Tag Archives: cars

3 real time carsales metrics


I’ve spent the best part of the past 18 years leveraging the power of data in the online classifieds space.

When you have millions of consumers searching and finding their next car on a country’s number 1 automotive portal like carsales, Encar, Chileautos or Webmotors, data can invariably tell thousands of stories.


Here’s a few powerful “real time” metrics that only a carsales is able to provide with any credibility in their respective country’s car retail market:

Supply and demand
The Days Supply metric is one of my favourites, as it provides real value and something more accurately in the used car market that I don’t think can be replicated. It shows whether supply outstrips demand and vice versa. The beauty of Days Supply is that it can be measured for makes, models, versions, etc and for different geographical regions.

So if you were say a Melbourne metropolitan new car Dealer and a buyer has a 2015 Mitsubishi ASX as a trade in, a vehicle your used car team knows little about. Wouldn’t it be great to know that this model is the most sought after vehicle in Melbourne from a supply and demand perspective for vehicles that are less than 8 years old, have less than 60,000 kms and an average asking price of over $20,000?

What this means is that in the past 60 days 116 were sold but there are only 29 for sale which gives a Days Supply metric of 15 meaning that supply of this model for sale will run out in 15 days. Supply and demand says this is a car you should stock (all things being equal with the acquisition price).

Using the carsales LiveMarket Stocking feature, here’s the hottest used vehicles in Melbourne at 27 July 2017 (using the parameters above).

This list can be a pretty handy shopping list and reference point for any used car dealer.

Whilst Days Supply has been in available in Australian Dealers for some time, it hasn’t been used extensively from a buying perspective whilst some of the most profitable used car operations in the US use this metric to make great buying decisions.

Competitive sets
What better way of knowing what the competitive set is of a model of a car than comparing the models a consumer is searching, viewing and enquiring on?

We see millions consumers searching and finding their next car. Most consumers do not what they are going to buy next when they start their car finding journey on carsales. We see them search, view cars, narrow the search, view more cars, save cars in their Membership and finally enquire on cars, usually more than one.

By analysing this activity, we can categorically provide the true competitive set of each model of car and more often than not, the true competitive set is a little (or a lot) different to what the OEM thought was the competitive set for most cars.

The beauty of these data sets is that is always being updated and available virtually real time meaning that fluctuations in any competitive sets is quickly seen, providing enormous value to any “always on” marketing campaign.

Brand loyalty
When a consumer puts an enquiry through on carsales, many include their trade-in details with the enquiry. This information gives us a real-time view on brand loyalty, before the car has been purchased! Post enquiry surveys can then provide another level and view on brand loyalty too.

Comparing the make of a car being enquired to the make of the trade-in vehicle nominated immediately gives us a picture of brand loyalty. If I am enquiring on a Toyota Landcruiser and in the enquiry I include my Land Rover Discovery 4 as a trade-in, I think there’s a pretty good chance that I am thinking of swapping my Disco for a Cruiser wouldn’t you think?

When I am surveyed about my experience on carsales and if I bought the car I enquired on, this then provides rock solid evidence towards the brand loyalty indicator.

Using this data, brand loyalty can be measured daily and is accurate as opposed to waiting for registration details or OEM surveys.

The take out
These metrics are just three of a plethora of such metrics that carsales, Encar, Chileautos and Webmotors has available to benefit OEMs and Dealers, whether it be for effective advertising, pricing, appraising or buying cars.


Why Australia was different in online auto


Around 12 months I wrote a post titled “Why Australia was different to the US, UK & Canada”.

Here’s another angle to why Australia was different in the online auto classifieds space.

From an auto, jobs and real estate classifieds perspective in Australia, the old school media giants missed out online, big time.

With the exception of News Limited’s $2.2m acquisition for 40% of Realestate.com.au back in 2002 (which is now risen to 61% of over $8b value at time of writing), the media heavyweights in Australia being News, Fairfax and later Sensis (Telstra), especially with their $636m acquisition of the Trading Post in 2004, really missed the boat.

I can make educated guesses about how/why News and Fairfax failed in jobs and real estate classifieds online but I’ll concentrate now on the auto online vertical where my experience is much stronger.

The way they approached it was different and they did different things wrong.

