As Britain’s seventh most searched-for online brand of 2010, Auto Trader is one of those websites which dominates its market so thoroughly that its name has become almost synonymous with the process of buying and selling cars.
Building from its origins in magazine publishing, Trader Media Group (TMG) now encompasses a range of international online brands including Van Trader, Truck Trader and Farmers Trader, but the flagship Auto Trader remains its best-known property. With approximately 10 million unique visitors per month to its UK site alone (sixteen times the volume of any competitor), Auto Trader is the natural first port of call for a buyer, before making telephone enquiries and ultimately going to a dealer’s showroom for a test drive.
Picking up the phone is a key point in this process. It’s the moment when passing interest becomes pro-active curiosity. It’s the point at which an online visitor becomes a lead. For TMG’s customers, the car dealers, the number enquiries generated by their advert on Auto Trader is therefore a fundamental performance indicator. Furthermore, interpreting the contextual data associated with those calls, such as the origin, duration and call volumes, can provide a dealer with real insight into how they are performing.
That’s why TMG decided to adopt storm as its real-time number management, quality monitoring and call data analysis platform for dealers, providing the basis of the ‘Call Tracker’ product within Auto Trader’s Dealer Portal. This tool enables dealers to see the flow of calls they’re receiving to any allocated tracking numbers. They can use this information to compare the performance of their non-geographic numbers (08-) displayed on Auto Trader against the geographic (01-/02-) numbers used for local advertising campaigns. The distribution of leads in a given area can also be viewed on a map, enabling dealers to measure which local campaigns are proving most effective.
TMG’s Annual Report for 2011 highlights the strategic importance of the Dealer Portal as part of Auto Trader’s service portfolio:
“Around 90% of the UK’s dealers do business with us, and about 74% of them use our Dealer Portal. This portal uses Trader Digital’s analytics to provide meaningful sales data that none of our competitors can match. It is a dedicated trade resource that provides a gateway to essential tools, research and a portfolio of solutions helping dealers to manage their stock, view advertising performance, track leads and convert those leads into sales for a convincing return on investment.”
Polly Littlewood, the Product Manager for Call Tracker within TMG, comments on the importance of capturing the first crucial telephone interaction: “When a user is browsing the website, they may be looking through any number of different dealer’s vehicles in a single sitting, located anywhere in the UK. For all we know, a web user could just be a car enthusiast who enjoys browsing for its own sake, with no intention of buying. When they make a call, the customer can see their return on investment clearly.”
Littlewood continues: “The detailed information that storm provides also helps our customers to improve their effectiveness. They can see which of their branches are performing best, and review the call recordings for quality optimisation purposes. If a call is missed, it is immediately flagged up to the branch via SMS, email and on their management dashboard. This ensures that all telephone leads are followed up as quickly as possible, since it’s a tried and tested truth that a speedy response results in higher conversion rates.”
Kalpesh Patel, a Senior Project Manager for Content Guru who led the TMG storm project, talks about some of the technology behind the solution:
“The TMG Call Tracker was a challenging project due to the highly bespoke nature of the portal we created. It’s a perfect example of the underlying open architecture on which storm is based, which has been developed and refined over the course of nearly 20 years here at Redwood, Content Guru's sister company.
“The modular design of the core real-time technology gave us the flexibility we needed to adapt the solution to TMG’s requirements. We had to design the Call Tracker module to be plugged into the existing Auto Trader Dealer Portal, with further integration into Google Maps to provide a tool for campaign evaluation.”
Patel explains further, “storm’s ability to treat geographic numbers just like non-geographics allows us to bring both dedicated TMG numbers and a dealer’s own numbers into the same manageable framework, so they can be analysed side by side. In combination with the mapping capability, these features enable car dealers to identify local advertising hotspots and compare campaign effectiveness against their online lead generation through Auto Trader.”
Richard Manthorpe, also a Project Manager for Content Guru who has worked closely with TMG, outlines how TMG takes advantage of the hierarchical partition structure within storm. This allows all storm customers to ‘multi-tenant’ – to share the same platform – while using different services, each customised to their distinct needs:
“The huge advantage of delivering from the cloud is that storm can provide a central point of management for multiple layers of organisations.
“For a car dealer, this means they can assess the performance of their various branches both individually and as a whole, tracking the numbers of appointments booked in, conversion rates and other relevant KPIs. The facility for supervisors to monitor and score call recordings also provides a common benchmark for quality control across all branches.”
Manthorpe adds: “Meanwhile, TMG can then take a detailed view of the service they are providing to all their customers, gain insight into best practices and identify opportunities to improve their service.”
Richard Thwaites, Head of Intelligence Products for TMG, comments on the impact of the service: “storm has helped Auto Trader to consolidate its market leadership. Through the Call Tracker portal, we have a technical offering as compelling in the marketplace as our brand. It enables our customers to see that they’re getting more than just a label and an online showroom. They’re getting capabilities which are pivotal to their entire sales and marketing strategy. And the interfaces are deceptively simple to use, providing users with a lot of power and depth of control without requiring much training at all.”