By Brian Pasch

With the NADA Convention only weeks away, I can easily predict that at least one booth will be buzzing with dealer activity.  Autotrader Companies (ATC) is reshuffling their deck and I would like to share some exciting news about their digital strategy for dealers in 2014.

responsive-designHaystak Digital Marketing will be providing automotive dealership websites in 2014. Haystak, purchased by VinSolutions earlier this year, will become the preferred website platform marketed by ATC.  Their new website technology will be on display at their booth at the 2014 NADA Convention in New Orleans, Booth #2538.

The new Haystak website platform is built on responsive website technology which will allow consumers shopping on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices to view content optimized for the size of their viewing screen.  The website platform will be fully integrated with Haystak’s SEM and SEO offerings and will also be tightly integrated into VinSolutions CRM platform.

The new Haystak platform is the long awaited answer to existing VinSolutions website customers that have been asking for a responsive or adaptive upgrade.  Although details on how existing customers will be upgraded have not been made public, existing VinSolutions website customers will be able to update to the Haystak responsive website solution.

Good News For VinSolutions Customers?

The official press release will hit the newswires tomorrow, but I’m breaking the story to the automotive community one day early. The announcement may cause some existing VinSolutions websites customers to be alarmed, but actually this will be good news in the long run.  Here are some reasons why:

  • The existing VinSolutions Content Management System (CMS) is dated.  It is painfully slow in creating website pages without having a visual design tool.  The new website technology from Haystak will have a robust CMS engine that makes adding pages or inserting code for conversion tracking easy.
  • The existing VinSolutions websites have separate desktop and mobile technologies. This means that pages that exist on the desktop website do not necessarily become available to mobile users.  With mobile traffic rising to 40% of website visits, VinSolutions customer will now have a consistent messages across desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
  • The existing VinSolutions websites were not tightly integrated with digital advertising services that made Haystak a household name.  Most dealers know Haystak for the dynamic inventory advertising in SEM, but the company offers a full line of digital advertising products.  The Haystak campaign data was never integrated into the VinSolutions website backend, and now it will be.
  • The existing VinSolutions websites were fully open for SEO optimization but default website template produced many duplicate Page Titles and META Descriptions which had to be manually corrected.  According to Haystak, the new platform will be SEO compliant out of the box and also include more sophisticated SEO reporting tools.

What could dealers not like about this news?  Well, no one likes to go through a new website cutover.  It is a distraction that dealers will not want in their busy schedule.  It also means that dealers that have created many custom website pages will need ensure that all pages get moved to the new platform

Any website change also comes with an initial SEO hit but in the long run, this is a change that dealers will have to make.  Why?  Because operating without an adaptive or responsive website platform is no longer an option!  I have dealer clients that see over 50% of their website traffic coming from mobile devices.  Dealers must have pages that engage consumers on mobile devices.

Dealers also need to know that Google has announced that it will not show websites pages in organic search results on mobile devices if those pages are not available to mobile visitors. (Read Post)  This means that a dealer with 200 pages on their desktop website and 100 pages on their mobile site, will be penalized.  A responsive or adaptive website platform is the way to avoid the upcoming Google penalty; all pages are available on all devices.

It will be interesting to understand what will happen with the VinLens technology that so many customers love. Will similar functionality be offered by Haystak?  Will Haystak websites have advanced integration with VinSolutions CRM?  I have not been able to get a demo yet, but as soon as I do, I will be writing a followup piece.

Refocusing The Autotrader Strategy

I hope to get more on this backstory, but it looks like ATC is realigning the priorities of their business units.

  • Haystak Digital Marketing – Websites, SEO, SEM, Social Media Advertising
  • VinSolutions – ILM, CRM, Desking, Fulfillment
  • HomeNet – Inventory Management and Syndication
  • vAuto – Vehicle Market Pricing Tools

The announcement by Haystak increases the number of website companies that are offering a responsive or adaptive solution. Dealer.com, Dealer eProcess, DealerFire, DealerInspire, Remora, and Dominion Dealer Solutions have responsive/adaptive websites available to their clients.

I think that ATC realized that they could not go to NADA without a responsive website announcement.  So, they decided to pre-announce their plans to the auto community and create a NADA exhibit hall buzz, which I think is smart.

The companies that I’m still waiting to see a responsive/adaptive solution in production are Cobalt, KPA, DealerOn, AutoFusion, DrivingForce, Motortrak, and Naked Lime. Maybe this move by Haystak will facilitate some additional announcements and accelerate development at the companies who, in my opinion, are late to market.

If there is one takeaway from the article, it is this:  Dealers need to have a responsive/adaptive website to engage and convert mobile shoppers.

ATC knew they were late to the game and have come to market with a solution.  This is good news for VinSolutions customers and will create a more attractive suite of solutions for dealers considering Haystak as their digital marketing partner.

Automotive Website Awards

awa-logoOn Friday, January 24, 2014, PCG Consulting will be hosting the Automotive Website Awards (AWA) at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans.  PCG has reviewed the most popular website platforms, CRM tools, and digital marketing products and will be recognizing the best products with awards.

PCG is also publishing the 180+ page AWA research book will contain detailed product reviews for Websites, CRM, Video Marketing, Digital Marketing, Mobile Apps, and more. Dealers will use the book as their 2014 buying guide.  Don’t miss this great event, and you can RSVP as my guest using this link: http://www.awa.autos/rsvp/

Order Your AWA Book

Dealers and members of the automotive industry can also pre-order the 180+ page AWA Research Book using this link: http://www.awa.autos/awa-buyers-guide/

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Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Consulting