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Automotive Intelligent Data

Virtual Reality Showrooms are here - Vroom

In case you missed it, I analyzed Vroom's current website a couple weeks ago.  You can view that here --> Vroom Website Analysis  

Somebody has to jump into the pool first and Vroom stepped up.  Being the pioneer is significant, being the game changer is paramount for survival with this type of technology.  This is the future of the internet.  I'm 43 years old and firmly believe that when I have grandchildren, the only contact they will have with a computer will be in a museum.  The future of the internet will be two significant layers, block-chain for transactions and virtual reality for user experience.  Reality will be no more, it will be blended with virtual reality. 

Vroom staying in the forefront of this technology is going to be tough because of breakthrough technologies.  Not for the technologies themselves, but the speed at which these breakthroughs happen.  The gap between game-changing advances keeps shrinking and shrinking.  Once you make that commitment to take a direction, it's hard to re-adjust and easy for the 2nd comer to learn from your mistakes.

Right now, Vroom has a couple of locations people can visit to experience this new technology.  At this point in time right now, the ability to virtually test-drive 10 cars within 10 minutes is a pretty inspiring advancement.  The feel isn't going to be 100% there, but it will come in time.  The amount of inventory you're able to test-drive now is limited but will grow.  Right now it is an experience, but Vroom hopes to evolve this into a "transacting" technology for shoppers within 12 months.  Technology is FAST.  It looks as if Vroom is putting all of their chips in, betting that in the future the showroom will be located in the living room.  

If dealers don't keep an eye on this, it will sneak up and pass you by.

I got CUSSED out by a car buyer

It's funny now, but at the time I was in complete shock.  My life is data, sometimes I get to do phone interviews with automotive customers to acquire that data.  Up to this point, all interviews have gone pretty smooth; actually REALLY smooth.  I was definitely excited for this particular call because "John" gave so much valuable data on his survey.  After a customer takes one of our online surveys, they are then asked if they would take part in a phone interview, John said yes.  John was very detailed on the open-ended questions on the survey and maximized all of the questions (the survey wraps around your journey - John had a long customer journey, so the survey expanded due to his answers).  When we get a survey back, the highest level we rate the quality of data is 5 stars - John was a 6.

Here is a brief example of what we're getting from a 5 star survey:

DISCLAIMER:  this is from memory, I have left out the boring parts but the words below are his.  If you are easily offended by language, DON'T READ any further.  I have abbreviated the explicit words.

As soon as I get John on the phone, he interrupts my introduction with "I'm never buying a f'kn car again.  You hear me, never a f'kn again".  I then clarify who I am and what I'm doing, but he starts back in "you guys are so f'kn lazy, why can't you make this sh%$ easy!!!  If I did it tomorrow I could probably do it in an hour, but that's after I ALREADY MADE ALL THE F'KN MISTAKES!!!"

Thought this was a good transition time and I said; "that's exactly why ABC Motors is conducting this study, to find out from you how they can make the process easier".  That only got him more fired up - "BULLSH%$, YOU JUST WANT TO SELL ME THAT F'KN EXTENDED WARRANTY I SAID NO TO 5 MILLION F'KN TIMES ALREADY";  I again clarified who I was and what I do.

He then turns the tables and starts to ask me questions.
John - "You ever bartended before?"
Me - "No"
John - "If I had you bartend at my bar Friday night, could you?"
Me - "Not up to any reasonable standards"
John - "You familiar with bars and what we do?"
Me - "Yes"
John - "Why couldn't you do it?  Everything is right there"
Me - "I don't know where everything is at or how to make most drinks"
John - "We have a book.  You have eyes."
Me - "It would take me forever"
John - "You're a real F'KN Einstein"
John - "Ask your questions"
Me - "Are you happy with your car purchase?"
John - "Yes"
Me - "In your survey, you rated the dealership experience a 9.  What held you back from rating it a 10?"
John - "I had to wait, I had to wait to give them my F'KN money."
Me - "You said earlier that things would be different if you had to shop tomorrow, what was the biggest frustration when you were shopping?"
John - "Not knowing the lay of the F'KN land!"


John hung up.  My take away is that "time" leads to frustration with John.  My favorite phone interview to date is John.

Analyzing Carmax

Analyzing Carmax

Carmax has 156 locations in the United States with over $14B in revenue.  Established in 1993 by Circuit City, Carmax sold 582,282 used cars, 8,867 new cars and wholesaled 376,186 for their 2015 fiscal year.  Carmax 4Q unit sales grew 12.4% in 2015 compared to 2014, one of the major factors for growth was conversion, according to Carmax.

Carmax marketing focuses on making the car buying / selling process easy and reliable.

