Car-shopping site execs take aim at Google
David Barkholz is a reporter for Automotive News.
ATLANTA -- Two big digital auto-shopping sites, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, are trying to use Big Data to puncture Google's reputation as the premier online advertising source for dealers.
But they'll need lots of luck and some very persuasive arguments to wrestle that 800-pound gorilla to the ground.
Google, if you ask dealers or factories, gets results. Industry figures show that two of every three visitors to dealer Web sites get there from clicking on a link found during a Google search. In other words, Google is the search engine shoppers use when they're serious about finding a vehicle.
This year, Subaru's U.S. marketing chief Dean Evans told Automotive News that he found Google so powerful that he simply advertised on the search engine for several days until the carmaker sold the desired number of Forester crossovers. Then he shut off the ads.
Evans said it was a relatively cheap way to move metal without brand-sapping incentives.
But Google gets too much credit for influencing shoppers, argue AutoTrader CEO Chip Perry and Cars.com President Mitch Golub.
Perry said this month that AutoTrader.com gets 15 million visitors per month and those visitors average 30 minutes per month viewing vehicles and comparison shopping. By contrast, Perry said, Google visitors largely use the search engine to find a dealership or specific vehicle to research before quickly moving to more comprehensive sites.
Golub says he has supporting data. A study that Cars.com initiated with consultancy Dataium showed that 79 percent of searches that took a shopper to a dealership Web site resulted from search terms that were a variation of the dealership's name.
That is evidence, Golub said, that those shoppers using Google and other search engines to find a dealership are landing on those sites just long enough to find exact contact information for a store whose name they already know.
"The path to purchase for car buyers is not linear," Google said in a statement.
Google is good at helping shoppers through that process. That's why dealerships and factories spend big bucks advertising with the company.
And that's what keeps execs at third-party shopping sites up at night.
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