of products and services for dealers to generate sales and efficiencies
As you’ll see below, it didn’t take long for our two companies to begin working together to combine our technologies in our never ending quest to help you future proof your dealership. You can expect this kind of innovative collaboration to continue in 2019 as well. Join us at NADA 2019 for a sneak peek at what’s coming!
February 23, 2018 – New Conversations℠ iOS Mobile App
Towards the end of February, we released version 3.0 of our iOS mobile app for Conversations℠, which was nearly a complete rebuild. Like with previous versions of the app, v3.0 allows teams to quickly connect and convert shoppers on the move, with all the same features of the full Conversations℠ platform just a tap away. What new is crazy fast performance and a cleaner design that gets out of your way and helps you complete chats (much) quicker.
Still haven’t tried the latest version of the app yet? Get it today in the App Store or on Google Play.
March 2, 2018 – Conversations Integrated on Cars.com
It took all of two and a half weeks for the Cars.com and Dealer Inspire teams to introduce their first collaborative offering, post acquisition. In March we began integrating Conversations℠ into the Cars.com marketplace so dealers can connect with their humongous audience of in-market shoppers in real-time, 24/7 — at no additional cost to Conversations℠ customers.
When a Cars.com shopper has a question about one of your vehicles, they can now easily start a chat right from the VDP. Ana Bot will greet the shopper, and answer any basic questions herself. If the shopper has a question that Ana can’t handle, she’ll seamlessly pass it on the your managed chat team to take it from there.
May 26, 2018 – Advanced Conversations℠ Reporting
We’re always striving to bring more value to our clients, and in May of 2018 we rolled out advanced Conversations℠ reporting to give each individual dealership more advanced real-time insight into their team’s chats with customers.
What kind of real-time stats you ask? Well how about a complete breakdown of your incoming chats (over any custom period), and how your team performed in terms of answering chats promptly and converting them into leads. You now also have greater insight into how many opportunities are being missed so you can work on your overall responsiveness. If your team ever needs some coaching, our training team is always here for you!
June 1, 2018 – Enter The Knowledgebase
As summer approached, we rolled out an updated version of the Dealer Inspire Knowledgebase, a vast and easy-to-use resource that helps you maximize the powerful features and capabilities of your DI products.
With access to video walkthroughs, step-by-step tutorials, best practices, webinars and more, the Knowledgebase is full of new ways your team can increase efficiencies and sales. If there’s one thing you can do in 2019 to further upgrade your own automotive digital marketing game, it’s to get your team acclimated with the DI Knowledgebase!
June 10, 2018 – Flexible Appointment Scheduling with Ana Bot
Since she first started having conversations, Ana Bot had been dutifully setting up website visitors with test drives and service appointments. Originally, Ana used to require a specific date and time from the customer, and would get thrown for a loop by users who requested appointment times saying something like “the earliest time available” or “anytime on Friday”. After some focused machine learning directed by our engineers, we gave Ana the natural ability to lighten up and she began collecting contact info on unspecified appointments, allowing your team to then follow up.
August 3, 2018 – Facebook Marketplace Integration
Earlier in the year, Facebook selected Cars.com as a certified inventory provider for Facebook Marketplace. Again, our two companies were able to collaborate together to give our mutual clients who have Conversations℠ and used inventory listed on Cars.com the ability to reach over one million daily active car shoppers on Facebook Marketplace and collect chat leads through Conversations℠ 24/7.
This connection furthers our mission to help you as a car dealer reach shoppers wherever their sh
August 11, 2018 – Ana Bot’s New Skill: Trade-In Estimates
The team was busy over the summer building out more features for Conversations℠ and Ana Bot. In August, Ana was given a new skill that allows her to generate enticing trade-in estimates based on just a few easy questions through chat, and then naturally schedule an appointment for an appraisal (and new car!) in the course of conversation.
Applying her complete knowledge of all vehicle models, Ana is able to ask about trims, engines, drivetrains, cab sizes, and more to calculate a VIN-accurate estimate. Her calculations are based off real-time market data, but dealers can build in custom margins for the estimates she shows too.
