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AutoTrader focuses on mobile customer journey to drive conversions

November 5, 2014

photo[1]_opt-55NEW YORK – An executive at the Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit said that by focusing more closely on the customer journey instead of primarily on channels, this has helped the company to better serve audiences, translating into increased engagement.

The executive from the online automotive marketplace discussed how AutoTrader honed its strategy for enhancing the customer experience during the session,  “ Reinventing Consumer Experiences: Lessons While Transforming a $1B Automotive Shopping Brand.” The presentation pointed to how AutoTrader’s mind-set adjustment allowed it to leverage mobile tools more intelligently to personalize the car-shopping process.

“One of the biggest challenges for us was figuring out how to take more out of the experience,” said Catherine Iger, senior director, product management, AutoTrader. “To figure out exactly what it is that consumers need and what it is that’s going to create the most effective conversions and help them most in the shopping process.

“It was actually less of an effort of how many things can we do and give to the consumers and dealers and more of an effort of paring everything down,” she said.

Mobile explosion
The session emphasized how the one size does not fit all perspective, long preached in sales, has crystallized during the mobile explosion.

Catherine Iger at Mobile Women to Watch.

Catherine Iger at Mobile Women to Watch.

”Two-thirds of car buyers know very little about what vehicle they want, and we didn’t serve them well,” Ms. Iger said.

Research shows that 23 percent of shoppers know the exact vehicle make and model they want while 11 percent know just the make. Fourteen percent know which vehicle features they want.

AutoTrader has aggressively embraced mobile to drive engagement and sales. In recent years, it relaunched, introduced its first iPad app, redesigned its mobile site and apps.

The initiatives have had positive results. Each channel has showed improvements in conversion, engagement, usability and customer/advertiser satisfaction.

But experiential inconsistency and lower satisfaction scores across devices have left the company wanting to improve its track record.

AutoTrader strived to remove organizational silos, bringing together disparate development teams that were separately focused on mobile and on desktop.

The move led to a greater understanding of the importance for marketers of focusing on the consumer journey as a whole, not on optimizing experience by device, Ms. Iger said.

Automobile shopping differs from other fields as it can take months, even years for a consumer to reach a decision to buy. Mobile can play a role throughout the different stages of the decision-making process. The iPad is effective as a research tool in the early exploration phase while mobile applications are helpful on the lot once negotiations begin, the executive said.

Documention urged
Documenting the full shopping process is important, as is determining how to help consumers at the appropriate touchpoints.

Reinventing consumer experiences.

Reinventing consumer experiences.

Organizing the team’s thinking around thinking about how all tools and features work together also is a priority.

“One size does not fit all,” said Ms. Iger, who told the conference she attempted for years to make herself look, act and even sound more like a man to blend in with the male-dominated business culture before finally realizing she could be most effective simply being herself.

“The theme is diversity,” Ms. Iger said. “In your customer base. Focus on their experiences. Think of solutions as a system.  In the workplace, be yourself so other people can be themselves.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

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