For some time Google has been in the couponing and lead generation businesses testing out its ability to generate revenue for businesses (and for itself in the process) by facilitating the consumer shopping experience past the search engine. Google Advisor for instance helps users select different banks depending on the type of account they are looking for.
Here's how it works. Say you are looking for a new credit card. You go to Google and search for "credit cards". You will see a page like this one with all of the normal Google paid and organic results...but wait, there's something new. See the special result box right before you get to the organic results?
You click on "Find The Best Credit Card...". This is Google's product. On Google Advisor you will see all the different cards available to you and their benefits in one nice, clean, minimalistic layout. You can shop the different cards to your hearts content. Then once you select one you can "apply now". Once you click that, viola, you have been directed to that bank's application thereby skipping all of that wonderful design, content, and features that the bank spent countless of hours and dollars building. You have been Google-ized.
Google Cars works the same way. Dealers can put their inventory on Google Cars and allow users to shop the different year/make/models within their geographic area and select the vehicle they like the most. Again, it's like AutoTrader.com but without the ridiculous monthly fees. Users can search, shop, select and become a "lead" to the dealer. Then and only then will you get to deal with a dealership's website.
in Palo Alto (because that's the beta market). We search "palo alto Toyota" and the results shows up with only two paid results, then their Google Cars product. So if you did some amazing SEO work to get into the #1 organic spot...too bad. Google just smacked you down to the #2 spot to make room for their money maker. Furthermore, they reduced the top-page paid search results from 3 to 2 to make room. I digress.
You click on "Toyota Prices - on Google" and viola, you go to Google Cars. From there you can see all of the Toyota models (automatically filtered to Toyota based on your search), how many are in your local area, and the "starting at" price. No dealership site or name yet.
Click on a model...let's do Prius. From there you have a bunch of filtering options. The shopper can play with that to their hearts content, find all the inventory in their area that fits their criteria, then finally start shopping based on the PRICE. Once they find the price they like they can click on that specific vehicle and get to the details page. From there Google even helps them decide how much they should offer the dealer! Finally once the consumer has all the ammunition necessary, they can contact the dealer via email, phone or even request that the dealer call them. All shopping done via Google. No dealer necessary.
It's not clear yet what the specific action will be to trigger a charge to the dealer but it will most likely be upon "contact the dealer" and possibly when the user select the specific vehicle detail page.
As I alluded to earlier and in the title, Google Cars is only being offered in the Bay Area in California in beta but will roll out late 2012 or early 2013. Omnific will be able to offer Google Cars to a few early-adopters that are on our Search Marketing program.
Recap & analysis
So what are the implications of this new product? In short, Google and car shoppers score big. Dealers and marketing agencies...kinda-sorta. Online shopping portals like AutoTrader.com, Cars.com and the like are going to take the biggest hit.
Google makes a new revenue source that will hopefully help them diversify away from their 99% dependency on paid search, and car shoppers get to comoditize the car shopping process all the way up to the point of test-driving and actually doing the deal.
Dealerships that get on Google Cars sooner than later will see some short-term success in this new and inexpensive (compared to AT, but that's not saying much) marketing channel. However, I can't help but think that this will provide further comoditization and price-war issues in the long-run, ultimately making it harder to run a profitable sales business. I digress.
Some dealer friendly features within Google Cars is their button to select a "Dealer" view rather than a "Cars" view. This feature imports the Google Places listings for the dealerships in the market area that the user is in. However, since the "Cars" tool aggregates all models and prices in the area to the Google Cars screen it is likely that the customer will travel further if they can find the exact car of their choice. That means dealers will need to stock more inventory and increase their infrastructure to compete in the long-run.
We will be offering Google Cars to our early-adopters who are existing client-partners under our Search Marketing program when it becomes available in your market. If you are interested in becoming a client-partner please fill out our Search Marketing Form and we will contact you for a consultation.
If your dealership isn't already doing close to 50% new car units online today, you need to. If you don't believe me, read Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell and learn the concept of epidemics: small changes that have huge impacts.
If your dealership needs to have a hand-on digital marketing partner that can keep you on top of Google's changing products and manage your digital marketing experience, I can suggest one (ehem...Omnific).
If you want to increase your internet lead volume without increasing budget.
And if you are just wondering how Google Cars will change the way your dealership will need to position itself for this and other shifts in the consumer buying cycle, then you need to get proactive.
If you fit the scenarios above, give us a call. We have offices in California and Texas but can work with anyone anywhere. We will work with only a few dealers who have the ambition, attitude, and ability to grow. Call us at 877-999-9571. Or if you would like to be contacted by Omnific please fill out our Search Marketing Form.