For the past month and half Google has been testing a new local car lead generation product in the San Francisco market. The product, officially called Google Comparison Ads for Autos, allows a consumer to anonymously request quotes on specific in stock inventory from dealers within a certain distance of their search. According to Brian Pasch of PGC Marketing the Google Cars results are ”focused on lower sales funnel queries meaning the buyer has already decided on a brand and a model to purchase. So it will not be showing up for all automotive search queries, just a subset that Google believes have already made a brand/model selection”. For example the results will show for Toyota Prius or Toyota dealer but not for the search phrase Toyota.
Google has noted the following benefits on their sign up page:
- Higher-quality leads: Our leads come directly from motivated, purchase-ready consumers who have specifically chosen to contact your dealership. Leads are unique, never resold, and delivered immediately to you.
- Free inventory listings: You can have your inventory shown to consumers on Google for free, and only pay for leads you receive.
- More than just inventory: Consumers can choose to connect with you even when you don’t have a specific car in inventory. We know that you can order the car, dealer trade, or find other solutions to help consumers get the cars they want.
- Greater control over leads: You choose how much you’re willing to pay for a lead and can target consumers based on distance and specific type of car, so you get the leads that are most valuable to you.
To interact with Google’s test, set your browser to San Francisco or Palo Alto and search on a phrase that is model specific like “Toyota Prius” and you will be presented with this sponsored result just below the sponsored ads:
From that screen the searcher is taken to a search result screen of in stock inventory within a certain distance of your location and a faceted interface that allow for additional narrowing of choices trim, engine type, color and options. When you click on the “Google price info” button you are presented with pricing detail that shows MSRP, Invoice AND (again as reported by Brian Pasch) the average regional price paid as calculated from data shared by dealers to the DMV in their state. This pricing transparency is not a number that most dealers will feel comfortable about being shared.
Once a user has identified a specific model and chooses to contact a dearer, they are offered the ability to anonymously contact the dealer via email, a callback or to directly call the dealer. The dealer only gets the prospect contact detail if the searcher agrees to provide it to the dealer. Google acts in an intermediary capacity and provides the dealer with an anonymized email or phone number by which to contact the prospect.
As Ryan Leslie of DealerRater.com pointed out to me, this customer focused approach might not appeal to all dealers: “This is SCARY to most dealers and will force them to change their lead response strategy in order to be effective. The cream of the crop will really rise to the top and this kind of lead is a death sentence to the old “just get them in here so we can sell them” model of sales in the business. As with all things Google product, it’s the ability to control the real estate that is most appealing”. From where I sit as a consumer the increased transparency around pricing would be a welcome change for the auto industry.
New car sales in the US are approximately 10 million cars at an average price of almost $30,000. This $290 billion dollar local market, although roughly equal in dollar value to used car sales, offers a very high value per transaction. Traditionally leads in this market cost between $15 and $40 and thus it is obviously attractive to Google. Like their recent acquisition of Frommer’s, the points the way for Google to take a more vertical strategy to their local sales growth, one that is very targeted and provides specific value to specific industries.
Brian Pasch of PGC Digital marketing has a nice overview video of the program from a dealers perspective:
Google Testing Lead Generation System for New Car Sales by Mike Blumenthal