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Shaun Cornelius

AUTOTRADER, a division of the global Cox Automotive group, this week unveiled its car-trading platform in Australia as the start of a sequence of dealer- and buyer-focused products to be rolled out over the next few years.

The Autotrader platform has been designed predominantly in Australia to provide a transparent avenue for buyers and sellers, enhanced with the latest technology from sister business Kelley Blue Book that aggregates data so buyers can compare vehicle prices with market prices.

Cox Automotive’s CEO for CAA Media Solutions in Australia, Shaun Cornelius, told GoAutoNews Premium this week that the platform’s technology is designed to create a more realistic picture of the deal buyers are getting, which helps instil confidence in the buying process.

He said dealers would also benefit from better-informed and more confident buyers who require less education regarding price through the selling process.

“We had a good look at what we had in the US, but we decided on investing in an all-new product that suits the Australian market and one which has a platform that we can evolve depending on dealer feedback and buyer feedback through the future,” Mr Cornelius said.

“We took learnings from the US and UK, and we had visitors come over and work with our team. But we were aware that this market is a bit different and it’s not a case of one size fits all.

“So we cherry-picked key features from some other markets and built them within the platform. More features can potentially be brought out from those markets in the future.”

The two biggest features that came across from the other markets were the Price Advisor within the Kelley Blue Book, and the dealer ratings and reviews.

Mr Cornelius said Kelley Blue Book is a tool that gives consumers a comparative pricing guide for their purchase by comparing a huge vehicle listing inventory and showing the fair-market estimates.

“We have yet to launch the Kelley Blue Book brand, but we are powering Price Advisor through the book,” he said.

“It is a phased approach to launching Kelley Blue Book in Australia.

“Next year you will see more and more of Kelley Blue Book in the market as we build our data set.

“Step one was to use some of that pricing data through Price Advisor, which we thought was an immediate need. There are others areas we will focus, and Kelley Blue Book will become a standalone brand in its own right.”

Mr Cornelius said the second main feature of the Autotrader site was dealer reviews which allow buyers access to the experiences of previous buyers when purchasing a car.

“People not only want to know what they’re buying, but who they are buying it from,” he said.

“There’s none of this hidden mentality of not knowing who you get the best deal from until the last minute, as with some products on the market.

“So we show the dealer’s Google ratings, we show a picture of the dealership, and allow the dealer to have their own page on the site so they can tell their story.

“We think that helps build a more trusted position between buyer and seller and the result is higher conversions to sale and a better process for both sides. We think this is the right way to go.”

Mr Cornelius said the strategy for Autotrader in Australia was to take a “different tack to the other players in the market”.

“We are about helping connect potential buyers with sellers in the most transparent way possible,” he said.

Mr Cornelius said Autotrader was not going to extract data and resell it, “that’s not our business,” he said.

“We think transparency is the future because that’s what buyers tell us. If delivered well, it adds value to the seller – the dealer – as well. A good example is Price Advisor.

People not only want to know what they’re buying but who they are buying it from

“Our research told us that typically a buyer has little idea of the value of the car they intend to purchase, and this is the same for many sellers. Their main reference point is the list price, so they immediately have a mentality that they have to go lower than the list price.

“However, the research also told us they don’t like haggling and most dealers agree – they don’t love the negotiation process.

“So Price Advisor tries to show a fair value in a band. If you can buy in that band, then you have achieved value and you don’t have to haggle. It has been positively received by buyers and dealers.”

Mr Cornelius said that during the two years of research done with dealers in Australia before the Autotrader launch, there was feedback about some companies charging potentially unsustainable high prices.

“We are looking for a win-win for the dealer and the buyer, so whatever pricing we have has to be sustainable,” he said.

“We think pricing represents good value for dealers. It is on a performance-based pricing model, so just to list the cars doesn’t incur a fee. As the dealer connects with buyers, then the fee is attached.

“We know that the dealers think that we have good value compared with the rest of the market.”

Autotrader also has an automatic listing on carsguide.com.au as part of the purchase process.

We know that the dealers think that we have good value compared with the rest of the market.

Buyers start with research, so they would use Carsguide for details of their possible next purchase,” Mr Cornelius said.

“Of the buyers we spoke to with our research in Australia, 74 per cent said they did not know the make or model of the vehicle they wanted when they started out on the car-buying journey.

“So Carsguide generates content for the buyer and then that’s integrated with Autotrader to hone their vehicle choice. Then the buyer has more details within Autotrader – such as the dealer review – that further helps them make a decision.

“The brands within Cox Automotive (including Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book and Carsguide) support each other. Ultimately it maximises the conversion to sale for the dealer, as well as the journey to a purchase by the buyer.”

Cox Automotive research in Australia found that buyers started researching a new vehicle online on average between 30 and 60 days before purchase.

When interviewing buyers who had yet to make a decision about what vehicle they preferred, the research found that the buyers planned to travel at least 50km to visit dealers and they planned to visit three dealers.

“That’s interesting but then we went and interviewed buyers at dealerships and asked them about their experience,” Mr Cornelius said.

“They told us that actually they had travelled no more than 6km and the vast majority only visited one dealer.

“So what they think they are going to do and actually do are quite different.

“The difference is the amount of research they are doing online. So the more we can help them with their research and connecting them with a dealer, then the better for them and the better for the dealer.

“We tell them about the vehicle, where the dealer is, who the dealer is and so on.

“By the time they have got to a dealer they are clear in their minds about what they want, the pricing and so they’re fully prepared. That makes the experience quicker and less stressful.”

Mr Cornelius said that in October, Carsguide achieved the number one slot in auto editorial as stated by Nielsen “so we are working with the most popular editorial site”.

The online car site has a 1.25 million unique audience “so people may not realise how popular that site is with buyers,” he said.

“So you see what we have achieved with Carsguide, and you add Autotrader into the mix and it’s an exciting proposition.”

By Neil Dowling

Dealer Solutions
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