News were too late to the party with Carsguide. Their first online auto go was Newsmotoring which didn’t even leverage their Carsguide offline brand and when they launched Carsguide online in 2003 it was too late. This should have been done in 1995! Isn’t hindsight beautiful.

Fairfax launched Drive online early but (in my opinion) didn’t leverage offline anywhere near well enough. Maybe this was because they were trying to protect the riches of their offline asset?

To highlight my point, when carsales started it was called Carz.com.au because you couldn’t register a generic name as a domain in Australia back then.

Then one Friday the Drive newspaper lift out had a computer on the front with a car crashing out of it with the caption which read something like “carsales.com.au – the end of the used car salesman?”.

So here we have Fairfax through its Drive newspaper brand brandishing an alertnative auto domain to their drive.com.au brand on the front of their lift-out and worse, no one owned the carsales.com.au domain – for long……the guys at Carsz.com.au saw the lift-out, checked the status of the domain, registered it and carsales was born.

Additionally, in both News and Fairfax’s cases, they had opportunities to acquire carsales early and didn’t. Again, I think they were trying to protect offline.

Sensis did a few things wrong. The number one thing was that an online classifieds site was way out of their core competency (I would have thought that they learnt that lesson 5 years earlier in 1999 when they spent millions trying to launch an auto online classifieds site and failed).

The second thing was that with Auto being the biggest part of Trading Post, by 2004 it was too late to win Auto online, especially with their lack of online expertise.

But from an operational point I actually don’t think they did too much wrong in terms of execution except that their thinking was protection of their print legacy rather than online first.

Could they have really done anything more than they did? Maybe but I’m not really sure what; the horse had bolted very, very quickly and before they knew it, the game was over.

The fact is that each of them did what has been done in virtually every other country but they ran into the perfect storm that carsales created.

As soon as carsales moved from the “pay per listing” model (which was/is used by 99% of online classified players) to the “pay per lead” model the game was up for News and Fairfax’s online auto transition from offline and Sensis’ new foray into online classifieds (even before they had started).

carsales made changes to its website to drive leads to dealers, at the same time the model encouraged dealers to put all their inventory online and the inventory was always refreshed because dealers didn’t want to pay for leads on sold cars.

In the same year carsales moved its private seller to pay until sold which saw a sharp increase in private sellers which in turn drove traffic and brought more buyers of dealers cars. The perfect storm.

For dealers, leads quickly became the way that online automotive websites were measured and no site could get near carsales for the number of leads a dealer would receive.

The reality was that no matter what the competitors did at that point and moving forward, the horse had bolted, carsales had won.

Traffic kept on growing as did leads and as a result, revenue just kept growing too.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all roses for carsales and did not come easily. They were incredibly smart and worked incredibly hard, after all the business decisions they made are what made them!

If the big media players did anything wrong (apart from the acquisition thing) it was not realizing earlier that the game was up; each of them kept throwing good money after bad thinking they could win.


1 out of 3 ain’t bad, apparently


To find a used car to buy before the Internet world we live in now, you would read the Trading Post or newspaper Classifieds and/or visit a good strip of multiple dealers close by so you didn’t have to run around too far.

Today it is so much easier to see all the cars for sale online in the one place but that in itself can make it somewhat harder as you second guess yourself and try to do everything to ensure you are getting a fair price.

I’ve just been through the car buying process again and can confirm that buying a car can still be hard work and stressful, even with all the information available today.

This was the process I recently went through.

The first step was to narrow down a few makes and models. I did that by searching through carsales, saving the cars in the member area, reviewing, culling and finally coming up with a model choice.

This part is definitely easier with lots of photos, information and great tools to help the search for the right car.

The second step was to visit a dealer to test drive the model I selected. As soon as got to the dealership another model jumped out as “car of interest” so I test drove both models. The new choice of model got the nod.

The third step was to get back onto carsales to find the right deal. I narrowed it down to three cars so I submitted enquiries on two of them as the third one was at the dealer I visited the previous weekend. Both dealers were prompt in contacting me which was great and I indicated to both that I would be visiting their dealership the coming Saturday.

The third step was to visit the dealer to check the cars out. I went out to the first dealer and headed into the new car sales as the car I had enquired on was listed on carsales as a new car demonstrator vehicle with a few thousand kms.