Let's analyze the Carmax website

Carmax Above the fold homepage

Straight forward messaging with a link that is powerful for the shopper journey - RESEARCH.  Already having an established brand, Carmax gives the paths that shoppers want.  Pretty simple, clutter-free and attractive.  

Right under the fold, Carmax makes it super easy to perform a car search.


Carmax Homepage - Why buy or sell with us?

The BUYING tabs list's out differentiating factors that Carmax believes separates them from other traditional auto outlets.

The same applies when you click the SELLING tab.  Very clean design without the clutter.  Messaging is on point - clear and concise.

CarMax Homepage - Financing Section

Clear & concise, spacing is great so far for the whole page.  A BIG link to their financing calculator - they are trying to help the shopper get closer to a decision on their website and get them into a "process".   


carmax homepage - appraisal section

Carmax addresses a HUGE part of the car buying process on their homepage - the appraisal. The layout has easy to follow steps and tries to get the customer in "the process".


Carmax Homepage - store locator

Carmax takes a huge chunk of their homepage and dedicates it to a store locator.  I'm not sure if this is necessary, would have liked to see them expand on the section after this.


Carmax Homepage - popular used cars

I love this section.  Through our research in talking with automotive customers, a lot of shoppers have an idea of what they want but they aren't nailed down to anything.  This directly attacks the decision-making process higher in the shoppers buying funnel.  Great section.  I don't know where you can go, but it seems there are endless possibilities to set this section ramped up and expand upon it.


Find Your Car Page

Carmax gives shoppers the ability to find cars in many different ways, great assortment of search options.  They have the typical listing set up, I prefer the gallery set up when looking at available cars, the gallery gives that "feel" of searching a car lot.


Carmax Vehicle Description Page

I believe Carmax's VDP is the best in the industry.  It's apparent that they talk to their customers and have figured out what's important.  The spacing, info and feel hit the nail on the head.  I'm going to analyze this page by sections.

Top of the VDP gives estimated payments, a ton of photos and what I think is the most powerful feature any used car website has - customer testimonials after they've purchased the car.  The shopper is getting feedback from like-minded people - this is the future of used automotive VDP's, IMO.  Their "process" gives the customer options of putting the vehicle on hold, saving the car or getting finance options.

About this car section -  great spacing and collapisable information, along with links checking the background of the car.

Story Time - Months back I did a customer interview and they told me a story about their Carmax experience, especially this section.  It was a couple and their daughter was about to turn 16, the father started a search to get his daughter a vehicle for her birthday.  Through all of his research, he landed on a Jeep Wrangler through Carmax.  The mother joined the research and on this section below, she clicked on the Safety Recall link.  The Jeep had a recall on electrical for the driver side door, it mentioned that a fire could result if not checked out.  That was the end of the Jeep, mom said no.  She then went to TruCar and landed on an SUV through a local dealer.

Ratings, Reviews and More Section - relieving shopper anxiety.  The Customer Reviews section is the single greatest feature on all VDP's, IMO.  It also gives the likes and dislikes of the buyers along with expert reviews, ratings and awards.

Customer Reviews Section - once the shopper clicks on the link they get a bunch of reviews with an overview at the top.  They also give people the power to write reviews on the page.  In this age and going forward, this is vital and a definite competitive advantage in relieving shopper anxiety.  The process of accomplishing this is definitely an endeavor of work that takes time, but each passing day you are further away from accomplishing this.


MyCarMax Account

People have the ability to create a MyCarMax Account that holds value for shoppers and customers.  Here is the registration page that explains.  The "We Value Your Privacy" section could work wonders on dealer websites concerning a multitude of areas.  


Car Payment Calculator Page

Best I've seen in the industry.  Put in the parameters of what you're comfortable with, then search the cars that fall into these parameters.


Sell Your Car Page

Pointing out again that the spacing, feel and concise message are spot on.  Carmax lays out specifically how they determine value and they try to usher the shopper into the process by scheduling an appointment.  Nailing the process is about timing, offering the appointment option at an appropriate spot on the website - not just in a line with a whole bunch of other lead traps.


Financing Page

OK, this page sucks - complete dud and waste of time.  

financing page.png

Research Page

Basically, this an attempt to get the shopper into a car searching mode.  It comes up a little short for me, but they do give shoppers appropriate ways to start the process of searching.


Positive Takeaways from Carmax Website

CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS ON SPECIFIC CARS - greatest feature on any used car website I've seen.  For the now and for the future.


Feel and flow

Concise messaging

Car Payment Calculator - best I've seen


Negative Takeaways from Carmax Website

Finance Page - absolutely horrid

Vehicle Search Page - I love the search options but the listings are not as appealing to the eye as a gallery format.

Analyzing Beepi

Analyzing Beepi

Beepi is headquartered in Los Altos, California and was established in 2013.  5 rounds of funding totaling $150M, Beepi has put together an automotive website strategy that I think warrants a deep look and concern for auto dealerships.  


