Buying a new car is such a big investment - and we all know the web is absolutely crucial for those looking to purchase both new and used cars.
Why? Everything from pricing to comparisons, brochure downloads, test drive requests, dealer locators, videos, blogs, articles, reviews, forums, insurance quotes - all can, and generally is, done online.
So why is it that none of the large auto sites have used the available technology to feed this information into their basic listings?
Case in point - carsguide's listing for the new Falcon - http://search.carsguide.news.com.au/news/find-a-car/power-search/search-results/car-details.do?vehicleId=20080331.11:39:24&eRecId=68552&eReturnUrl=w6.0-search-results.jsp%3FN%3D4294967257%2B416%2B%2B4294967256%2B%2B%2B4294967242&searchType=5&vehicleType=5
There is minimal info here aside Polk listings - which are generally irrelevant to 95% of the population. Ask yourself the question - would this compel me to take my research further? Doubtful. I would probably leave Carsguide and use Google to try and find information.
End result? Lost revenue to Carsguide. Can they afford to lose this? Probably not - of the main 3 (carsales, drive, carsguide) they have the lowest engagement metrics (pages viewed per person as well as time spent) as well as the lowest page impressions (which are sold at a premium to auto manufacturers)
Why is it that the Auto sites have been so slow to evolve their listings to give users the best possible experience? There is countless sources of data showing that people are using the web to research all elements - but little action to enhance the product which is the most vital in the process. Surely the by-product of a competitive market should be innovation?
Don't get me wrong - what the Auto sites do is okay. It is a far superior medium than newspapers for the user ... it's just a lot of them look like they were developed in 1999. They need to beef out content as well as give their audience the chance to contribute to the conversation.
The US is doing this very well - check out the Ford Mustang listing on automotive.com - http://www.automotive.com/2008/09/ford/mustang/index.html
Pricing, listings, images, 360 view, reviews, comparisons, finance calculators, blog links, forums links, ownership costs etc.
Carmax has user reviews, expert reviews, safety information, images etc - www.carmax.com
Autobytel.com (www.autobytel.com) is equally deep (Ford Crown example - http://www.autobytel.com/content/research/vir/index.cfm/vehicle_number_int/1019245/action/summary)
What's the incentive for the local car classified sites to do this?
Well - user experience for one. The users of these sites have value aside being revenue streams - they can provide content, advocacy and valuable information that can keep the product enhanced.
Secondly, revenue. I guarantee this would bring in more revenue from the auto manufacturers as well as finance and insurance providers and would generate more dealer leads.
Given the value of this category (especially to Fairfax and News who are losing print revenues from the category) you'd have to assume these suggestions aren't too far off. Surely.
Disclaimer: Ford is a client of my employer.