September 1, 2018 – Digital Retailing is Automatic with Online Shopper℠
In 2016, we launched Online Shopper℠ with the technology to take the entire car buying experience online, from customizing real-time bank offers to scheduling delivery. But in 2018, after analyzing engagement data from over 100,000 consumers, we re-engineered Online Shopper℠ to work on its own without any dealer intervention.
Our insights into the data proved to be accurate, because once we rolled out the new version of Online Shopper on our client’s websites, we saw that the personalized, customizable shopping experience, was quickly doubling and sometimes even tripling their lead volume almost immediately.
October 23, 2018 – Lightning Inventory with Voice Search
Lighting Search was an idea that was born out of our never-ending mission to make car buying as fast and easy as possible. When searching with Lightning, consumers will see more relevant vehicles instantly with each letter they type, and if they don’t feel like typing, they can just tell the website what they want!
We’re proud to say that with the introduction of Lightning, we became the first automotive website platform with voice search. How awesome is that?!
December 1, 2018 – Introducing Metal℠ IMS
To close out the year we began a beta program for Metal℠, our new IMS that accelerates turn using real-time API synchronization and lightning-quick controls, empowering you to move metal faster than any of your competitors.
THANK YOU 🙏🙏🙏
We feel we can sum up everything that happened in 2018 with one simple statement: Through our innovative (kick-ass) culture, legendary service and mobile first technology, we were able to deliver scalable solutions that challenged our partners to provide the best customer experience.
It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without our valued client partners and the entire DI team. If you’re as pumped up as we are about what we were able to accomplish together in 2018, strap yourself in and get ready for 2019, because what we have on the road map for the new year is going to take us all to the next level of awesomeness.
It started with a simple Slack message from one of our Performance Managers, “Hey Jason, my client just received a beacon from Google and they’re not sure why. Do you know what’s going on?”.
That message led to a quick phone call where I described what these Google Beacons are, how they work, and what they can do for a local business. It wasn’t too long after that I got another question about beacons, and then another! That’s when I realized that Google’s beacons were magically showing up at our dealer partners’ doors across the country, and if I was half the blogger I think I am, I needed to whip up a detailed post giving you the full scoop right here, right now!
So if you received one of Google’s beacons and still don’t know what it is or what it does, this blog is for you!
Project Beacon by Google
Google recently launched a new pilot program called Project Beacon. As a part of this program, Google is sending beacons (for free) to businesses with physical locations in an effort to make their venues more visible to customers with mobile devices while they’re within your venue.
So if you’re reading this and you received a Google Beacon, then you have been chosen to participate in this pilot program. Hooray!
Seems easy enough.
Wait A Sec…What Exactly Are Beacons?
Good question, lets back it up a second here. Beacons in general are small, Bluetooth-powered devices that transmit one-way data picked up by smartphones within the proximity of the beacon’s signal.
Probably the easiest way to think about a beacon is to think about a lighthouse. But instead of emitting light to nearby sea vessels to designate a location, beacons emit a Bluetooth radio signal to accomplish the same goal.
Who Is Receiving Beacons From Google?
Google is sending beacons to select businesses who use Google’s advertising services and have enabled location extensions.
If you didn’t receive a beacon, and really want one, you can request one for free from Google as long as you meet the above criteria. Please note though that not everyone who requests a beacon will get one. But hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?
What Are The Benefits To Using Google’s Beacon?
Google’s Beacons help mobile devices more accurately determine a user’s location when location services on their device are enabled. Because your store’s actual physical location is programmed within your beacon, your phone will then use the signal from the beacon to understand that the user is actually physically in your store – as opposed to relying on other, less accurate location based signals.
A simpler way to say it is that with a beacon, your phone will know exactly where you are, as opposed to guessing where you are.
This is extremely beneficial when your place of business is located within a shopping center, auto mall, or any other location where numerous businesses are all located very close to each other.
According to Google, by activating and using the beacon they sent you, you can:
Help your business show up on personal maps or saved places, where users have opted in to Location History.