The marketing of Beepi aim’s directly at the evolution of the car buying/selling process. Or the hope that there will be a change in process (quickly).  Beepi is a peer-to-peer marketplace with guarantees.

Let's dissect Beepi's website

Above the fold - homepage

Beepi's homepage starts off with great spacing centered around their marketing message, a brief video and clear direction to either buy or sell a car.  I love the link at the top for "Top 5 Questions".  The video is short and pretty powerful for someone considering this process.  I have embedded the video down below the website pic.

Video on Beepi's homepage - above the fold.


If you hover over the blue circle that is labeled "Buy", the website automatically slides to the right and highlights points of interests.  They are addressing important points of their process before you even start the process.  I love the concept and I love how they used technology in the website to accomplish this.  GREAT feature.

Same thing happens when you hover over the green circle that is labeled "Sell".


As you travel down Beepi's homepage.

Building credibility and relieving shopper anxiety!!!!  Beepi accomplishes this in a minimalist way and still gets their points across.  Mission accomplished so far.  The pics link to pages that we'll cover later.


Bottom of Beepi's homepage.

Again, working on shopper anxiety. Beepi has customer photos with written testimonials shuffling through a slideshow.  If you click the "Read More" tab, it takes you to a page of testimonials. 


Beepi's "Sell" Page

When you navigate to the "SELL" page, this is where I think things get interesting.  Here are the steps as I understand them - 1) Get an offer on your car  2) Inspector comes and looks at the car  3) Inspection is either passed or failed  4) If you pass, your car is listed on Beepi and is guaranteed to sell in 30 days  5)  If not, Beepi buys the car

The big downfall that I see with this business model, if you are looking to sell your car and buy a car, they're 2 different transactions.  Not sure how many people can do this and are patient enough to do this.  I love the FAQ section, they are talking to their customers and finding out the anxiety points. 


Beepi's "Buy" Page

Beepi's car search page is aesthetically great on the eyes.  I love the gallery layout and when you hover over a car it gives you additional features of the car.  The top of the page is centered around a link labeled "Learn More".  Before we click on that, I'm going to click on the filters tab to see what type of search options are available.


Filter Tab

Beepi's search filters are by far the best I've seen in automotive.  It could be opened up a bit more concerning under the hood, but the layout and sliders put it past anything I can recollect.  Great, great job.

"Learn More" about the buying process link

When you click on the "Learn More" link at the top of the car search page, a pop up appears addressing reasons this process is better.  Strong selling points, but they still have to address the "2 transactions problem".


Vehicle Description Page

Beepi's VDP gets an A+.  One of the most important things, IMO, is spacing.  The spacing is perfect, customers get overwhelmed with so much info crammed together on dealer websites, I hear about it often (customers get confused and frustrated).  Beepi lays it out in a smooth path giving the customer almost everything.  At the top, you can scroll through the photos, see how many people have looked at the car, estimated car payment and 360* photo's of the exterior and interior.  The description cuts to the selling points that people shopping for this type of car are interested in and all options listed in a collapsible view.  NOTE***  capturing this page caused some errors in the pic - some distortion on the left side and it kept re-creating the "Checkout" section, it only appears once on the actual page.


Financing Page

Beepi's financing page is OK.  It says they'll shop the rate around and they do lay out the process.  It is underwhelming, SELL ME...  


Beepi Leasing Page

The leasing page is a dud.  How is this a completely new way to lease a car?  It says you can trade in your car for this process - expand on that.  This page raises more questions than it answers.  (but it looks great)


Beepi's FAQ Page

This page is a grand slam for me.  I think all dealers should move to a "process oriented" experience on their website, usher the shopper into YOUR experience.  Providing a FAQ page works on relieving the shopper anxiety to enter the process.


Inspection Process Page

FINALLY, someone lays out their inspection checklist.  It's done in an easy to follow way that anybody can comprehend.  Great page of necessary information.


Testimonial Page

In this day and age, I believe it is now necessary to have a page dedicated to testimonials.  In our research, 27.5% of consumers cite Friends, Family and Reviews as the Number 1 reason for picking a dealership.  That's a number I would be determined to raise if I was a dealer.  I took a small sampling of the page, it goes on forever with testimonials - Relieving Shopper Anxiety!! 

Positive takeaways for Beepi


FAQ Page

Testimonial Page

Website functionality above the fold on the homepage.  (when the site expands to the left and right)

Messaging was great

Car search page - gallery format, filter tab was incredible.




Negative Takeaways for beepi

Business Model.  I don't like the 2 transactions, don't see how you overcome that and sustain long-term. 