When I asked for the sales person I spoke to on the phone I was directed to the used car section. This was strange. Even stranger was the actual kms on the car – 27. Not 2,700, not 27,000, just 27. This was a new car. Being sold in the used car section. WTBH (What The Bloody Hell).

I asked the sales person the obvious question – Why? “The new car department is too busy so we are helping them out”, was the reply. It didn’t gel. I checked over the exterior of the car closely and found an obscure little divot that looked very much like a hail divot. This has to be why it is in the used car yard.

I asked the sales person if this car was a hail damaged car. “No, we don’t have hail damaged cars” was the response. I showed him the divot. He looked surprised, reiterated his answer, I questioned again so he said he’d check and waddled off to the office.

He came back five minutes later and said “Yeah, well it is a hail damage car. That’s why the price is so great. There’s only the one divot, it’s a new car in every aspect with the 5 year new car warranty, capped price services and all that”. Yes there’s only one divot, that we can see now. How many were fixed?

Ok, so 3 questions and 1 straight answer. Further to that, the car was advertised online as a new car demonstrator vehicle with a few thousand kms on the clock with no mention of it being a new car with hail damage. This is clearly misleading.

I ask the question now – which approach is better? To mislead and lie per my experience just described or to have advertised the car as “A great deal to be had, brand new car with minor hail damage, 5 year new car warranty, capped servicing, don’t miss out!”.

I don’t quite get it out but then again as I have had pointed out to me many times before, I’ve never actually sold a car (my previous cars sold themselves)


Which carsales moves were most critical?


After an article I wrote a little while ago (6 moves that drove carsales) I was asked by a number of people “were there any one of these moves that if not made, could have been terminal for carsales?”.

The 6 moves I talked about were introducing Private Sellers, adopting the Sell Your Car Until Sold model for Privates, moving to the Lead Model for Dealers, Acquired Trader Assets (cars, bikes, boats, etc), creation of Mediamotive and the implementation of an All Car Search, all in chronological order.

It’s a really interesting question and really who knows; I’ll have an educated guess nonetheless remembering I was not in the carsales business for ANY of the 6 moves I talked about although I was very close in running DMi, an independent technology/data services provider working with carsales’ competitors.

I can safely say that if carsales hadn’t have introduced the Lead Model in 2002 they would have been in a lot of trouble and most probably terminal.

At the time they were one of 3-4 auto vertical sites with the same business model trying to make a dollar; none were profitable and carsales was the only business whose sole focus was the online auto vertical space.

Almost immediately the currency for ALL websites listing dealer cars online was the number of leads they delivered and because of this model and the actions around it (like the mandated use of Autogate Lead Management), carsales were delivering a minimum of 4-5 times the leads of their competitors.

They had differentiated themselves from their competitors with a profitable business model and had created the ultimate barrier to exit for dealers – they become an integral part of the process for dealers to sell cars.

carsales made the car buying process all about the car and not about who was selling it. This flew in the face of virtually every dealer at the time who were convinced it was their brand, the dealership, that drove the sale.

Do people really care who they buy a used car from? No, they care about getting the right car at a fair price. This was true then and holds true today.

So what about the other points? Well, there could be an argument mounted that if they hadn’t have introduced private sellers in 2000 they may not have made it to 2002 for the next two important moves.

When they introduced Sell Your Car Until Sold (also in 2002), there is no doubt that this pushed their private seller business to relative levels no other auto classified vertical site in the world has reached.

But the fact that this was done in the same year as the Lead Model makes it hard to say that if they hadn’t had made the move it could have been terminal. In isolation, yes.

As for the last 3 moves, no they would NOT have made carsales terminal had they not been made. These moves just helped to accelerate the business.

Acquiring the Trader assets was very nice, gave the company added breadth and strengthened their offering but if it wasn’t done, carsales was going nowhere.

Establishing Mediamotive has been fantastic for the business in terms of diversifying and maximising revenue but again, the business wouldn’t have been terminal.

Same with All Car Search; excellent differentiator and driver of sustained growth but not terminal if not done but did have high risk in terms of potentially reducing dealer leads in favour or private leads (this did not happen).

All 6 moves weren’t without a high degree of calculated risk even if they all wouldn’t have risked the company.

To reiterate, I wasn’t working with carsales for any of these moves but I was working with carsales’ competitors at the time and saw first hand the impact each move had on them.


