In April, CarGurus, of Cambridge, Mass., said it was offering dealerships early access to its new CarGurus Convert digital retailing product. The company says the tool allows shoppers to calculate their vehicle trade-in, taxes and fees; get pre-qualified for financing through partner lenders; and choose from a dealership's finance-and-insurance products.
The following month, Santa Monica, Calif.-based TrueCar announced a pilot integration with digital retailing provider Roadster that allows consumers to move between TrueCar's website and Roadster's Express Storefront tool at about 650 dealerships working with both companies. That was before dealership management system giant CDK Global Inc. acquired Roadster in a $360 million cash deal; TrueCar says the acquisition did not affect its work with Roadster.
Chicago-based Cars.com said its Dealer Inspire unit — which offers dealership websites, chat tools and other technology — is growing at a faster rate than its larger marketplace business. The company plans to add features to its Online Shopper digital retailing product, including credit approvals, CEO Alex Vetter said in May. Its ultimate goal, he said, is to move shoppers on its marketplace directly into dealerships' systems.
Edmunds jointly developed an instant appraisal-and-offer tool with used-vehicle retailer CarMax, which bought Edmunds in the spring in a deal valued at $404 million. Nick Gorton, Edmunds' chief innovation officer, said the partnership eventually could unlock more capabilities.
Meanwhile, Autotrader, part of Cox Automotive, in May introduced My Wallet, a feature that generates personalized payment information. That follows an update last year to its Accelerate My Deal digital retailing product that allows shoppers to customize a purchase while searching for a vehicle on its website.
"As I think about the evolution of leads over the last 10 to 20 years, it's changed drastically," said Erin Lomax, vice president of operations at Autotrader.
Today, "you're not just getting the consumer's name, email, phone number and what car they're looking at," Lomax said. "You're getting their credit range, their trade-in value, the amount they want to put down on their car. So dealers are able to work these leads much more effectively and understand the consumer in a better way than ever before."
CarGurus' goal with its Convert product is to make a customer's vehicle purchase faster and more convenient, Tom Caputo, the company's chief product officer, said in an April interview. The tool is intended to be flexible enough to work with customers who want to do a few or many steps online before connecting with a dealership.
"We always have to be paying attention to where our customers are and what our customers are asking for," Caputo said. "Dealers are recognizing this is where the market is moving. So I think it is certainly incumbent upon CarGurus and others in the space to make sure that we are paying attention to those trends."