Analyzing Vroom

Analyzing Vroom


Established in 2013, headquartered in NYC, Vroom has had 3 rounds of funding totaling 168M (according to CrunchBase).  Acquiring the relatively famous Texas Direct Auto in 2015, Vroom is on the right side of profitability and hit $900M (total since inception) for revenue in 2015.


Vroom's marketing centers around buying a car online - that's it.  Simplistic and maybe plants the seed of curiosity to at least check out the website.  Vroom offers free delivery in the continental US.


Let's dive into Vroom's website.


The website starts out simplistic and straightforward.  I think the marketing comes close to hitting the spot.  They list some of the things that would detour people from purchasing a car online and they address those concerns immediately.  Initially, it looks like an average website without anything special, could be a move of simplicity - like really simple.  

The one thing I don't like is only having a search bar, give some direction to the people who need it.  I would simply add icons across the top of the search bar featuring body types.  Not too much to dissect here above the fold.  I didn't click to watch their TV ad, wonder how many people do...


As we travel past the fold, Vroom jumps again into reasons why you should try this new process.  This misses the mark with me.  These items are important, but relieving shopper anxiety is job number 1.  Why would I buy a car online without seeing it first?  7-Day Returns is a starting point but they miss the mark by not trying to drive it home early in the website experience.  At least give me a link to something.

Vroom below the fold.png

Next Vroom is establishing credibility and they are working on relieving shopper anxiety a bit.  The review tab is nice, needs to be integrated into the website more prominently somehow.  As of right now I'm not feeling anything out of the ordinary with Vroom's site.  


why we vroom

Now we're getting somewhere on Vroom's homepage.  They boast that they are the market leader in online car buying and proceed to try and back it up.  The Pricing Tab is first with a testimonial attached and when you move through the tabs, they cover questions that consumers have about this new process.  I would definitely have this section higher on the homepage.  Make it SCREAM...


The Reconditioning Tab takes a poke at dealerships and touts their 360 Certified.  Little to no info on the certification process, BUT you get a clear title with no accidents reported on the car.  Come on Vroom, you can do better than that.


The 7-Day Returns Tab should have spotlights shining on it, this is what makes used online car buying possible.  The online outlets have really tapped into something here, the messaging is great and Vroom does it in a concise way.  Great job.


Finance Tab - unless you looked up at the top right hand part of the page, this is the first time I notice financing.  Big part of the process with little representation.  Vroom shops terms around to 30 different financing partners, that is a strong sales point.  This will makes the consumer think all bases are covered in trying to find the best rate.  Great job here.


Coverage Tab - necessary part of information, that's about it.  The testimonial talks about a person in the process, does the consumer have to talk to someone?  I think this testimonial could throw confusion in the air with some people, nothing has been addressed yet about speaking to a human.


Who we Are section 

They have a button in the middle of the page titled "Meet the Team".  Typically, I would skip this section on the homepage.  I'm assuming that Vroom has their employees listed on this link saying what a great place it is to work at - of course they'll be glowing reviews.  But for the sake of this exercise, let's click on the link.

Vroom above the fold 5.png

I was right and I was wrong.  There is a lot of stuff that a normal "About Us" page would have, but there is also some great points on here they could have incorporated on the homepage.  First - the stat's towards the top of the page, mixed with reviews, would build shopper confidence.  If I'm going to buy a car online, I want to make sure I'm not the first and the others before me were happy.  I don't want to be a test dummy.


Search Results Page

Once you get to a search results page, the options of search open up.  Nothing out of the ordinary but it does gives you some direction.  I do love that the search results page is in a gallery format.  Most dealers have listings on this page, IMO, that is not as appeasing to the eye as the gallery - you see more at a time with the gallery.  Compare it to driving around the lot at your physical location.  Good job with the gallery.


Vehicle Description Page

Automatically the size of the photo's jump out at you, great job with photo quality.  The page gives basic information and the description isn't really selling the vehicle.  I would have liked to be able to work numbers on this page for reference (can I afford it?).  For the information provided, I do like the layout and feel, just wish there was more information.  NO REVIEWS - BOOOOOO! 

Vroom VDP.png

Financing Page

This page could be a hit, but turns out to be a flop.  I am sold, they are going to get me the best rate using 30 different places.  Sign me up, oh, there's no option for that or any direction of where that happens.


Sell your car page

Finally, another great find.  Get your offer instantly and you have 7 days to redeem.  If this process gets adopted across all dealerships, good-bye KBB.  I'll just do this with a couple local dealers to get myself a real price instead of just getting a negotiating point with KBB.


Starting the Process Page

You first start an account, I feel like I would be walking into this blindly.  I didn't get a clear understanding of the process throughout the website.


Positive takeaways from Vroom

Picture quality

For fair or bad credit, shopping a financing deal to 30 partners is VERY attractive, I repeat - VERY....

