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Internet Summit

Leading off the day at the Internet Summit, Chip Perry, CEO of AutoTrader, revealed that the company’s main business focus is not on e-commerce but on filling the gaps in the consumer shopping experience and providing valuable tools for sellers.

“The Internet was supposed to change the buyer-seller interaction,” Perry noted. “But AutoTrader kept in mind that people need a live person to negotiate a price, trade in a vehicle and get financing; these are common sense notions. AutoTrader understood that we needed to fill in the gaps and make the process easier to help consumers narrow their search so the end result has a greater chance of making a sale.”

Asked about what the “secret ingredients” were for AutoTrader, Perry said: “Our focus has been finding ways to bring together the most buys and the most sellers in one place. In order to do that we needed a consultative high-touch sales force to build relationships; we needed to understand how people were buying so we could create new tools and approaches for our sellers to take advantage of and to address new needs in the market.”

One new initiative revealed by Perry is the introduction of the Trade-in Marketplace, which provides instant trade-in offers that are typically above normal values, giving consumers more flexibility and value when buying a new vehicle and in turn delivering the used car inventory local dealers are seeking.

One of the other keys to AutoTrader’s dot-com success, according to Perry, has been its focus on brand marketing. Perry presented data indicating that 80 percent of people who visited the site either typed AutoTrader into the search bar or came directly to the site. He also shared that the No. 1 place people look when shopping for a used car was the dealer site with AutoTrader being the second most frequently used online place people searched for vehicles.

When asked about the importance of location, Perry mentioned that “location of the vehicle is an important factor when shopping since it expands what was once a small shopping area in your hometown.” Mobile will also play off this importance on location by allowing inventory within a dealership to be accessed, and in current testing are apps that offer the ability to enter a VIM number and get the information on the particular car and what other similar vehicles are available locally.

While many dot-coms focus on building a successful model to generate investment and ultimately the sale to a larger online company, Perry said “AutoTrader’s focus has been on focusing on marketing fundamentals, making the site attractive to both buyers and sellers so they can capture the most buyers and sellers in one place.” A successful dot-com needs to have a solid business plan that draws in advertisers first before going too far afield with more technology, applications and features since this is what allows for more growth and profitability.

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