I was chatting with my pal Kiran Karunakaran about his new role at Fox Dealer. You may recall that Kiran’s DR solution, TagRail, was acquired by Fox earlier this year. At that time, I figured DR would be an absolute requirement for dealer websites, and I expected to see CDK bid for, say, CarNow. Here are the pairings:
- Fox Dealer, TagRail
- Dealer Inspire, Online Shopper
- Dealer Fire, Precise Price
- Dealer eProcess, SARA
- Dealer.com, Accelerate
Note that, with the exception of TagRail, these DR solutions were all developed by their website partners. Missing are the pure DR startups I usually write about: Roadster, Modal, and Moto. Maybe they’re better off uncommitted. I decided to test this theory with a little research.
I went through Wards’ Top 100 Internet Dealers, identifying the website provider for each one, and their DR solution. The Wards sample skews strongly toward DDC, at 60%. The Datanyze survey (chart above) has DDC at 18%. Remember, I am not looking for market share so much as patterns in DR adoption.
For example, 20% of “top internet dealers” had no DR solution. That was a surprise. A few of these had cobbled together the Dealertrack frame with Trade Pending and a homebrew payment calculator – not DR as it is usually defined.
Same-vendor pairings for DR and website were rare
Some dealers use the same website and DR solution across all their stores, and some skip around. Herb Chambers uses DDC and Darwin faithfully except in his Chevy store, which uses CDK and Shop Click Drive. Paul Rusnak and Fred Anderson are faithful to Roadster and Gubagoo, respectively, but vary their choice of website providers. Of course, these choices are often mandated by the manufacturer.
Of manufacturer DR preferences, the best known is probably Shop Click Drive, followed by AutoFi. AutoFi is historically associated with Ford, and still used mainly by Ford dealers. I did find one Kia dealer in Peoria using AutoFi. Chrysler’s DriveFCA is powered by Carzato.
Same-vendor pairings for DR and website were rare, at 12%. These were almost exclusively DDC with Accelerate. I found one instance of Dealer Inspire with its mate, Online Shopper. Free-agent DR solutions did much better than those associated with website providers. Roadster, Darwin, and CarNow together accounted for 59% of DR in the sample dealerships.
As it happens, CDK did not acquire a DR solution. Instead, they sold their website business to Sincro, a digital marketing company. The Sincro announcement reminds us that what I am calling the “website business” may also include digital content, advertising, SEO, social, reputation, CRM, and lead-gen.
The right framework is not DR plus website, or even DR plus website and marketing, but a continuum across the customer journey. The journey begins with the various marketing services required to land the customer on the website, and ends with point-of-sale (POS) systems like menu and desking.
Recall that Roadster, Darwin, and Moto also play in the POS space. At the other end, there are pure-play marketing agencies that don’t do websites. You can evaluate strategy for these companies in terms of where they are concentrated along the journey, and where they are extending.
Dealer Fire moved up funnel, through their partnership with Stream, and Fox extended down a notch with TagRail. Darwin is unique in having moved to DR from point of sale. (I am using the linear model for simplicity. To account for CRM and reputation, you need the loop model.)
My goal here was to explore the synergy between DR and dealer websites, and the answer is that they’re not as compatible as they appear. Research showed much less crossover than I had expected, between marketing agencies on one side of the BUY NOW button, and DR specialists on the other.