Instant offer on my car


Gallery on search results page

Why We Vroom

negative takeaways from vroom

Not a clear sense of the process until you have to jump in.


Relieving shopper anxiety


Flow of the website / felt choppy.

Analyzing Carvana

Analyzing Carvana


Carvana was established in 2013 with backing from DriveTime and according to CrunchBase, they have secured $140M in funding.  They deliver autos anywhere in the country (for a fee) and currently have locations in Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Birmingham, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami.

Carvana Vending

Carvana has a distinct in-person experience, it is a vending machine where 20 cars can be stored.  Once you buy a car on Carvana, you have the option of picking up the car at the vending machine.  Upon arrival, you place a coin in the slot and watch your car travel through the vending machine.  

Their pitch is simple from a marketing standpoint - I found this on their Facebook Account.  They are attacking the car buying experience.


Their reviews are good online, but not seeing a lot of them.  I do see some "influence marketing" going on with reviews, we'll see if it works.

Let's dive into Carvana's website


Above the Fold - Homepage

The visual you get when first arriving at Carvana is bold and they immediately are trying to help you along the car buying process with easy-to-use SEARCH functionality - search over 4100 cars.  The tagline is immediately trying to differentiate them from the traditional way of doing things in the car biz - "A BETTER WAY TO BUY A CAR".  Some subtle selling points under the tagline and a blue "HOW IT WORKS"  link to help educate the consumer on how they do business.

Biggest Take Away:  Clutter-free, it has a "let's get this process rolling type of feel", doesn't have motion background and is easy to understand.  

Above the Fold.png

How it works link

When you click on the "How It Works" link, you end up at a page detailing the steps in the Carvana process.  It is simple without a lot of detail, I personally would like more detail.

Step 1   Carvana talks about their certified process, well not really but they give a brief blurb about it.  If you notice on the right side they list a testimonial trying to relieve shopper anxiety - that's a big plus.

Step 2   The virtual tour is highlighted, and I mean a brief highlight.  Again, adding another testimonial to the right hoping to relieve more of the shoppers anxiety to purchase.  Another thing to note that I like A LOT is mentioning that they highlight the imperfections too. Transparency goes a long way in digital.  (the word transparency is also getting over-used in digital and losing some of it's luster)

Step 3   I do think Carvana nails the right message here with their financing and trade-in process.  It doesn't read like a dictionary and it hits on the key features that customers wonder about.  They could have thrown in a blurb about security, but I'm sure they will re-adjust if a need appears. 

Step 4   Explanation of Delivery or Pick Up is straight to the point.  The testimonial is the winner on this section, great message for their process.

Step 5    7 Day money back guarantee, I believe this is what makes Carvana possible.  This testimonial I found worthless.


If you instead started using the search functionality on the home page and ended up on a vehicle search results page, the options to search opens up.


Financing  |  sell or trade 

When you pick the "Pick Your Payment" option, it takes you to a page that you can overview the process.  The first section talks about Visibility and Control, they talk about a couch and other things that my 11 year old already knows about.

If you look further down the page, someone says they "Heart" Carvana...  Really??  Loses a lot of credibility for me.  I believe this page to be a waste of a page.

The next tab covers "How It Works".  Here Carvana is showing off their tools in finding a payment.  The tools are easy to use and I see this as a plus in their favor.  They are still not trying to get a lead but give the shopper the option of starting the process.

The next label is "Shop Smarter".  It's an attempt to convey to the shopper that Carvana is on their side.  I see it as a good "sales ploy".  

"Financing Options" is the last tab that lets the customer know what they probably already know.  BUT, it is another attempt to get the shopper in the financing process.


When you click the Sell or Trade option instead of Pick Your Payment, it brings up the Cardian Angel.  I love this page, they give you a REAL offer in 2 minutes.  If anything at all, the customer is getting great information on the current car they own.  Thumbs up on this part of the process.


Consumer Reviews on the Carvana Process

The next section of the home page touts they have over 2,400 reviews and video reviews you can sift through.  Relieving shopper anxiety with insight from like-minded people (huge) and they have links to press about Carvana by many popular outlets.  Simple, powerful and necessary.  They DARE you to share their negative reviews - building authenticity with skeptics.  


Carvana vs Dealer Pricing Comparison

Uh oh, somebody's drawing a line in the sand.  This is a blatant attempt to devalue the dealership and re-enforce the idea that dealers screw customers.  If Carvana becomes a player and has to show a profit, I'm sure the dealer body can educate the public on what goes into pricing a vehicle and if this is a fair comparison.  7 Day Test Own is strong.


Vehicle Description Page

Here we go, lets break this down.

