WHETHER you’re a one-man band or part of a massive franchise, it’s almost certain that Auto Trader will be a big part of your life. But as it turns out, there’s an awful lot more to the UK’s best-known automotive classifieds site than meets the eye.
These days, Auto Trader provides not only advertising space for dealerships to sell their wares, but also a range of tools and services that help them to analyse and understand how their adverts are working for them.
‘It’s a “look at me” sort of thing,’ says commercial director Marc Thornborough. ‘Dealers are looking to stand out, and to do that they’ve got to shoutreally loud. And then from there it’s about getting people to spend as long as possible looking at their websites, and then clicking on an email link or phoning a phone number to ask for more information.’
To make sure that happens, Thornborough and his colleagues spend hours sifting through reams of data to work out what buyers are doing when they look at dealers’ adverts, and why they’re doing it.
‘We try and follow the paths buyers are taking to work out what’s best practice. We can also work out from keywords what people are interested in. Obviously, then, you’ve got pictures, and of course pricing too – the basics, in other words. And part of what we do is to talk to our dealers as often as we can, to remind them about those basics.’
To that end, one of Auto Trader’s newest initiatives is a series of master classes; free sessions for dealers in which Auto Trader staff share with dealers the insights they’ve gained from their research, in order to help them maximise the effect of their adverts.
We’ve sometimes struggled to get dealers engaged because many are owner-operators, and they can’t afford to spend time away from their core business,’ says Thornborough. ‘Customers tell us that they can’t come down to us because there’s an auction on – but we’re trying something a little different this year: Holding seminars at auctions. We’re saying “It’s OK, we’ll come to you!” If that works well, we’re going to continue that throughout next year.’
The group also offers its own tools to help dealers make the most of their online presence. ‘Razsor – our in-house digital marketing service – is a big one. Mobile as well. Half of smartphone users have searched when they’re already on a dealer’s forecourt – a lot of salespeople don’t realise that!
‘We’ve also got the Dealer Community, a tool and a forum that dealers can and should use to share stories, straight from the horse’s mouth. They can also tell us what they think about Auto Trader and what they want us to develop for them. Many of our upcoming products have come from dealers’ suggestions.’
So just what is in the pipeline? ‘Well, we’re redesigning the full page ad, and that’s currently in test. That’s coming out shortly, and it’ll be clearer and easier for the consumer to navigate around it. We’re also testing 20-image ads; we’ve found that people will spend longer in front of a car if there’s more to look at.’
Auto Trader’s still looking after its core business, then – but the company’s well aware of its prime position in the market, and continues to develop not only a remarkably useful suite of tools for dealers to use in conjunction with their adverts, but also a series of services that look to advise and guide dealers into making the best possible choices for their classified advertising.