Hindsight to be the next carsales


We’ve all talked with friends about super powers and asked each other which one you’d want. Mine would be the power of hindsight.

In my post The Hard Decision carsales had to Make, I talked about the leaders of Reynolds & Reynolds Australia using sound business acumen to make the right decision in persevering with carsales as a startup (it is now an ASX Top100 company with a market cap of ~$2.5b).

One of the learnings they used was the decision of Reynolds & Reynolds Inc out of Dayton, Ohio, to sell DealerNet.com in favour of being a business partner to Microsoft’s Carpoint.com.

Reynolds acquired DealerNet.com in 1995, the same year Autobytel was founded, and was one of the first online automotive classified sites in the US to list used cars. It was described as a “pioneer” in bring dealers to the Internet.

An article in Automotive News (26 June 1995) said ” DealerNet allows a computer user to hook on to the World Wide Web to get information on current car and truck models…..a consumer can get further information and even negotiate a deal via E-Mail – without ever stepping foot into a showroom”.

Reynolds was ahead of the curve with DealerNet.com with current day online heavyweights Autotrader.com and cars.com starting in 1997. Today each of them are worth billions of dollars as a couple of the leading online automotive classified sites in the world.

In the same year that these two now internet giants started, Reynolds sold DealerNet.com to The Cobalt Group so that it could focus on it’s non-equity strategic partnership with Microsoft’s Carpoint.com which was launched the previous year (1996).

When you look back now, this was a pretty big mistake no matter which way you look at it and would have been realized early.

So why did they make the decision to sell DealerNet.com?

Automotive News at the time said that Reynolds wanted to sell it to focus on its relationship with its new partner, Microsoft CarPoint.

They quoted the Reynolds director of online services saying “With CarPoint, we’re better able to fulfill our mission of linking dealers to buyers”.

The irony with this comment is that DealerNet.com, Reynolds had exactly the same assets as what Reynolds Australia had with carsales – they were the number 1 dealer management system provider to franchised new and used car dealers in the US.

What they didn’t have was the foresight that Reynolds Australia had – they couldn’t see that Microsoft had started CarPoint because it saw something big. Had Reynolds realized at the time that if this was a big enough opportunity for Microsoft to invest in then instead of taking a back seat and helping them try to build something big, they would have committed to DealerNet themselves.

The other irony is that CarPoint ultimately failed because it concentrated on new cars as opposed to used cars, using Reynolds as the link to the new car dealers instead of using Reynolds for integrating used cars online which is the path Reynolds Australia took to make carsales so successful in Australia.

Microsoft found that it was bloody hard building a profitable online automotive portal. They bet on the wrong horse (new cars).

If Reynolds were able to use hindsight they would have realized that if it was hard for them to build DealerNet.com, imagine how hard it will be for someone outside of the dealer eco system?

We’re never wrong hindsight, I know that but I wonder if there is anyone still at Reynolds who thinks “what if”.


6 moves that drove carsales


With carsales turning 20 this year, everyone seems to forget or fail to realise that for the first 5 or so years, carsales was not profitable and was fighting for the number 1 position with a number of (much bigger) players.

carsales had a (seemingly) unique advantage from the outset in terms of access to dealer inventory by virture of starting out of the number 1 dealer management system provider, Reynolds & Reynolds.

This is a snippet from the carsales’ website in February 1998 when there were just 9 dealers online (1 from South Australia, 4 from Western Australia, 4 from New South Wales):

But this wasn’t the silver bullet everything thought it was (some still think it is today funnily enough), things didn’t just happen for carsales though – they happened as a series of good, calculated business decisions that weren’t necessarily popular or seen as the best way forward at the time but each of them were winners.

Who have thought the “I’m Interested” Form would have been so influential:

Here’s 6 influential moves that drove carsales to where it is today:

Private Listings (2000): Despite having a seemingly huge advantage with unparelleled access to dealer inventory, carsales needed to find a way to drive traffic to the dealer’s cars especially since it didn’t have the seemingly huge advantage it’s competitors had – offline marketing presence. It’s leaders understood that “buyers are sellers and sellers are buyers” so if they could attract private listings on carsales these sellers would also be buyers (of dealer cars). Of course the dealers did not agree with this thinking as they were worried that nobody would look at dealer cars if cheaper private cars were also available for sale. We know who was right.

carsales September 2000:

Sell Your Car Until Sold (2002): Most automotive websites around the world are products of media groups, usually newspapers migrating online. Their model for selling was/is “pay me now for this edition, if it doesn’t sell pay me again to advertise again…and so on”. Translated, this means if I do a bad job helping you sell your car, pay me again. This makes sense for a newspaper as there are costs associated with re-publishing each edition but there is no (cost) reason for this model online. When carsales introduced a flat fee to sell your car until it was sold, private sellers lapped it up. It now made sense to sell your car where you are looking to buy.