Carvana starts their VDP out with a countdown to delivery (love it).  This is where their virtual camera really comes into play, allowing you to look at the exterior, interior and under the hood.  Zoom in and out while getting picture clarity that is second to none in the industry.  They have a tab that really stands out - Feature & Imperfections List.  Lets click it.

Here's the result, if you look you can see they describe passenger side scratches. 

Besides the main pic that allows you to go over everything in and out of the vehicle, they supply a couple more photo's.  I do have 1 beef.  The pic's are TOO good, I believe the staging area takes it over the top.  It doesn't come off as REAL to me, they're too good.  I don't know if my brain would accept that this is the actual truck I would be getting.  Pic quality is awesome, staging takes it too far for my personal taste.


After you've looked at the pics, Carvana attempts to start "Building the Deal".  I love the visual and easy to follow along numbers.  Again, no lead traps - they are trying to usher you along the process.


If you click on the "Get Started" button, you start out by starting an account.  They label out clearly the steps in the purchase and throw in a little fact - "quickest purchase to date:  15 minutes and 36 seconds".  I love the little quirky things they put on the site, building a personality for the company.


Below "Building The Deal" section on the VDP is the Similar Cars section.  Typical and necessary for auto sites.


The Ratings & Reviews section is powered by Edmund's, but the main take away of this part in the VDP is that layout & feel MATTER.  


Details & Specs on the VDP gives the info on the car like other automotive websites, but again, layout & feel MATTER.


From the VDP, you can start building a Garage, so let's do it.  The following is where you start Building Your Garage.  Not to intrusive and it gives you the ability to sign up using Facebook.  Signing up using FB is becoming more and more popular, EASY.

Carvana - build your garage

Once you sign up, you get a pop-up showing how you get the car in your hands.

This is also the only time throughout the whole process a Live Chat Box popped up (out of the way in the upper left hand part of the page).  CHAT BOXES ARE ANNOYING - you spend too much time avoiding them.  Just give the shopper an option somewhere on the page, they'll find it if they want to use it.  


Once you get past the pop-up, you arrive to the Garage.  Carvana's garage feature has some great underlying features.  First, you can save the vehicles of interest.  Second, it gives them another chance for you to start the process.  Thirdly, you have the ability to share with your friends on Facebook or by email to vote on which car they prefer for you.  REALLY NEAT FEATURE of sharing, I'm sure a small segment may use this and if they do, it's Earned Media.


Carvana Certified Cars

Another path in the Carvana website is looking at the process Carvana goes through to certify their cars.  The first tab is an overview with an explainer video.   

The next tab briefly touches on the 150-point inspection and states none of their cars have been in an accident - lessening shopper anxiety.

The Confidence Tab is a direct shot at lessening shopper anxiety.  BRAVO...

The last tab is a waste of space.


Overall Takeaways from Carvana

Positives to learn from:

The website is clean and easy to use.  Look and feel mean something and they nailed it.  Less is more, too many websites out there are information overload with crappy spacing.

The car descriptions are great, Carvana gets customer segmentation and they apply the right points to groups of buyers.

The experience of the Carvana website is about "starting a process".  The consumer doesn't feel like the website is loaded with lead traps and annoying chat boxes.  You feel if you give up personal information, it means something and it's not just an avenue to be solicited to.  I think dealers need to find a way to "start the process".

Constant attempt to relieve shopper anxiety.

2 minute offer on your car.

I love the tools and technology.  Their photo capabilities are the best I've seen.  I love the use of sliders instead of inputting numbers.

I like the spacing on the website, not only the feel but the amount of info they gave.

Negatives I didn't like:

Even though I liked the amount of info they gave, I think they missed the mark on message half the time.

More pics outside of the 360* photo and the staging area was too much for me.

Most importantly, I'm not ready to buy a used car online.  A video test drive would help get me closer but not sure if that is even enough.  Something is missing and I can't put my finger on it.

Dealer Prejudice

Dealer Prejudice

Automotive is cluttered with old-time assumptions and inherent tendencies that “appear” to hold back a lot of dealerships.  Many people wonder if a data-driven only approach could yield a higher competitive advantage than one with old-time thinking?  Sometimes ego clouds judgment to the point of thinking analytics is predictable and holds little relevance.  Could a complete dashboard of analytics somehow hold power over the experience of long-time industry pros? 

The main obstacle with many dealerships is the plethora of numbers; there are so many numbers, do we know the true value of all these numbers and do we have a complete view of these numbers?  Paralysis of numbers has overtaken to a point where the majority of data is used for monitoring (or just glancing at) and not striving to grab market share.  The intrinsic value of data and having a real understanding what to do with it has diminished – or was it there in the first place, maybe.  There are many factors that feed into this paralysis that I’ll address later.

