This morning Dealer Marketing Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Autobytel’s President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Coats, about their recent merger with Cyber Ventures, Inc. and Autotropolis, Inc. This merger cements Autobytel as the largest provider of third-party leads to the automobile dealer industry. Since Autobytel is such an important player in our industry, we felt it would be useful to hear a little more about the merger and how it will affect dealers and consumers. Here is what he had to say. Take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Could you tell us a bit about the merger of Autobytel with Cyber Ventures and Autotropolis: when it will be completed, for example?
Jeff Coats: The transaction is already complete. It closed on Friday [September, 17th]. Cyber Ventures and Autotropolis are, I guess you could say, the last major independent source of high volume high quality leads in the automotive space. They generate over 100,000 leads a month, which they sell primarily to ourselves and our other two or three major competitors. So last Friday when the deal closed, we began incorporating their lead volume through our channels which will mean an increase in lead volume for us and an additional source of high quality leads that will go out to our dealer and OEM customers.
How will this merger affect the experience of your dealer customers?
Jeff Coats: In the way it happens there really won’t be any difference. What they will notice over time is that the number of high quality and higher quality, higher closing leads will be increased. Most of our dealer customers should already be recognizing that, given our other efforts over the last year to constantly increase the number of our internally generated leads that they get through our own websites. Now with the addition of Autotropolis and Cyber Ventures, we will significantly increase the number of our internally generated leads, which will result in higher close rates for our dealer and OEM Customers.
How will this merger affect the consumer side of the experience, when they’re submitting their leads?
Jeff Coats: It should be no different for the way consumers currently submit their leads if they’re coming to Autotropolis, Autobytel, AutoWeb, or one of our other brand name sites. We are in the process of upgrading and relaunching our flagship Autobytel site and we expect to have a soft launch later in the fourth quarter this year and then the official launch will actually be done at NADA in February, Super Bowl Weekend.
Will the integration of the companies be instant or will it be implemented slowly over time?
Jeff Coats: Well we’ve begun the integration, so as each day that goes by a larger volume of leads coming from Cyber Ventures will come through Autobytel and go to our dealer and OEM customers. So it will be a somewhat gradual increase just based upon the movement of daily volumes. The trigger has been pulled, so it has begun and will increase over the course of the next month or so.
What websites will you be adding as a result of your merger with Autotropolis and Cyber Ventures?
Jeff Coats: The primary site is Autotropolis.com. They also have a variety of URLs that they use as landing pages for lead generation, but I wouldn’t call those websites per-se. We will keep and continue to update Autotropolis.
What are you going to be doing to help promote this with consumers and drive traffic to your sites?
Jeff Coats: Currently we’re doing that predominantly through Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. One of the reasons we bought Autotropolis/Cyber Ventures is that they’re some of the best in the country at SEM and SEO. We recently announced that over 35 percent of our leads are generated through our own website through a combination of Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. We’re excited about getting the guys from Cyber ventures involved, because we think they will help us expand our own SEM and SEO capabilities. So to answer your question it will initially be predominantly through SEM and SEO, as we move closer to the re-launch of our flagship Autobytel site later this year, we will be doing more consumer marketing and some trade and perhaps some consumer advertising. We’re in the midst of deciding that strategy right now.
You mentioned you’re going to be unveiling your new site at NADA. Is there going to be any kind of a preview before that?
Jeff Coats: The main unveiling will be there, but we’ll probably do a handful of pre-events with some of the folks with the press. There are also a variety of features that will be launched on a soft launch basis in the fourth quarter and as we have those up and running we’ll send you the links for them.