Lead Model (2002): Like the previous point, the media groups and their online automotive off-shoots were all about sellers advertising their cars “for sale”. If carsales followed this lead, it would be tough to compete as there was no differentiation to its competitors who being propped up by their offline assets. The carsales leaders decided to change the paradigm by moving from “fee per listing” to a “fee per lead” model. Almost instantly carsales changed the currency of online automotive to leads and created a differentiation that helped propel the business. For dealers, the proposition was now not about “advertising” online but it was all about “selling” – the better they worked the leads they were paying for, the better their closing ratio and more cost effective their online “advertising” would be. It was a true win-win-win for dealers, consumers and carsales.

Acquired Trader Assets (2005): For a number of years there was speculation about “who was going to buy carsales”. Yahoo was the first to take a small stake in carsales in late 2000 which they on-sold to Fairfax in early 2005 but for the carsales’ leaders, each inquiry for acquisition was a takeover bid, something they did not want. The approach from PBL and the end result was different as it was about merging the complimentary assets for both sides to get a win-win (one plus one equals three…or ten as the saying goes). carsales acquired the Trader online assets in the deal in return for 41% of the business giving it the number 2 online auto player as well as number 1 online assets in bikes, boats, trucks, machinery, etc. adding an unparalleled depth to the business.

Mediamotive (2009): The move by carsales to create its own direct corporate sales presence was pivotal in the growth of the business around this time. By taking control of the display sales and recruiting seasoned experts, carsales was able to take its product directly to the buyers using analytical data to ensure a premium marketplace. The Mediamotive business has been a show point for carsales to all automotive classified marketplaces around the world such has been its effectiveness in delivering in a results driven environment.

carsales May 2009:

All Car Search (2009): This may not seen significant to some but by including all cars in the one user search was a great success for carsales. Once again they were ahead of curve in understanding that “all car buyers are new car buyers, it’s just some of them are used” (credit to Greg Roebuck for that quote). For the first time a user could search dealer used, private used, new cars in stock and new cars available in the one search meaning consumers who thought they couldn’t afford a new car, were presented with new cars directly comparable to used cars. There was a fear by some that leads on dealer cars would go down if a consumer could directly compare dealer and private seller cars in the one search given dealer cars are usually a little more expensive (to cover warranties, overheads, etc). Well the opposite was true, interest on dealer cars (new & used) increased and a whole new consumer experience was the result, another win-win-win.

Finally
Running an online business like carsales doesn’t just happen, it takes hundreds if not thousands of constant decision making moments (big and small) to ensure it first of all gets ahead of the curve and then stay there.


A Trade In Price is not a Retail Price


One thing the Internet has done to the car sales industry is (even further) blurred the line between a consumer’s view of a wholesale (trade in) price and a retail price.

When I say “blurred the line” I really mean “created an even greater divide”.

What do I mean here? Well, a consumer now has at their finger tips a proliferation of information on cars for sale, not only in their area but all over the country. Even more, this data is updated multiple times a day.

An important part of this information is the price of their car. This is where it is blurred as the car owner can easily see retail prices of the their car but rarely the wholesale or trade in price.

So when a consumer is buying a car from a car dealer and a trade in price is provided for their car, they are hit with “sticker shock” as they are conditioned on a retail price, usually the asking price and not even the sold price, further increasing the gap.

The end result is the consumer chooses to sell the car privately online and the dealer misses out on acquiring a good car to on sell.

carsales‘ Instant Offer goes a way to plugging this gap in bringing trade in cars to dealers as an option for private sellers selling privately.

Instant Offer is a great alternative for a consumer looking to sell their car quickly without the private seller process where our partner, a reputable wholesale buyer, will inspect your car to check that it matches the details submitted online and meets the offer conditions and will then offer you a wholesale price for your car (similar to the price a dealer would offer as a trade in).