Yesteryear, there was a powerful medium called newspaper that had a HUGE influence on the shopping process for buyers.  It was like a funnel, where all these people jumped into the wide part of a plastic cylinder that guided them down to 1 spot – the local newspaper.  I think it’s fair to say that automotive alone could have kept the newspaper industry afloat during these times.  Then 1 day the funnel flipped, the skinny part of the cylinder was at the top and the massive end was at the bottom.  Each individual had their own funnel to jump in, as they slid down the funnel it expanded and dropped people into this thing called the internet.   The internet wasn’t just 1 source to get information, but an endless black hole of information overload.  This is the point where power transferred.  Many people say that the power transferred from the dealer to the consumer, but I say that’s the easy answer.  Keep in mind that you are a part of this time in history that many people in the industry will look back to. 

The true shift of power went from the newspaper to the internet.  The internet opened up boundaries, people could now search as far out as they were willing to drive.  As far as gross goes, the internet didn’t have magic prices that exposed secret knowledge to the masses, competition drove prices down - the internet forced this competition.  The power of the internet was evolving and growing, it grew from a 1-dimensional platform to a 3-dimensional powerhouse.  In the midst of this transformation from 1D to 3D, it gobbled up market share from TV, radio and other mediums.  The beast was for real and screaming "FEED ME".  Consumers are using this power called the internet, dealers are just trying to adapt at this moment.  Before, dealers had at least a 100 years of experience in mastering newspaper on their side, that mastery disappeared overnight.

The reality of this beast scared some of the bigger players in the internet kingdom.  I was working for one of these giants during its infancy and watched REAL power of the internet in action.  Our sales district traveled to a quarterly meeting at the regional office, where the regional manager was set to talk to us.  He unveiled a plan that was going to test the power of our relevance – massive price increases.  Price increases that had us salespeople looking at each other saying “holy crap”.  Typically, salespeople aren’t intimidated by modest price increases, but these were nowhere near modest and we weren’t really coming to the table with a new and improved product.  This company was about to flex its power and muscle because of time and the lack there-of.  The regional manager went to the dry erase board and outlined one big column and beside it outlined a little column.  There was a huge gap in space between the height of these 2 columns and that gap represented a fear.  These 2 columns represented the average monthly spend of newspaper and the internet (this meeting was around 2005) for a dealership.  He said we no longer consider any other of the automotive internet company’s competition anymore, we were going after newspaper dollars.  He went on to say “when you are sitting with the dealer you have to transition the pitch from competing for internet dollars to taking newspaper money”.  The company made the decision that they had to get the internet as close to the newspaper spend as possible, it had to be done quick before the dealer knew what hit them.  They expected cancellations and cancellations is what they got.  But you see, this giant was willing to re-adjust pricing knowing that dealers would come back after time if they just stayed the course.  An online market-place was created on the internet and massive amounts of marketing dollars were behind it.  The clever part of this plan showed some forward thinking and deep knowledge of the dealer base.  If cancellations were to happen, that meant more traffic and sales for the existing dealers on the platform – supply and demand.  The internet giant knew the word would travel around and dealers would jump back on - now that’s power.

The internet is like a wave of water, always conforming to the forces in and around it, engulfing things in its way due to the sheer power of its momentum.  My company surveys roughly around 4,000 automotive dealer customers a month, I can attest to the force that the internet is.  This force encompasses 86.4% of shoppers, this number represents the people who touched the internet before walking into a dealership (in a weird way this number seems low to me).  With this number, a gold rush in automotive digital has erupted.  You have dealerships being called on to spend dollars on every new silver gadget available.  Hey, 86.4% of your customers are using the internet, you need to spend 86.4% of your budget on internet marketing.  Not so fast, vendors can’t be allowed to hang on to that number, dealers need to stand up.  If you dive deeper into the consumer and ask them “what was the biggest influence that brought you into the dealership”, the numbers change.  The number drops from 86.4% down to 41.3%, this number varies greatly from dealership to dealership – you need to learn YOUR number.  41.3% represents the greatest segment, but it’s still in the minority for overall influence.  You have other influences such as family & friends, former customers, direct mail, TV, etc. 

How does a dealer split up the marketing budget?  I think dealers need to examine their budget through a new set of eyes.  First and foremost – your website is an extension of your brick and mortar, it is your online store.  This sounds like a broken record but it’s true and if you look at it this way, you acquire a great benefit of insight that you didn’t have before.  Your website is not a “marketing source”, it’s an end to a means – the shopper had to get to your website somehow and that is where the real value is, that’s the highest weighting source for your marketing dollars.  Dealers also need to start labeling their line items differently for digital, it needs to be broken up into marketing and technology.  If you are adding a spend that is purely technology driven and is on your website to enhance a feature or try to capture a lead, that should not be in the internet marketing budget, but it should represent a new line item for internet technology.  That technology is not bringing people to your website, it’s enhancing the experience or it is a new function.  Technology should be compared to having nice furniture in your waiting area or supplying your dealership with paper and electricity.  This is going to give you a clearer view of ROI.  Unlike having a nice plush couch in your showroom, technologies can have a direct ROI or value.  It gives you a balance of funding new internet marketing initiatives or putting more money into technology – once you attack this and make the clear distinction, it literally is a game changer.    

