Solving common online classified problems


EBay, the massive online commerce platform and owner of Kijiji, recently held an international two-day summit gathering eBay counterparts from around the world.

The brain trust, explained Ryan Thompson, head of sales for Kijiji Autos in Canada, aimed at putting together some best practices gleaned from the insights of online classified managers from places like Australia, Denmark and Germany.

Much to Thompson’s surprise and chagrin however, the issues raised seemed all too familiar.

“I thought I was going to get a bunch of new ideas that I could take to my dealers and help them sell more cars… The reality is that every person I spoke to from all around the world brought up the exact same struggles,” he said.

Dealers in Australia have the same issues as those in Abbotsford and Alabama.

The Kijiji team settled on three major struggles facing car dealers when I comes to online classified advertising: Return on investment, competition and staff struggles.

Where’s my ROI?
According to a 2011 study by Polk, seven out of 10 buyers walk into a dealership without establishing contact with the dealership first. And with so many customers taking so many avenues to get to your online inventory, Thompson said it could be frustrating for a dealer looking to drill down where the ups are coming from.

“There is no such thing as one path anymore,” he said. People will use Google with initial search terms and most likely wind up at an OEM site. Following that, a used-car customer might head to Trader, AutoCatch or Kijiji before winding up at a dealer site.

Options for helping track online listing performance include call tracking and email. Thompson said the latest “craze” concerned monitoring traffic on your vehicle description pages (VDP).

A recent eight-month study by Cobalt of over 9 million VDPs found that vehicles with pages garnering 20 to 30 page views spent 29 per cent less time on the lot. VDPs with more than 30 page views spend 44 per cent less time on the lot.

“It makes sense, the more activity you get on these pages the more leads you should get on these cars, whether it comes in the form of a drive-by or walk-in. remember, a walk-in now is not the same as a walk-in pre-Internet.”

While it is difficult to draw a straight line between VDPs and eventual sales, it is a fair assumption that removing VDPs on third-party sites would have a negative impact on sales.

Creative Competition
Online listings can benefit from a sprinkling of creativity, Thompson urged. Little things like a headline that not only includes year, make and model but also highlights unique features like low kilometres or only one owner is a great start.

Every used car has a story, he said, so don’t be afraid to share any distinct characteristics like accessories and upgrades and if the factory warranty is still good.

A new technique now making its way into the new vehicle advertising world is to clarify payment structures and highlight how low the payment could be when broken up weekly or bi-weekly.

Avoid VDPs with one lines or sparse vehicle descriptions. Kijiji data suggested dealers who reference CarProof or other value added in the sale like a service department open seven days a week would generate more leads.

Staff Struggles
Century Interactive works with Kijiji Autos and provided the company with statistics based on a case study of more than 300 dealers over six-months.

“On inventory calls an employee asked for the appointment only 22 per cent of the time. When a request was made for a specific day and time, it was accepted 36 per cent,” he said.

“When we talk about turnovers in a dealership, we talk about the salesperson selling the car and turning the customer over the F&I office. I think the turnover we should measure a little more closely is the turnover between the receptionist and the salespeople. In talking to a lot of dealers, this is where it all goes wrong.”

It could be a process improved with simple communication or additional training, he said. There are technological solutions as well. Instead of having voicemails left for different sales people, Thompson suggested using email to text message software like

The free service would allow a receptionist to take down specific customer information, write it in an email and send that via a wireless cellphone provider to a sales person’s phone.

“Instead of your receptionist say ‘everybody is busy right now. I can put you through to voicemail,’ she can instead tell the customer ‘I can text one of our sale people who will get back you in 15 minutes.’ ”