Over the past several months, we have been working on expanding our coverage and building new proprietary research, market estimates and company profiles around several new coverage areas. We will be releasing forecasts, data, research and White Papers this year around many vertical search categories, including automotive and real estate. We have spent considerable time investigating the transition of consumers and researching the migration of ad dollars from offline sources. As part of this ongoing research, we thought it would be interesting to post some new product news from AutoTrader.com because it embodies an intriguing improvement in the auto consumer experience. Noticeable consumer improvements generally mean ad dollars are not far behind.
AutoTrader.com is the world's largest automotive classifieds marketplace. The company has over 3 million vehicle listings from 200,000 private owners and approximately 40,000 dealers. This includes 18,000 paying dealers out of a dealer market estimated to be between 60,000 to 80,000(*). These listings attract about 12 million consumers. In 2005, AutoTrader reached $274 million in revenue (see chart below) which generated ~ $50 billion in automotive sales, roughly equivalent to 14% of the U.S. auto market.
*Variation in range is due to part-time and individual auto sellers, franchises, service stations that sell a handful of vehicles, etc.
AutoTrader.com has launched a new comprehensive search tool called Find Your Dealer (bottom right). We received a preview of the functionality last week from AutoTrader.com’s Shea Knight, who helped design and build the product. The product description from the release is below:
Find Your Dealer gives dealers the ability to highlight the key qualities that make each dealership special. These include languages spoken, special offers/financing, services available (body shop, parts and accessories), perks of the facility (business center, children's play area), and selection of vehicles (new, used, mobility, hybrid). Car shoppers can view a Dealership's Detail Page with complete dealer information, a description of the dealership and links to specials, a handy slide show viewer to see the dealer's entire inventory and a snapshot of the dealer's inventory by vehicle type, such as sedan or SUV.
(note: product call-outs by TKG)
It's one thing to design a picture of product like this (with languages spoken, services offered, real-time inventory, etc.), but it’s something entirely different to collect the data to generate this level of granularity so the search actually works the way it was envisioned. This is usually where most products fall short. That's not the case with Find A Dealer.
The fact that AutoTrader.com has so many listings from both advertisers and non-advertisers translates into a very comprehensive search experience. Eight-hundred or so sales representatives in seven regional hubs collected the search attributes from each advertiser during the sales process. These data are then normalized and added to the search index, so the consumer can easily shift between many different product and service attributes. For example, if there are no Toyota dealerships with hybrids in stock, the interface returns the zero result with the option grayed out as opposed to returning nothing. It's the foresight on small product features like this that shows how good of a product it really is.