Now, how do you maximize the spend?  You must first collect feedback from your customers, otherwise you are guessing.  Again, somehow or someway everything has to be tied to a sale or influence the thinking of the local market, otherwise it’s worthless.  You cannot equate traffic (analytics) to a sale or any other metric except a lead.  If you base your marketing decisions off leads, you are alienating 80-85% of the shoppers out there that want to remain anonymous until they show up to the dealership.  All things have to show their value; it is a culture shift that has to happen in automotive at some point or the marketing spend will remain cloudy.  Things would be much easier if automotive was completely e-commerce, but it’s far from that – it’s a people business.  Tying a customer to a marketing source is the number 1 process that dealers use to get some idea of ROI – but that is nowhere near enough but at the least, it shows some sort of value – that’s why it’s popular.  There needs to be a determination and methodology to get more information, more knowledge of places that impacted the customer as they were shopping, insight on what the customer is doing and knowing the evolving trends of the customers’ needs and expectations.  Marketing spend should be centered around accountability and value, do not get caught up in the fight to be sourced.  There is a great amount of your inventory that is going to sell, no matter what.

Marketing Meeting example: “our website traffic grew 3.8% and that equated to 16 more leads which yielded 2 more sales”.  “ATC sold x amount of cars and so on”.  Poof, that’s it.  Where do you go from there?  How accurate are those traffic numbers, is it real traffic?  Leads can be competitor and vendors shopping your process, especially if you are a highly successful dealership in the area.  The metric that is the holy grail for your website is returning visitors, that’s it.  That is the number 1 metric to drive success and build correlations around.  What does traffic mean if it doesn’t result in sales?  How do you know it results in sales?  You need to know and find out.  It’s not easy, but neither is chess or any game of competition.  Your baseline metric should center around people who come back to your website.

Dealers need to hold themselves accountable also and probably to a greater extent than you do a vendor.  Are you doing everything in your power to make every marketing initiative successful?  Are you testing your creative, do customers have recall of your messages?  Are you merchandising past the customers’ expectations and would you select your dealership, if an unbiased viewpoint is attainable?  Some dealers use consultants, be careful because there are prominent opportunist out there using this new method of influencer marketing – it just leads you down paths where the consultant has a new relationship with a vendor and they can make your numbers say anything.  The highest value I see in dealerships concerning consultants are the ones who focus on process, many great ones out there that touch all points of the dealership.  When you are making a decision to rid yourself of a marketing initiative, you must exhaust all avenues in trying to correlate some value.  Dig deep and try to prove at all costs that you need to keep that vendor.  If you still come up empty you need to move on.  Keep a look out for high duplicity percentages with direct sale initiatives.


To answer my original question if a data-driven dealership could outperform a dealership cluttered with old time gut predictions…  I say who cares, why be cornered into only 2 choices.  Of course dealerships have prejudices, but those prejudices need to be confirmed.  I believe all dealers can use better data than what is shown to them now, intelligent data from your customers.  By doing this I believe you can work with your customers to harness real power and use the internet and everything available to you instead of the internet and vendors using you.  Think about your KPI’s, you are sold by vendors and engineering geeks on what holds value with the internet.  Everything at some point has to be attached to a sale, KPI’s should change every month.  Your only baseline of success is sales and market gains.  Establish your own guidelines that evolve every month matching your local market.

Data is useless without the feedback of your customers.  Analytics IS important, but it has it's place.

Your data can only be used as benchmarks without the feedback of your customers.  You can’t deem ANYTHING successful without feedback.  That’s why sourcing a single source holds the most value at most dealerships and dealers need to expand upon this.  EVERYTHING should somehow be sourced to a sale.  YOU don’t need to change; you just need to get a new pair of glasses so that your perception can work better with your gut feelings.  Put yourself in a position to make the best decision faster.  Somehow, someway, everything needs to show ROI at some level.  You will never get complete attribution but you need to get as close as possible to it. 

I believe most dealers can cut a good portion of their market dollars, re-invest those dollars into technology and give back to your customers (they do represent a high percentage of influence).  After that, I believe you will still be saving money and gaining market share.

My goal in 2017 is to build a network of dealers that share data anonymously, giving more power to the dealer body and less to the vendors.  Right now in automotive history, there is a power grab for the internet, vendors are working diligently to get it.