Edmunds.com drives a revved-up audience to auto dealers

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Edmunds.com drives a revved-up audience to auto dealers
Edmunds.com drives a revved-up audience to auto dealers

Edmunds originated in the mid-1960s as a publisher of brochures featuring automotive information for prospective car buyers. Since then Edmunds has migrated away from print and exists as an online-only resource—and has been expanding its business down new avenues. For instance, in 2010 the company began investing in a line of business that sells subscription-based packages of customer leads to dealers around the United States.

As part of that deal, says COO Seth Berkowitz, Edmunds connects its customers—north of 15 million visitors per month—to those subscription partners as a form of lead generation. “We do that by [sending] leads to the dealerships with first name, last name, email address,” Berkowitz explains. “We provide [toll-free] phone services to reach out to dealers. We have chat and are looking into texting and looking to facilitate that at scale.”

Here's the challenge: Edmunds needs to send the largest possible audience to its dealer-customers, but at the same time it needs to make sure that the audience it sends is in a buying mood—consumers actively interested in the products the dealerships are promoting. Consumers that log onto Edmunds simply to conduct preliminary research on a car aren't going to be particularly receptive if they're asked to send their personal details to a dealership. Consequently, it would be counterproductive for Edmunds to blanket its entire online audience with popups or interstitials asking them to share their email addresses and identities.

In Q1 of this year Edmunds used customer acquisition solutions from Mintigo to automate the process of deciding which customers would be most interested in providing contact information to its dealership partners.

Prior to working with Mintigo, Edmunds' process of segmenting and targeting people was more haphazard. Currently, Berkowitz says, Edmunds is working with Mintigo to examine the web browsing habits of its user base to answer the fundamental question: Which group of Edmunds visitors are most likely to engage with lead generation opportunities?

“We're trying to determine the probability of different people doing different actions and showing those people opportunities at the exclusions of others,” Berkowitz explains.

Current segmentation is based on an array of different variables, including the webpages consumers visit, whether they're looking at a page devoted to a certain make and model, and geographic location. “There are many different ways to carve up who a user is to begin to build out a profile to better service their immediate needs,” Berkowitz says.

Mintigo's solution combines a wide array of data to make recommendations. “We'll look at time of day, device, browser; we'll look at how many pages they've been on during that session, whether or not they've configured the car—so all the terabytes of data that exist inform that probability,” Berkowitz says. “It would be hard for a human to describe or distill the important factors; the machine just makes those calculations on the fly.”

It took Mintigo's solution roughly three months for it to understand and make decisions around Edmunds' userbase, Berkowitz says. Since then, Edmunds customers exposed to the Mintigo algorithm have an average 20% lift—they're more likely to submit their information to dealer partners—versus customers that aren't segmented via Mintigo.

Ultimately, it's still early days for Edmunds and Mintigo. Berkowitz says the company spent Q2 tuning the model and is just now reaping the benefits. To gauge success, Edmunds is measuring whether its new lead generation tools are helping its dealer partners sell more cars. “The proxy for that is the degree to which lead volumes are up and whether we see a direct correlation of car sales [based on] the back-end reporting we share with those dealer partners,” Berkowitz explains.

While the Mintigo solution is focused on improving the leads Edmunds sends to its dealer partners, the company is currently looking to invest more in site personalization and contextualizing content offerings across its entire web presence.

“Over the next year we'll invest in the technology and capabilities to offer a highly personalized experience on Edmunds.com, such that there won't be a uniform website,” Berkowitz says, “but one tailored to [consumer] needs and interests as best as we can discern them.”

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