While you may be offered slightly less for your car than you would selling through private channels, this is a quick and convenient method of sale which offers you next business day payment. From there the car will usually find itself for sale through the dealer network just like a trade in would.

It’s important to remember that wholesale prices (including trade in prices) will never be retail prices – they can’t be – but like retail, wholesale is negotiable and doesn’t have to be accepted.

At the end of the day it is in an auto verticals interests to ensure buyers and sellers (dealers and privates) have efficient methods to transact on cars in a retail and/wholesale environment.

Dealers and privates need to take advantage of the “network effect” a good online auto vertical brings. That is, the more sellers, the more buyers.


Who has the No 1 Auto Classified Website in the World?


What if I said to you that the number 1 online automotive vertical website in the world in October 2016 was Autoscout24.ch in Switzerland?

I can, for the first time, compare sites from different countries on the same measures…..based on my traffic health algorithm on 72 websites in 38 different countries

It is not unusual for us to visit a new country and have 3 players swear they are number 1 in online auto classifieds.

One points to traffic, another to inventory and another to dealers (who needs revenue and profit anyway?).

At the end of the day……making money has to be the overriding measurement

Everyone wants to be number 1 and it seems this is especially so in the online world where to claim yourself as the number 1 player in your niche is vital for advertisers, investors, etc.
20161206_autoscout24ch
This is hard enough to decipher within each country so how do we determine what automotive vertical website is the number 1 site globally?

From an online automotive vertical aspect, I see businesses claim number 1 in their country/region based on anything they can measure has them in front – visits, unique visitors, inventory count, dealer count – and the numbers can be near on impossible to test from outside the business.

You can’t do it by visits, inventory or dealers because a website operates in a country that has a large population with a huge car market will naturally have more visits, inventory and dealers – this does not make them the number 1 in the world.

I’ve wrestled with this for some time as carsales looks to strategically partner with more online automotive businesses around the world and I look at peers, competitors and targets so I’ve come up with a measure that for the first time doesn’t care how many visits, inventory or dealers are on the site.
20161206_encar
So getting back to who is number 1, how’d I come to this conclusion and what exactly is Autoscout24.ch number 1 in?

What I’ve done is created an index using a weighted algorithm for each automotive website around the world based on things that measure the health and stability of their traffic, namely user engagement and traffic sources. For me these metrics can tell you a lot about the online business and for the first time, I can measure websites from country to country on like for like data in order to get a picture of their real position in the market.

Like everything in online, one form of measurement doesn’t tell you the whole story but this index allows me to rank every website around the world to get an accurate picture of their traffic health irrespective of their traffic volume (although to get an “official” index a website must have over 100,000 publicly measurable monthly visits; this number is arbitrary).
20161206_chileautos
This means I can, for the first time, compare sites from different countries on the same measures. Traffic health should be pretty basic and each component would have individual focus within each business. Product teams would be all over user engagement metrics; SEO experts would be working to ensure the long tail of each website is indexable; and SEM spend would be closely monitored to ensure the right spend is getting the right results.

It’s pretty easy to correlate a high SEM spend, low direct traffic and a high bounce rate and what it means – poor traffic health – but as with most metrics to measure a number 1, they usually only tell part of the story.

In any case, based on my traffic health algorithm on 72 websites in 38 different countries, the top automotive vertical website in October 2016 was Autoscout24.ch (Switzerland) and businesses that are part of the carsales network including Encar.com (South Korea), Joinvillecarros.com.br (Brazil) and Chileautos.cl (Chile) are in the top 5 (the website rounding out the top 5 was Gebrauchtwagen.de in Germany).

Each of these websites has very strong user engagement metrics and extremely healthy, sustainable traffic sources.
20161206_joinvillecarros
It’s interesting that some countries and in fact continents have common traits in user engagement and/or traffic sources that flow through the websites.

The regional Brazilian website indexes do not surprise me given the regional focus in Brazil where dealers and consumers alike are somewhat parochial to regional automotive websites resulting in high user engagement and positive traffic sources which sees websites that are now part of the Webmotors network high up in this indexing including Blucarros.com.br, Joinvillecarros.com.br, Compreauto.com.br and Meucarango.com.br.
20161206_gebrouchtwagen
Anyway, my indexing algorithm gives me a great picture of where our peers, competitors, targets and carsales network sites are at around the world irrespective of the traffic they claim, inventory or dealer count.