Gather photos, reviews, and other user-generated content for your business from people who’ve actually visited.
Provide features like popular times and typical visit duration to help customers plan their visit to your business.
Help provide Location Insights about how customers engage with your store.
Access more features as they become available.
I’ll touch base on a couple of these benefits specifically here in a second. But first, let’s clarify something…
Some non-Google beacons, from Estimote.
What’s The Difference Between Google’s Beacon and Other 3rd Party Beacons?
There’s no shortage of beacons that you can buy from Amazon or directly through the companies that manufacture them such as Kontakt.io. However, those beacons differ from the ones Google is sending out via Project Beacon from the standpoint that unlike Google’s, the 3rd party beacons aren’t pre-programmed to do anything out of the box. It’s up to you to develop and implement proximity based experiences for your users.
Sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Want to learn more about the Google Beacon Platform for Developers? Click here.
Will The Beacon Influence Store Visit Conversion Tracking?
While Google doesn’t mention it specifically, it would make sense that having an active Google Beacon will help increase the location accuracy of the customers who walk through your door, thus potentially impacting Store Visit Conversion Tracking in AdWords (now Google Ads).
If you’re not up to speed on Store Visit Conversion Tracking, Cara Garvey, our Paid Search Director, has the scoop,
Store Visit conversions are a new metric available only to select Google Partners that allow advertisers to see the exact influence paid search has on walk-in traffic. Google models anonymized data to reflect store visits from ad clicks. This information is extrapolated from users who are logged into Google on their mobile device when visiting that location after clicking on an ad. For our clients, this is huge—it closes the gap between actions taken online and in real life by their customers and lets the determine the actual ROI of their PPC spend (which, as it turns out, is AH-MAHZING).
Google Beacon helps you collect more user generated content
Will Using Google’s Beacon Impact My SEO?
One of the questions I’ve been asked regarding the beacons is if by having one will your SEO, specifically Local SEO, get a ranking boost in applicable search results?
The short answer is no; simply having a beacon with not directly pump up your visibility in local search results.
However, the beacon can indirectly influence your Local SEO. Here’s how…
As mentioned above, the beacon will help you gather photos, reviews, and other user-generated content for your business from people who’ve actually visited.
By using your Google Beacon, location services enabled users who visited your business will receive a notification on their phone proactively asking them to leave a review and/or upload pictures that were taken at your location.
Let that sink in for a second….
It just so happens that Google My Business Review and Engagement Signals are two of the many Local SEO ranking factors their algorithm takes into consideration when providing local search results.
So yes, indirectly your beacon can help improve your Local SEO.
In my opinion, if you received one of these beacons from Google, USE IT! The benefits of indirectly strengthening Local SEO signals for your business as well as improving the accuracy of your Store Visit Conversion Tracking make it more than worth the cost…and it was free…sooooo yeah.
Also, this is a great way to become familiar with beacon technology in general. There’s actually all kinds of cool things you could implement with a well-planned beacon infrastructure, especially at a car dealership. Imagine if:
When a customer walked through your door, they received a notification with a link to your current vehicle specials on your website.
As a customer approached your service drive, they got a message with instructions on what to do upon entering.
Your showroom vehicles had beacons that transmit links to your website with more stats, specs, and videos for each individual vehicle.
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and willingness to invest in the technology.
Questions and Comments
Do you have more questions about Project Beacon or beacon technology in general? Have you received a Google Beacon? Let us know what’s on your mind in the comments section below.
One of the largest privately-owned group of companies in the western United States unveils entirely refreshed website.
When the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies addressed the need to redesign their website, they faced the same challenges any other company might encounter, along with a few other wrinkles: 80 wrinkles, to be exact. Larry H. and Gail Miller purchased their first auto dealership in 1979 in Murray, Utah, and since then, their company has grown to include more than 59 dealerships throughout the West, as well as the NBA’s Utah Jazz, minor league sports franchises, media outlets, multiple theatre complexes, sports apparel stores, and a variety of other automotive, financial, sports, and real estate companies. They needed a site that communicated the breadth, depth, and scope of their group without looking like a digital version of a phone book. The company turned to Naperville, Illinois-based Launch Digital Marketing (LDM) to help solve their digital dilemma.
