Jessica Stafford

Jessica Stafford

ATLANTA — Autotrader, which became the first nationwide online car shopping site more than 20 years ago, will undergo a dramatic transformation throughout 2018, resulting in a faster, more personalized online shopping experience that delivers true price confidence for today’s consumers, the company announced.  

These enhancements also will result in more engagement, higher quality leads and actual car sales for Autotrader’s dealer clients, according to Jessica Stafford, the company’s senior vice president and general manager.

“Car shoppers have set clear expectations of how they like to shop and transact online: to have a trusted and transparent experience that’s fast and enjoyable,” Stafford said. “At Autotrader, we’ve made bigger, smarter and bolder investments to create a more modern and complete digital shopping experience that will improve site satisfaction with consumers and generate more opportunities for dealers to connect with local, ready-to-buy shoppers.”

The list of planned enhancements includes:

  • Seamless shopping across devices: Shopping all the cars on Autotrader will be “easier than ever before” with a sleek new look that is consistent across desktop, tablet and mobile, offering faster loading times and a more efficient shopping journey that connects more consumers with the cars they want to buy.
  • Price confidence with Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor: Autotrader will be the only third-party car shopping site to feature KBB’s Fair Market Range on all eligible vehicle inventory listings, giving car shoppers the confidence to purchase with expert, up-to-date and data-driven pricing information from the industry’s most trusted resource.
  • Online dealmaking: Autotrader plans to turn shoppers into buyers by empowering them to start their deal online and making it faster and easier for dealers to close sales.
  • Refined search experience: A modernized search experience that will sort listings by shopper search criteria, previous shopping history, and a combination of distance, value and merchandising. Increased user engagement and enhanced inventory results should help shoppers find what they are looking for sooner, connecting them to nearby dealers. 
  • Personalized shopper content: For an even more personalized connection with today’s car shopper, Autotrader will leverage the power of Cox Automotive data to provide every visitor with a personalized, frictionless experience that will help them find the right car and feel confident in their choice.

In an interview with F&I and Showroom and Auto Dealer Today, Stafford said the enhancements were based on feedback from car shoppers as well Autotrader’s dealer and manufacturer partners. Based on what she’s seen during testing, Stafford believes the Kelley Blue Book Price Advisor integration in particular will benefit dealers.

“All these things drive more engagement and help them sell more cars,” she said. “The point of bringing all these components together is to drive more car sales for our dealers and help drive as much value as possible.”

Stafford said the company remains focused on building tools that make “true attribution” possible, noting that dealers want to know how the various components of their digital marketing efforts create the path to the sale. “You’ll hear more about that this year, how Autotrader is part of that puzzle.”

Asked whether Autotrader can play a role in introducing the benefits of F&I products early in the sales cycle, Stafford said new tools that will help dealers start that conversation online will be part of the “fully integrated digital retailing solutions” Cox Automotive’s family of brands is building now.

“We have found in our research that consumers interact with that content and are apt to upsell themselves when they’re able to digest it on their own terms,” she said. “Consumers still want to go in and do the test drive and feel the deal with the dealer, but the more content they are able to access online, the more confidence they have in those purchases.”

The new Autotrader will go live this month with the launch of a new, mobile-first homepage, and will undergo a staged rollout throughout the calendar year.