At the end of the day, all of these websites are businesses and we all know that, as my esteemed former colleague used to remind me, “you can’t bank wank” – in other words, making money has to be the overriding measurement.


3 Keys to Converting Online Leads


carsales has successfully operated a business model centred around the value it delivers to its clients.

The billing mechanism is online leads delivered but the model is about the sale not the lead. This is applicable to all businesses using online as a sales mechanism, not just the auto industry.

It’s interesting in our business as some clients will convert 1 in 4 online leads to a sale and another client in the same city with a similar inventory mix will convert 1 in 8 leads. Why?
20161130_onlineleads
The answer comes back to the way each and every lead is treated where:

a) Those who sell 1 in 4 leads want more and more leads (because they know they are sales opportunities) to the point where they will call our support centre to see what is wrong when leads drop off because they know that it means their selling will drop off.

b) Those who sell 1 in 8 leads complain about the quality of leads.

Do the clients receive the same quality of leads? Yes, leads are not vetted to send the good ones to certain clients!

The keys to converting online leads are available to all businesses:

1 Treat each and every lead as a hot prospect – the person is sending a lead or calling because they want to buy from you or use your service. In our business, more often than not a sale is made on another car in the dealer’s inventory than the one enquired on.

2 Speed of response must be immediate and is paramount – first of all a template email response and then human follow up. Consumers regularly tell us they end up buying from the dealer who contacted them first or more to the point, some dealers just don’t respond or fail to follow point 1.

3 Track and measure all leads from all online sources in the one lead management system – this is especially so if you have sales people you are relying on to sell your products/services and look after your brand. Emails can be deleted and phone calls “didn’t come in” but not so in a lead management system where email leads are logged into the system and can’t be deleted. Calls are also logged and recorded.

When you think of it, it is kind of funny how some say the Internet (or carsales in the auto space) is making it hard to compete and making it too expensive.

We have far too many clients who follow these 3 steps and are successful online for it to be true.

Sometimes ROI attribution and accountability can be a scary proposition, especially in a changing world.

Maybe go back to the “good old days” and bring back the newspaper “rivers of gold”, that will fix it.


Premium Verticals Up Against The Freemiums


carsales.com runs a Premium marketplace in the online automotive vertical space.

As carsales takes investment positions in more global online auto businesses (auto vertical), we are more and more competing against some very large Freemium businesses like OLX and Mercado Libre across Latin America, with each of them being general classifieds sites (horizontals).

Horizontal’s have a role to play in getting rid of your old household items. A car is not one of these

Webmotors.com.br, Soloautos.mx, Chileautos.cl and Encar.com are all online Premium players in automotive competing against the horizontal Freemium players.
20160906_Soloautos
This is certainly not new to carsales as our largest competitor in Australia is also a horizontal. That’s not to say we don’t have serious competition from other Online auto vertical players in Australia; we’ve always faced this.

“The easiest way to get one million people paying is to get one billion people using.”

A Freemium website makes their money by charging for value added services once you have listed your item. I love Phil Libin’s (Evernote) quote “The easiest way to get one million people paying is to get one billion people using.” This is certainly what Freemiums focus on.

The Freemium general classified players of the world are following this by having a platform to advertise a car in the same way as your 8 year old couch; and it shouldn’t cut it for a car buyer or seller.

Remember this – a car is (almost) everyone’s second largest purchase in their life therefore deep information, CarFacts reports, inspection reports, reviews and above all else, trust and safety are all major factors and things only a Premium vertical online website is in a position to offer.
20160720_carfactsSEM
The role we play in each of our global markets is as the Premium and Premier online auto vertical player; this means we need to do cars better than anyone. From searching, finding, researching and buying to selling with everything you need to make a quick, safe and profitable sale.

Our goal is to help you sell as opposed to helping you advertise; this is a BIG difference. This goal is different to Freemium horizontal player who is more interested in getting towards the “billion people using” rather than making the experience of each and every user one that represents the investment each is making.