Balancing the demand for a visually engaging site while still being easy for visitors to navigate was the top priority for Jack Sanford, Director of Communications of the Group. “When we began the redesign of our corporate website,” Sanford said, “I feared being overwhelmed by the scope of the work and that I would end up settling for something less than our original vision.”
With so many moving pieces, LDM understood his concern; making big things happen for clients is the norm for the award-winning digital agency. “We think, create, and target with innovative clients who want to push the limits of digital,” said Caitlin DiMare-Oliver, Chief Technology Officer for LDM. From the outset, the Larry H. Miller Group’s dream website was going to test those limits.
“The Launch team not only delivered on our vision but took it to another level,” commented Sanford when the site went live. “They created a fantastic-looking site with stunning functionality. Moreover, it was designed, developed, and deployed on budget and ahead of schedule.”
LDM challenges their clients to think bigger and considers them as partners the whole way. “We build and tweak together based on our customers’ unique strengths and challenges,” said DiMare-Oliver. “Collaboration at every level is key to creating websites that win.”
For Sanford and the Larry H. Miller Group, they got a “win” and much more. “Launch found solutions and managed emergencies when other entities and resources couldn’t,” noted Sanford. “When it comes to web design, there are plenty of companies that talk a good game, but Launch Digital Marketing makes it happen.”
In the early days of the Internet (1991-1996), web forms were rarely ever found. Customer feedback was sent through executable files running on hard disks. If a user wanted to subscribe to a service, they usually had to download a form, fill it out by hand, and send it through the postal mail. Once forms did start to surface on the Web, they looked pretty ugly, unable to utilize CSS to make them all nice.
Today, forms are found every where and entice users to fill them out in all sorts of ways, and the automotive industry takes them pretty seriously.
So why should you care about these forms? What happens when you click ‘submit’? How do they benefit the dealer, the service provider, and the customer?
Before I discuss these aforementioned questions, let’s take a quick peek at three important aspects of forms that you should know. I think of them as the 3 three-letter acronyms of my day.
A markup language for encoding documents in a way that both a computer and a human can read clearly. The design was purposefully chosen to create a usable data format across the Web. If you were to Right-Click on this page and select something like “View Page Source,” you would see something similar to XML; this is called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). HTML has a similar idea behind it as XML, also known as Extensible Markup Language. Together they write out our digital lives.
A set of XML-based standards set by a collaboration of 13 different automotive-focused Internet companies, known as Auto-lead Data Format. Information is organized into five overall categories: Lead, Vehicle, Customer, Vendor, and Service. Each category may feature a set of more specific tags. Did you happen to Right-Click the page? Try again and imagine those words between the “<, >” to be automotive jargon.
A popular location where an ADF can be sent in order to keep the data organized and readily available. CRM stands for Customer Retention Management and many service providers accept these as a submission.
So let’s say that a customer is interested in a car. He or she goes online to gain additional information. Older communication methods would include sending an email or even a fax to the dealer. The idea of an ADF is to gather specific information from the web form and structure it out so that the information does not cause any confusion. Today, the customer finds a fancy looking form and fills that out in a matter of seconds. I think of the ADF as the missing mediator in this case — it is a filter the automotive industry uses to help information go from the customer to the dealer in a fast, efficient, and universal manner. After the customer fills out an appealing form on the dealer’s website, the data is organized by the ADF, which is then sent to the CRM for the dealer to access. This is all done just by clicking that ‘submit’ button on the form.
This is important for all interested parties. Let’s take a brief look at some of the benefits.
Customer: Faster and more accurate service and sales requests.
Service Provider: Improved leads from dealer and reduced use of older communication methods.
Dealers: More sales, customer satisfaction, organized leads, lower training costs, reduction in entry errors, and proactively ready for the next sales automation software.
Well, there you have it — forms enable an effective way to communicate a wide array of information from customer to dealer.