Earlier in the week, I had the chance to catch up with Vehix.com CEO Derek Mattsson, who had some interesting things to say related to Monday’s post about Starbucks taking mobile local search into its own hands. Vehix is interested in going down a mobile search path that, like Starbucks’, will utilize an SMS-based search platform to let consumers locate local dealer inventory.
“We are going to move into mobile in the next year, which is the only piece we don't have,” said Mattsson “You're not going to go through a whole Web site on your cellphone, but it does create opportunities for quick inventory searches or SMS-based searches where you text in your ZIP code and 'Honda' to receive 20 cars that are nearby.”
This complements the company’s existing channels, including cable and Web. From the beginning, Vehix has made friends with the cable industry. Led by Mattsson, who was previously regional vice president at AT&T Media Services (now Comcast), the company has brought television ads to 29 million cable TV households per day and has attracted Comcast as a major shareholder.
It has also evolved along with on-demand programming offered by Comcast to offer consumers the chance to browse Vehix automotive content through the cable operator's On Demand Spotlight program. This includes buying guides that utilize content from J.D. Power and Associates and more than 150 “test drives,” which include video footage and information about specific auto models.
Just as the company is moving search-based directional advertising toward the television, it is also moving in the opposite direction by taking video to its Web site in the form of “advertorial” type clips on certain model cars. This is meant to build a more attractive and comprehensive vertical experience that currently offers things such as editorial content, DMV information and financing.
Next up for the Web site is the integration of social networking to engage consumers throughout the buying cycle and to facilitate interactions around the naturally high enthusiast category of autos. Known as MyVehix, this will help it build out more of a comprehensive vertical experience similar to Autobytel’s upcoming MyRide site, profiled last week by Greg Jarboe at Search Engine Watch.
These channels, combined with the new mobile piece, will allow Vehix to cover three bases that are similar to the triple-play efforts of its cable partner, Comcast. This could allow it to take advantage of the “continuity of services” attractive to both advertisers and consumers.
“Consumers are going to access information on as many different platforms at different times in the buying cycle. They're going to decide what they see and when they see it, whether it's on a television or a computer or cellphone,” said Mattsson. “Through Comcast, we can reach them more times throughout the process, on different platforms, with one single brand.”
One challenge the company could face with the cable television outlet is working with cable providers to refine their on-demand experience to live up to the Web-based interface to which consumers are accustomed. Deployment could also be a challenge as Comcast has an installed base of 15 million cable boxes that represent different generations of hardware and software, some of which aren’t caught up with Vehix’s most current state of the art.
More detail and analysis can be found in this week’s Local Media Journal and in an upcoming White Paper on the online auto classifieds space.