Horizontal’s have a role to play in getting rid of your old household items. A car is not one of these from a selling or buying perspective.
20160906_carsales
This is why we will continue to invest in our platform to provide the best information and tools to transact on the second largest single item in most people’s life’s in the safest way possible.

I think there’s a business there.


Pay to Advertise OR Pay to Sell Online?


Will consumers pay to Advertise their car online? It’s an interesting question.

Advertising versus selling are two different things. A typical online advertising model goes like this – pay me $50 to advertise your car for 30 days, if it doesn’t sell then pay me another $50 to advertise it for another 30 days. It is in the advertisers interest for you NOT to sell the car as they will make more money when you advertise again the next month and the next…..

Now let’s change the question slightly –

Will consumers pay to Sell their car online? Now you are talking; the answer has to be yes.

A typical online selling model goes like this – pay me $65 to sell your car regardless of how long it takes. It is in the online businesses interests for you to sell the car as quickly as possible as this then creates a good experience and word of mouth so they provide tools and tips (paid and unpaid) to get the car sold.
20160901_carsalesSell
Encar.com, our leading auto website in South Korea, wasn’t charging private sellers to advertise their cars online when we came into the business.

Our new business partners didn’t think South Korean consumers would pay to advertise their cars. They were probably right but would they pay to sell their car? This is a question they did not know the answer too.

We were confident that as the clear number 1 auto website in South Korea providing enormous value to car buyers and sellers, consumers would (and should) pay Encar to sell their car online.
20160901_WebmotorsSell
So the carsales team worked with the Encar team on structuring a private seller platform that would help the South Korean consumer sell their car quickly and easily for a reasonable price.

To say our business partners were nervous was an understatement. They were certain the number of private seller cars would drop right off a cliff.

In April last year we made the switch to be a paid model for private seller cars and in the first month saw a small drop off in private seller cars and was already a much better result than our partners envisaged.

Each month the “drop off dropped off” and in just 6 months we were back to the same level of private seller cars added each month in a paid model to that of a free model.
20160901_EncarSell
There are a lot of factors that went into the decision making process and planning for a change like this to go as well as it did. A lot of things need to be put in place to make it a success, none the least was the mindset of the Encar management.

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that Encar is the leading auto website in the country meant that we were extremely confident that our model of “pay once till sold” would work – that is, don’t pay to advertise, pay to sell.

I’ve seen lots of websites fail to make the change from “free to paid” as there is a lot to consider, none the least is the mindset that is your website geared around advertising or selling?


List Online To Sell, Not Advertise


carsales.com acquired a 49.9% stake in Encar.com from the SK Group in 2014 with the aim of using its number 1 market position to accelerate the growth of the business.

Encar is a clear leader in the online automotive space in South Korea by inventory and traffic with one massive difference from carsales – it had no lead attribution for its paying Dealers.

A Dealer would list their inventory on Encar with the Vehicle Detail page showing all the Dealer’s details (address, phone number, etc) and no email lead form. The phone number was the Dealer’s so there was no tracking or recording of the calls. Therefore Encar had no way of knowing how many people were making contact with a Dealer meaning there was absolutely no lead attribution to Encar from the Dealer. This makes it hard to charge for the true value the website is delivering.
20160825_Encar
This of course flies in the face of the carsales’ business model which, being a lead based model, relies on lead attribution to carsales from the Dealer.

Even if we were never going to introduce a lead model into the Encar business, lead attribution has to be an important facet to ensuring Encar can show the Dealer real value by way of selling cars.

So planning was put in place to insert a lead form into the Vehicle Detail page and setup Call Connect which would see Encar supply the Dealer’s with a phone number where the call details can be tracked, recorded and stored in a database.
20160825_Encar1
I think it was fair to say that the Koreans weren’t sure if Korean consumers would insert their details into a lead form or if Dealers would accept a phone number from Encar that would record the phone call.

We made the website enhancements towards mid 2015 and the first month saw tens of thousands email leads and phone calls logged as Encar leads. In the 12 months after the number of leads multiplied by a factor of 4-5 and still rising.

The next phase is to introduce the Dealer’s to Lead Management to ensure every lead is treated as a car buying prospect and for the Dealer to sell cars from Encar.com.

Introducing a lead model does not necessarily have to be the panacea to driving growth but the steps required to be in a position to be able to switch to a lead model are vital in ensuring a strong, viable online auto vertical leader.